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
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.