Dear lord, I have to explain a Simpsons episode that came on almost 20 years ago in reference to this picture.
The episode, Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy, was inspired by real world events, namely a talking Barbie who ended up saying a bunch of vapid, cliched teen talk. A group of anti-consumerists calling themselves the Barbie Liberation Group took some of these dolls and switched out the circuitry that made them talk with those of talking G.I. Joes at the time.
Lisa bought a talking Malibu Stacy doll (the equivalent of a Barbie doll in the Simpsonsverse) expecting it to say something as iconic as someone of her pop cultural stature should say. Instead,
Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl. [giggles]
The situation has infuriated Lisa, who confronted the makers of Malibu Stacy. They treated her condescendingly and let her go her way. After doing some research, Lisa enlists the help of Wayland Smithers (the owner of the world’s largest Malibu Stacy collection), who gives her the address of the original creator of Malibu Stacy, who is inspired and decided to help her rectify the sexist Talking Malibu Stacy with a more positive, empowering doll. Once the creators of the original Malibu Stacy hears about the new Lisa Lionheart doll, they come up with a plan to counter its potential popularity.
On the day Lisa Lionheart is revealed, a new shipment of Malibu Stacy dolls is unpacked.
She now has a new hat.
That’s all. It’s still the same status quo, but folks are acting like they’re doing something dramatically different, which they aren’t. It’s just the old doll with a new hat, and the fans eat it up, and Lisa is left disappointed that despite confronting those in power about the problems she had with Malibu Stacy, they remained doing the same old tired stuff without changing a thing.
Except the hat. That’s new.
Like I said, Cartoon Network recently got put on blast by one of the most prolific producers of action entertainment, who suggested that the reason high-rated shows like Young Justice, Green Lantern, and similar shows (definitely including ThunderCats and Sym-Bionic Titan in this discussion) got the boot is because they attracted more females than males, and the network felt that girls weren’t the target for merchandisers. The whole thing seems screwy and wrong, but not surprising, especially considering they gave the whole “merchandise wasn’t selling” excuse to shows that had no merchandise like Green Lantern: TAS (counting the leftover movie merchandise is not actually merchandise for the better-received show) and Sym-Bionic Titan, a show that just screamed mecha sets.
And yet, I’m very cynical when, out of the blue and almost a year after its initial announcement,Cartoon Network is planning to finally announce the premiere of a new Powerpuff Girls special (the first made without series creator Craig MacCracken at the helm) less than 24 hours after the Dini interview got traction throughout the internet.
What Cartoon Network is doing is essentially giving the audience a Malibu Stacy with a NEW hat. Nothing changed. Just something to quiet the masses who are easily distracted who are still huge fans of the original PPG series and will tell you to shut up about the misogyny that suddenly isn’t there.
That’s how it goes, I guess.
The Legend of Korra Finale
Verdict: Problematic as fuck in many, many ways.
Korra feels like she is nothing without her bending. She can’t accept Mako’s (half-assed as it is) love because she defines herself totally by her bending. Without it, by her standards, she’s not worthy of love.
And instead of addressing this and showing Korra that she is in fact a full person even without her bending, they totally play into it and reinforce her feelings of inferiority! She is only able to accept Mako’s declaration of love when she feels she is worthy, which can only happen when they’ve given her back her bending.
Yes, Korra was given her bending back. She was totally robbed of the chance to make herself stronger and to actually make a connection with the spiritual realm. We didn’t see her attempting to make that connection. And writers? It’s not being at your lowest point that makes you stronger. It’s climbing your way out of your lowest point. It’s healing that makes you stronger.
Korra was interrupted in the middle of crying, in the middle of working things out, in the middle of beginning to heal herself.
Being broken doesn’t automatically make you stronger. Overcoming. Loving yourself. Radical self-love. Learning that you can lean on family/friends. The process of surviving. The process of healing. Korra was totally robbed of the chance to heal. She didn’t get a chance to work out her issues regarding her self-worth.
Korra literally feels as though she is not the Avatar without the ability to bend, and just giving her her bending back without addressing those issues is reinforcing that complex.
This is important. The loss of her bending also showed us a ton of emotional complexes and trauma that Korra has surrounding her bending. And Korra also needs to heal and learn from *that*. She never got the chance to come to terms with herself, and to learn who she is outside of being a powerful bender.
She was literally taken by surprise by the fact that she was able to get in touch with Aang, because she wasn’t attempting to. She didn’t try to get into the Avatar State, she didn’t struggle with her inner demons (which are totally real and totally exist!). She was just given her bending back, which sure, solves the problem of not being able to bend, but does not at all heal the emotional complexes that Korra has regarding herself and her bending.
On a less serious note, I also have pretty serious problems with Makorra. Mako needed to break it off with Asami a long time ago. Like, an episode and a half ago. Not breaking it off with Asami? Telling her you still care without being totally honest about how you feel about Korra? Dick move.
