Avatar: The Last Narrative-bender

It’s 11:12 AM Eastern US at the time of this writing, but it was much earlier when I read yet another dialogue on how Korra is better than Aang which was of course met with “No u” and I’m tired, y’all.

I know that for those of us who have seen both series, we have our leanings and opinions one way or another. Some of us like both equally. However, based on what I’m seeing, I feel the basis of some opinions need to be addressed, so let’s get into it because I should be doing work for my day job.

Let’s start with…

This Dichotomy Isn’t Real

Recognize and become comfortable with the fact that we do not have to be combative with our passions. People can like what they like for the reasons they like them and those things can be communicated with vigor, vim, and verve without having to dump on others.

Avatar: the Last Airbender and Avatar: the Legend of Korra are two separate-but-connected pieces of media. Each one has struggles, merits, and most important – their own stories to tell. Both are enjoyable. Both have endearing and relatable characters. Both had hiccups until they found their footing.

Do I have opinions on the show? Of course I do, but speaking on them and going, “This one wasn’t as much my thing as this other one” doesn’t require me to (1) project characteristics onto other people and (2) be a dick about somehow being superior in taste.

See also: video games, movies, media, clothing, literally anything we consume ffs.

Struggles Are Not Universal In Their Expression

Before we get into the meat of this section, let me explain this concept about the Avatar series. There is a person who is the Avatar. There is a rotation with regard to which nation the Avatar comes from. Each element is associated with positive and negative character traits.

In each series, there is a discourse with the Avatars in which these things are true:

  1. The current Avatar is expect to act like the previous one the world decided to deify.
  2. All ancestral wisdom tells the Avatar, “Your journey is your own. We can offer wisdom, but you have to walk the path your own way.”
  3. The element – and related character traits – frame the struggle that each Avatar will face.

The first point? That’s not just the people in the world of Avatar, but apparently the fans as well. Stop expecting their struggles to be the same. They aren’t the same. Let’s talk about this from a lore standpoint.

Aang

Aang is a airbending monk who avoids confrontation by being quick or clever. Yes, that is a direct quote from the show. His whole martial arts style is based on moving in circles and being in your blind spot. At his best, he is charming, clever, diplomatic. At his worst, indecisive and avoidant.

His whole journey is developing his character and each element teaches him something, but he struggles to overcome that avoidant part of his airbending nature.

Look at the day of black sun.

Look at the final confrontation with Ozai.

During his talk with a past Avatar, that was also a monk from his nation, he got dragged for not standing firm and doing what needed to be done. This conversation is a sum up of where this journey is taking him and he still doesn’t meet the task in the end.

Korra

Now let’s talk about Korra. She came out of the gate swinging with earth, fire, and water. We can expect to see similar traits to Zuko, Katara, and Toph here. She’s passionate, headstrong and stubborn. Has no problems with standing her ground and can be nurturing and kind and caring. She’s missing air.

What does she struggle with for most of this series? Letting things go. Knowing when to back off. Detachment. That’s what air does and she struggles to grasp this for some time.

The elements not being the same should tell you the journey isn’t the same because every past Avatar makes that exact point every time they are called upon for wisdom.

Seriously, Chill Out

The layers of projection and such are astronomical and I will not be unpacking the fact that, in addition to other things, Korra is a woman as the Avatar (not the first) and a PoC (also not the first). If you have issues with that, let me tell you about how you’re gonna take exception with every Water or Earth Tribe Avatar ever. Bye.

Moving on, I can easily understand and grasp the many reasons that Korra resonates with some people and Aang resonates with others, but let’s discuss a few things:

  • “This avatar is clearly superior because…” No. Shut up.
  • “Aang didn’t struggle and deal with loss the way Korra did because…” Just scroll up a bit and re-read the section where we discuss them being different people.
  • Struggles are not invalid because you don’t see them. Let’s talk about this one more time. I, as a rule, wear the things I struggle with pretty well. The amount of times that I have been told that I don’t know what pain or struggle is because of how I appear while dealing with them is obscene. Someone not performing their struggles for you does not invalidate them OR validate your opinion.

Now I need more comfort food. While I get it, try being less abrasive in any way and consider that whole dichotomy section.

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