The Incredible Women of The Legend of Korra

The Incredible Women of The Legend of Korra

The women in the Legend of Korra are incredible. Like, obviously, Korra is great, but this
series does a phenomenal job of showcasing other amazing female characters too. It’s by no means a one-woman show, and that’s
a part of what makes it so special. There’s no token female character, which
means the women in the show have the chance to be varied, diverse, and unique. Each one of them doesn’t have to represent
all women — they can just exist for themselves. Because sometimes, even shows or movies that
have one outstanding female character fall flat when it comes to the rest of the cast. But diversity doesn’t mean chucking in one
physically-strong, emotionally-stunted woman into a story full of men and calling it a
day. Finding something that really represents the
diverse experiences and personalities of women is unfortunately relatively rare, but I think
that the Legend of Korra does a fantastic job. So today, I want to talk about some of the
incredible women from this series and go through why I love them all so much. I’ll mostly be focusing on Book Four for
a few reasons: it’s my favorite Book in the series, it’s the only book where the
main villain is a woman, and a lot of other female characters have plotlines that build
up into the fourth Book and come to a resolution there. Book Three definitely had some great female
villains like P’li, Ming-Hua, and the Earth Queen — but Book Four is just on another
level. So let’s start off with some of the main
characters and then work our way down to the characters that get a bit less screen time. First up is Korra. She’s the main character of the series and
has trouble controlling her temper. I liked her contrast with the last Avatar,
Aang. Where Aang would try to find a diplomatic,
peaceful solution, Korra just likes to punch her way through her problems. She’s fierce and strong, and goes through
a lot over the course of the series. She’s a flawed but brilliant character who
is doing her best to live up to the title of Avatar, even when she doesn’t really
know what she’s doing. And, as I’ve covered in a previous video,
she ends up dating Asami by the end of the show, which was just a beautiful, beautiful
moment. Asami is in some ways a foil to Korra’s
brute force approach, but not in the same way as Aang. She’s more technology-minded, and can often
engineer a solution that might still involve fighting her way out, but is a bit more clever
and thought-out. She’s the brain to Korra’s brawn, essentially,
though she can definitely hold her own in a fight. She has her own hardships throughout the series;
in particular, she struggles to reconnect with her dad after he betrayed her, and ultimately
she sees him sacrifice himself. She’s the rich kid who learns to run an
entire business by herself, and as a result has a vast wealth of knowledge around various
industries. Kuvira is the main antagonist of the fourth
Book, but she wasn’t always a villain. Throughout Book Three, she was on Korra’s
side, and it’s not until Book Four when her desire to re-unite the Earth Kingdom by
any means necessary puts her at odds with Korra and her friends. She’s a fascinating villain not only because
she was on the protagonist’s side, but because it’s her ambition and drive, the very things
that she was applauded for, that lead to her becoming a villain in Book
Four. It’s not like she had a change of heart
and decided that she suddenly hates the protagonists. She believes that she’s doing what they
wanted all along, and it’s wrong that they’re now standing in her way. Re-uniting the Earth Kingdom was what Korra
and company wanted, but eventually they start to realize that Kuvira’s method for doing
so is unethical. She crushes all dissent, forces cities to
join her under threat of violence, employs slave labor, and sends dissenters to re-education
camps. Plus, on top of it all, she considers Republic
City to be land stolen from the Earth Kingdom, and wants to reclaim it by force. But behind it all, she’s a villain who evokes
sympathy from the viewer because of how similar she is to Korra. Korra is also known to take a “fight first
and ask questions later” kind of approach. Korra is also very driven and ambitious, often
to a point where she has to be reeled back in by people like Tenzin. Her similarities to Kuvira are unavoidable,
and so it leads to a classic “We’re not so different, you and I” kind of situation. Next is Jinora, who is one of my favorite
characters in the series. She’s the oldest of Tenzin’s kids, but
still quite young compared to most of the other characters. In the first two Books, she’s kind of just
“one of the kids”, but in Book Three really starts to develop her own skills and identity
away from her siblings. She realizes that she has an affinity for
communicating with spirits and entering the spirit world, and she becomes a kind of spiritual
guide for Korra. And all of her growth and knowledge comes
in spite of the fact that her dad, and those around her, still think that she’s just
a helpless kid. She has to prove herself time and time again
before she’s recognized as an airbending master and is allowed to get the tattoos to
prove it. Because she’s a young girl, she was discounted
and overlooked, but she’s incredibly talented and as far as we see in the show, the only
person who can perform spiritual projection, essentially being able to leave her body and
travel to far away places in spirit form. She’s the excited youth, the next generation,
ready to take over and be involved but constantly doubted and left behind. Ikki is Jinora’s younger sister, and as
such, her airbending skills haven’t had quite as much time to develop as Jinora’s. She’s hyper and talkative, unlike the quiet
and comparatively-chill Jinora, but just as determined and hard-working as her older sister. She’s annoyed by her siblings, but by talking
things out with her dad, who was in a similar situation, she learns to accept them. She’s smart and able to talk her way out
of most situations. By the end of the series, she’s a talented
airbender who’s a valuable part of the team, and she even saves Jinora’s life when she’s
knocked out of the sky. Next, I want to talk about a few characters
together: Toph, Lin, and Suyin Beifong. Toph is the mother of Lin and Suyin, and she
only has a brief role in the Legend of Korra. After being poisoned at the end of Book Three,
Korra goes to train with her, and we find that she’s the same cranky, tough person
we all remember from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Lots of stories have an old wise man who guides
the main character, like a Dumbledore or a Gandalf, and to some extent, Korra does have
that in Tenzin, but it was nice to see that Korra’s old wise mentor figure later on
was a woman. Toph is able to help Korra work through her
