“The Legend Of Korra”: A Worthy Successor?
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Netflix released “Avatar: The Last Airbender” this past May. It dominated the internet in the form of memes, Tik Toks, and tweets. It held the number one spot on Netflix’s roster of most watched shows and became one of the hottest topics of discussion in pop culture. After three months, its sequel series “The Legend Of Korra” has finally been added to the streaming platform.
“The Legend Of Korra” is set 70 years after the events of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and follows Korra (Janet Varney), the next avatar after Aang (D.B. Sweeney), as she struggles with her spirituality, learn to be the avatar, and fight to bring peace and balance to the world.
For many, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a childhood favorite, so “The Legend Of Korra” has a lot to live up to. Though its revival garnered a lot of unnecessary hate from old “Avatar” fans, I find it to be an incredible show with strong female characters, representation of the LGBTQ+ community, and complex villains.
One of my favorite aspects of the show is how comparatively bold it is in its social and political commentary. It tackles more mature topics than its predecessor’s such as social injustice, facism, poverty, and PTSD. “The Legend of Korra” uses its villains in order to address these issues, embody political ideologies, and demonstrate their potential flaws.
Each season of “The Legend Of Korra” has a unique villain. Amon (Steve Blum) represents communism as he fights for equality for non-benders—those without the ability to bend the elements—who he sees as being oppressed and exploited by benders. Zaheer (Henry Rollins) represents anarchism, preaching about overthrowing oppressive governments such as the Earth Kingdom’s monarchy. Morally ambiguous villains, who wish to free people from oppressive rule but with clearly flawed methods, are more interesting to watch than those in “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, whose motivations were much less nuanced.
Another aspect of “The Legend of Korra” that shines is its thoughtful character development—specifically Korra’s. Many people describe Korra as impulsive, stubborn, and cocky. Not only is much of this criticism somewhat sexist and hypocritical as these exact qualities were praised in male characters like Zuko (Dante Basco), but it also overlooks the more nuanced journey that Korra’s character goes on throughout the series. Korra’s is a direct foil to Aang. While Aang learned to be confident and strong, Korra learned to be humble and compassionate. The show’s more mature tone gives viewers the chance to see Korra recover from her trauma, offering a surprisingly sensitive portrayal of what could be classified as PTSD for a kid’s show. Korra’s development is less linear than Aang’s, but that makes her story much more sympathetic.
Finally, “The Legend Of Korra” is one of the few shows from its time that offered representation of the LGBTQ+ community. At the end of the show, Korra and Asami (Seychelle Gabriel) are holding hands before entering the spirit world. It was later confirmed by the show’s creators that both girls were bisexual and in a relationship, making this a small stepping stone in acheiving queer representation in television. “Korrasami” has since become a massive part of the “The Legend Of Korra” fandom and paved the way for other shows like “Adventure Time” and “Steven Universe” to include confirmed LGBTQ+ characters in the onscreen canon.
The show has some amazing aspects that make it a great sequel to “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The show was repeatedly undermined by conflict between Nickelodeon and the show’s creators. Nickelodeon poorly advertised the show, refused to show more of Korrasami onscreen, and didn’t greenlight all four seasons. Since they couldn’t decide how many seasons they wanted during the show’s creation, the writing between each of them became choppy since every season was written as the show’s last, meaning “The Legend Of Korra” couldn’t have longer, multiseason plotlines the way that its predecessor did.
Other criticisms of the show are often based on a nostalgia bias. Because people miss “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” they’re quick to judge its successor. For instance, the ending of season 2 of “The Legend Of Korra” faced a lot of criticism, as while fighting a dark spirit, Korra loses the connection all avatars have to their past lives. By losing this connection, Korra breaks the avatar cycle in which the avatars are reincarnated, causing Aang and past avatars to disappear. Watching Aang, as well as all the other previous avatars, fade away broke the hearts of millions of viewers, but it isn’t a reason to despise the entire show. While season two might be hard to love, the other seasons develop Korra’s character beautifully and tackle many important issues, appealing to people of all ages.
It’s important to remember that “The Legend Of Korra” is an expansion of the original show’s universe and not a continuation of Aang’s story. It’s an entirely different show with different characters, themes, and villains. To compare the shows as if this isn’t true is to do them both a disservice.
“The Legend Of Korra” is undoubtedly an outstanding sequel to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” It’s beautifully animated, has an incredible score, and is one of the few children’s shows to represent the LGBTQ+ community on screen and subvert expectations for animated shows. It’s not hard to understand how this kids’ show has stayed so relevant after so many years, captivating millions of viewers as an amazing expansion to one of television’s greatest franchises.