Posts Tagged ‘LGBTQ’

Yes, yes, an envelope and a mix-up, and blah, blah, blah. That’s not important. What’s actually important is that Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, written by Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, won three golden statues during Sunday’s broadcast. The night kicked off with Mahershala Ali winning for Best Supporting Actor, then Jenkins and McCraney won for Best Adapted Screenplay – the movie was adapted from McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue – and the night ended with the now infamous envelope mix-up.

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Nevertheless, Moonlight still won the Oscar for Best Picture. That’s what you need to know. A movie chronicling the life of a gay black man navigating the harsh world of his Miami neighborhood that deftly treats its characters and subject matter with love, respect, and honesty won Best Picture. It is no small feat considering the movies it was up against and the less than stellar record of the Oscars handing out Best Picture awards to less deserving films over, shall we say, more deserving films. And while people often shirk the Oscars and go on about how award shows are irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that the visibility gained by Moonlight‘s win on an international broadcast will bring more eyes towards the film than its initial run in theaters. That boost in viewership has the potential to give Jenkins, McCraney, and all those involved greater opportunities to tell more stories (big or small) through the medium of film. And the more stories they tell, the more black and LGBTQ movie-going audiences have the chance to see themselves reflected in those stories.

It matters.

But it’s not my place to wax poetic about Moonlight anymore than I already have. Instead, you should watch the movie and then read some or all of the links provided below to give you more insight on the movie from those whom it affects most.

Firstly, you can stream Moonlight via the A24 website. Hopefully the film returns to theaters after its win, but at the very least there are plenty of digital platforms from which to watch.

Secondly, read these pieces below:

Renée Graham – ‘Moonlight’ in Donald Trump’s America, The Boston Globe

Michael Cuby – Why Moonlight‘s Oscars 2017 Win Is So Important For Queer Black Men, Teen Vogue

James McConnaughy – Moonlight & The Handmaiden: Two Very Different Takes on Intimacy, The Mary Sue

Vernon Jordan, III – How ‘Moonlight’ Looks Out For the Humanity In Us, The Establishment

Shane Thomas – Moonlight isn’t just a part of the conversation, it is the conversation, Media Diversified

Amanda N’Duka – Tarell Alvin McCraney On ‘Moonlight’s Message: “I Think People Were Hungry For That,” Deadline

Kristy Puchko – Review: Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ Is Beautiful, Brutal, and Rare, Pajiba

 

Thirdly, congrats to the cast and crew of Moonlight! You earned it and you deserve it!

 

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In the wake of the senseless tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida back in June, DC Comics and IDW have decided to combine their powers and jointly publish LOVE IS LOVE, an anthology honoring the 49 shooting victims and celebrating the LGBTQ community. Scheduled for release in December for $9.99, all proceeds will go to the victims, survivors, and their families via Equality Florida.

Art by Elsa Charretier

Art by Elsa Charretier

Spearheaded by writer Marc Andreyko (Batwoman, Sensation Comics, Manhunter), LOVE IS LOVE will feature 100 1-2 page stories by at least 200 creators showing their love and support for a community still in mourning yet bolstered to fight back against bigotry and hate. While a full list has yet to be provided, many artists and writers have already announced their association with the project. Currently, we know the anthology will feature the talents of Phil Jimenez, Steve Sadowski, Paul Jenkins, Mike Carey, Matt Wagner, Marguerite Bennett, Aneke, Damon Lindelof, Patton Oswalt, Steven Orlando, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Aaron, Jason Latour, James Asmus, Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, Cecil Castellucci, Brandon Peterson, Jesus Saiz, Olivier Coipel, Leinil Yu, and Elsa Charretier. More names will be disclosed as we get closer to the release date.

Said Andreyko of the project:

 

When tragedy happens, art responds. And after the Pulse massacre, the comics community responded quickly, decisively, and with open hearts. I could not be more proud of this book, or to be a member of the comics community. The talent and emotion on every page is staggering. LOVE IS LOVE mourns the 49 lost, honors the survivors, and celebrates love in all forms.” [Source: The Beat]

 

With DC Comics backing the project, some of the stories will feature characters from the comic book universe and, if the cover art by Albuquerque and Charretier is anything to go by, it looks like the queer community of the DCU will thankfully be leading the charge.

Art by Rafael Albuquerque

Art by Rafael Albuquerque

 

 

Sam and Tiff talk about everything and nothing as friends are want to do.

