To call me a Legend of Korra fan would be less accurate. I think I’m obsessed. But I’m not about to start cosplaying, writing fanfiction, drawing fanart or amassing collectibles. At 36, I think I’m past that.
Let’s just, for a second, look at the main protagonist. Korra is a brown, Asian-looking girl, a fighter, strong enough to carry four people and lift them in a bear hug. She’s not ‘the girlfriend’, ‘the mother’, or any of the common tropes women get stuck in when on TV. There is nothing about Korra that is atypical for the average cartoon or television show for the matter.
For the record, Nickelodeon was allegedly none too pleased when the show’s creators decided to have a girl become the show’s lead. “Oh, no! How will we be able to sell all the action figures we normally sell to little boys!”
Over the three seasons of Korra, what has made me a fan of the show and of its lead character is the amount of growth Korra experiences as a character. From a sheltered, overenthusiastic, idealist teenager, you see Korra find a different sort of strength. Where once she was content to revel in her martial prowess, by the end of the third season Korra has learned the meaning of patience, self-sacrifice and compassion.
She is a very strong character and what endears the show most to me is that there are plenty of women in Korra who are just as strong and multi-faceted. An imposing police chief. A dangerous criminal. A wise leader. A loyal assistant. A doting mother. All women but all unique in their personalities, character development and backstories. That two of the women were sisters, born out of wedlock to another woman who refuses to divulge who their fathers were is rather out of norm, especially for a television show.
There is no moral judgement. The information is merely put out there, in a throwaway line: “We never knew who our fathers were.” And the plot goes on without it even being an issue.
Not that Legend of Korra denigrates fatherhood in any way. Sure, in the first season, we were introduced to Hiroshi Sato, a millionaire still haunted by the death of his wife who was willing to sacrifice his own daughter to seek his ‘revenge’.
“You really are a bad father,”
Hiroshi’s daughter Asami says to him in a scene that had me bring out the tissues. But in the last season, we saw fathers supporting their strong, courageous, capable daughters and expressing their belief in their capabilities. It’s something I can relate to personally as my father was a big influence on my career path growing up. I was taught to believe that there was no reason I could be any less capable, any less smart or talented because of my gender.
It’s also refreshing to see animated character models of women without excessive displays of skin. Yes, there are attractive women in the series but they are all dressed to suit their roles. When one character does wear a skimpy ensemble, it’s appropriate as she was an actress playing a role in a Hollywood-ish action flick.
To top it all off, the cast of Korra are not portrayed as indentifiably Caucasian. There are many skin colours, eye colours, hair colours though notably white characters do not seem to appear. There are no blondes, for instance, though there are characters with red or brunette manes.
So if I enjoy Korra too much, why shouldn’t I? I like being able to watch something made for international audiences that is truly international – not the usual white male hero with a love interest who appears mainly to be rescued or flash cleavage. It’s nice to see an enjoyable fantasy that reminds us that women can be heroes, too. I can’t wait for the fourth and final season of Legend of Korra this Oct 3, if only to see more ladies taking names and kicking ass.
While waiting, I’ll just rewatch the first three seasons for gems like this fight: