the ridiculous treatment of women in LoK’s narrative has gotten to the point where I think about amazing shows that treated their female characters so damn well but were for some reason or another canceled, and I almost break down crying because I’m. so. angry.
I’m angry that Asami is only there when she’s convenient for the narrative. She’s not a character, she’s a prop. Do we get to see her inner conflict resulting from last season? No! Do we get to follow her emotional journey as she struggles with the tarnished company her father left behind? Nope! She doesn’t even come up with the idea on how to save it, it’s given to her by a male character who seems to have overtaken her importance/role in the story.
I’m angry that Mako is framed as the victim when the women in his life (his boss and his gf) “act irrational”, yet back when he was doing the exact same things, we were supposed to sympathize with HIM.
I’m angry that with a business man who is almost on the level of Tony Stark in this world, the women who should be his Pepper Pots in every sense of the word is mostly silent and submissive, simply going along with whatever he says without question, occasionally with a little quip, but never seems to exist for much else. Ya know what would have been REALLY great? How about the hilarious, delusional businessman role be played by a WOMAN, and her personal assistant was the man? I’d sure be down for that!
I’m angry that a teenage girl who could have been a compelling, interesting character as the dry, dark cousin of the Avatar, has literally served no purpose other than to be “the crazy girlfriend” to one of the poor, defenseless male characters, and for comedy at that. Oh, and her brother has had far less dialogue and screen time than she, but showed more humanity and depth in his one line this episode than she has ever shown thus far.
I hate to find myself nodding in agreement with so much of this critique because I want so much to support Legend of Korra as it is one of the only shows on television to have a woman of color as a protagonist. At the same time, there is so much that is cringe worthy, problematic, or flat out misogynist-supporting in the narrative and characterization of the women in this series to mar it’s progressiveness.
inbetweenthelineart notes that “we have seen next to no female police officers, metalbender cops, Triad members, members of the Northern troops, or members of the Southern resistance force. In ATLA, while background characters were still predominately male, we were still given glimpses of female prisoners of war, female guards, and female soldiers. Why has this diminished so much? Shouldn’t gender progress (especially in the Water Tribes thanks to Katara) have blossomed to the point where the number of women is nearly equal to the number of men?”
Beyond the glaring disproportion of women in important roles in the story (from Tonraq to Unulaq to Varrick to Raiko, all of the new political movers-and-shakers introduced in Season 2 on screen are men), the most recent episode’s characterization of the “erratic spurned woman” really reinforces the all-male writing team’s difficulty developing women characters.
Yeah, the “woman scorned” is a pretty common TV Trope, but this is what we saw in the last episode: Bolin squealing in terror when reminded of spurred Eska’s rage—rage so murderous (and also directed at another woman, Korra) that her father and brother have to temper her wrath by reminding her that they need the Avatar alive. We saw Mako dumping Korra at work and her emotionally reactive destruction of furniture. She is the producer-described “strong female protagonist” so we see her yelling and disruptively flipping tables at her ex-partner’s workplace (a police station of all places.) We then see his supervisor (the only woman in the office) reacting to the damage by remarking that Mako got off easy…because when Tenzin rejected her she did even worse to Air Temple Island (a religious site and Tenzin’s home.) If these behaviors were committed by male characters the narrative would likely frame them as signs of abuse (even with our society’s tendency to romanticize this stuff) but on Legend of Korra, when the women are abusive, it’s part of the show’s humor.
When angry women are funny, when abusive behavior from women directed towards men is framed as funny instead of terrifying, this depiction underscores sexist attitudes towards women and their agency in general. [I’m reminded of the popular Korean movie My Sassy Girl—the titular woman character is emotionally abusive towards her hapless and bewildered boyfriend, but the audience is supposed to find this endearing (she’s sassy!) and harmless (she’s a girl!)]
It just makes me wish for the more nuanced depictions of the women and girl characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. I can’t see Katara from A:TLA kicking over a table over being dumped or Toph taking her anger out by rampaging across a sacred island just because of some boy. In the series and in the continuation comics, Mai confidently calls Zuko out on his nonsense without hi-jinks designed to bring out audience chuffles. The only character from A:TLA that presented with this extreme degree of emotional dysregulation was Azula— smeared make up, brutal physical violence towards her environment, emotional abuse towards her loved ones—and written in a way that the audience did take her, her feelings, and her inappropriate expression of them seriously.
When women characters in Korra behave erratically and abusively after they are rejected by men, and the narrative prods us not to take them or their inappropriate behaviors seriously… it’s cliched writing and it’s (intentionally or not) sexism-reinforcing writing,
Amid the massive internet Makorra depression, let’s all take a moment to appreciate Mako and his face. Thank you.
half the budget this episode must’ve gone to the cel-shading on his face this scene