 

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Yeah I know we’re at least two years away from this being any sort of reality, but if Warner Bros. and DC Comics want to make that June 23rd, 2017 release date, then they’re going to have to assemble a cast some time soon. I’d say San Diego Comic-Con would be the best place for such announcing, but I’m not holding my breath. Anywhoozle, Featured_Batman-WonderWoman-Superman_EWwhile Gal Gadot’s acting prowess as Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman has yet to be seen, there are a number of actresses who would do a bang up job filling the ranks of Diana’s sister Amazons. While no one is certain how much time will be spent on Themyscira, it’s still important to feature the Amazons in some significant way. The Amazons, like Diana, can embody a wide range of archetypal and modern roles, but you need the right actresses to pull it off.

So, here is just a small offering of actresses who could grace Themyscira with their presence. This is only scratching the surface, mind you, because there are a lot of Amazons.

 

 

Gwendoline Christiegwendoline

Was there really any doubt that she’d end up on this list? One of the breakout characters on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne of Tarth has been responsible for a lot of “fuck yeah, Brienne!” moments as the character evolved amidst the War of Five Kings and her interactions with Catelyn Stark, Jamie Lannister, and Podrick Payne. Through it all, Brienne stubbornly maintained her core tenants of loyalty and honor, naming her sword Oathkeeper as a constant reminder of who she is and the promises she made to Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark. Christie’s work as Brienne has led to roles in The Hunger Games and the upcoming Episode VII of the Star Wars Saga, both of which have cast her in warrior-type roles. Casting her as an Amazon wouldn’t be that far out of left field and I can easily see her as a confidante to Diana or one her primary antagonists on Themyscira. Either way, a fight scene will ensue and it will be glorious!

 

 

Laverne CoxSophias1promo2_crop

The breakout star and personality of Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox has proven herself to be an amazing actress as well as a compassionate and compelling representative for the transgender community. The presence of Cox in the ensemble cast of women emphasizes the importance of media representation and acceptance of who she is rather than dictate who she should be. The fight for complete LGBTQ acceptance continues, but it would say so much if Laverne played a character who stood side-by-side with Wonder Woman in battle or counseled her on Paradise Island, not just as a transgender woman but also as a woman of color. Of all the characters in the DC Universe, Wonder Woman has the most love and compassion for all living beings, but especially women, and certainly the solo film should find a way to display that whether through actions or dialogue. So far, Warner Bros. and DC have been proving their openness to casting people of color within their ensemble tv shows like Arrow, The Flash, and the forthcoming animated series Vixen and spinoff miniseries Legends of Tomorrow. The casting news for the movies have followed suit with Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. There is a willingness on the part of WB and DC to diversify and the Amazons would certainly embody such a philosophy.

 

 

Gina Torresginatorres_8497

Probably everybody’s first choice for Wonder Woman, especially if this had been back in the days of Firefly. Had WB actually put the green light on Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman script, Gina Torres’ casting in the lead role would have been a moot point because “duh”! Unfortunately, we don’t live in that reality, but that doesn’t mean Torres can’t have a role in shaping the Wonder Woman universe. The epitome of the “strong female character”, Torres has had a number of roles that make her casting as an Amazon a no brainer. From Nebula on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys to Zoe on Firefly and Jessica Pearson on Suits, Torres is a powerhouse actress with a loyal fanbase that would lose their minds if she showed up on Themyscira. Plus she already played Super Woman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the evil equivalent of Wonder Woman. She’s got this, so, yeah, WB get on it!

 

 

Tatiana Maslanyorphan-black-cast

If you’ve been watching Orphan Black, and I’m pretty sure you are, then you know exactly why Tatiana Maslany should be an Amazon. Playing no less than nine separate characters as part of Project Leda, Maslany has given each clone a distinctive voice and personality, which one really can’t appreciate until one clone has to impersonate another. Trust me, it’s brilliant. Her ability to fluidly transition from psychopath to soccer Mom is amazing and I’m pretty sure Warner Bros. would be missing out on a huge opportunity if they didn’t attach her to one of their DC movies. Wonder Woman makes the most sense right now, but who knows what movies lie in the future? There’s no shortage of potential for Amazon movies or build a movie around her amongst the myriad magical characters currently in need of an actress to bring them into the forefront.

 

Michelle YeohMichelle Yeoh in a scene from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, 2000.