Also, I have seen no evidence, no evidence at all that Mako and Korra are in love with each other outside of these grandiose declarations they’ve made that almost seem to come out of the fucking blue.
Think back to ATLA. The relationship between Katara and Aang was beautifully developed, even though we practically knew they’d be endgame from the beginning of Episode 1.
Here? We’re basically told that Mako and Korra love each other, although I’m pretty sure we have never actually just seen them enjoying spending time with each other. Korra and Bolin have more of a solid basis for a relationship, being that they play and laugh and seem to actually enjoy each others company. Hell, Korra and Asami have more of a solid basis for a relationship.
And this isn’t even touching on how I feel about the Equalists. The Equalists have a totally legitimate complaint. Very small example: the Council contains no non-benders. Non-benders have no political representation, although I’m pretty sure that a very large proportion (possibly even the majority) of people in the Avatar universe are nonbenders. (I mean, there are 4 airbenders. Four.)
But that’s another post. This is just my ranty feels about LoK finale, and how I feel it failed in a very few key, crucial ways.
Erm, I’m sorry but no. Legend of Korra only having 12 episodes and originally being a mini series does not mean that it is acceptable to have badly paced and inconsistent romances as well as incredibly quick resolutions. That justification makes absolutely no sense. If you know you have 12 episodes to work with, you work with 12 episodes.
The idea you need 20 episodes or something to write a compelling and well developed storylines is ridiculous. Some of the best TV shows in the world are the incredibly short mini series and they manage to weave intricate and beautifully written plots that pay off in such a short time. Seriously, anyone that is a fan of British television will be able to list off shows that are only 4-6 episodes long and yet are able to craft some of the best stories ever. Hell, you can just think of some movies that manage to create some of the most time endearing romances, those are only 2 hours long!
Legend of Korra only being 12 episodes is not an excuse for choppy pacing and underdeveloped characters. Originally only being 1 season is not an excuse either, they would have known their limits and exactly what they wanted to cover. Instead we have the almost universally accepted criticism that characters were left hanging in the development department and that certain romances were paper thin. This is not the fault of the timing, it’s a fault of the writing. I’m sure it will get better next season because they have more writers on board and the show has a solid framework. But the notion that we should excuse shoddy development because there wasn’t enough time is ludicrous.
Right, this is the last negative post before I go pack up my room and wait for a 720p download link.
why mako’s behavior is unacceptable and should not be dismissed on the account of his gender
I was told that I just wasn’t looking at Mako ‘from the male perspective’. I find this advice interesting, because I previously had no idea you could make cheating, neglect, irresponsibility, and callousness somehow sympathetic by looking at it from the ‘male perspective’. I am especially sure that the male perspective and the female perspective on cheating actually align perfectly, seeing that both genders seem to get really ticked off about it for exactly the same reasons. So, let’s look at the cold hard facts of what has happened in Asami and Mako’s relationship so far:
Why Mako Should Be An Equalist
Or: Why Mako’s Unique Perspective Should Sympathize Him to the Equalist Cause, But Probably Won’t
Mako’s parents were murdered in front of him by a Firebender—yet Mako himself is a Firebender, forced to use the very instrument that killed his parents to provide for himself and his brother.
It’s a fascinating clash, one that I imagined Mako struggling with since his parents’ death. Does he secretly have conflicting feelings about bending? Does he have feelings of anxiety and guilt attached to his own use of Firebending, which further clash with his obligation to care for Bolin?
Of all the bending disciplines, Firebending has the most starkly-contrasting duality as both a giver and taker of life. Nobody understands this better than Mako, and from the time we learned about Mako’s past in Episode 3, I fully expected this contrast to inform Mako’s actions: to affect his worldview, and his perspective on bending.
Which brings me to this moment:
The more I reflect on this scene, the more disturbing I find it—and not just because Mako was seriously about to fire-fist an innocent man.
I’m disturbed because of how eerily similar that moment probably was to the moment immediately preceding Mako’s parents’ death. I would’ve loved to see Mako make that connection in that moment—to see him recoil in horror at what he’d almost done—or even just reflect on it later.
It would’ve been a great character-development moment for Mako to sit down with somebody (I think Bolin would be the best candidate) and talk through (or at least scratch the surface of) the emotions he should’ve felt following the near fire-fist.
Imagine Mako sitting down with his brother and telling him about how, even though Firebending took their parents, Mako always saw his bending as a positive thing, because it kept them off the streets—but now, after he almost burned an innocent man, he’s beginning to see how that kind of power is inherently problematic.
Imagine Mako having doubt. Imagine him being terrified of his own power. Imagine the moment he realizes that he was just heartbeats away from losing control and basically becoming the Firebender who murdered his parents.
There is no sense to who is a bender and who is a nonbender, no rules governing who is given that power—and even those who don’t normally abuse their power have the ability to snap and do something unforgivable.
