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The Depiction of Mothers and Motherhood in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra  (Spoilers!)

Originally, these were just notes jotted down for the review of Gene Yang’s The Search (since that graphic novel reveals what happened to Ursa and explores the theme of Motherhood) but it seems like they might be useful to the broader conversation about the depiction of mothers in Avatar and Korra.   (Hopefully I’m not missing any important characters!)

A couple of things I noticed upon rewatch were that whenever the original Gaang met a family, usually the mom would defer to the dad (eg. the mom’s of Haru, Lee, Toph, Mai, etc.)   We see this deference to the husband in Korra, as well (Unulaq’s wife doesn’t know what’s up.   Senna is relatively passive about Korra’s upbringing and the rebellion compared to the deeply engaged Tonraq.)   While the worldbuilding has established that the setting is patriarchal, we know that what is expected by society shouldn’t necessarily be reflected in what we see in practice.   (For example, my grandmother was raised in a patriarchal society and expected to defer to her husband, but that doesn’t mean it actually happened—and she was far from being an exception among her peers.)

In many of the examples above, where the name of the mother is not given, we do know the name and identity of the character’s father.  (Frequently, the mother will be dead.)  The only significant example reversing this trope is the identity of Lin Beifong’s father—and in this case, the identity of her mother is known because she is a main character in the original series.   The only other example of this that I can think of is that we don’t know the name of Kanna’s first husband (Hakoda’s father.)

I don’t think we need to know the names of every single parent of characters in the series.   Obviously, it is based on the demands of the plot.   In this case, the plot the writers have created prioritizes the roles of the fathers, and that reinforces patriarchal tropes.

Hope these notes help generate discussion around representations of women and mothers in Avatar.   Interested in hearing what people think!

Reblogged from aquietrevolutionary  3,243 notes

aquietrevolutionary:

racebending:

nayobe:

bitchtones:

the legend of korra does women so dirty.

desna and eska have a mother and the fact that she’s so inconsequential is treated like a joke

asami is a prop who is disrespected by everyone around her and no one cares

ginger is assaulted by bolin but he still gets rewarded by her affection at the end

katara has every last drop of personality sucked away from her and shows up to i don’t know make atla fans feel sad

lin’s competence and characterization is fucked with just to prop up mako as the greatest cop ever in the history of everdom

women aren’t the majority movers and shakers in the plot the men are

women don’t have strong relationships to one another and if they do they aren’t given any importance in the plot

korra herself has a decent arc but that’s not enough for me

i don’t want to see one well developed female character i want to see numerous well developed female characters and this show can’t even do the minimum

ugh

Everything here I agree with. But what if that’s how the time period is? The world is becoming modern and it’s sort of close to ours. Even here was had a time where women were treated with disrespect and being objectified, somewhat close to that time, even today.

I know these types of things wasn’t shown much in atla, in fact, the women of atla were dignified and broke all stereotypes to show how strong women can by their own will, but I don’t know.

The “what if that’s how the time period is?” argument needs to be thoroughly debunked.   Not because this is a fictional world and the creators can choose to create whatever characters they want and give those characters whatever significant roles they want, but because it’s completely “off” as an argument, anyway.  

As you note, even today and in the past women have been treated with disrespect and objectified.   But that doesn’t mean women didn’t play important roles in history.   Women continued to work with what agency and social capital they had and played proactive roles in determining their fates.  It’s history makers who have done us all the disservice of pretending that women don’t do anything important when they are marginalized.  This is something that Avatar: The Last Airbender actively subverted by showing characters like Katara, Toph, Yue, and Ursa making decisions even if they had more limited options than the men in their world.  

While writing Avatar: The Last Airbender the writing team was able to take a close look at their story and rewrite two character concepts so that  Katara was not the only woman character in the series.   They changed the concepts of Toph and Azula from boys to girls and added characters like Ty Lee and Mai.    The writers could have been just as thoughtful with The Legend of Korra - Spirits.  

For example, they could have revised the story so that Senna was the heir to the Northern Water Tribe, and Unulaq her younger brother.   In Spirits, we never understood why Unulaq wanted to depose Tonraq.   If Unulaq’s older sibling had been Senna, a callback could have been made to the consequences of Katara’s actions at the North Pole in A:TLA.  The regressive gender politics of the historical Northern Water Tribe would have been a believable motivation for Unulaq stealing the right to rule from an older sister and first woman heir to the water tribe.  Senna fleeing to the South and the South’s desire for independence would have paralleled how Kanna fled to the South in A:TLA.   Senna could have been engaged in the rebellion storyline as a powerful waterbender.   Instead, we see Tonraq leading an all-male Southern Water Tribe rebellion while Senna stays out of the way, and the conflict between Unulaq and Tonraq echoes the Water Tribe brother conflict that we saw play out in Book 1 with Tarlokk and Amon.  

Another option the showrunners could have taken, but did not, was to make President Raiko a woman instead of a man.  This could have illustrated an interesting change in leadership and gender politics in Republic City (going from a Council that only had one woman on it to a woman president.)    The role this character played could just as easily have been filled by a woman character.   Instead, we get President Raiko and his First Lady, Buttercup, who is depicted as easily charmed by Varrick in contrast to her wiser husband.   After being kidnapped, Buttercup doesn’t show up again when Raiko is doing his tactical surveillance (when Bolin brags about his heroic antics, it’s about saving the President and not the President and the First Lady.  At least Joo Lee does a thing.)