PTSD and remove the final bits of poison out of her system, and it’s an emotional and
turbulent time for Korra. Lin and Suyin, as Toph’s daughters, don’t
have the best relationship with each other. Lin is grouchy and cranky and mean, while
Suyin can be more nurturing and gentle. And it should come as no surprise to anyone
that Toph wasn’t the most loving and affectionate mother, so it seems like they never felt that
close of a connection to each other. Then there was an incident where Lin was working
with the police while Suyin was involved in a gang, and when Lin tried to arrest Suyin,
Suyin broke the metal whip that Lin had grabbed her with, and it recoiled and scarred Lin’s
face. That incident haunted them for the rest of
their lives, until in Book Four when the two women are finally forced to confront their
feelings about each other. An entire episode revolves around their complex
relationship — why they hate each other, what they could’ve done differently, what
they want to happen now. It’s a messy, messy relationship but that’s
what makes it interesting. The women of the Legend of Korra aren’t
great because they’re all perfect — they’re great because they’re allowed to be flawed
and complex. And I love that the Legend of Korra gives
them the space to work through their troubles together instead of simplifying things or
making every woman too good to ever make a mistake. Next, I want to talk about Opal, Suyin’s
daughter. When Opal is introduced, it’s quickly hinted
at that she’s Bolin’s love interest, but the series allows her to be much more than
that. She’s a new airbender, and Korra starts
to teach her the basics before she leaves for the Northern Air Temple to continue her
training. In Book Four, Opal is working with the other
airbenders to protect various cities and states within the Earth Kingdom. She’s dating Bolin, but he’s working for
Kuvira, who Opal doesn’t like, and so they have a big fight. Then Opal and Jinora are forced to attack
Kuvira to stop her from killing Korra, before holding off an entire army until Meelo and
Ikki arrive on a flying bison to help them escape. In the aftermath, Bolin leaves Kuvira’s
side but Opal is slow to forgive him. She’s an independent, intelligent person
who sticks strong to her ideals and always does what she believes is best. There’s also Katara, who helps Korra begin
her lengthy healing process at the beginning of Book 4. She was one of the main characters in The
Last Airbender, but in this series, her role is a lot smaller. She’s an extremely compassionate person,
willing to do anything she can to help Korra, and an immensely talented healer and waterbender. Now let’s talk about Kya. She’s one of Aang’s kids, and a sister
to Tenzin and Bumi. She does a lot throughout the series, and
even plays a role in the graphic novels that came after the show, where we learn that she
is romantically attracted to women. On top of that, she’s a skilled waterbender
and fighter, and loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews. She has a tough relationship with her brothers,
but in the end is fiercely loyal. Next is Zhu Li. She starts off just as Varrick’s assistant,
but by the end of the series, she’s his equal. She’s incredibly skilled at using a mecha
suit, and is super smart. When she’s imprisoned and then escapes,
she feigns loyalty to Kuvira and gets her to trust her. While developing the spirit energy cannon,
she begins to sabotage it, slowing Kuvira’s progress. Eventually she’s discovered, and she has
no problem telling Kuvira off. She then played a role in fighting back against
Kuvira’s attack on Republic City, and at the end of series, she gets married to Varrick. In the official graphic novels that follow
the series, she even becomes the President of Republic City. And finally, there’s Pema, Tenzin’s wife. She’s not really much a fighter. She’s a nonbender, and most of the time
we see her either pregnant or with her newly born baby. Her thing is being a good stay-at-home mom,
and I love that. One misinterpretation of women’s empowerment
that I see sometimes is people saying that no woman should be a stay-at-home mom, that
every woman needs to have a career and be fully independent and all of that. And I think it’s definitely important to
question your motivations for why you might feel compelled to be a stay-at-home mom, even
if that’s not really what you want to do, and a lot of women do find empowerment by overcoming that stereotype and breaking out of it. But empowerment for women doesn’t mean we
stop forcing women to do one thing and start forcing them to do another. It means giving women the ability to choose
what they want to do, and that includes choosing to be a stay-at-home mom if that’s what
they really want. So I like the inclusion of Pema in this series
because it shows the diversity of experiences for women. While lots of women can be badass fighters
like Korra, Asami, or Lin, they can also be chill non-fighters like Pema. If this show was almost entirely about men,
and Pema was the only woman, or one of only a few women, in the show — that would probably
be pretty sexist. Because then the show would be perpetuating
the stereotype that women only exist as stay-at-home moms while men do everything else. But, because there are so many other women
doing so many other things in the Legend of Korra, Pema’s inclusion makes perfect sense. She no longer has to represent all women — she
can just be herself and represent one aspect of what women can be. And that’s why, in general, it’s amazing
to have so many women on a show. It’s not just about the number of women
on a show, it’s about allowing women to have the diversity of experience that men
are generally afforded on TV and in movies. In Korra instead of just having one woman
who’s a love interest or a mom, we have women from all walks of life. There are goofy kids, spiritual leaders, law
enforcement officers, politicians, mothers, tough women, smart women, and so much more. And none of them have to just be that one
thing — they can be all kinds of things, and they can make mistakes, and they can be
villains, and they can be heroes, and they can just be so many different kinds of people
that anyone and everyone can relate to them. That’s what so incredible about all of the
women on this show, and a part of the reason why I love it so much. So many shots in the Legend of Korra feature
only women, or at least mostly women, and that’s a refreshing change of pace. This show smashes the Bechdel test to pieces,
and is just at an entirely different level, one which other shows and movies should aim
to get to as well. Anyway, that’s all I had for you today. I hope you enjoyed this video about the powerful
women of the Legend of Korra. If you’d like to support future videos like
this, you can check out my Patreon, and don’t forget to subscribe and ring the bell. Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see
you next time.



