Avatar at Arms: Why do people hate Avatar Korra?

In May of this year, Netflix added Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) to their streaming collection, and almost immediately, the 15 year-old children’s cartoon became the most popular item on the platform. ATLA follows the training of Avatar Aang, the only person in the world with the ability to bend all four elements, over a single summer as he prepares to defeat Fire Lord Ozai, evil dictator of the fire nation. The show continues to resonate with its original audience, its complex themes and relationships being more palatable to their now older viewers. Signal-boosted by their fans over quick-swipe platforms like Tiktok and Twitter, the show took over the sphere of media consumption. 

Three months later, Netflix picked up the show’s sequel, Legend of Korra (LOK), and similarly, Korra shot to Netflix’s number one spot. LOK follows Avatar Korra, the reincarnation of Avatar Aang, as she defeats her show’s remarkable villains and brings balance to the world. But as the two shows coexisted in the public sphere something else was revived with their popularity; People’s disdain for Avatar Korra.

The online conversation about the franchise became toxic soon after Korra’s Netflix premier, with many of the ATLA loyals claiming that Korra’s character, power, and storyline were far weaker than Aang’s, while LOK fans came to Korra’s defense; and honestly, I’m a part of the latter. 

Much of the hate toward Korra comes from an inability of the franchise’s original viewers to accept another storyline and another Avatar, especially a storyline that is so different from the original. There’s a lot that separates the two shows, but the most prominent difference is that LOK was just a more adult show. ATLA had just as mature themes and complex relationships, but visually and incidentally LOK was far more mature. LOK had on-screen deaths and dealt with suggestions of suicide and recovery, things that ATLA rarely even alluded to. Part of this is watching Korra fail more. Korra lost and was hurt more than Aang was. She was even poisoned once, which incapacitated her over two seasons. But the kinder film over ATLA never let that happen. With one or two exceptions, when Aang was hurt, he got back up and won the day. This made Aang seem more powerful and durable, which isn’t exactly the case.

This isn’t me claiming that Korra is a more powerful Avatar, because I’m not. I grew up on the two shows and I love them differently. What I am saying though is that, just because sequel storylines are different or are treated differently doesn’t mean we should respect them any less than the original. Korra is a powerful queer woman of color, and it’s dissappointing that her character lacks the praise she deserves just because her show’s made a little older.

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