It doesn’t make sense that Katara would not be deeply engaged in negotiating the political situation between the two Water Tribes.   And why not let her be proactive in the fight.  Master Waterbender Katara trained two Avatars in waterbending and was likely instrumental in helping Aang negotiate diplomatic situations as partner to the Avatar.   The argument that she is an “older adult who is retired” doesn’t make sense— King Bumi was 100 years old and still a diplomat and fighter.   Actually, it would have been easy to substitute Katara in any of Tonraq’s scenes without greatly impacting the plot.  (Katara even has an established history of fomenting rebellions!)

It’s not the “time period.”   It’s the writers’ choices and decisions.   There were a lot of options available to them.

Good commentary above, but I’d also like to make the point clear that there’s a difference between IN-UNIVERSE disrespect and side-lining of women, and NARRATIVE disrespect of women.

The first would make the time period issue a legitimate point, because women WERE treated poorly in that time and did have fewer options available to them. Strong and complex women still exist and still take proactive action to determine their own fate, but exist in an environment which works against them, which is inherent in the story itself.

However, the OP is talking about the narrative disrespect of women, which is, essentially, that the writers and direction of story-telling, on a meta scale, actively work against the women in their story. The women get less screen time, their plot and character arcs given less importance, their characterization relies on pre-existing stereotypes in the audience’s mind, and their relationships are less developed than those involving men. In this case, it’s not just the universe they live in disrespecting these women and working against them, it’s the very fabric of the story itself, and the choices the WRITERS make which limit the potential they have to carry their own plots via their own actions.

This is an interesting and important distinction to make.

Reblogged from nayobe  3,243 notes

nayobe:

bitchtones:

the legend of korra does women so dirty.

desna and eska have a mother and the fact that she’s so inconsequential is treated like a joke

asami is a prop who is disrespected by everyone around her and no one cares

ginger is assaulted by bolin but he still gets rewarded by her affection at the end

katara has every last drop of personality sucked away from her and shows up to i don’t know make atla fans feel sad

lin’s competence and characterization is fucked with just to prop up mako as the greatest cop ever in the history of everdom

women aren’t the majority movers and shakers in the plot the men are

women don’t have strong relationships to one another and if they do they aren’t given any importance in the plot

korra herself has a decent arc but that’s not enough for me

i don’t want to see one well developed female character i want to see numerous well developed female characters and this show can’t even do the minimum

ugh

Everything here I agree with. But what if that’s how the time period is? The world is becoming modern and it’s sort of close to ours. Even here was had a time where women were treated with disrespect and being objectified, somewhat close to that time, even today.

I know these types of things wasn’t shown much in atla, in fact, the women of atla were dignified and broke all stereotypes to show how strong women can by their own will, but I don’t know.

The “what if that’s how the time period is?” argument needs to be thoroughly debunked.   Not because this is a fictional world and the creators can choose to create whatever characters they want and give those characters whatever significant roles they want, but because it’s completely “off” as an argument, anyway.  

As you note, even today and in the past women have been treated with disrespect and objectified.   But that doesn’t mean women didn’t play important roles in history.   Women continued to work with what agency and social capital they had and played proactive roles in determining their fates.  It’s history makers who have done us all the disservice of pretending that women don’t do anything important when they are marginalized.  This is something that Avatar: The Last Airbender actively subverted by showing characters like Katara, Toph, Yue, and Ursa making decisions even if they had more limited options than the men in their world.  

While writing Avatar: The Last Airbender the writing team was able to take a close look at their story and rewrite two character concepts so that  Katara was not the only woman character in the series.   They changed the concepts of Toph and Azula from boys to girls and added characters like Ty Lee and Mai.    The writers could have been just as thoughtful with The Legend of Korra - Spirits.  

For example, they could have revised the story so that Senna was the heir to the Northern Water Tribe, and Unulaq her younger brother.   In Spirits, we never understood why Unulaq wanted to depose Tonraq.   If Unulaq’s older sibling had been Senna, a callback could have been made to the consequences of Katara’s actions at the North Pole in A:TLA.  The regressive gender politics of the historical Northern Water Tribe would have been a believable motivation for Unulaq stealing the right to rule from an older sister and first woman heir to the water tribe.  Senna fleeing to the South and the South’s desire for independence would have paralleled how Kanna fled to the South in A:TLA.   Senna could have been engaged in the rebellion storyline as a powerful waterbender.   Instead, we see Tonraq leading an all-male Southern Water Tribe rebellion while Senna stays out of the way, and the conflict between Unulaq and Tonraq echoes the Water Tribe brother conflict that we saw play out in Book 1 with Tarlokk and Amon.  

Another option the showrunners could have taken, but did not, was to make President Raiko a woman instead of a man.  This could have illustrated an interesting change in leadership and gender politics in Republic City (going from a Council that only had one woman on it to a woman president.)    The role this character played could just as easily have been filled by a woman character.   Instead, we get President Raiko and his First Lady, Buttercup, who is depicted as easily charmed by Varrick in contrast to her wiser husband.   After being kidnapped, Buttercup doesn’t show up again when Raiko is doing his tactical surveillance (when Bolin brags about his heroic antics, it’s about saving the President and not the President and the First Lady.  At least Joo Lee does a thing.)

It doesn’t make sense that Katara would not be deeply engaged in negotiating the political situation between the two Water Tribes.   And why not let her be proactive in the fight.  Master Waterbender Katara trained two Avatars in waterbending and was likely instrumental in helping Aang negotiate diplomatic situations as partner to the Avatar.   The argument that she is an “older adult who is retired” doesn’t make sense— King Bumi was 100 years old and still a diplomat and fighter.   Actually, it would have been easy to substitute Katara in any of Tonraq’s scenes without greatly impacting the plot.  (Katara even has an established history of fomenting rebellions!)

