The second series from the Avatar universe, created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino (affectionately referred to as “Bryke”), aired its final episodes last night across the internet and on Nickelodeon.
The finale featured the final showdown between title character and Kuvira, a woman who dedicated her life to protecting her country as best she knew how. All season, we’d watched Kuvira, voiced by the wonderful Zelda Williams, transition from a leader with legitimate power to a tyrannical dictator.
We’d also watched Korra battle her demons, sometimes literally, as she struggled to heal from last year’s finale that left her poisoned, weak, and mentally and emotionally battered. Her struggle with what appeared to be PTSD and depression was wonderfully handled, ensuring that there was no quick-fix, just as there isn’t one in real life.
Perhaps most importantly, it was an excellent representation for those who suffer from illnesses like depression and PTSD, showing those people that you too can be awesome. This is added to a laundry list of examples of excellent representation Bryke have established through the series. The characters hail from one of four nations, described by the elements they control, the Fire Nation, Water Tribes, Air Nomads, and Earth Kingdom, which resemble Japan, the Inuit-Yupik culture, Hindu and Tibetan monks, and China respectively, leading to a crew of characters which does not include a single white Westerner.
The title character is a woman of color, hailing from the Southern Water Tribe. She is a complex, well-rounded, and well-written character. Her friends include two mixed-race brothers and a “non-bender” from the Fire Nation. There are several female characters that run the gamut from the mother figure in Pema to the hard-nosed police officer, Lin. Quite frequently, the show has scenes where all the primary characters are women, something that is infrequent in most media.
Perhaps most important to representation is the finale. Finale spoilers are discussed, so be warned!
At the end of the final episode, Korra is heavily implied to be in a relationship with another female member of the Avatar Team, Asami Sato. They hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes as they embark on a vacation with “just the two of us.” They had each been in a relationship in previous seasons as two parts of a love triangle including another team member, Mako. This, then, marks them as trailblazers for bisexual or pansexual representation, particularly in media marketed to children. Of course, the large online following of Korra shows that the appeal of the show extends well beyond childhood into the adult demographics, but it is shown on a channel dedicated to children’s programming.
Representation of marginalized groups in media is important, particularly for children. To see strong, capable, complex people who are like themselves is a boost to self-esteem and success. The argument for diverse representation is a long-standing one, pushing for more women and people of color in TV, movies, and video games, and with a large cast of strong women and people of color, The Legend of Korra has already been successful in that arena. Adding LGBT representation and mental illness to the show makes it even better. “Korrasami,” the nickname for the Korra/Asami relationship, is canon, it is real, and the world is a better place for it.
Blog by Jennifer Irene Barnette