Korra Week: Day 3, F E A R."Oh dear, you’ve been through so much recently. Hurt and betrayed. So twisted up inside. You’re still full of love, but fear has moved in where trust should be." (Guru Pathik)
Korra Week: Day 2 → Fierce
"Who do you think you are?" "Why don’t you come and find out."
Wow. Just had a brain flash reading that quote from Book 1, in light of recent interviews (IGN) with Bryke. Who do you think you are has really turned out to be quite the loaded question for Korra throughout the series, and it was there from the very beginning.
Book 1 - she came in thinking who she was was all about her bending abilities. She’d openly displayed three of the four main from a very young age. Tenzin bemoans When are you going to learn it’s not all about fighting? (sic), i.e. physical ability. Tarrlok calls her a “half-baked” Avatar which is a blow to her sense of self. Amon as book 1’s villain is the perfect foil for this. He almost entirely strips away Korra’s physical ability. And what is she after that? She doesn’t know, and contemplates suicide; she thinks she’s no longer the Avatar and bitterly tells Mako as much. Experiencing a spiritual re-awakening at her lowest point, with contact by Aang and the previous Avatars, starts her on a different identity.
Book 2 - she’s a fully realized Avatar (or thinks she is). She’s still reveling in her physical power. We first see her making use of the Avatar state to win a race with the air kids. Tenzin again rebukes her, this time for making trivial use of a great power she doesn’t understand. She begins a trek into spiritual matters that she needs, but is manipulated by her uncle who has ulterior plans. While supposedly training her, he is actually keeping her psychically in the dark. She tells her mother all she’s ever wanted to be is the Avatar. But that’s a construct in her mind - what is the Avatar? She still doesn’t know. She knows by now it’s more than just physical ability. She literally loses her sense of “self” for a time by being infected with a dark spirit. “Who are you?/I am you/Who am I?/You are the Avatar/I don’t know what that is!” It’s not until delving into the furthest spiritual past and meeting Wan & Raava that she begins to gain an understanding and appreciation of all the Avatar is. Her first foray into the Spirit world is traumatic and almost her last. Iroh teaches her that she has power on an emotional/spiritual level as well (I can make the sun shine?) . Just as her sense of identity has grown to include the realm of spirit and her past lives, that is also stripped away by UnaVaatu. Now she thinks she is nothing without Raava. Haven’t you heard anything I said? I’m not connected to a spirit anymore. Tenzin is again there to remind her that she’s forgetting something very important: her own spirit. She is more than just Raava. She has personhood and agency of her own, just like Wan did. She (and every other Avatar) can elect how to wield their power. Korra uses her own spiritual connection to the cosmos to battle UnaVaatu, holding him off long enough for Jinora to bring Raava back so that Korra can retrieve her. (Tangent: I don’t ascribe to the complaint that Jinora was a deus ex machina here. While Korra obviously couldn’t have known that Jinora was going to retrieve Raava like that, I would argue it’s a karmic reward for Korra’s previous actions. Korra refused to sacrifice Jinora’s spirit and opened the northern portal when blackmailed by Unalaq. Her actions there rebounded to her, and the world’s, good. Here’s a nice bit from the Talmud that encapsulates that idea: “And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’)
While Korra is able to re-bond with Raava, it does come at a price: her connection to her past lives has been severed. Again, a major part of her identity has been stripped away and she has to begin looking for yet another definition of herself. She is the first of a new line, and must forge a new path. It’s both freeing (she doesn’t have to be bound to what anyone else did, and remember Aang felt burdened by that when trying to figure out what to do with Ozai) and terrifying (They’re gone. And I’m all alone. ABoFA)
Book 3, Korra now has to work out exactly who she is knowing it’s not just physical ability, not just Raava, and with no past lives to offer experience or wisdom. It’s more like identity through subtraction. After nearly losing Raava in Book 2, she seems to have gained more respect and caution in use of the Avatar state, judging by her only using it in an attempt to spirit cleanse the vines. While still bold, she does start using less physical means of solving problems - talking down nervous new airbenders, voluntarily meditating, and trying to mediate between Tenzin & Bumi and also Suyin & Lin. Conflict resolution: it’s what I do. She also strengthens bonds with her friends - developing a close relationship with Asami despite past romantic entanglements, and seeking to keep her friendship with Mako despite the same. She even engages in discussion with her enemy, Zaheer, not that it amounts to much since we know neither will change. She can more easily move into the spirit world via meditation.
