Because fans should be critical, too

Happy New Year, Comrades!

The advent of a new year is a good enough excuse to prepare you all for what’s to be expected in this blog.

First of all, the Avatar: the Last Airbender (and possibly The Legend of Korra) re-re-re-evaluation will commence soon in light of Korra‘s completion. I’d like to make the discussions of Avatar as dialectic as it has been for this last season of Korra, which means less of me writing an isolated, thought-out review of an episode, and more discussion among myself and the residents (?) of this blog to reach a stronger conclusion. And to keep these discussions on track, I propose an overriding hypothesis: Avatar: the Last Airbender is the single most progressive American animated children’s show released to date. Whether this is true or not is what each episode review will review one by one, along with discussions of anything else relevant to the series/episode. (I’m not sure yet what the hypothesis of The Legend of Korra will be, but I can assure you it won’t be very positive. In fact, we can discuss how it isn’t a very progressive series.)

Additionally, I will finally seriously establish a separate blog completely dedicated to animation as a whole. I’m still not certain how it will be structured, so I’ll experiment with a few approaches and see what works best. One idea was to have each month dedicated to one particularly notable animated series, inviting anyone with extensive thoughts on that particular series (and even newcomers with no history with the series) to share their thoughts. (I’m not sure what the first show would be, but something tells me it will have something to do with ponies.)

Anyway, I’m still getting the logistics straight. I’ll let you all know when it’s in order and ready to go.

Before I close, though, I have a question for you all, just some food for thought: is it possible that the fandom itself ruined The Legend of Korra?

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18 responses

  1. Brian

    “I’m not sure what the first show would be, but something tells me it will have something to do with ponies.”

    As a person who’s never seen the show, this should be enlightening.

    January 1, 2015 at 4:54 pm

  2. drew

    Is the fandom the reason why Korra got made into something besides a one-off mineseries in the first place? Because I still wonder how good or bad The Search would’ve been had it been allowed to be made into an animated feature. The comic was pretty mediocre, but that could be because Mike and Bryan didn’t have access to the writing talent they did making ATLA.

    January 1, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    • Actually the guy that wrote the comics is a award winning comic writer.

      January 1, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    • PsychoPass

      I think Bryke were initially told by Nickelodeon that they would only get one miniseries. As to the Search being animated, there was a rumor several years ago about animated tv movies being done for ATLA. I don’t know where to find sources for this, but I remember seeing photos of a Nickelodeon in-house memo referencing the idea.

      January 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

  3. I got a question. Can the measure on how progressive a show is be measure by the passage of time? Or at least the full extent that it reaches? I mean Avatars been out for a few years and it seems to be more progressive now than it did a couple years ago. Korra is also in this example. The ending with Korra and Asami was very progressive in idea but will it be remembered in time? Idk I may be talking nonsense. Thoughts?

    January 2, 2015 at 12:00 am

    • I get where you’re coming from, and I think it’s a good point for discussion. It would complicate the process a bit (it’s crazy how much has changed in just a few years), but may be worth delving into as the episode analysis carries on. Then again, what we consider progressive is entirely relative to our place and time in history. What is “progressive” then? That’s the question, and perhaps Avatar has the answer.

      January 2, 2015 at 12:57 am

  4. Clander

    I believe it is entirely possible that the fandom ruined the show. However fandoms in itself don’t have any power on the inner workings of a program unless power was in someway granted to it. Basically in referral to Tox’s comment and mine on the last episode of Korra; the creators were entirely too close to their fans and too willing to shape the narrative based on their reactions. I don’t think listening to criticism toward your show and seriously considering it in future writing periods is a bad thing. But the creators tip tow the line way too much and it tends to backfire consistently. Albeit only slightly in the case of Korra-Asami because people are too blinded by the “progress” to realize how flawed the relationship is. I can’t help but feel the creators are insecure about their show and will do whatever they can to rectify any qualms fans might have about it.