I wanted that to click for Mako. I wanted him to understand it, because that perspective isn’t one that we’ve seen in LoK thus far: a bender who sees where the Equalists are coming from, because he understands the damage bending can do, and knows that he himself has come dangerously close to crossing the line into power abuse.
All the members of Team Avatar have different opinions and perspectives on bending and the Equalist movement, all equally legitimate, informed by their experiences:
- Korra sees bending as wholly positive, without exception, because she hasn’t witnessed the potential horrors of bending.
- Asami knows first-hand the perils of being a nonbender in a bending world, even as she enjoys ProBending matches.
- Bolin… Well, sadly, Bolin hasn’t been fleshed-out enough for us to fully understand his perspective, beyond that he seems to see bending as mostly positive.
Mako could’ve added a valuable and unique perspective to this debate: a Firebender who, even as he uses bending to provide for himself and his brother, has had experiences that should sympathize him to the Equalist cause—experiences that might even make him question whether the world might actually be better off without bending in it.
And yet, all season long, the only Mako we’ve seen is a Mako who views bending the same way Korra does: positive, seemingly without exception. His experiences don’t seem to have informed or affected his worldview—which, to me, was a major opportunity that Bryke completely missed.
So it seems people are wondering what fans would think of the central cast of The Legend of Korra if “Rule 63” were applied. Here’s my hypothetical, based on their behavior, their characterization, and some apparent double standards held by fans.
Disclaimer: I’m aware that Rule 63 is often used in a problematic manner. I have attempted to avoid that here, but feel free to let me know if I need to check myself. Also, may contain tropes.
- No one would ever fault “Korru” for anything. No, not even the kiss.
- There would be some suspicion of “Asan’s” motives at the beginning, but he’d immediately have become a fan favorite after ep. 7.
- “Maki” would probably have been viciously hated from the beginning. She’d be called (to put it politely) a gold-digging tart, and accused of “cheating on” Korru, for having initially gotten involved with Asan. By this point in the series, fandom sentiment for her would pretty much add up to “die, bitch, die.” (And I think I’d actually be in the oh-so-enviable position of having to defend a character that I don’t like.)
- “Bo Li” would be a lot more likely to get called fat, useless, and ditzy—and have her crush on Korru be treated as a running joke—by the fans. Furthermore, she’d be accused of fickleness for claiming to be “over” the kiss scene. (Which isn’t to say that there wouldn’t probably still be a significant percentage of fans who would find her adorable.)
That’s my take on it, anyway.
Let’s take a time out, kiddies. Some more things need to be addressed.
If you ship Makorra, that’s cool and all you have a right to your ship, but that does not exempt your ship from being criticized. There are many things wrong with how Makorra is being handles and I would think if you’re for this ship, you wouldn’t be a fan of how the writers are treating it. And you’d want something different.
So, let’s take a step-by-step analysis of how we got to the finale.
Korra already knows who Mako is before she meets him by listening to Pro-Bending tournaments on the radio. She becomes somewhat of a fan of him, admiring him for his fire-bending skills in the Pro-Bending arena. You can tell how excited she was to meet him when she said, “You’re THE Mako? I’m such a big fan!” but he completely blows her off.
He pushes her to side as nothing more than another fan-girl who Bolin brought up to watch the match. He saw her as just another girl, nothing special and didn’t think anything was different about her. So, in Mako’s universe, why treat her any different?
OHHHH, that’s right. Because, let’s not forget, that the moment that Mako found out who Korra was, his attitude changed. He didn’t treat her like a decent human being until he found out that she was the Avatar. He didn’t decided to give her a shot because the way he was acting was dickish, but because she was the Avatar. How do you think things would have played out if she wasn’t the Avatar, eh? If she really had been just a normal Water Tribe girl? I doubt Mako would have given her the time of day. Unlike Bolin, who knew she was amazing right from the very moment he met her, regardless of her Avatar status. Props to Bolin there.
So, she joins the team and yeah yeah a bunch of fighting and yee. Come to find out, Bolin gets captured by Amon and his gang and Mako sets off to find him. Coming off as seeing Korra not “fit” to go and help him find Bolin, he shoves off her suggestion for her to help find him, as her and Bolin are friends at this point. Admittedly, we get a cute Makorra moment when they wake up next to each lying against Naga, but even then we can take that with any two characters on the show. Pretty sure if I woke up nestled next to somebody I was relatively unfamiliar with, I’d be a bit weirded out too.
However, when Mako realizes that Bolin was missing, did everybody forget that Mako knew that Bolin liked Korra? Remember how he came home from working in the factory with Bolin’s favorite dumplings and realizing that Bolin wasn’t there, he assumed that Bolin had gone to Air Temple Island? Those “love birds” ring a bell? Make a “house call”? That’s right. Mako knew that Bolin had a thing for Korra right away. Making his deception that much more dickish.