It’s not the “time period.”   It’s the writers’ choices and decisions.   There were a lot of options available to them.

Reblogged from locsgirl  3,243 notes

locsgirl:

bitchtones:

the legend of korra does women so dirty.

desna and eska have a mother and the fact that she’s so inconsequential is treated like a joke

asami is a prop who is disrespected by everyone around her and no one cares

ginger is assaulted by bolin but he still gets rewarded by her affection at the end

katara has every last drop of personality sucked away from her and shows up to i don’t know make atla fans feel sad

lin’s competence and characterization is fucked with just to prop up mako as the greatest cop ever in the history of everdom

women aren’t the majority movers and shakers in the plot the men are

women don’t have strong relationships to one another and if they do they aren’t given any importance in the plot

korra herself has a decent arc but that’s not enough for me

i don’t want to see one well developed female character i want to see numerous well developed female characters and this show can’t even do the minimum

ugh

Don’t forget Senna.  Korra’s mom, a waterbender AND a healer who learned under Katara’s teaching, and so far she’s only been shown sitting or standing around and looking sad about Tonraq, and most of the time she’s in the background or not present at all (Tonraq’s officially announced as Chief and she wasn’t even there).  My ship didn’t even get to be shown sailing so much, which is why they barely have any art. =(

When Raava piped up and reminded Korra that she was the Avatar while she was stuck in that crack, I screamed “it’s passed the Bechdel test!” while pulling on my jowls and knitting my brows.

Reblogged from masterarrowhead  250 notes

masterarrowhead:

I haven’t mentioned it on here before but having a conversation with Ore about it and then seeing a post discussing it I just feel it’s worth mentioning

Where IS Katara during all this?

During Book 1 it wasn’t as much of a problem because the story had moved away from the SWT to Republic City but now here in Book 2 where there is time dedicated to the Water Tribes we only see her at the very beginning just urging her kids to go on this vacation without her.

We don’t see her when there are meetings about rebelling against Unalaq’s forces, not even to give some warning comments to Varrick’s arrogance or at the trial either. I don’t remember seeing her attending?

Just makes you wonder what the heck she’s doing in the mean time if she’s not involved. I can’t imagine her not getting herself involved in this matter and just letting it all passively wash over.

Maybe it’s just that they don’t want surviving characters from the Gaang to be taking over the plot but with this situation it would make sense to have more of Katara seen and heard from even if it’s dramatic words of foreboding and wisdom. Also they mention Aang ALL the time with the Kataang kids because they all have daddy issues so why not take some of that and give Katara a few more appearances and mentions? The only time she was mentioned by her kids was Kya shaming her brothers because she followed Katara to the south to take care of her and they didn’t.

Also this is a bit of a tangent but it still confuses me about why Unalaq would be chief of both the North AND the South when they are on opposite sides of the world. Ignoring the spirit portals that can shorten the distance currently, I just wonder why this would ever be the case. Chief Arnook wasn’t the Chief of the SWT as well during AtLA, that was Chief Hakoda who was. Katara and Sokka are the Chief’s children and so I would think it would be passed on to them or their own kids. Sokka was a Republic City councilman yeah but what if he did step up to lead the tribe or what if Katara did if Sokka wasn’t willing to part with his job as a councilman?

That’d mean some serious reconfiguring of the events we know but god Chief Katara I love that idea, guys.

After all the sexism some of the Water Tribe traditions contain and especially her experience in the Northern Tribe it would be fantastic to see her step up as Chief and just keep throwing people for a loop and rebuilding the SWT alongside friends and family and helping it expand to this grand of scale. It would be incredibly awesome.

Especially when we don’t get to see Zuko’s daughter as the Fire Lord or see the Earth Queen, to see the legacy Katara would make as a leader would be fantastic instead of just seeing her off to the side as only a mother role (which mothers are amazing and strong but we tend to get only “just mother” characters in lok when there could be so much more).

Reblogged from bitch-media  3,793 notes
bitch-media:

Avatar: The Last Air Bender [sic] was great because it was incredibly thoughtful for a childrens show and gave the avatar Aang a lot of big issues to work through. There were love stories, but they evolved over time and didn’t take up all of the screen time. With Legend of Korra, it feels like the writers decided that now that there’s a girl at the center of the story, the show has to turn a high school gossip session over who-kissed-whom. Instead of spending time on character development, Legend of Korra mires its characters in absurd, round-and-round fights over who gets to date one another.
—from "Legend of Korra is Getting Ridiculous." 

B*tch Magazine advocates for less romance in Korra…

I think Korra has a lot of potential. She’s not a perfect “Mary Sue” character: She’s stubborn, doesn’t always listen to others, and likes to solve problems by force. She has a lot of trouble connecting to the spirit world, makes mistakes, and often ends up apologizing to people. But the show’s focus on romance is not giving her enough time to work through her issues. Instead, she is only ever working on dating. It seems like the writers feel that a show’s audience—even for a children’s show—can only relate to a woman through her love story. And that’s just not true. So let’s please have Korra and Asami ditch Mako, develop as people, and save the world together. Thank you. 

bitch-media:

Avatar: The Last Air Bender [sic] was great because it was incredibly thoughtful for a childrens show and gave the avatar Aang a lot of big issues to work through. There were love stories, but they evolved over time and didn’t take up all of the screen time. With Legend of Korra, it feels like the writers decided that now that there’s a girl at the center of the story, the show has to turn a high school gossip session over who-kissed-whom. Instead of spending time on character development, Legend of Korra mires its characters in absurd, round-and-round fights over who gets to date one another.

