What Do You Say, Bryan K?: “Benders and Non-Benders”
This was brought to my attention by long-time reader, rosemon:
Someone (presumably on Bryan K’s tumblr) just asked, “If the benders and nonbenders were getting along before legend of korra, what made them not get along now?”
Bryan: “It’s a very large world out there, what made you think they were getting along in the first place? it was republic city, with benders as the ruling class, with the power, but they’re still the minority; it’s like china where there’s a minority in power [something else about China] the melting pot situation where you have people from all over the world, all kinds of benders and nonbenders, moving to the same place made people realize that it’s not about fire vs. water or earth vs. air… but some nonbenders felt that they were doing all the hard dirty work.”
Someone seriously needs to take Mr. Konietzko by the hand and explain to him how the storytelling/audience relationship works. Every assumption and speculation an audience member makes is ultimately at the mercy of the information given by the storyteller within the story itself. So while Mr. Konietzko’s answer raises some interesting ideas, it’s rendered irrelevant by the fact that these ideas were never explored and/or even hinted at in The Legend of Korra.
Now, as a fairly intelligent person with a basic understanding of world history (read: as someone who watched Gandhi in high school), I can easily assume that during the 100-year war, Benders and Non-Benders were too busy fighting off a common enemy–the Fire Nation–to bicker about their inherit social issues with each other. Only after the Fire Nation was defeated could old prejudices rear their ugly heads once again.
Is this a valid assumption? Yes. Is it a sound assumption? That’s hard to say, because there’s no evidence that this is true or untrue in the actual show. For that matter, there’s no evidence that Bending oppression as a whole even exists. The Triple Threat Triads and Tarrlok are presented as individual cases of exceptions to the rule, and every story we’re told about Bending oppression involves a Firebender, even the untrue stories*.
Actually, I take it back. There is evidence that Bending oppression exists: in the actions and mindset of Korra, the new Avatar.
How many times do we see her use her Bending to get what she wants from people? How many times has she threatened someone with brute force? When has this ever been presented as a bad thing? When do we actually see Korra mulling over the social imbalance that she unwittingly plays a part in? When has she ever proposed a peaceful solution to the problem (which would shown her growth as a person and an Airbender)?
This is yet another reason that Korra is one of the most maddeningly frustrating shows ever broadcasted. Whatever message Mr. Konietzko and co-writer Michael Dante DiMartino think they’re going for is not only unsupported by what we see on-screen, but is often contradicted. And yet Mr. Konietzko, as shown in his somewhat condescending response to a legitimate question, has the nerve to wonder why the audience isn’t on the same page as him when it’s his job as a writer to persuade them onto his side. (If this guy were to writing Fight Club, he’d probably think Tyler Durden was the “hero.”)
In other words, Mr. Konietzko is doing precisely what every bad, egotistical writer does: explaining/justifying things himself that should have been evident in the work itself. Don’t most writers outgrow this attitude past high school?
*In a rather morbid way, this is pretty funny. It’s been almost seventy years since the Nazis were defeated, and they’re still the punchline of humanity. Imagine how much worse it must be for the Fire Nation, who actually did succeed in eradicating an entire race.