So, Korra and Mako go and get Bolin and Bolin is very thankful to both of them. Bolin expresses his gratitude by bringing Korra a beautiful flower and a sweet treat, acknowledging just how much of an impact she was already having on his life. At this point, we’re definitely seeing much more Borra than Makorra.
In the next episode, episode 4, the character of Asami Sato comes into play. The beautiful, privileged, woman who accidentally runs into Mako with her mo-ped. A very cute moment, Mako is instantly smitten with the dark-haired beauty. This leads to a date and the ship of Masami is born. Mako seems to really like Asami, laughing at her jokes, being cute with her, taking care of her. On their date, we see that Mako and Asami instantly clicked and had chemistry. Both of them had a parent lost to a firebender, yet Asami was willing to trust - and date- a firebender. She tells Mako that she feels safe with him and that she trusts him, and judging from Asami’s past, we see this as a huge step for her. Mako, at the beginning of their relationship, was a great boyfriend to Asami. He was what she needed and the whole context of “love falling out of nowhere” story seemed to fit with them.
In episode five, we see a bit of a time jump as it’s now winter. Asami and Mako are still going strong and Korra is left in the background jealous of Asami and resenting her just for the fact she’s dating Pretty-Boy. Other than that, Asami has done nothing wrong. She doesn’t deserve the hate she is receiving because she has done absolutely nothing to deserve it. Many people resent her just on the sole fact she was/is dating Mako. Mako seemed happy with Asami, they were adorable together. It wasn’t until Korra said she liked Mako that the entire love triangle/square/hexagram/whatever the fuck you want to call it happened.
So, taking Pema’s horrible advice of interferring in a relationship that she has no place getting herself into, Korra experiences grade-A word vomit and tells Mako that she likes him. Mako admittedly tells Korra that he doesn’t feel the same, telling his brother Bolin just the night before that it makes more sense if he’s with Asami and that him and Asami are better fit in a relationship and he’s unsure if he even feels that way about Korra. Feeling rejected, as she has the right to be, Korra realizes that she can’t get everything in the world and tries to get over it.
Bolin tells Korra just how amazing she is after she admits to feeling “undateable”, making her blush and cheering her up. Bolin made her feel worth something after Mako had made her feel unwanted. They go to have a fantastic date together, revealing that Bolin and Korra have excellent chemistry together and that Bolin is definitely somebody who Korra can feel 100% herself around.
We can see that Mako is feeling a bit jealous because I feel as if Mako wants his cake and he wants to eat it, too. He can’t have Korra now that he knows she wants him so of course he’s going to try and take her back.
Mako shows his jealous side and confronts Korra about her date with Bolin, which is none of his business whatsoever, and tries to make her feel guilty about it. He never once thought about how Korra may have felt when he began dating Asami. He only cared about how he felt, but masking it under the “I just because my brother” facade. Even when earlier in the season we saw that Mako KNEW that Bolin liked Korra yet he’s spending his time getting jealous over her and trying to make her feel bad about going on a date with his brother, something he should be staying out of and he should support his brother, not try and take the girl away from him.
So, Korra is pulled back in to Mako’s grips by getting some grim assumption that Mako maybe kinda sorta has feelings for her, without the writers showing any romantic development between the two or even showing how these two characters would even be slightly drawn together in a romantic manner. We saw how Mako and Asami had acted on their date, concluding that they clicked and how Bolin and Korra had been, showing great chemistry. With Mako and Korra? Nothing.
So skip ahead a few minutes and we see Korra standing alone, thinking to herself about a lot of things when Mako comes up and shows up out of the blue to cut her even deeper. He tells her that he kinda sorta likes her, once again why we’ll never know, and Korra acts on impulse and kisses him and Mako succumbs to his confusion and kisses her back. Not having any regard for how Bolin would feel in this situation, they get a good kick in their ass when we’re seen a heartbroken Bolin. However, the writers don’t want Bolin to feel anything at all so they just shoved off his reaction as nothing more than comedic relief because Bolin can’t have actually feelings, can he? (sarcasm).
So Bolin goes and eats his feelings and when Mako comes to find him, we see that Mako isn’t going to take any blame at all. After all, he is the Golden Boy of the show. Mako can’t do any wrong, right? He blames Bolin for liking Korra by saying, “I told you getting involved with a team mate was a bad idea”. Yet, it was okay for him to kiss Korra because apparently the rules don’t apply to him because he’s older. Bolin, in that scene, told Mako that he had betrayed his trust by kissing the girl he really liked. It was a dick move. It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t cute, it wasn’t right.
It was at that moment we saw that Asami didn’t mean much to Mako. Which said a lot because if it weren’t for Asami, they wouldn’t have been able to compete in the tournament. Asami convinced her dad to sponsor them without asking for anything in return. She did it for Mako, for the team, and because it was the right thing to do.
