The Legend of Korra is coming to Netflix on Friday, August 14th, and ready or not, the great Aang vs. Korra debate is about to return like it never left. It’s perfect timing, though. Because a lot of us are still stuck at home with little to do, and fans old and new are foaming at the mouth for some more Avatar content after the original show made its Netflix debut back in May.
For many of us, that means that outside of owning the blu-ray or a digital version of the show, there will now be one place where we can watch Korra over and over. But for a lot of others, this will be the first time they see her at all.
The hype is real. But as someone who lived through it once, I know that a storm is coming. So, I just wanna put it out there for the umpteenth time: Korra isn’t Aang…so don’t expect her to be.
She’s Thee Avatar.
When shows like Avatar come out and garner massive praise from critics and fans alike, it can be a tough act to follow. The characters and the story reach legendary status, and anything from that point forward that isn’t exactly what people want can result in a fracture in the fanbase. It’s happened countless times, and it will continue to happen as long as good storytelling exists. But with Korra, it’s on a whole different level. If you love her show, you love it. But for those who don’t like it, the rage is stronger than a freshly banished Zuko searching for the Avatar.
Besides the obvious sexist reasons that people hate Korra, one thing that is always consistent across the disdain that people have for her show is how different it is from the original. But of course, it is. I don’t know what kind of person wants the same thing spoon-fed to them over and over and over again. We’ve seen recently how that’s not a good idea.
*Looks tearfully at the Star Wars sequel trilogy*
The creators of Avatar, Mike Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, went out of their way to make sure that Korra is different than Aang, and that her show stands on its own.
First off, Avatar is about reincarnation, and each subsequent version of the Avatar is a different element. So Korra is a Waterbender instead of an Airbender. And while she’s still young, she’s not a child, like Aang was. My mans was 12 years old, 112 if you count the iceberg years. So, I guess he wasn’t a mans.
At the beginning of Legend of Korra, Korra is 17. Five years isn’t inherently that big of a difference, but when you’re that young, it might be the difference between whether you grow armpit hair or not. Unlike Aang, Korra has known she was the Avatar basically all her life, and she’s been training for years. Korra is also a girl, and that shifted the perspective as well. But if you’re a well-adjusted individual, young or not, that would have never been a problem for you.
Because Korra is a little older than Aang, that presented the opportunity to explore different things on the show like dating, sexuality, and good old stubborn teenage drama.
But what I liked about the relationship dynamics in Korra as they relate to Aang is that yeah, Aang and the gang had a lot to deal with. They had to save the world from the Firelord and stop the 100-year war. But they more or less all shared a similar burden. Aang’s people were slaughtered by the Fire Nation, Katara and Sokka’s mother was murdered by the Fire Nation, and Zuko lost his mother, the left side of his face, and his honor to the Fire Nation. All of their problems are unique, yes. But they all stem from one branch.
Korra takes place, or at least starts, during peacetime. So, everyone’s problems are a bit more nuanced, and because of this, some of the characters have a lot harder a time resonating with one another because they don’t have that shared experience. This is often great, but sometimes it does get in the way of the grander narrative.
And speaking of narrative, the biggest difference between Aang and Korra is the conflict, and the way that it’s presented to us. And this, other than Korra being a girl who isn’t smiling for every waking moment, is what I think a lot of people have a problem with when it comes to this show. They just have a hard time vocalizing it.
Four Seasons, Four
The original show had one unified conflict, and we all knew what had to be done. The Firelord was pure evil and stopping him was the number one goal. Even the smaller villains of the show were all in some way related to the Firelord. Whether it was Zhao, Admiral of the Fire Navy, or Azula, princess, and daughter of the Firelord. Because of that, the story slowly builds to that fateful battle at the end with Aang and Ozai. It’s perfect, and the payoff is massive.
The Legend of Korra doesn’t do that. Korra has four seasons, and four different villains. There isn’t one fateful moment that the show is building toward, at least not one that we knew would be coming since the first episode like we did with the original show. But just because Korra doesn’t have one unified conflict doesn’t mean that her show’s conflict is somehow lesser than Aang’s. I would argue that Korra has to go through way more than Aang ever did. At a certain point, Korra is literally broken and has to rebuild herself from the ground up.
Speaking of having four different villains, Korra’s rogues gallery is up there with the likes of Spider-Man and Batman. That’s right. I said what I said. What makes Korra’s villains so good is that they are not inherently evil like Ozai was. They fight for things like equality, harmony, freedom, and unity.
Are they extreme? Without question. But they have reasons for being the way that they are, and the writers do a great job of peeling back and showing us what those reasons are so even though we root against them, we understand how they got that way. It’s like what we got from Zuko but to a lesser extent, while also at a higher clip.
Korra’s villains either fought for causes that were greater than them, or they were fighting demons that had a hold over them. And sometimes it was both. That’s something I can safely say we never got with Ozai. That man was just straight-up evil, and all he wanted was power. Sure, there were probably a number of reasons as to why that was the case, but we were never shown that.
You Don’t Hate Korra, You Hate Change
Korra actually gives us everything we want, just not how we want it. What I hear a lot from people about Avatar is that they want the continued adventures of the Aang gang. And even though we have a bunch of comics (some good ones at that) that do just that, it isn’t enough, and they want another show with the same characters in perpetuity.
That’s a lazy way to continue a franchise with a perfect ending. I’d choose what we wound up getting any day of the week. But also, The Legend of Korra did give us some of that, just not the way that people wanted.
We learned so much about Aang and the gang in Korra. We even got some great flashback sequences that show them as adults. But on top of that, we see the remnants of their lives and accomplishments flourishing in this new world. Some of the main characters are Aang and Katara’s son Tenzin, and Toph’s children Lin and Suyin. Katara, Zuko, and Toph are even still alive! The only thing we don’t know is what happens to Sokka. But other than that, everyone is more or less still around in some form. It just isn’t their story anymore.
And on top of that, something we learn, mostly from their children, is that they weren’t perfect people. I think that pissed a lot of fans off. But I loved it. It takes them off the pedestal and humanizes them. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko were kids when they took on the Fire Nation. Kids, man. That’s gonna take a toll. And in the Legend of Korra, we can see how the burdens and traumas from their childhood spilled over into adulthood and their families. It shows that they weren’t perfect, no matter how much you wanted them to be.
*Stares in The Last Jedi*
But make no mistake, just because it might not be in the way that you want, their footprints are all over this show. The entire world of The Legend of Korra is made in the image of the original crew. And if that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what is.
These are just a few of the reasons why I love this show and why I think people need to get over themselves. Yes, season two could have been better and yes, the original show was more consistently good, but The Legend of Korra bangs, and is more than a worthy successor to the original show. It goes a long way in enriching this universe.
If you can understand why it’s different than The Last Airbender, I think you will enjoy this show just as much as the original. Don’t @ me, though. I’ve expended all of my energy about this subject while writing this, and I’m gonna dip from twitter this weekend once the show drops on Netflix and the ice-cold takes start coming in.
I do hope this helps those who might have reservations about watching the show, or those who have seen it already but didn’t like it. I’m not saying you’re wrong for not liking it, (I kind of am) but I am saying that I don’t think you know why you don’t like it and maybe if you’d get Aang off your brain you might enjoy this show for what it is.