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53 Replies to “The Incredible Women of The Legend of Korra”

  1. Meh.. straight men can't write good Female Characters, as far as I'm concerned.

    They seem way too desperate to prove how COOL their Female Characters are that they end up placing these Fictional women on pedestals (shrug)

  2. It's been a bit since I've watched LOK but I remember Pema's knowledge in parenting being extremely useful, too. She even mentioned raising her son prepared her for everything, I think?

  3. It drives me crazy that S2 of Korra is so bad, because it creates a hard barrier for people seeing the good stuff in S3 and S4. This is a show that deserved so much better!

  4. I love the representation of women on this show. Multidimensional women with different strengths and different flaws and weaknesses, as all characters should be.

    I'd love a spoiler warning for the graphic novels though. Had no idea about Kya or Zhu Li ๐Ÿ˜…

  5. Haven't seen any of the series myself. Though it might be fun to start with Legend of Korra for me. Animation looks great and it seems like the characters are well designed. I shall give it a chance based on this video.

  6. I liked all the women in the show particularly Kuvira (she can metal force choke me anytime). Didn't care for Korra, Asami, or Esna though

  7. The characters in this show are so well done and real, I 100% agree with you about S4 being a favorite. Also Jinora and Opal can punch me in the face and I would be grateful

  8. I saw Legend of Korra because of your other videos about it! Thank you for suggesting and dissecting it, Riley. You really have a talent for video essays.

  9. I love thst the women are so diverse in AGE. Agism is unfortunately widely accepted in leftist circles but smart, diverse representation like this of old and young women is beautiful!

  10. I miss the world avatar of so much. So many great characters. Riley you should read rise of kyoshi! Its a beautiful novel+great female characters!

  11. Your videos about tv shows are just amazing!! This was really interesting and you're so well spoken!! ^^ Legend of Korra was truly a blessing!!

  12. I still believe Aang did far more incredible things than anything korra ever did, and he's a superior avatar in every way.

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