So, by Mako kissing Korra in that moment he completely throws out Asami right away by betraying her, especially so early on in the relationship. Korra should not have kissed him and she is equally to blame. I feel as though both of them really didn’t give a fuck about either Asami or Bolin at that moment. They only cared about themselves, because apparently their feelings are the only ones that matter.
So now we get this awkward feeling between Mako, Korra, and Bolin. Asami is ignorant to the fact that her boyfriend was making out with the girl she is trying to become friends with. Amon comes in and fucks shit up, closing the Pro-Bending arena. Some more shit goes down and Mako and Bolin are homeless by the end of the night. Asami right away offers her home to both of the brothers, asking for nothing in return. She gained nothing from it, she simply did it because it was the right thing to do.
Korra decides to come over and hang out with all of them, and realizes that Asami’s father is an Equalist. After confronting her friends about it, and them shoving her off, she goes and informs Tenzin and we find out later that Korra was telling the truth.
BUT GUYS, REMEMBER HOW MAKO ACCUSED KORRA OF BEING JEALOUS OF HIM AND ASAMI AND THAT SHE JUST MADE UP HOW ASAMI’S FATHER WAS AN EQUALIST BECAUSE SHE WAS JUST JEALOUS? Or are we going to conveniently forget that? Mako threatened to cut off his friendship with Korra because he thought that she was just being jealous and immature. Wow, it’s not like we didn’t see a jealous and immature Mako just an episode or two before, right? Wow, Mako can’t do a damn thing wrong, can he?
So Korra basically says, “fuck you” and a bunch of shit happens and we realize that Mr. Sato sucks and Asami loses her family. Korra finally decides that she needs to stop being a twat to Asami and a friendship begins to form. It would have been great if Korra had been the one to tell Asami about the kiss, implying that Korra respected Asami. However, this doesn’t happen. When Asami finds out about the kiss, it’s from Mako’s little brother and even when Mako is confronted about the kiss by Asami, she is basically told to “shut up” and “get over it” and act as if it never happened.
So, when Korra gets captured, Mako goes batshit crazy about it, and we see that he didn’t show half as much emotion when Bolin had been captured. You’d think that having his brother taken away from him would cause a stronger reaction but nope! It has to be Korra or we don’t care, right Mako? It makes me wonder how he would have reacted that, instead of Korra being captured, if it had been Asami?
Keep in mind that Asami and Bolin are basically taking the back burner. Asami is losing things left and right and her boyfriend is beginning to act as if she doesn’t exist at all.
So, Korra gets brought back again and yay and the feels are coming. Mako seems like he just struck a rainbow and Bolin and Asami are being forced to take it. Bolin becomes relatively silent at this point, probably trying to think that his brother really isn’t trying to get two chicks at the same time. His brother fucked him over and didn’t even ask how Bolin felt. He just assumed that Bolin got over it. Asami, on the other hand, is starting to see things and yet the fandom is hating Asami over nothing.
From then on until the season finale, we see a bunch of empty moments between everyone. Mako is completely disregarding everybody’s feelings but his own because Mako feels as if Asami and Bolin don’t matter when it comes to Korra. He waits on Korra hand and foot and tells his girlfriend to go away when she comes to him about a genuine concern. The girl isn’t going to give up without a fight. Korra shows signs of shoving off Mako’s late advances, which is a good sign.
But, somehow, we come to see that although there were no romantic moments shown by the writers to portray a genuine love connection between Mako and Korra, Mako out of the blue spits out that he “loves” Korra and she word vomits back that she feels the same. Up to this point, Mako has tossed his girlfriend Asami to the side not giving her proper closure to their failing relationship. Remember that one part where Korra said that Asami needed Mako? Did that only last five minutes? Smooth move, guys.
In less than 24 hours, Mako has single-handedly managed to try and hit on his girlfriend’s friend while she was sleeping, break his girlfriend’s heart by vaguely dumping her but telling her that even though he lied to her and treated her like a sack of potatoes that he cares about her, forces himself upon the girl he had been stringing along throughout the entire season by chasing after her even after she stated that she needed to be alone and then spitting out that he “loves” her even though it’s more related to infatuation than anything else. Once again, completely shoving his and Asami’s relationship back in Asami’s face, perpetuating that if you’re a pretty boy you can have anybody you want and you won’t have to suffer any consequences for your actions if you say “I love you”.
The reason why Makorra is poorly developed and not a relationship people should strive to emulate is because of its poor development in and of itself. These two people have had no moments together besides maybe one or two, that would convince somebody that they have romantic feelings. Attraction does not equal love, it equals infatuation. It takes a lot more than thinking somebody’s hot to fall in love with them. Korra had been meaningless to Mako until he found out that she was the Avatar. He went and took the girl right under from Bolin because he felt threatened that for once his brother could have something he couldn’t. Mako broke Asami’s heart and thought it was completely okay for him to do so as long as he got the “it” girl in the end.