In the conflict with the Red Lotus, she is viewed as an obstacle and obstruction. She is “unnecessary” to the world, and that is her greatest fear as shown by her poisoned hallucinations in the cave. Does the Avatar have a place in the modern world? Who is she and what is her worth if not?
Broken down physically and emotionally, Korra’s future is uncertain. Bittersweetly, her service and sacrifice is an inspiration for others to feel themselves called into service to the world for the greater good. But will she feel that she is no longer needed because of that? Hopefully not, as I doubt Tenzin’s intentions were to make her feel that way. But with a modernizing socio-political landscape, the Avatar role will also have to evolve. She cannot, as Lin once said, go around distributing so-called vigilante justice. Will her role become one more of ceremony and diplomacy?
Book 4 has yet to come, and holy shit. It’s all one big journey of self-discovery and identity and it’s freaking masterful how it’s been set up that way from the very first episode!
"Asami and Korra’s relationship experienced major growth this season, and their bond continues to grow in the finale’s epilogue, with Asami caring for her best friend by keeping her company and offering her emotional support. Rather than forcing these two women into romantic entanglements this season, the writers decided to focus on their friendship with each other, an extremely refreshing choice that reinforced the strength of these characters as independent women. The female cast dominated this season, which makes me even more depressed that this season wasn’t able to reach as many viewers as it should have."-
Oliver Sava, A.V. Club reviewer
See his full review of Book 3’s finale here.
roth: was [the queen's death] difficult to get on air?
mike: it wasn't on airShe had no air, which was definitely a problem for her.
"(A) we didn’t want [a movie] to be done at all before anyone was attached, and then (B) if it was going to be done, we wanted to do it, but they weren’t going to let us. (C) When they attached Night, we just thought – well this is what we’ve been dealt, we’ll offer help when it’s asked of us and if it’s not we’ll just stay out of the way. And in the beginning it was more positive and we offered help, but then we had a big falling out… It’s a long story. I would need two weeks to tell you this story and in the end what do you get? The only thing that could be said is that it was a wasted opportunity, and I mean wasted: money wasted, time wasted, [potential wasted]… On one level… I’m proud of the [show] we made, but it doesn’t encompass my entire life and my being. On the other hand, [these characters] are our children, these characters are real to us, and to watch [them] be dragged through the mud… was just so disheartening…” It’s heartbreaking, but at the end of the day it’s not the first time… a project was horribly adapted in Hollywood, it’s not the last time it’s going to happen, it might even happen to us again, we never know… So when you say, ‘Did we have any involvement?’ We gave input that went no where. So we were involved, but our involvement had no effect."-
On M.Night Shamalayan’s The Last Airbender
"That experience gave us a little extra motivation to write Korra ourselves, and to say ‘We’re going to do this right this time.’” – Mike DiMartino
I’d compare this debacle to how Joss Whedon’s original idea for Buffy the Vampire Slayer resulted in a horribly campy movie (he had the idea, but little power over direction if I recall correctly). Luckily for Joss, he got a second chance via the tv series, and look at how that turned out, and so did Bryke with Korra.
"The maturity that you see in Mako and Korra being able to love each other as friends, whether or not it’s a relationship, is not necessarily something a lot of teenagers get to at that young of an age."-
The source linked above also discloses the release date for the Platinum produced Korra game! Oct 21 (PS) Oct 22 (Xbox)