An Open Letter to Nickelodeon on Korra
In light of the recent conclusion of The Legend of Korra, I felt the need to write to you about the importance of the series and its impact on its viewers, as well as the way it has been treated by Nickelodeon as a whole. I believe that there was much potential missed as the result of the way the series was handled. From information gathered in interviews and blog posts by Mr. Bryan Konietzko and Mr. Michael Dante DiMartino, it is made clear that Nickelodeon never had a clear goal in mind for the series. From the very beginning where the series was in jeopardy of ever being made due to outmoded gendered thinking that boys would not watch a show starring a woman, to the constant shuffling of the show’s timeslot, to the recent moving of the show to online only, and the budget cuts, the impression is made that Nickelodeon at best was unaware of the potential they had, or at worst was acting against the continuation of the show. I choose to believe the former out of goodwill.
In my experience growing up watching Nickelodeon, the network never made any serious attempts at producing or acquiring animated content aimed at older viewers. Despite any original intentions, that is what The Legend of Korra became. The majority of the show’s fanbase were children or young teenagers when Avatar: The Last Airbender first aired in 2005. We grew up with Avatar and Korra matched us by creating characters that were of similar age to ourselves. The recipient audience of Korra was never what was intended. That said, the show was never given the proper treatment to match its true audience. An intense, plot-driven show like Korra is amazing to have lasted as long as it did. Both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra were amazingly well received, even after the latter was removed from television.
The Legend of Korra and the Avatar universe in general was something special, something unique. It created a world free of earthly racial, and gender stereotypes, free of biases on sexual orientation. It tackled issues never done seriously before in “children’s” media; war, genocide, oppression, class struggles, trauma, equality, harmony, and love. It was a refuge for many from a cruel, unkind, and uncaring world. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t free from shortcomings in writing, but it was truly a wonder to behold. The end of The Legend of Korra and the reaction to it demonstrates something profound.
In contrast to what I presume is the standard operating procedure of children’s programming, your network allowed Mr. Konietzko and Mr. DiMartino to portray the titular character Korra and her best friend Asami as a romantically involved bisexual couple. This by itself is a momentous event in television, Korra and Asami are the first confirmed on-screen LGBT characters in children’s media. The reaction is even better. Korra has been continually praised by the press and fans for its progressiveness in breaking both gender stereotypes and furthering the representation of LGBT people. I hope the reception to this is encouraging for you and your network. I hope that Nickelodeon will not shy away from portraying LGBT relationships in the same manner that straight relationships are portrayed. 2015 is upon us, gay marriage is legal in over 40 states and in the federal government. The tide has shifted; you and your network have nothing to fear anymore. Korra broke the mold and set you free.
In that respect, I believe it is unwise to allow The Legend of Korra and the Avatar universe in general to end. Whether it continues with more seasons of Korra, television or silver screen movies, or even at the very least in more comic books, Korra deserves to live on. In the short time that it has been on the air, the show has made a tremendous impact on the lives of many of its viewers. In breaking gender stereotypes having the show led by strong women of color, it gave women and girls a role model unlike any other they’ve had before. In breaking the LGBT ceiling, it gives men and women, boys and girls, who live in a world where media tells them that straight is normal and LGBT is abnormal, an example of normality for themselves. I can’t understate how culturally significant this show has been and how much more it could be if it was given another, stronger chance at life. Sometimes the world changes only with small steps, sometimes it needs a big push. Give it that push, bring back Korra.
Yet, I do understand that Nickelodeon is a business and you are beholden to your shareholders. The world of Avatar has an amazing potential to be both financially successful as well as socially progressive. General convention holds that boys won’t play with female toys, this is untrue. I believe that if properly advertised and properly used, Korra could do well with action figures aimed at both a male and female demographic. Socially progressive toys would be a great press relations boon, as stereotypically gendered toys are coming under intense criticism. As well, higher-end action figures would likely be well received among Korra’s older viewership, not to mention clothing, backpacks, posters, soundtracks, books, pens, video games, so on and so forth for both demographics.
In changing Korra’s original timeslot the attached demographic, rather than the target, was ignored. Korra should have been given top billing on Saturday mornings, a time when both the target demographic, children, and the attached demographic, teenagers and young adults would be able to tune in. Book 1 of Korra did so amazingly well in ratings (averaging 3.7 million viewers per episode!), yet when the show was removed from Saturday mornings, was inadequately advertised, and the ratings dropped, it was never rectified. Korra still holds great financial and social potential if it can be tapped.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you take it to heart and see the positive impact The Legend of Korra has made on so many lives.
Sincerely, a lifelong fan of Nickelodeon
I mailed this to Cyma Zarghami at the Nickelodeon offices in NYC today. I don’t expect a response, I just felt that I needed to do this, something at all really.
Thanks to the KorraGAF community for peer reviewing this.