Makorra is a sexist and toxic relationship that only feeds into the stereotype that pretty boys can get off easy from anything. If Mako had been a girl, or if Asami had pulled the same things as Mako had, you KNOW that you wouldn’t forgive them nearly as easy and would sitting here writing the same analysis calling them out on their bullshit.
Avatar Ex Machina
OK, first of all…holy buckets of bullshit, I love this blog. I’m SO glad this exists, and that I’m not the only person in the fandom who thinks Mako’s character was about as interesting as the average rock. Maybe less interesting.
I just wanted to bitch about the season finale for a second…mainly the last couple of minutes. The more I sit and think about it, the more I am completely shocked by how much cop-out they were able to pack into 1.5 minutes of screentime. I know some people were bothered by the fact that Korra instantly “unlocked” her airbending abilities after Amon took her other bending away, but I didn’t have a problem with that. It seemed pretty reasonable that her airbending would finally kick in once she no longer had her preferred elements to fall back on. So yeah, that didn’t bother me.
But oh God, they ruined the most AMAZING setup by having Aang restore her bending like 5 minutes after she lost it. When Katara walked out of the room and announced that she couldn’t heal Korra, I thought, “wow, this is incredible. Now Korra’s REALLY gonna have to learn airbending. She’s going to have to study hard, adjust her view of herself, and come to terms with what it’s like to be a regular bender. It’s just like what Avatar Yangchen said! The Avatar has to learn how it feels to be human!”
As I watched Korra walk outside, angry and lost, completely undone by the sudden change in her identity, I thought “OMG, yes. Korra’s entire life has been about being a super-powerful, in-your-face, physical chick, and now she’s going to have to learn spirituality. Diplomacy. Flexibility. She’s going to have to look INWARD rather than outward.” And then, if things weren’t delicious enough, she turned down Mako’s (premature, unconvincing, and frankly uncomfortably) declaration of love, because she was too torn up about her personal issues. I thought, “Holy shit, this is perfect! Now, if we’re really stuck with Makorra, at least the writers can ACTUALLY develop their relationship in season 2, and maybe teach Mako-the-douche a few lessons about owning up to his shit. Asami will have time to adjust and won’t just get tossed aside, and Mako and Korra won’t just be thrown together because hey, ‘it’s meant to be!11!’”.
And when Korra’s tear fell from the edge of the cliff, I felt closer to her character than I ever had before. Because let’s get something straight - I like Korra, but she’s not an easy character for the average person to relate to. Showing her heartbreak, showing her feelings of inadequacy and helplessness, showing how painful it can be to deal with CHANGE…ugh, it was just so powerful. When you have a character like Korra, who’s headstrong, brash, arrogant, and in a rush to beat things up, a key part of their character development has to be a period of “humbling”, where they are forced to see the world in a different way, learn new problem-solving strategies, and come out a slightly kinder and more rounded person. So when I saw Aang appear and offer a word of wisdom, I literally got misty-eyed for a moment. I thought, “OMG, this is it! She’s finally got in touch with her spiritual side! Now she can begin the journey of learning about her inner strength and her connection to past ages! And maybe, with enough hard work, personal growth, and gains in badassery, she can learn to restore bending just like Aang could take it away! AGGGH THIS IS AWESOME!!”
But then, just when I was SO excited for the second season, so psyched for the character development possibilities, SO pumped for Korra to grow into a more complex person, they just HAND HER BENDING BACK TO HER ON A SILVER PLATTER. No personal growth necessary. And then she runs off and embraces Mako (who yet again explicitly ignored her AND Tenzin’s commands to give her some space), and I’m supposed to feel happy about this??! Woo-frickety-hoo. I’m glad it’s possible to restore bending (and let’s be honest, after Lin Beifong got hers taken away, we all knew it would be), but this was NOT the way to do it. Oh, God was it poorly handled. I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a Deux ex Machina plot twist. I cannot for the life of me fathom WHY Bryke added this. It goes against the most basic principles of character writing. I guess maybe they didn’t want to end the season on a “dark” note or whatever, but that’s BULLSHIT - if you can show a councilman BLOW HIMSELF AND HIS BROTHER UP, you can leave your protagonist with a little bit of inner turmoil. And Jesus Christ, she still had airbending. It wasn’t like she was left crippled and helpless.
