I was about eight years late to ‘Legend of Korra’; at age 20, I was very obviously not the intended audience for the animated Nickelodeon show, but having missed it in my youth, I dedicated Lockdown One to ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and Lockdown Two to its aforementioned sequel series.
Korra, as a character, quickly grew close to my heart. Hot-headed and cocky, with a propensity for recklessness and irrationality, I have come across few female characters with such an interesting, faceted personality. Sure, there are a dime-a-dozen male characters that fit that description, but to see it on a female character, and a protagonist at that, was instantly refreshing and had me hooked. And, okay, she had well-defined muscles and swoopy hair, which was a bonus.
The show tackles poignant, vulnerable themes. Book Four (aptly sub-titled Balance) opens with Korra struggling with the after-effects of trauma, both physical and mental; it is unexpectedly gritty, but entirely necessary. It demonstrates that recovery is not a straight line and it is not a simplistic process. ‘The Legend of Korra’ depicts PTSD as ugly and difficult; with the show covering themes such as genocide and imperialism, this shouldn’t be surprising, but the rawness of the emotional turmoil that Korra suffers is what has persevered with me.
I’ll admit, I went in actively searching for homosexual subtext, already aware of the WLW representation in the show. While the extent of representation is limited to a three-second hand hold and a lingering stare at the very end of the finale, it still meant leaps and bounds for the future of LGBTQ+ representation in children’s animation. Someone had to go first, and if ‘Legend of Korra’ walked so that ‘Adventure Time’ and ‘Steven Universe’ could run, that singular hand-hold is undeniably one of the most important parts of the whole show.
Despite it being created for a younger audience, I don’t know if I would have really felt it so profoundly if I had watched it in 2012. However, watching it in 2020, where the world was experiencing a collective trauma and loneliness, it moved me immensely. I haven’t stopped thinking about it – and perhaps that, above all, is a sign of its longevity. It is a show about perseverance, found family, and strength in unexpected places. To leave with a quote from Uncle Iroh in Book Two: “If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see.”