Roar – “I got the eye of the tiger, the fire, dancing through the fire, coz I am the champion and you’re gonna hear me roar, louder, louder than a lion, coz I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.”
‘The Legend of Korra’ (2012-14) was the sequel to ‘Avatar – Last Air Bender’. I’m not keen on the use of the term ‘avatar’ it’s a bit like ‘namaste’ to me where it’s over use has skewed its meaning and made something rare too common. I’ve explained the term ‘avatar’ before but anyway in this series the former Avatar was ‘Aang’ and as titled, was primarily an air bender.
What are we talking about here?
Elements, transformation, magic/mastery/alchemy and some people’s natural/unnatural bodily abilities. A bender in this cartoon is someone who can harness and ‘bend’ an element to their will (note it’s not described/portrayed as working with elements, rather its shown as controlling them). In this cartoon there are four basic elements and then variants of those four; earth, air, fire, water and then say a variant of earth would be the power over metals. The ‘avatar’ is the one person (only one at a time) who can control all the elements. Avatars can be female or male, reincarnations of each other, their powers are hereditary to an extent and predisposed unlike the Slayer (Buffy) who is one girl all the time, always herself and her abilities are not transferable (regardless of how they showed in the ending) because she is the chosen.
The premise of Avatar is similar to ‘Naruto’ a very popular, long term Japanese multi-media franchise where there are some countries and then villages/clans that protect them, serving as ninjas but super-enhanced-magical ninjas who have transformation/mutational powers over the elements. So they are both power wielders and physical combat fighters. They’re also exclusive. In the Avatar cartoons, people with bending abilities are somewhat rare. That said ‘Naruto’ is more complex and full of moral/ethical dilemmas.
Korra – the Maid/Daughter
Kore means the Maid/Daughter; Korra is a dark skinned ‘ethnic’/tribal, medium sized well built (I say that because so many protagonists are thin to skinny), triple tail/hair, outlands clan member, her clan are primarily water benders. The fact that she is the Avatar is visible very early, she’s highly adept at 3/4 elements and at fighting, air is her weakest element because she is so physical/grounded and air in this cartoon represents the spiritual/the ability to see. It might also have something to do with the last Avatar being an air specialist and so other elements came into play first this time.
Note – some people are of the ridiculous persuasion that some elements are ‘better’ or ‘more powerful’ than others, that they have a hierarchy. BS. It depends on the user and how strong they are. Simple. Water isn’t always going to cancel fire or earth trap air for example, and opposites attract hence Korra is usually depicted as both fire and water. Her personality/avatar lineage is fire and her ‘home’ genetic lineage is water, both also happen to be opposites. Also even if you are not made from all the elements doesn’t mean you can’t handle a different one to yourself. Life is a paradox.
She leaves her home village to live with one of the last air benders left (air being that rare now) so he and his family can teach her about the element. She also meets and joins with benders who work/compete in entertainment combat. Her new master/teacher isn’t fond of the tackiness of sports entertainment but she realizes she needs that experience to learn more on the spot/spur of the moment/situational techniques and whilst sparring is a dangerous type of training, it’s effective. As part of a team it also gets the blood flowing so to speak, even her Master gets into it and cheers her along when he finds out where she’s been going…
That’s the thing about Korra – she’s an Avatar with a difference i.e. she does her own thing. She’s not regimented like the past avatars were as weapons of war, she’s fiercely independent yet dedicated to what she does/her ‘calling’/role and what that means i.e. caring. She finds out that a lot of people like to use the avatars for their own personal agendas; family, friends, bosses, frenemies, enemies etc and it means like most people in this position there’s very few people they can trust and it often involves a lot of hurt. She’s determined things are not going to continue the way they have done. Her very existence challenges status quo’s and so she has to learn to know herself and everything from that which she comes. Once she learns how to use Air and relaxes/learns to meditate it just comes naturally to her as it should and she becomes consciously connected to all the past avatars whose collective experience she can access and learn from. She is the accumulation of their experience and her personality.
She thinks for herself, is outspoken, not afraid to listen and listen hard, she’s passionate and will show it. This attracts a close knit of other strong people from various walks of life, benders and non-benders, from working class to ruling class. One of which is the ideal modern feminine (whom Korra’s initial love interest falls for/literally bowled over by); tall, thin, light skinned, gorgeous, successful, able and in conjunction to that it’s interesting and poignant for a non-adult and US cartoon that the romantic partner Korra ends up with (not explicit) challenged ‘normal’ social perceptions. There are also hints to the deeper symbolism/culture/history here and not just in her name (though that is very important). For example her best friend and travelling companion/transport is a giant ‘polar dog’ (polar bear but described as a dog, this ties in to the companion of the divine character as being loving, faithful, protective and supportive. For Goddess/Goddess based characters it’s usually a cat or a bird or something winged but in modern tellings with masculinity the character is often a dog/doglike – a bit like in The Never Ending Story where the dragon is shown like a dog.) However her polar dog is actually a bear – so right there you know she’s a Goddess character (not just an avatar, the bear being one of the oldest forms of Mother Goddess worship) and her name tells us she’s the Daughter, along with her personality. Her ‘dog’ is also called Naga lol her bear/dog is also a snake, so secret/wisdom Goddess companion. Naga is strong/fast/agile.
Add to that this friend:
And she has almost the complete set (from the obvious lot).
Korra can sense the unseen, she is partially of the unseen, but she’s also come at a significant time at the crux of the ongoing fight between good and evil (shown as feminine and masculine – not to be confused with how we normally think of them in day to day life), that makes her life much more draining because she’s sensitive to the flow of energy between those forces in conflict. To deal with this she has to access another self, a greater self, a self that also needs her as she is uniquely placed/compatible to be it. The cosmic self. Since she is already from multiple lines of ‘interesting’ people (avatars who are mixed-dimension/world/parameter beings, and her clan) pushing herself to this even further distance is something she can and must do. The seen and unseen have been at war and in pain with each other and themselves for too long. The barriers and divisions, the smoke and mirrors have created boxes and the walls have closed in to the point where we can’t see anything else, we feel trapped/unable to move and can’t even see everyone in the room and we’ve missed out, we’ve missed each other all this time. An inexplicable sense of loneliness and needing somewhere to belong for most people when that’s just not the way it is, it shouldn’t have been that way.
It’s obviously not easy/going to be easy, even people who supported her before she does what she does turn and don’t like the results expecting instant healing/harmony but this is a collision of worlds, not a picnic. She’s a warrior of warriors, a lover, thinker, protector from the Divine Feminine not a faux nanny state governess or au pair.
To finish, an acknowledgement to another amazing Daughter character in this cartoon; and what an awesome, fearsome, courageous, hard, loving woman she is; when this woman has your back, you know it. Even those who’ve lost her think of her as their hero.
Lin Beifong – as mentioned in a previous post: No More Sacrifice
Lin Beifong has a very difficult relationship with her Mother (Toph) and half-Sister (Suyin), which is healed later on. Toph (one of the best Earth benders) is described as:
Toph is fiercely independent, direct, belligerent, and practiced in taunting and insulting her opponents and on occasion her friends, particularly Sokka. On several occasions Toph appears picking her nose, spitting, and belching loudly.
Yeah… No comment (it’s so true).
Mama Said Knock You Out:
There’s no going back, it can ever be the same, there’s only forwards and it’s not what you think/fear it is.