—from "Legend of Korra is Getting Ridiculous." 

B*tch Magazine advocates for less romance in Korra

I think Korra has a lot of potential. She’s not a perfect “Mary Sue” character: She’s stubborn, doesn’t always listen to others, and likes to solve problems by force. She has a lot of trouble connecting to the spirit world, makes mistakes, and often ends up apologizing to people. But the show’s focus on romance is not giving her enough time to work through her issues. Instead, she is only ever working on dating. It seems like the writers feel that a show’s audience—even for a children’s show—can only relate to a woman through her love story. And that’s just not true. So let’s please have Korra and Asami ditch Mako, develop as people, and save the world together. Thank you. 

Reblogged from cylaramblesaboutkorra  173 notes

cylaramblesaboutkorra:

joemerl:

Are we not going to talk about the Racebending in tonight’s Korra episode?

Now, I’m sure Bolin is a great actor, but he is of Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation descent. He has no business playing a Water Tribesman, and I’m sure there are plenty of fine Water Tribe actors who would jump at this role.

Seriously, Varrick—these are your own people you’re selling out. You should know better.

As someone else already pointed out, it looks like the film Varrick is making is a parody of Nanook of the North, a real ‘documentary’ about the Inuit people back in 1922. The difference is that the person who made Nanook was white exploiting the real life Inuits while in LoK it is Varrick of the Southern Water Tribe making a false movie about his people using Bolin…who is not Water Tribe at all. It’s an interesting twist and I am interested if that plot thread goes anywhere.

Reblogged from inbetweenthelineart  3,759 notes

inbetweenthelineart:

the ridiculous treatment of women in LoK’s narrative has gotten to the point where I think about amazing shows that treated their female characters so damn well but were for some reason or another canceled, and I almost break down crying because I’m. so. angry.

I’m angry that Asami is only there when she’s convenient for the narrative. She’s not a character, she’s a prop. Do we get to see her inner conflict resulting from last season? No! Do we get to follow her emotional journey as she struggles with the tarnished company her father left behind? Nope! She doesn’t even come up with the idea on how to save it, it’s given to her by a male character who seems to have overtaken her importance/role in the story.

I’m angry that Mako is framed as the victim when the women in his life (his boss and his gf) “act irrational”, yet back when he was doing the exact same things, we were supposed to sympathize with HIM.

I’m angry that with a business man who is almost on the level of Tony Stark in this world, the women who should be his Pepper Pots in every sense of the word is mostly silent and submissive, simply going along with whatever he says without question, occasionally with a little quip, but never seems to exist for much else. Ya know what would have been REALLY great? How about the hilarious, delusional businessman role be played by a WOMAN, and her personal assistant was the man? I’d sure be down for that!

I’m angry that a teenage girl who could have been a compelling, interesting character as the dry, dark cousin of the Avatar, has literally served no purpose other than to be “the crazy girlfriend” to one of the poor, defenseless male characters, and for comedy at that. Oh, and her brother has had far less dialogue and screen time than she, but showed more humanity and depth in his one line this episode than she has ever shown thus far. 

Read More

I hate to find myself nodding in agreement with so much of this critique because I want so much to support Legend of Korra as it is one of the only shows on television to have a woman of color as a protagonist.  At the same time, there is so much that is cringe worthy, problematic, or flat out misogynist-supporting in the narrative and characterization of the women in this series to mar it’s progressiveness.

inbetweenthelineart notes that “we have seen next to no female police officers, metalbender cops, Triad members, members of the Northern troops, or members of the Southern resistance force. In ATLA, while background characters were still predominately male, we were still given glimpses of female prisoners of war, female guards, and female soldiers. Why has this diminished so much? Shouldn’t gender progress (especially in the Water Tribes thanks to Katara) have blossomed to the point where the number of women is nearly equal to the number of men?”  

Beyond the glaring disproportion of women in important roles in the story (from Tonraq to Unulaq to Varrick to Raiko, all of the new political movers-and-shakers introduced in Season 2 on screen are men), the most recent episode’s characterization of the “erratic spurned woman” really reinforces the all-male writing team’s difficulty developing women characters.  

Yeah, the “woman scorned” is a pretty common TV Trope, but this is what we saw in the last episode:  Bolin squealing in terror when reminded of spurred Eska’s rage—rage so murderous (and also directed at another woman, Korra) that her father and brother have to temper her wrath by reminding her that they need the Avatar alive.  We saw Mako dumping Korra at work and her emotionally reactive destruction of furniture.  She is the producer-described “strong female protagonist” so we see her yelling and disruptively flipping tables at her ex-partner’s workplace (a police station of all places.)   We then see his supervisor (the only woman in the office) reacting to the damage by remarking that Mako got off easy…because when Tenzin rejected her she did even worse to Air Temple Island (a religious site and Tenzin’s home.)  If these behaviors were committed by male characters the narrative would likely frame them as signs of abuse (even with our society’s tendency to romanticize this stuff) but on Legend of Korra, when  the women are abusive, it’s part of the show’s humor.  

When angry women are funny, when abusive behavior from women directed towards men is framed as funny instead of terrifying, this depiction underscores sexist attitudes towards women and their agency in general.   [I’m reminded of the popular Korean movie My Sassy Girlthe titular woman character is emotionally abusive towards her hapless and bewildered boyfriend, but the audience is supposed to find this endearing (she’s sassy!) and harmless (she’s a girl!)]