    January 2, 2015 at 2:20 am

    • Grindal

      I haven’t seen anyone mention it on this site yet but in regards to Korrasami, there’s a point to be made that the lack of build-up in their relationship is more down to the fact that this still is a Nickelodeon show and HBO or something. The ending is regarded as progressive because people were surprised they were able to do it in the first place. Would you not think though that despite the changing beliefs of society, Nickelodeon would never allow a homosexual relationship to blatantly develop throughout the season of any of their shows? Evidently, all the moments that can be perceived as the seeds for Korrasami are as played down as much as possible.

      So yes, based on what we got from the series alone there seems little logic to the ending of Korra. But to me it seems like Mike and Bryan decided to go forward with Korrasami but could not do much to implicate it. Whether this was a wise decision in terms of storytelling is up for debate, but it is far too harsh to criticise Bryke for under-developing Korrasami.

      January 2, 2015 at 6:09 am

      • I assume you meant to write “this still is a Nickelodeon show and not HBO or something.”

        Even knowing what they were up against–the standards and practices as imposed by Nickelodeon–I’m still not convinced that they couldn’t done something to implicate the nature of Korra and Asami’s budding relationship. Maybe they should have had it strictly played for laughs until that very ending. Then the serious and respectful nature of the ending would have been positively cathartic. They are ways to imply these things and still make them innocent (read: ambiguous) enough for children.

        Maybe I’m old school, but I still believe that a story should be able to stand firmly on its own feats before it can be taken seriously. The more sensational aspects (from a brilliant piece of animation to the subtle affirmation of a bisexual relationship) should all be at the service of the story, which ultimately injects those sensations with meaning. As is it, the Korrasami ending is nothing more than a stunt: “We got an implied bisexual relationship on a children’s show! Isn’t that great?!” Perhaps it is. But the problem is, contextually, the relationship makes no sense. Are you therefore implying that bisexual relationships in general make no sense but as a shoehorned fantasy rather than something that is natural and meaningful? I find that very troubling, because now we can interpret the decision to emphasize Korra and Asami’s relationship (as opposed to the relationship of Team Avatar, who should all be taking the trip to the Spirit World, if you ask me) as a bit pandering. Maybe even a bit Fascist, if you allow me a bit of hyperbole.

        January 2, 2015 at 10:34 am

    • JMR

      @Clander and Marshall

      I think what people need to keep in mind as far as the Korra/Asami relationship is that it’s Varrik and Jzu Li (sp?) that are getting married, not Korra and Asami.

      As such, the end of the show is the beginning of their new relationship, not the culmination. To that end, I think that while it would have been nice to see more (hell, Asami in general gets completely screwed over as far as screen time is concerned), there was enough for me to buy the idea of them starting up a romantic relationship. After all, Mako and Asami started dating after she hit him with her moped. I feel like this was a bit better developed than that.

      I do think its a valid criticism that the show treats it like a grand summation of a long simmering romance, with putting it as the “The End” scene and all.

      Beyond that, I feel that due to it being homosexual and thus very unusual as far as television is concerned, the relationship is being put under more scrutiny than it might otherwise.

      I guess I kind of wonder what people were expecting. Whenever the show decided to let Asami out of The Box and actually be on screen with Korra, the two shared plenty of moments. From death-defying escapes from the desert, to heart-to-heart pen pal letter exchanges, to the perils of trying to teach Korra to drive. Is their relationship invalid because during those moments they didn’t flash bedroom eyes at each other?

      January 2, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      • Clander

        While I do see your points on Korra and Asami’s relationship, it’s still flawed for multiple reasons but I’d rather leave it to someone else to examine why more in depth as there are still plenty of good reasons to believe so, on the surface.

        However I completely disagree with your suggestion that their relationship is under more scrutiny because of the context of it being a homosexual one. In fact I would argue quite the opposite is true. Homosexual relations are only truly recently starting to become normalized by public perception. Even though there is some resistance it’s still becoming a widely accepted idea. So when people who are fighting for homosexuality to be normalized by the culture, putting it in any media as a form of “humanity” is a big score. So when someone comes along and analyzes it and finds it flawed people may be inclined to dismiss any valid criticism as them just not liking the idea of homosexuality. Because if someone writes gay couples or characters badly, then that sets the push for normalizing it backward. Most of the time gay characters or couples are untouchable because “at least they are there and that’s all that matters”. Not to mention people heavily scrutinized Korra and Mako’s relationship despite it being a heterosexual one.

