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Posts Tagged ‘The Legend of Korra’

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In this series, I analysis princess characters who defy the stereotypical representation of princesses in fiction, the beautiful, kind, and romance-focused princesses like those in Disney movies (click here for a refresher). When it comes to destroying the princess stereotype, it’s hard to get much further from the traditional type than Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s Azula. Unlike the other complex princesses I’ve discussed who were characters one could consider “heroes,” this princess is ruthless and completely proud of it. In the well-known Nickelodeon series, Azula plays one of the main antagonists and boy, does she make an excellent one! She’s the pride and joy of her father, leader of a nation that has systematically invaded and taken control of other societies and a man cold enough to burn and exile his own son. Rather than sit around a palace in a puffy dress waiting for others to take care of her, Azula has been charged with an important mission to capture the greatest threat to her nation–the Avatar–and she thrills at the chance. This is obviously not your average princess character so, without further ado, let’s break down her characteristics.

TYPICAL PRINCESS TRAITSimages-76

Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of typical princess material in Azula. She’s attractive, but that is never the focus of her character and most of the series she appears in armor or something else that’s easy to fight in (the picture to the right is one of the rare instances when she looks more traditionally feminine). She’s a perfectionist, but she’s not perfect like some of Disney’s earliest princess characters. While she would like to be perfect and tries her hardest to be, it’s clear that Azula is human and therefore imperfect, much to her frustration. Romance is never a factor so, Azula doesn’t fall into the category of prince-crazy princesses who give up everything for them or whose whole story revolves around romance. And as for kindness…

NON-STEREOTYPICAL TRAITS

AzulaAzula has followed closely in her father’s footsteps; she’s an egoist who knows just how to manipulate, threaten, and control those around her, even people she calls “friends.” Is that something to be admired? Most of us would probably say no, but one of the things I like about Azula is that she’s not nice. She has high ambitions and won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way, even if it means hurting someone else. It’s not unusual to see this trait in male characters, but rarely is it seen in female characters. So often female characters, whether they’re princesses or not, are supposed to be nice. Sometimes they’re obviously nice and other times they’re tough girls who come off as cold, but are revealed to be softhearted girls who have been put into a difficult situation and forced to toughen up. If a female character is ever mean, it’s almost always in a petty, shallow way (i.e. the mean girl who torments the nice girl because they both like the same guy). But where are the merciless girls, the mean girls who have more on their minds than making a nice girl look stupid in front of a guy? Azula is one of the few I can think of and she’s actually quiet complex.

In addition, she’s extremely capable, unlike many of the classic Disney princesses. Azula is given big responsibilities by her father/ruler of her country and she handles them excellently, to the horror of the protagonists. Arguably, she does a better job of hunting the Avatar than anyone, beating out her older brother and a decorated admiral, and (without spoiling anything) accomplishes some amazing feats for her country. She’s also one of the most skilled firebenders (think of it as magical martial arts) in the series. Besides her father, the Firelord, Azula is the second-baddest villain in the series. If a series has a female antagonist, she typically doesn’t play a huge part and is usually one of the weakest enemies. The fact that Azula is a princess just makes her badness all the more amazing since princess characters are most often depicted as damsels in distress or (if we’re lucky) heroes; either way they’re supposed to be good people.

To sum it up, Azula is the anti-Disney princess princess character. She has power as a princess and she uses it to her fullest advantage. She’s brutal, capable, complex, and one of the best female villains I’ve come across. So, if you’re looking for princess characters who destroy stereotypes, Azula is definitely one to check out. She won’t disappoint.

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When Nickelodeon aired Avatar: The Last Airbender back in 2005, it quickly became a favorite and has remained so for the past several years since. Now it’s 2012 and the creators of Avatar are back again with a sequel called The Legend of Korra. Having just finished Season 1, Book 1, I thought I’d ramble a bit about it.

First of all, I have to say that the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, did something so many people who work on action/adventure stories seem afraid of doing; presenting audiences with female characters who are obviously just as important and dynamic as their male characters. The original tale did have a male protagonist, but absent were those flimsy token female characters who sit on the sidelines. In The Legend of Korra, they didn’t let fans down. Not only did they keep the same level of quality in their characters but DiMartino and Konietzko  decided to make the protagonist of their new action show a girl.

Apparently, they had to do some convincing with some of the executives at Nickelodeon who were doubtful about how successful a female protagonist would be in an action show. Why? Because boys wouldn’t be happy with a show starring a female lead, they thought. Hearing this annoys me on so many levels. Girls watch and read fiction and play video games with male protagonists all the time yet boys supposedly can’t accept a female protagonist? Thank all that’s sane in this world, the creators stuck by their female lead, Korra, and a test screening of the show proved those executives completely wrong. (I myself have seen young boys crowded around a computer at a library, eagerly watching episodes of Korra.) It seems that the fact that The Legend of Korra has raked in an average audience of 3.8 million has slapped some more sense into Nickelodeon as they recently officially requested 26 more episodes, bringing the series total number of episodes up to 52.

As for Korra, I like what DiMartino and Konietzko have come up with. Certainly, she breaks the stereotypical mold. She’s headstrong, bold, and independent; Korra is a force to be reckoned with and isn’t about to be someone’s punching bag. In a smart move, the creators decided to make Korra the opposite of their previous protagonist, Aang. While Aang was gentle and more spiritual than action-oriented, Korra is aggressive and has much more trouble connecting with her spirituality than her martial art-inspired “bending” skills. Not only does this create protagonists one won’t have trouble seeing as distinctly different but it also avoids stereotypes for both genders.

The other thing I really like about Korra is her character design. She’s muscular and not afraid to show it. I have to say that in all my time of watching animated TV shows, I hardly ever come across female characters who are realistically muscular like Korra. When I have, the characters were muscular as a joke or to make them unattractive. Seeing a muscular female character who isn’t a joke is a nice change from all the wispy or unrealistically big-breasted designs and promotes the idea that muscle on a girl isn’t a bad thing. As one of the creators of the show said in an interview with NPR, “She’s muscular, and we like that. It’s definitely better than being a waif about to pass out. I know, I look like a waif — who am I to judge?”

Finally, I want to point out how the show has made adult characters a big part of the show. Often in shows with teenage protagonists, it seems the focus is on young people in their twenties and younger. The Legend of Korra took a different road, incorporating characters who are clearly established adults with family and/or a career. I think having older characters play a crucial role in the show gives The Legend of Korra yet another distinctive feature. Isn’t nice to see there’s life beyond your twenties for once?

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll be rewatching the first season again so, don’t be surprised if I talk more in-depth about it at some point. What else am I going to do while I wait for the next installment Korra?

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