Korra NEEDED to have a big obstacle like this to overcome. You wanna know why? Because writing a compelling character arc is about showing CHANGE. It’s about showing that the protagonist has learned an important lesson or has emerged a different person, for better or worse. Nobody in this series learned anything. Korra didn’t have to adjust her thinking, or learn thoughtfulness, or discover some new part of herself. It was handed to her. Mako never had to learn his lesson about stringing along two women, or acting like a controlling ass, or having more mood-swings than a PMSing teenage girl. Bolin didn’t grow up at all, or strengthen his relationship with his brother, or even ACKNOWLEDGE what happened with the whole love triangle fiasco. If anything, Asami was the person who changed the most in the first season, if only because she started out rich, happy, and secure, and ended up hanging out with hobos underground and fighting her daddy. But even she didn’t really change her worldview. I still don’t really know who she IS. I know some fans are saying “but we still have the second season! There’s still time for them to change!” Well, there would have been, if Korra hadn’t instantly been given her bending back, and Makorra hadn’t been shoved in our faces like a wet diaper. But now the setup for character growth is gone. We’ve been returned to status quo, and poorly so. So what’s the point of a second season at all? When your series is only 24 episodes, it’s not wise to start from scratch at episode 12. Looking back, the 1st season works neither as a stand-alone miniseries, nor as the first half of a longer series. I don’t get what they were going for.
I think the poorly-executed ending just underscores the biggest problem with The Legend of Korra as a whole: insufficient character development (and yes, I mostly blame Mako for dragging every scene down with him). I hate it when fans offer the “they ran out of time ‘cause it was only 12 episodes!!” excuse. They got way bogged down in the completely useless love triangle thing, and they squandered precious time with Degrassi-like shipping drama that could have been used to show the audience what kind of PEOPLE Korra, Bolin, Mako, and Asami are, not just who wants to bone whom. Mako wouldn’t have looked like a douchebag, Bolin wouldn’t have been painfully sidelined to make room for Makorra, and Asami wouldn’t have been romantically shafted and irrationally hated by half the fandom. I read in an interview with the creators (I’m not sure whether it was Bryke who said this, or the questioner) that “one of the main sources of tension in LOK is the love triangle”. This, to me, is the crux of the issue. Your tension does not come from the love triangle. It comes from the mask-wearing psycho who lurks in the shadows, and who preaches a philosophy that involves robbing another person of a key part of their identity. It comes from a manipulative, blood-bending politician keen on exploiting any situation for his own gain. It comes from the threat of imminent social unrest in a city where two different classes of citizens could potentially try to annihilate one another. It comes from a father so warped by grief that he tries to destroy his own daughter, or a pair of brothers ruined by the cruel and twisted nature of their upbringing. THAT’S where your tension comes from, not a ridiculous ship war. Jeez.
And, when you’ve got such danger hanging over the heads of your characters, it is VITAL that you allow them to bond and trust one another. The love triangle really undermined the unity of team Avatar, and I find that rather sad. By focusing on the divisive elements within their foursome and OMGMAKODRAMA, rather than on their friendship and mutual support, I was never really able to root for the Krew the way I was able to root for the Gaang. I just didn’t CARE about the characters, and I’m not sure whether that’s because the characters themselves were so flat, or rather because the relationships between them were so weak. Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario.
It’s a real shame, because the things that LOK does well, it does VERY well. The show is at its best, in my opinion, in its dark moments - the moments that make our hair stand on end, that make our throats constrict with pity or fear or rage. When Korra wanders into political territory, it excels. It does a fantastic job building up the idea of a moral gray area, and it touches upon the conflict between tradition and modernity in a way that, I wish, was more thoroughly explored. The plot and villain were really neat, and the finale SHOULD have been beyond incredible, but it just didn’t quite work. And you know why? Because, in the end, a good story depends on good characters. You can have a brilliant setup, a huge budget, great animation, and amazing music, but if the audience doesn’t cry with the protagonist and her friends, doesn’t laugh with them, doesn’t feel physically sickened when they get punched, doesn’t feel HORRIFIED by the thought of losing any of them - well, the series won’t ever reach its full potential. Believe me when I say that I came into this WANTING to love Korra and her new buddies. I wanted to lose myself in this world, to drink in the heady rush of fictional life-and-death conflicts. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot bring myself to become invested in these characters.
Except Lin Beifong. I hope season 2 is about her.
Why I hate Makorra
First of all, I feel it is necessary to indicate how much I love this blog. I had been feeling like I was alone in my hatred and disgust for Makorra, and ultimately Mako. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.
Okay, initially when watching the series, I was certain Mako was going to be a favorite character for me. Besides his undeniably good looks, he was a powerful firebender and I appreciated his dedication to Bolin, and his jobs. As an older sibling myself, I connected with his willingness to do anything for Bolin, even bringing him back a treat, as he came back from a long shift at work. At that point, there was no way I could have predicted how badly things would turn out.
As soon as things started to get romantic between him and Korra, every good point I had for him had gone out of the window. This was an immediate turn-off as a viewer for me because the one thing I expected from the show was a powerful, independent Avatar Korra. I expected to see the Korra that I had been seeing until that point. The young Korra who busted down a wall in her house, showing how awesome her bending was. The Korra who was prepared to leave everything she knew to improve her skills. The Korra who saved that poor non-bender’s store from the gangs. She had so much potential. But with her ridiculous infatutation, she just ended up looking weaker.