It just makes me wish for the more nuanced depictions of the women and girl characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender.   I can’t see Katara from A:TLA kicking over a table over being dumped or Toph taking her anger out by rampaging across a sacred island just because of some boy.   In the series and in the continuation comics, Mai confidently calls Zuko out on his nonsense without hi-jinks designed to bring out audience chuffles.    The only character from A:TLA that presented with this extreme degree of emotional dysregulation was Azula— smeared make up, brutal physical violence towards her environment, emotional abuse towards her loved ones—and written in a way that the audience did take her, her feelings, and her inappropriate expression of them seriously.

When women characters in Korra behave erratically and abusively after they are rejected by men, and the narrative prods us not to take them or their inappropriate behaviors seriously… it’s cliched writing and it’s (intentionally or not) sexism-reinforcing writing, 

Reblogged from liontortellini  8,261 notes
liontortellini:

Just a couple days ago, I watched Air with three of my cousins: an eleven-year old boy, a ten-year old girl, and a six-year old boy. (Really, I only meant to show them the first two episodes! I was going to space them out! But the kids wanted to keep going till four hours later we couldn’t keep going, haha.)
When Asami is introduced, not very long after she took off her helmet — and I mean, during that scene, before the audience knows anything about her — the eleven-year old said, very definitely, “She’s a bad guy.”
"She’s not bad."
"Yeah, she is," he said, and his sister was nodding beside him.
So why, I asked (pausing the video), did they think Asami was bad?
"Because look at her," said the ten-year old, and we all looked at her.
Again, the eleven-year old said, confident, “She’s gonna be bad,” and the six-year old said, “She’s mean!”
But they didn’t know anything about her.
What they meant was this: media (and specifically children’s media, although certainly media intended for adults indulges in this too) has taught them that Certain Women Are Bad. This is something they expect now in the cartoons they watch, that a girl who wears make-up, who is very feminine, is — if there’s another girl who’s tomboyish or at least not overtly feminine — a Bad Girl. To my cousins, one of whom is only six, Asami was immediately pegged as Evil because a) she wears make-up and she’s feminine and b) she’s a rival for Mako’s affections. Thus she must be a bad guy, right? Korra likes Mako and Korra’s the Hero, thus she’s the Good Girl, so if Asami likes Mako, that means Asami is the Bad Girl. “She wears short skirts, I wear sneakers,” etc.
But of course, Asami is one of the kindest characters in all the Avatar universe. She’s friendly, she’s gracious, she assumes the best of everyone, she’s fun and sweet, outgoing and confident. When she learns that Korra likes Mako, she doesn’t turn on Korra or make demands of her. Only when Asami realizes that Mako likes Korra back does she call anyone out, and the only person she calls out is Mako. She defends Bolin from Mako when Mako gets angry with Bolin for spilling the beans re: the kiss, and she still stands by and supports Korra.
By the end of the season, all my cousins loved Asami. They were all furious on her behalf with regards to the love triangle, and her final confrontation with her father had the eleven-year old heartbroken. 
Media matters. Children’s media matters. Kids learn from the shows they watch and the books they read. What they learn, often, is that there are right ways to be a woman and wrong ways to be a woman, when the truth is that there is never a wrong way to be a woman. I hope there will be more Asami Satos in the fiction my cousins consume in the future: more Asamis, more Korras, more Lins and Pemas, Jinoras and Ikkis; that my cousins won’t always need me to be there with them to explain it doesn’t matter if a woman wears short skirts or sneakers, neither or both, because these things do not define her worth.

liontortellini:

Just a couple days ago, I watched Air with three of my cousins: an eleven-year old boy, a ten-year old girl, and a six-year old boy. (Really, I only meant to show them the first two episodes! I was going to space them out! But the kids wanted to keep going till four hours later we couldn’t keep going, haha.)

When Asami is introduced, not very long after she took off her helmet — and I mean, during that scene, before the audience knows anything about her — the eleven-year old said, very definitely, “She’s a bad guy.”

"She’s not bad."

"Yeah, she is," he said, and his sister was nodding beside him.

So why, I asked (pausing the video), did they think Asami was bad?

"Because look at her," said the ten-year old, and we all looked at her.

Again, the eleven-year old said, confident, “She’s gonna be bad,” and the six-year old said, “She’s mean!”

But they didn’t know anything about her.

What they meant was this: media (and specifically children’s media, although certainly media intended for adults indulges in this too) has taught them that Certain Women Are Bad. This is something they expect now in the cartoons they watch, that a girl who wears make-up, who is very feminine, is — if there’s another girl who’s tomboyish or at least not overtly feminine — a Bad Girl. To my cousins, one of whom is only six, Asami was immediately pegged as Evil because a) she wears make-up and she’s feminine and b) she’s a rival for Mako’s affections. Thus she must be a bad guy, right? Korra likes Mako and Korra’s the Hero, thus she’s the Good Girl, so if Asami likes Mako, that means Asami is the Bad Girl. “She wears short skirts, I wear sneakers,” etc.

But of course, Asami is one of the kindest characters in all the Avatar universe. She’s friendly, she’s gracious, she assumes the best of everyone, she’s fun and sweet, outgoing and confident. When she learns that Korra likes Mako, she doesn’t turn on Korra or make demands of her. Only when Asami realizes that Mako likes Korra back does she call anyone out, and the only person she calls out is Mako. She defends Bolin from Mako when Mako gets angry with Bolin for spilling the beans re: the kiss, and she still stands by and supports Korra.