        January 3, 2015 at 12:38 am

      • Grindal’s right. Korra and Asami’s relationship is the talk of the town. Vanity Fair wrote an article about how “subversive” The Legend of Korra was solely thanks to this ending. One of the most reliably analytical tumblr sites I ever visited has devolved into Korrasami madness. Of all the things one could discuss about Korra, this is the single thing that caught everyone’s attention. Not without good reason, but you still have to wonder how much of it is due to “trendiness.” Once homosexual relations are normalized in society, that ending is not going to hold up at all on its own. Will it still be remembered as a major step forward? I don’t know.

        January 3, 2015 at 2:20 am

      • Grindal

        @Clander

        From what I have seen on the internet I disagree with you thinking that Korra and Asami’s relationship is not under more scrutiny because of its homosexual nature. Although it is valid to point out that Mako and Korra reached the same if not greater levels of scrutiny within the core fan base, it is overwhelmingly clear that the relationship of Korra and Asami has been under far more scrutiny. The main evidence of this I have found is how various online sites that normally wouldn’t talk about Korra have posted articles and accompanying thoughts on the series ending.

        Also, do remember that ‘scrutiny’ in itself does not imply anything negative. Rather, it just means being under a close and critical examination.

        January 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

  5. rosemon

    I’d say that the only thing that ruined Korra was the writing itself, though the fandom was constantly brought down by the section that worshipped Mako and his “romance” with Korra. Other than that, I think most of the fan base left after book 1’s ending, the remaining either blindly loving it or hate watching it from the sidelines. Bryke left some more commentary, though for book 3, in case that provides any good food for thought:

    http://dongbufeng.tumblr.com/post/106259571973/korra-book-3-blu-ray-commentary-highlights

    As for your other upcoming blog, I don’t know exactly how much anime stuff you’re into, but I’ve come to see that you are no stranger to tackling things that some readers might find controversial. Nevertheless, I admire how much you never give into hype, particularly regarding something that does not deserve it. First it was Korra, soon it will be Frozen. Maybe one month it could be Gurren Lagann, since Bryke liked that show and it’s considered one of anime’s classics. In addition, just by casually perusing anime on Google, I’ve found a distressing trend in most end of the year blogs that put TTGL’s spiritual successor – a show from fall 2013 to spring 2014 called Kill la Kill – on the Top 5 or Top 10 Anime list from both male and female writers. Despite it being a horrifyingly misogynistic piece of underage pornography which I would NOT recommend you or anyone else to watch (the main character gets raped & sexually harassed in the first few episodes and it’s played for comedy, the antagonist is molested by her mother in a scene resembling a bad lesbian porn), fans praise it for being feminist like Frozen because of its pseudo-sex positive message in its third episode (which they love to defend as “parody” to anyone who says it’s trash), to point where it’s basically the Frozen of the American anime community: overhyped, “untouchable,” and everywhere you go. Lots of women elsewhere have already detailed why it’s awful, but nobody has ever discussed how and why this show is so popular despite that and what that says about anime fans here. The show itself is not as interesting so much as anime fans’ reaction to it that’s interesting, kinda like what happen with Frozen or Korra.

    January 2, 2015 at 10:30 am

    • This is very untrue. Most people in the fandom either HATED book 2 or didn’t think it was all that great overall. There’s some people out there that thought it was decent but they’re really small in number. Book 3 was liked by the majority, even the people that were very critical of books 1 and 2. So I don’t think people are blindly excepting what happens and praising it. There seems to some genuine good stuff in the book even with its faults. That’s also not counting the lack of marketing the show got in its second season. And the fact that the show took such a long time to come back surely didn’t help.

