Why the Avatar series is almost perfect <3
Bryke has been able to fight stereotypes created by almost all major forms of discrimination in the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra. It is by no means, 100% perfect. For example, Toph’s blindness is a bit romanticized and there are no non-binary characters but it’s still the most progressive kids show I’ve seen in my entire life.
Racism/Colorism: All characters are Asian. Indigenous and dark-skinned Asians are also represented. The heritage of each bender doesn’t affect their ability or their strength. Dark-skinned characters have as much screen time as light-skinned. In Korra, the main character is dark-skinned and indigenous. The entire series also holds homage to eastern ideals and religion – ideas of balance, spirits, and community.
Sexism: I mean, I don’t even feel like I need to write this. The show is saturated with multidimensional strong female characters that have authority over their own lives and are just plain BADASSES. (Just to list a few: Katara, Toph, Suki, Korra, Asami, Su Yin, Lin, Opal, Jinora, Ikki, Azula, Ty Lee, Mai, etc.) Bryke also showed me that they have a very deep understanding of sexism, because they were able to engage these characters in a series of romantic relationships and none of their strength or empowerment was forsaken because of it. Bryke showed the complexity and flexibility of female identity.
Ableism: Toph is blind but is still able to play a valuable and very powerful role in the series. She is noted as the greatest earth bender to live. Teo is a non-bender in a wheelchair that is still able to fight off firebenders and help Aang succeed in his mission. Both avatars deal with PTSD at some point. Korra’s rehabilitation is particularly noteworthy, because she didn’t just bounce back right after some magic water. She kept having visions and limitations to her physical strength. It took her multiple tries to recuperate stability and balance.
Ageism: Aang and the rest of his gang are between the ages of 12-16 and defeat a 30+ year old fire lord. In Korra, Jinora (14) guides Korra in to the spirit world instead of her 40-year-old father with “experience”. She also helps Korra battle Unalaq-Vaatu by bringing light. In the end, Meelo (7) get his chance to shine by blinding Kuvira’s robot monster with paint. The younger folks in the series have their voices heard and valued. They also see the fruits of their hard-work, because a lot of their plans prove to be successful.
Classism: This one was beginning to bother me, because most of the Avatar’s friends in the Last Airbender had some relation to either rich or powerful people (Zuko - Firelord’s son, Toph- Beifong’s are rich, Sokka and Katara- children of a general). Then came Korra’s new friends Mako and Bolin. Mako and Bolin are orphaned and poor, but still kick as much ass as the very-rich Asami Sato. Mako talks about his poorness and how that has strengthened him and also made him very humble.
Transphobia/Cissexism: Smellerbee is misgendered in one scene and some fans have let me know that this is possibly a scene representing trans issues.
SOME LACKING AREAS:
Sizism: All the women are very thin. Only fat characters are Iroh and Bumi II, which are old men retired from the millitary.
Overall, it’s been such a pleasure watching a show that rejects western ideals of misogyny and white supremacy. I feel really empowered as a queer woman of color! :) Thanks Bryke.