By the end of the season, all my cousins loved Asami. They were all furious on her behalf with regards to the love triangle, and her final confrontation with her father had the eleven-year old heartbroken. 

Media matters. Children’s media matters. Kids learn from the shows they watch and the books they read. What they learn, often, is that there are right ways to be a woman and wrong ways to be a woman, when the truth is that there is never a wrong way to be a woman. I hope there will be more Asami Satos in the fiction my cousins consume in the future: more Asamis, more Korras, more Lins and Pemas, Jinoras and Ikkis; that my cousins won’t always need me to be there with them to explain it doesn’t matter if a woman wears short skirts or sneakers, neither or both, because these things do not define her worth.

Reblogged from chicagoartnerd  4,493 notes
chicagoartnerd:

frezned:

bryankonietzko:

ktempest:

bryankonietzko:

The Legend of Korra is coming to New York Comic Con!
It’s just like San Diego Comic-Con, minus the hyphen! It has been a long time since we made it out to a convention other than SDCC, and we know that fact bums out a lot of non-SoCal/SoCal-accessible fans. We wish that we could venture out more, but even just prepping for and visiting San Diego once a year takes a lot of time out of our jam-packed production schedule, so traveling even further for conventions is usually not an option. But we’re going to make it happen anyway for NYCC, and we’re really looking forward to it!
Unfortunately Mike can’t make it, but Joaquim and I will be joined by some special guests at the panel Saturday, October 12th at 11:00 am. Lots of cool stuff in the works for the presentation. We’re putting together a signing on that Saturday too, so I’ll update with more info when I have it.
See you East Coasters soon!

Someone please bring up that thing about how there are no women leaders and why isn’t Katara head of the Water Tribe. Please.

I can answer these for you now. There are women world leaders in the Avatar world during Korra’s present: Zuko’s daughter is the Fire Lord, and there is an Earth Queen ruling the Earth Kingdom.
As for Katara, there is no separate chief in the Southern Water Tribe: both tribes are officially ruled by a royal descendant (currently Unalaq), residing in the Northern Tribe. Prior to the Hundred Year War, I think there was more of a link between families in both tribes feeding into this ruling family, but the tribes have drifted apart and the chief residing in the North isn’t much more than a figurehead to the South. For the Southern Tribe, we always imagined there is a sort of “Council of Elders,” consisting of women and men, who jointly govern the South. I can imagine Katara takes part in that council, and I can also imagine she isn’t interested in being the chief of both tribes anyway.
While we’re on the subject of world leaders, I saw a comment on my dashboard after the Barnes & Noble signing from someone who was dissatisfied with the fact that we didn’t continue the Equalist plot in Book 2 and wrote something to the effect that we were just keeping the bending oppressors in power and sweeping the plight of the oppressed non-benders under the rug. This is definitely not the case. Our idea was that the Equalist revolution forced the United Republic Council (Tenzin included) to face the fact that the majority of the population was not being represented. As a result, they disbanded the council and held open elections, and Raiko, a non-bender, was elected as the president of the United Republic. Looking back, I do think we could have made that clearer, but I think we were probably trying not to bog down the premiere episode with what we refer to as stuff that’s getting too “Trade Federation-y,” since there was plenty to pack into that episode as it was. 

I was like “you could’ve worked this into the plot” reading the whole thing exactly up until the words “trade federation” and I immediately 100% switched to “yep good call”

The problem with that is visibility matters. So it’s awesome that there are women leaders in Korra’s world but if we never see them, and only hear one sentence mentions of them from time to time that is problem. Cause Lin is in a position of power as Chief of Police and now Asami owns Sato Corp but they are the only women in public positions of power that we see regularly. That’s why I think people are asking if there are any women world leaders, because so far we haven’t seen any. 

chicagoartnerd:

frezned:

bryankonietzko:

ktempest:

bryankonietzko:

The Legend of Korra is coming to New York Comic Con!

It’s just like San Diego Comic-Con, minus the hyphen! It has been a long time since we made it out to a convention other than SDCC, and we know that fact bums out a lot of non-SoCal/SoCal-accessible fans. We wish that we could venture out more, but even just prepping for and visiting San Diego once a year takes a lot of time out of our jam-packed production schedule, so traveling even further for conventions is usually not an option. But we’re going to make it happen anyway for NYCC, and we’re really looking forward to it!

Unfortunately Mike can’t make it, but Joaquim and I will be joined by some special guests at the panel Saturday, October 12th at 11:00 am. Lots of cool stuff in the works for the presentation. We’re putting together a signing on that Saturday too, so I’ll update with more info when I have it.

See you East Coasters soon!

Someone please bring up that thing about how there are no women leaders and why isn’t Katara head of the Water Tribe. Please.

I can answer these for you now. There are women world leaders in the Avatar world during Korra’s present: Zuko’s daughter is the Fire Lord, and there is an Earth Queen ruling the Earth Kingdom.

As for Katara, there is no separate chief in the Southern Water Tribe: both tribes are officially ruled by a royal descendant (currently Unalaq), residing in the Northern Tribe. Prior to the Hundred Year War, I think there was more of a link between families in both tribes feeding into this ruling family, but the tribes have drifted apart and the chief residing in the North isn’t much more than a figurehead to the South. For the Southern Tribe, we always imagined there is a sort of “Council of Elders,” consisting of women and men, who jointly govern the South. I can imagine Katara takes part in that council, and I can also imagine she isn’t interested in being the chief of both tribes anyway.

