I feel like a brief, separate pow-wow is needed to discuss some things I’ve noted about people’s reaction to the ending last week in Legend of Korra.
We anticipated the backlash against Korrasami so I did cover most of what I wanted, with some caveats.
First, insofar as the pairing itself: I think it’s important to remember Legend of Korra is STILL an action show. The pairing is significant, absolutely, but it is one of many side plots, as any other character side plot. The focus is still on the action romp. As time passes and in ten years, when (hopefully) this kind of thing has become the norm, no one will mistake Legend of Korra for a romance series, but recognize it as tweens action cartoon. Let’s keep this in mind as we try to strike at the way it was handled. Korra is not trying to be Twilight. It should not be held to that standard of genre, nor should it be defended like it attains it.
To that end, absolutely. Absolutely they probably could have done more to lean the direction. For instance, have Tenzin comfort Asami when Korra goes missing, have Asami narrate part of the clip show, slip in something there. Sure, more PROBABLY could have been done. But this is armchair quarterbacking.
Plenty of people who weren’t usually engaged in shipping wars (such as yours truly) or those who didn’t particularly CARE were calling it in Season 3. There was enough chemistry established between the characters to lead on those of us with the analytical eye. It was definitely buried, but let’s accept the limitations, and as the creators themselves admitted, lack of courage and lack of commitment to the idea in the early goings on. There was enough that it didn’t strike most of us who HAD been following the series as out of the blue.
But that is really the minor of the two points, as that debate is EVERYWHERE still. I just wanted to add that one addendum that most people seem to be missing.
The real focus I want to address is the conclusion of the ACTUAL plot, that of Kuvira and the Earth Empire.
First, because I didn’t in the proper review, props to Zelda Williams for NAILING this role like a beast. She hit it right from every angle. So bravo on that, and god I want to see her in more work like this.
Second, I can’t help but note the way the term “psychopath” has been thrown around regarding Kuvira. I’m going to attribute this to maturity or just a lack of exposure to people with different moral compasses. Kuvira had been set up not as an asshole like Zaheer, but as a genuinely well-intentioned person who let things get the better of her. She was not a woman with mommy issues no matter how much you want to spin this that way.
Which is why what I have to say next almost makes me laugh.
Kuvira is seen as being the epitome of evil, like she’s supposed to be the Ozai of Korra, (when in truth she’s more like the Zuko) but people really miss her message.
And I think this is because her message hits an American audience far too close to home.
The conversation in the spirit world is not one of expositing her motives, and people seem to miss this subtle difference. It is a metaphor. As Korra says, “you wanted to create a place where you and your people would never feel vulnerable again.” In this sentence she is referring to Kuvira’s political movement, NOT her mommy issues.
The unification movement said “never again!” How do we know? Because all of this backlog, the uniting the disparate states, the taking back of the United Republic, as I said in the proper review, this is all buildup over several generations of Avatars. But what triggered it? Anarchy incited when the Earth Queen was murdered.
Suddenly, the Earth Kingdom grew fearful of foreigners. Suddenly, they needed to have security checkpoints throughout their country whenever anyone was traveling. And, as Kuvira says, “It would have been easier if you’d all just surrendered”, expecting to overwhelm her opposition with power. But she ended up having to fight them through the streets, just so her nation could be “safe”. The Avatar is the Mother of the World, and Kuvira knew, in her heart, that she wouldn’t be coming back, just like her mom never came back. There was no protector, the Earth Kingdom was its OWN protector. And they adopted measures to ensure their security, no matter the consequences.
I can put this even more bluntly.
The Earth Kingdom was attacked by terrorists. The people grew afraid, and instead of accepting that a bad thing had happened and moving on, they doubled down and refused to acknowledge their weak moment. No matter how illogical or unethical they had to be for their “Never Again”, they would do whatever it took to protect the Earth Empire.
Is this sounding familiar now?
Remember, we do not see the full conversation. We only see that initial bonding, that initial comment Korra makes. “I would have done anything to feel in control again”. They spend some hours in the spirit world talking things out (so we are led to believe). But the information is there that we knew Korra was talking just as much about the Earth Empire movement as she was about Kuvira. Kuvira, and those who think LIKE Kuvira. (They probably could have drawn more attention to it of course).
It actually struck me…Korra’s prime audience doesn’t actually remember that transformation in America. Yours truly, DataportDoll, is now 28. I was 16 when September 11 happened, which is probably just about the youngest you can be to actually appreciate the shift in the political landscape, to remember the elections before it and after, to remember the news before and after. So perhaps it just does not naturally occur to them. But hopefully by pointing this out, you can go back and take a second look at it.
This is what elevates Balance into Korra’s high water mark. Not because it has girl on girl action, but because it is a message that reverberates for all of us across centuries. It happened to the Romans, it happened to the Russians, it happened to the Americans, it happened to the Earth Kingdom.