Having rewatched most of the first season now, I’ve been mulling something over. I’m aware a lot of people dislike Korra, regardless of the stories or plots. Now, I’m not saying this applies to everyone who dislikes Korra, not at all, but I wonder if it fits into a theory I’ve mentioned in the past.
Its because Korra is a woman. And no, this doesn’t have to do with misogyny or disliking women or anything like that. It stems from something else.
Korra starts out as somebody who, while wanting to do good, is also egotistical, thuggish and self centered. For every good thing she does, she messes up something else. Her anger gets the best of her, she’s easily manipulated and she’s socially awkward.
Additionally, Korra fails. Against nearly every enemy she faces, she’s entirely outmatched. She gets beaten by Tarrlok, Amon, Unaloq, Zaheer and Kuvira. Often, she only wins with the aid of another. In the end of Season 3, she’s left crippled emotionally and physically. She’s frequently put into positions of weakness.
In short. Korra embodies everything we’re not used in media. Korra is the hero but she’s deeply flawed, with major negative traits. She’s consistently shown up, consistently making bad decisions, and often put into positions of pain and suffering.
Consider if Korra was male. We KNOW there are male characters who display several traits like this. From the past Avatar series we have Zuko. From a more modern example, we have Bakugo from My Hero Acadamia. There are people who like both, despite them being jerks and taking multiple seasons to get through their character development.
Its just the concept of a female character who has the faults of a man, who goes through the same kind of struggle as a male character, that is foreign to us. Most media nowadays has women be able to face down and beat foes well outside their weight class. We see female characters who are entirely capable. We have female protagonists who, regardless of how snarky they are, are usually universally, respected or deferred to in their series.
Korra isn’t a damsel either. She actually suffers and the audience is shown it. She’s put into an intimately deadly situation with Amon early in Season 1. We see her poisoned and dying in Season 3. We see her suffer an emotional breakdown in Season 3 and 4. Damsels don’t suffer like that typically, we don’t see women tortured on screen much, if at all.
I have to wonder is some of the dislike for Korra, for SOME (not all) people is rooted in the simple fact that Korra is depicted as the antithesis of the modern ‘women are wonderful’ media narrative we have had going for so long. Its an alien concept in TV, let alone a children’s cartoon.
BK: Noatak and Tarrlok at their different young ages. I was expecting the task of designing young Noatak at all of these ages to be a real challenge, but Il-Kwang and Jin-Sun hit the nail on the head from the get-go. I was so relieved that I happily approved the designs and moved on to the next task, never noticing until the animation came back that he had the exact same hairstyle as our hero, Korra! I decided it was a kind of interesting and unexpected connection between Korra and Noatak/Amon, showing that despite how different they are in the present, the come from very similar cultural backgrounds. Tarrlok apparently sprouted an additional ponytail every few years. Expressions by Ki-Hyun Ryu and Il-Kwang Kim. Designs by Il-Kwang Kim and Jin-Sun Kim. Color by Sylvia Filcak-Blackwolf.