As LOK fans, I’m sure those of us with high expectations of Korra, still cringe as we remember this awkward line: “I LIKE YOU AND I THINK WE’RE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER!”
Not only was it a cheesy out-of-place line for such a serious atmosphere, but my respect for Korra dropped at that point, as I began to contemplate whether she was boy-crazy. It was only until her separation from Mako and the group that I started to gain some respect for her once more, as she proved that she could handle her own and do what she thought was right. But every Makorra scene after that was unnecessary, awkward and ultimately made me cringe.
Secondly, Mako did receive a lot of hate for how he treated Asami. And he deserved every bit of it. I give him a bit of leeway in the beginning because he may not have noticed his own behavior, which was very unlikely. But when Asami confronted him about it, not only did he deny it, but he did nothing to improve the situation. He continued over-pampering Korra and even when he received backlash from his girlfriend, he didn’t try fix it. In fact, he ignored it. In the end, he still didn’t own up to his betrayal. Frankly I hated it, more so, because of Asami. Instead of focusing on her loss and her struggle with leaving her father to do the right thing, the show made her character become focused on being annoyed, angry and hurt at a boy, which many Makorra fans saw as her being ‘bitchy’. It made her a weaker character, despite her great strides. Frankly, I couldn’t see how it would have hurt the plot if Mako did the right thing and addressed the issue and broken up with Asami properly, instead of dragging her through hurt and then letting her go.
Thirdly, Makorra overshadowed a lot. And I mean a lot. My personal issue was the lack of Bolin’s character development. Not only did he, after having his heart broken, amazingly get up, like the issue was miniscule, but from that point on, he was purely comedic relief and kind of empty space. Even the fact that he was Mako’s little brother became so unimportant that if someone began watching from that point, they might not have known they were related until that one miniscule goodbye in the finale. I also personally felt that a lot of important issues had to make way for Makorra. Such as the initial plot of the show.
If you ever search through tumblr under the Legend of Korra tag, you would have no idea that the show was about a young woman trying to become stronger in a city that has some serious political issues. I may be biased, but the fact that this serious storyline was overshadowed by their relationship, just led to more and more unnecessary ‘ships’ by the fandom. Compared to Avatar, LOK had so many more pairings, and with characters that some might not even recognize. It wasn’t until just last week that I found out who Howl was, just to learn there was a whole ship for him and Korra. It got ridiculous, as many have probably observed. It got to a point that hardly anyone respected the plot as much as the drooled over these ships.
I got a bit off topic and I was rambling, but I’ve gotten my frustrations out. Makorra, if put off for a while and without hurting other characters involved, might have made a good side story. But too much weight was put on it and unfortunately, I think it largely diminished the show’s value.
Absolutely—that’s one of the biggest problems with how the Makorra was handled, and it’s comforting (though a little sad) to know that I wasn’t the only one who cringed and lost a little respect for Korra at her confessions of love to Mako. I’ve said it in the past and I’ll keep on saying it, they really brought out the worst in each other. Mako brought out nothing good in Korra—she became very immature, very hard to respect and admire. And you know, all fleshed out characters have those moments, but there was just something off about this Korra. It almost felt OOC, and prior to LOK, I had a hard time believing that anything canon could be called OOC. I think the finale really changed that opinion, though.
Too much was pushed to the back seat in favor of letting the love story take center stage, even to the point that in Endgame, we see Korra’s role as the protagonist and hero completely undermined by Mako. Going through the tags, no, you probably wouldn’t be able to see that it’s a show about a young woman trying to become stronger. It’s like a very awful teenage love story and the fact that it became this is so unfortunate considering how well of a start the show had. So many amazing socio-political messages could have been addressed and it all could have been so fantastic. But what did we get? Makorra. In fact, even the Makorra fandom should be a bit more upset—not even the core pairing of the show was handled very well.
How You Can Have a Bunch of Great Ideas but Still Fuck Up Real Bad: A Korra Essay
Hahahaha ever since Saturday the Korra finale seems to make me angrier and angrier. As a storyteller and as a fan of solid storytelling, it is an atrocious mess! I stand by the creators are amazing directors, amazing concept artists, amazing producers, but wow are they terrible writers. They have absolutely no understanding of dramatic convention, and so the first season of The Legend of Korra suffered greatly from terrible execution, and the core ideas were so good it should’ve been a gamechanger. It should’ve been the most brilliant thing on television and instead we were given a 12-week narrative case of blue balls.
Disclaimer: if you enjoyed/love/fanatic about Korra, by all means continue to do so! I enjoyed a lot about Korra. In fact that is why I am so frustrated. But that aside, this is meant as a critique and a dissection and as such you can take it or you can leave it. Nothing I have to say will change the show, nor will anything I have to say will have any effect on what season 2 will bring. Mostly I have been ranting about it to everyone on a daily basis since Saturday and this is my way to finally just. get. it. all. out. So this is me shouting into the ether for my own cathartic glee.