So another side of me is that I have become a lover of the entire Avatar series. In 2011 I randomly decided to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix and was immediately hooked. Not just by the story but the interesting characters that challenged norms and conventions.
The first series’ lead was a young monk with a world changing destiny. Avatar Aang was an oddity for a male lead. He yearned for peace. Highly spiritual and non confrontational. As well as very explicit about how he felt in every painful moment. Out of this he made friends for life who were also just as dynamic. My personal favorite out of this series was General Iroh. Also a man who expressed emotions and maintained a path towards peace. Even after losing his son to war he was able to express a warmth and love to many around him. Including his love starved nephew, Zuko. This series had a lot of depth to it and I would encourage any one of any age to watch this. Look beyond the fact that it’s a cartoon and you’ll understand why it’s so much more than that.
That series was around 2008 I believe so enter the new Avatar in 2013-2014, Korra. A muscular, curious, brown skin, energetic girl who has mastered the physical part of being the Avatar very early. While Aang had the spiritual side down and not so much the physical, it was the opposite for Korra. The series focuses on her spiritual development and impact. This series was probably almost half as long as the Avatar Aang saga but it still made leaps and bounds. For one, every one of the female characters in the show were all spectrums of badass. A matriarch of a clan who had multiple children with a supportive and equally brilliant husband. An genius inventor who built the civil engineering projects of her own city’s infrastructure. A villain who managed to muster military strength for a whole nation. A grandmother who is highly revered as a pioneer of her clan. A “stay-at-home” mom who supports her tribe and helps them grow into leaders. I could go on for a while, but the fact all of what women could be was definitely represented well.
Korra herself displayed what many women of color go through and I say WoC because of the fact we rarely see a brown skin woman in such a role. So it deeply touched on this particular aspect of the “strong”. When she suffered a near death experience she felt weak, unneeded, and frustrated. Feelings so many can relate with. She went through textbook PTSD and depression. Seeing such a character development with someone with brown skin struck me. Since in our communities we are the ones called on to be strong no matter the situation. So when we do fall we immediately deny or fall into a deep set depression. A lot of us, including myself have had these issues, but never get proper help. Seeing this character reach out and rebuild herself was a powerful moment for TV.
Then there was even a moment where we may interpret Korra and another female character (Asami) as developing a bond deeper than friendship. Of course it’s not set in stone, but it was definitely a moment one could appreciate. A great ending for a dynamic show.***
*** Update: The creators confirmed that Korra and Asami did actually turn into a romantic bond. Not only is Korra a WoC, but she is also queer. Astounding and healing. ***
Throughout Books 1-4 there were even themes one could tie in for current events. Like militarization, equality, and corruption. Events that are often hard to break down to people of all ages in such a precise way.
These moments from Avatar Korra were full of wisdom and reality. That’s why I will always appreciate this show and series.
Thanks Bryke. Job well done.