While we’re on the subject of world leaders, I saw a comment on my dashboard after the Barnes & Noble signing from someone who was dissatisfied with the fact that we didn’t continue the Equalist plot in Book 2 and wrote something to the effect that we were just keeping the bending oppressors in power and sweeping the plight of the oppressed non-benders under the rug. This is definitely not the case. Our idea was that the Equalist revolution forced the United Republic Council (Tenzin included) to face the fact that the majority of the population was not being represented. As a result, they disbanded the council and held open elections, and Raiko, a non-bender, was elected as the president of the United Republic. Looking back, I do think we could have made that clearer, but I think we were probably trying not to bog down the premiere episode with what we refer to as stuff that’s getting too “Trade Federation-y,” since there was plenty to pack into that episode as it was. 

I was like “you could’ve worked this into the plot” reading the whole thing exactly up until the words “trade federation” and I immediately 100% switched to “yep good call”

The problem with that is visibility matters. So it’s awesome that there are women leaders in Korra’s world but if we never see them, and only hear one sentence mentions of them from time to time that is problem. Cause Lin is in a position of power as Chief of Police and now Asami owns Sato Corp but they are the only women in public positions of power that we see regularly. That’s why I think people are asking if there are any women world leaders, because so far we haven’t seen any. 

Reblogged from seekingwillow  4,493 notes
seekingwillow:

jhenne-bean:

blueeyeslikethesea:

bryankonietzko:

ktempest:

bryankonietzko:

The Legend of Korra is coming to New York Comic Con!
It’s just like San Diego Comic-Con, minus the hyphen! It has been a long time since we made it out to a convention other than SDCC, and we know that fact bums out a lot of non-SoCal/SoCal-accessible fans. We wish that we could venture out more, but even just prepping for and visiting San Diego once a year takes a lot of time out of our jam-packed production schedule, so traveling even further for conventions is usually not an option. But we’re going to make it happen anyway for NYCC, and we’re really looking forward to it!
Unfortunately Mike can’t make it, but Joaquim and I will be joined by some special guests at the panel Saturday, October 12th at 11:00 am. Lots of cool stuff in the works for the presentation. We’re putting together a signing on that Saturday too, so I’ll update with more info when I have it.
See you East Coasters soon!

Someone please bring up that thing about how there are no women leaders and why isn’t Katara head of the Water Tribe. Please.

I can answer these for you now. There are women world leaders in the Avatar world during Korra’s present: Zuko’s daughter is the Fire Lord, and there is an Earth Queen ruling the Earth Kingdom.
As for Katara, there is no separate chief in the Southern Water Tribe: both tribes are officially ruled by a royal descendant (currently Unalaq), residing in the Northern Tribe. Prior to the Hundred Year War, I think there was more of a link between families in both tribes feeding into this ruling family, but the tribes have drifted apart and the chief residing in the North isn’t much more than a figurehead to the South. For the Southern Tribe, we always imagined there is a sort of “Council of Elders,” consisting of women and men, who jointly govern the South. I can imagine Katara takes part in that council, and I can also imagine she isn’t interested in being the chief of both tribes anyway.
While we’re on the subject of world leaders, I saw a comment on my dashboard after the Barnes & Noble signing from someone who was dissatisfied with the fact that we didn’t continue the Equalist plot in Book 2 and wrote something to the effect that we were just keeping the bending oppressors in power and sweeping the plight of the oppressed non-benders under the rug. This is definitely not the case. Our idea was that the Equalist revolution forced the United Republic Council (Tenzin included) to face the fact that the majority of the population was not being represented. As a result, they disbanded the council and held open elections, and Raiko, a non-bender, was elected as the president of the United Republic. Looking back, I do think we could have made that clearer, but I think we were probably trying not to bog down the premiere episode with what we refer to as stuff that’s getting too “Trade Federation-y,” since there was plenty to pack into that episode as it was.

See you there!

Breaking the rule of Show Not Tell since the universe was young.

___
I’ve been trying not to say anything about and trying and just - NO. Breaking up a council of equal representation instead of putting on say two non-bender members (who could have been chosen via general elections) to have a single president is not only a very USA idea, thus Western idea as to the solution to having democracy having to look a certain way.
It doesn’t change the possibility of imbalance of powers.
Look at OUR current reality; look at the US disenfranchising people; look at Mako threatening a non-bender with burning his face off and I’m to believe come election time that SOMEHOW, things will work out fair? That there won’t be enthusiastic benders ‘promoting’ their candidates via threats? Implied sly or outright?
I’m to believe having a single head of state as a vulnerability in such a universe; where before one had to try and control an ENTIRE COUNCIL if one wanted to push things through - is a better state of affairs?
I’m meant to conclude that tribal councils on the whole are inferior to a single president and call that progress and improvement?
Miss me with that ish.
All it does it show an incredibly lack of knowledge on the realities of the oppressed within a dominant oppressing system.

Making a sweeping institutional change that provides a veneer of progress without addressing the underlying issue seems exactly like something a bender-dominated government would do.    (At least, we see that reflected in our own histories and our own stories.)
In that sense, I totally see the Council of representatives patting themselves on the back and saying “yeah see, we made it fair, so why are nonbenders still complaining, you have a President who represents you now, don’t you?”  without taking into account history or systemic oppression.  
Everything you speculate on—the bender intimidation, manipulation of President Raiko, the risky consolidation of power in one elected individual (in a six month span?)—is (to me) believably occurring in the political underbelly of Republic City.    The verisimilitude lies in the fact that groups with privilege often do all of these things and then “call it progress and improvement” with a complete lack of knowledge on “the realities of the oppressed within a dominant oppressing system.”
The trade-off is supposed to be that when these inequities are replicated in a fantasy setting, it is supposed to be thought provoking and allow the viewer/consumer to be able to build insight and critique on both the fantasy world and our own world. It becomes problematic if the creators are unable to recognize the complexities or the oppression as they replicate it on screen.  
tl;dr -   I’m okay with the idea of the Republic City Council hastily reorganizing and the resulting non-bender president and calling it progress, Equalist problem solved, because that seems like a realistic move for a government that ruled for so long without recognizing such a glaring imbalance in power.  I am uncomfortable if the writers of Korra believe this along with their fictional characters—because changing a dressing is not the same as healing a wound.

seekingwillow:

jhenne-bean:

blueeyeslikethesea:

bryankonietzko:

ktempest:

bryankonietzko:

The Legend of Korra is coming to New York Comic Con!