      January 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm

  6. ChaosJumper

    I would like to have my two cents on Animation. It’s always a good idea to expound on things we like, dislike, or get little attention due to the medium when they should be (Example, I think Courage the Cowardly Dog deals with adult themes better than most adult shows right now, most infamously being the Episode “The Mask” and the CGI Green Lantern series got the spirit of a Star Trek Space Drama than the bombastic JJ Abrams Prequels…Remakes?…Spin Offs?…). If we have to talk about Ponies, I will be all for it; that Dexter’s Lab episode got weird really quick! A giant pony head ready to eat some children; almost a Creepy Pasta Episode.

    Onto your question; I’m pretty sure the show got off due to Fandom in the First place, but I wouldn’t say it’s the fan’s fault (at least entirely). I don’t know how the decision was made when the creators made Legend of Korra, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t to “Continue the Saga of the Avatar”. If it is (and judging by our first season) it was thought of due to popularity, not (primarily) because they wanted to continue something they love. Bearing in mind, I don’t think it RUINED Korra. There were awkward moments (like the points you referenced in Book 1) but that’s more the fault of the writers than the fans. If the fans wants questions answered (like what happened to Zuko’s mom….yeah, what happened to Azula’s sister and other small bits that were left opened because they weren’t necessary for the story) there are other ways to do it than how they did it.

    I would personally change the word “Fandom” to “Popularity”, since most of Legend of Korra can be seen as “The Emperor Wears no Clothes” situation. The creators got clout due to the massive love for their series, wrote something that wasn’t well thought out. Book 2 is similar, but for different reasons. When they show their not-well-thought-out opus to the audience and dusting their hands, they weren’t thinking at all that “Our subjects want more!” even though they should know how poor the company they are under is in and should think they would want something after their most popular show since…ever!

    And since I wasn’t hear to talk about the whole Korra Asami thing, I honestly didn’t see it as a homosexual bond, at least directly. Seeing that a lot of the show from Book One showed a friendly bond between Korra and Asami to the point of that odd Plot Point with only Korra and Asami taking notes, it is POSSIBLE that there is some homosexual tension there. It’s just that because of the show not giving focus to Asami, plus spending more than 50% of the time with Korra/Mako, I never thought the series would end with a Homosexual Relationship. But in all honestly, I wanted it to be the writers to give me an apology letter for not giving her enough screentime (as well as focusing most of her time in Book 4 JUST to build up her father dying. THANKS!). If that was the case, that’s fine with me; Courage the Cowardly Dog’s episode The Mask shows it’s fine to have homosexuality expressed in your shows, as long as it’s done correctly. My only issue is, yet again, that it comes out of left field.

    If it is for the fans, then it’s ruins the narrative. If the writers were implying that Korra (or Asami) was to be with Mako at the beginning, then at least go through with it. Going forward with a relationship that we hate at least shows a level of integrity (how much of that being positive can be discussed on a later date). Just giving what the fans want is just infuriating. It’s what Redlettermedia has said about the Prequels; when you shift the narrative for your fans, then it’s less about telling your own story and more pandering to your fans. That’s bad.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:29 pm

  7. PsychoPass

    The following story explains how I experienced the Korrasami ending: I have a friend who watches and studies Japanese anime. He was telling me about an anime that aired on Japanese televsion about a pre-teen school girl who wants to be romantically involved with her teacher. I asked him, “Why do these Japanese writers come up with premises like that?” and he responded, “Purely for shock value.”

    Before going into the finale, I saw a quick tumblr post mentioning, “The Korrasami scene in the finale,” but I thought it was just shippers seeing what they wanted to see, although I wondered if it were true. Come the finale’s ending and I see Korra and Asami getting within each others’ personal spaces, I grabbed onto my seat, my friend’s words echoing in my mind, myself thinking, “Are the creators taking a page out of Japanese television by having a contrived same-sex couple come completely out of nowhere at the end!?”

    Because that is precisely what I thought: there was no prior reason for me to believe that Korra and Asami would ever behave so intimately towards each other, even in a platonic way, so the only explanation was that it was thrown in for shock value.

    Prince Wu having feelings for Mako would have been more believable due to how Wu actually expressed admiration for him.

    January 7, 2015 at 12:18 am

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