Well, it was hardly two weeks that passed since the finale of Book 3 of the Legend of Korra, and the announcements for book 4 began to come out.
And it’s been bloody annoying me.
If I see them on tumblr, I scroll past, if they’re on Facebook, I ignore the posts manually while trying not to unfollow friends.
And I want to because the world of Legend of Korra is a deeply flawed one that the creators, who were also the sole writers for the first book, have yet to fix.
In the first book, we’re introduced to our new cast of Team Avatar, with Asami, Korra, Bolin, and Mako, as well as this new world that the Avatar finds herself in, situated in the city of, well, Republic City. The world is different in that we have a kind of steampunk influence mixed in with the mystism of elemental bending, and it’s visually a very stunning world.
Beneath that glamour though is a world of deep divisions between benders and non-benders, one that Korra knew nothing about, so I wasn’t all that concerned when Korra defended bending against some non-bender protesters.
Sure, the line about how they were oppressing themselves was rather bad, but at the time I was thinking that the story was setting up how privileged and naive, even ignorant, of the world Korra was, and that this was a growth, along with her spiritual training, that she would undergo.
How naive I was.
Instead, the only person to have any kind of growth was Asami Sato, who, according to the reviews I’ve read, was all but sidelined in Book 2.
Of everything that angered me over the first season, be it the shortness of it, Korra getting her powers back due to a deus ex machina after being depowered, Korra not defeating the bad guy, the stupid love triangles, Mako’s emotional manipulation, the weakening of other female characters such as Lin Bon Fei and Katara, and the lack of character development for everyone, what ultimately angered me the most was the sidelining of Bending Privilege in this world.
It also did not help that when pressed on the issue, the creators joked that the Equalists are all but disbanded, with maybe one or two selling books at some out of the way bookstore.
The division between benders and non-benders has not been addressed in Book 2 and 3, from what I read, and we saw that there was a deep division in the first book.
There were gangs running around forcing store owners to pay protection money, the metal bending police were pretty apathetic and didn’t seem to be doing anything, and the sheer amount of people who were attending Amon’s secret gatherings spoke of the great frustration non-benders felt at being unable to do anything to help them.
So of course they’d join up with the Equalists and learn how to defend themselves. If there were people who could throw rocks, water whips, and fireballs about with the same effort that you or I could walk up the stairs, you’d want to know how to defend yourselves too.
What should have been a deeper, more nuanced look at privilege through via metaphor in a cartoon was made entirely too black and white, with the concerns of non-benders swept completely under the rug.
It’s why when some of my friends tell me about the quality of writing of Book 3 and how greatly it’s improved, I just shrug and try to ignore it all, while gritting my teeth in anger.
And it’s frustrating as all hell because I can count on one hand the number of animated TV series that have had women of colour as the lead in North America. The only ones I can name off the top of my head are the Legend of Korra and Juniper Lee. Yes, Disney has made numerous movies with women of colour in the lead, and Lilo and Stitch is definitely a movie worth watching (just ignore Pocohantas, which isn’t exactly historically accurate, to say the least), but to see this kind of failure on the part of the crew who brought us Avatar – The Last Airbender is disappointing on a deep level.
The Last Airbender wasn’t perfect, and I might be thinking of it through the rosey tinted glasses of nostalgia, but I seem to remember it handling issues of war, violence, family and personal honour and abuse much better than Legend of Korra ever did.
It just makes me want to ask the question about why in the hell Legend of Korra seems to be getting away without answering the deep rooted problems that it established in the first book? You just can’t bring that up and ignore it as it creates a deeply flawed world and makes the main characters seem like sociopaths.
Maybe that’s what Book 4 will answer, but I can’t bring myself to watch the trailer or look up anything else about it.
There are other issues, some of which I addressed in my video posted below, and others that bug me to this day, such as the sheer amount of abuse that Korra herself absorbs. It runs far too close to the trope of the Strong Black Woman being able to take everything and it makes me damned uncomfortable.
After all, if what I read was correct, wasn’t Korra poisoned with mercury, made to experience hallucinations of her greatest fears, and then confined to a wheel chair in Book 3’s finale after succumbing to her injuries?
Yikes. I don’t think Aang was EVER brutalized like that!
All in all, I’m going to continue to pass on this show. It’s a shame that it failed to live up to so much potential, but I can’t just forgive it and move on past the mistakes of the first book simply because the writing has gotten better.