It’s just like San Diego Comic-Con, minus the hyphen! It has been a long time since we made it out to a convention other than SDCC, and we know that fact bums out a lot of non-SoCal/SoCal-accessible fans. We wish that we could venture out more, but even just prepping for and visiting San Diego once a year takes a lot of time out of our jam-packed production schedule, so traveling even further for conventions is usually not an option. But we’re going to make it happen anyway for NYCC, and we’re really looking forward to it!

Unfortunately Mike can’t make it, but Joaquim and I will be joined by some special guests at the panel Saturday, October 12th at 11:00 am. Lots of cool stuff in the works for the presentation. We’re putting together a signing on that Saturday too, so I’ll update with more info when I have it.

See you East Coasters soon!

Someone please bring up that thing about how there are no women leaders and why isn’t Katara head of the Water Tribe. Please.

I can answer these for you now. There are women world leaders in the Avatar world during Korra’s present: Zuko’s daughter is the Fire Lord, and there is an Earth Queen ruling the Earth Kingdom.

As for Katara, there is no separate chief in the Southern Water Tribe: both tribes are officially ruled by a royal descendant (currently Unalaq), residing in the Northern Tribe. Prior to the Hundred Year War, I think there was more of a link between families in both tribes feeding into this ruling family, but the tribes have drifted apart and the chief residing in the North isn’t much more than a figurehead to the South. For the Southern Tribe, we always imagined there is a sort of “Council of Elders,” consisting of women and men, who jointly govern the South. I can imagine Katara takes part in that council, and I can also imagine she isn’t interested in being the chief of both tribes anyway.

While we’re on the subject of world leaders, I saw a comment on my dashboard after the Barnes & Noble signing from someone who was dissatisfied with the fact that we didn’t continue the Equalist plot in Book 2 and wrote something to the effect that we were just keeping the bending oppressors in power and sweeping the plight of the oppressed non-benders under the rug. This is definitely not the case. Our idea was that the Equalist revolution forced the United Republic Council (Tenzin included) to face the fact that the majority of the population was not being represented. As a result, they disbanded the council and held open elections, and Raiko, a non-bender, was elected as the president of the United Republic. Looking back, I do think we could have made that clearer, but I think we were probably trying not to bog down the premiere episode with what we refer to as stuff that’s getting too “Trade Federation-y,” since there was plenty to pack into that episode as it was.

See you there!

Breaking the rule of Show Not Tell since the universe was young.

___

I’ve been trying not to say anything about and trying and just - NO. Breaking up a council of equal representation instead of putting on say two non-bender members (who could have been chosen via general elections) to have a single president is not only a very USA idea, thus Western idea as to the solution to having democracy having to look a certain way.

It doesn’t change the possibility of imbalance of powers.

Look at OUR current reality; look at the US disenfranchising people; look at Mako threatening a non-bender with burning his face off and I’m to believe come election time that SOMEHOW, things will work out fair? That there won’t be enthusiastic benders ‘promoting’ their candidates via threats? Implied sly or outright?

I’m to believe having a single head of state as a vulnerability in such a universe; where before one had to try and control an ENTIRE COUNCIL if one wanted to push things through - is a better state of affairs?

I’m meant to conclude that tribal councils on the whole are inferior to a single president and call that progress and improvement?

Miss me with that ish.

All it does it show an incredibly lack of knowledge on the realities of the oppressed within a dominant oppressing system.

Making a sweeping institutional change that provides a veneer of progress without addressing the underlying issue seems exactly like something a bender-dominated government would do.    (At least, we see that reflected in our own histories and our own stories.)

In that sense, I totally see the Council of representatives patting themselves on the back and saying “yeah see, we made it fair, so why are nonbenders still complaining, you have a President who represents you now, don’t you?”  without taking into account history or systemic oppression.  

Everything you speculate on—the bender intimidation, manipulation of President Raiko, the risky consolidation of power in one elected individual (in a six month span?)—is (to me) believably occurring in the political underbelly of Republic City.    The verisimilitude lies in the fact that groups with privilege often do all of these things and then “call it progress and improvement” with a complete lack of knowledge on “the realities of the oppressed within a dominant oppressing system.”

The trade-off is supposed to be that when these inequities are replicated in a fantasy setting, it is supposed to be thought provoking and allow the viewer/consumer to be able to build insight and critique on both the fantasy world and our own world. It becomes problematic if the creators are unable to recognize the complexities or the oppression as they replicate it on screen.  

tl;dr -   I’m okay with the idea of the Republic City Council hastily reorganizing and the resulting non-bender president and calling it progress, Equalist problem solved, because that seems like a realistic move for a government that ruled for so long without recognizing such a glaring imbalance in power.  I am uncomfortable if the writers of Korra believe this along with their fictional characters—because changing a dressing is not the same as healing a wound.