I love Michelle Yeoh! Even when she’s in mediocre movies like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, I still love her because she’s often the best part of those movies. A dancer turned martial arts actress in China, Yeoh gained fame from Western audiences after her appearances in Tomorrow Never Dies, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s worth noting that Pierce Brosnan referred to as the “female James Bond” because of her professionalism and skills as a combat actress. Yeoh was also in one of my favorite movies, Sunshine, where she gets a beautifully shot death scene if I do say so myself (and I do). Yeoh’s presence in Wonder Woman, especially on Themyscira, would further show that the Amazons are a multicultural society and a safe haven for those lost at sea.

 

 

Nikki Beharie and Lyndie Greenwoodsleepy hollow

All the Sleepyheads out there will agree that one of the best things to come out of Sleepy Hollow has been the relationship between estranged sisters Abbie and Jenny Mills played by Beharie and Greenwood respectively. More so than Mills and Ichabod Crane’s bond as witnesses, Abbie and Jenny’s reunion and their slow climb towards forgiveness and understanding has been a highlight of the show, for me at least. On their own, Beharie and Greenwood kick all kinds of ass defending Sleepy Hollow from the forces of evil, but whenever the two share scenes together it’s a wonderful display of actresses feeding off the other and elevating what could be considered very campy material. I believe that they would bring that same energy and elevation to Wonder Woman, working together or separately.

 

 

Rila Fukushimathe-wolverine-yukio

Yes, I know she’s already played Katana on Arrow and Yukio in The Wolverine, but here’s the thing: she was the best part of The Wolverine. Really, every scene she shared with Hugh Jackman was worth watching and I would’ve loved to see a movie all about the various adventures of Yukio and Logan, especially when the movie indicated that might happen towards the end. Then they did the Days of Future Past tag and all my hopes and dreams were dashed. As far as her role on Arrow, the WB has confirmed they have no plans to connect their movies and television shows, so why not put Fukushima on Themyscira? She can fight, she can deliver a good one-liner, it’s really just a matter of time before someone casts her in a franchise-related role. I can’t think of any better place than an island of Amazon warriors, can you?

 

So those are my picks, but who do you think should show up on Paradise Island? Let me know in the comments!

Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!Braga1

Previously I did a review of the Rat Queens One-Shot that focused on Braga’s life before Palisade, the Peaches, and the Rat Queens when she was still the Orc chieftain’s son, Broog. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with guest artist Tess Fowler, Braga’s story is one of exploring the stagnant culture that breeds intolerance as Broog tries to pull his clan out of the rut of war and brutality, but meets resistance at every turn. Tired of fighting against his own people, Broog leaves his clan disappointed but hopeful that his clan will eventually come around. The issue is significant not just for addressing transgender characters in comics, but also for how the subject is broached. At no point does the transition from Broog to Braga occur within the story. Instead, Wiebe and Fowler make it about the environment surrounding Broog and the factors that push him to leave. It’s a brilliant story, so I reached out to Kurtis Wiebe with my eight questions and he was kind enough to answer them through email.

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As a global consumer culture one of the first things we’re introduced to is media. Television, books, movies, and music all contribute to how we perceive and relate to the world around us. The Modern Age of comics has seen the saga-bannerdeconstruction of superheroes, the rise, fall, and rise again of comic book movies and television, and the elevation of geek culture. This has all been in conjunction with the proliferation of the internet where vocality is king and the biggest hot button topics sure to come up when any new movie, television show, or comic book comes out are representation and visibility.

We want to see aspects of ourselves in the media we consume but it’s painfully clear that Hollywood and media in general skew towards the straight, white male demographic. Denying anyone who isn’t part of the preconceived audience doesn’t just eliminate them on a visual level, it eliminates their voices and stories that could be told from the perspective of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. This paints an inaccurate picture of our society, which many demand changed. Hollywood has taken some sluggish steps forward, but a Renaissance of representation has occurred in comic books, at least in the smaller publishers. Marvel and DC Comics have made some strides forward, but it’s really in publishers like Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and Boom! Studios that stories not predicated on decades worth of continuity are allowed to flourish under the writings and artistry of creators actively concerned with making their comics relevant to modern readers. One of those books is Saga.

SkishIn Saga, Alana and Marko, lovers from warring worlds, flee the war, marry, and have a child, Hazel, whose future self narrates the story of her family as they’re pursued by her parents’ peoples as well as robotic royalty, bounty hunters, ex-fiancés, and journalists across the galaxy. That’s as simplistic as the explanation gets without going into the complexities of the story, but suffice it to say that writer Brian K. Vaughan (Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad) and artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, DV8: Gods and Monsters, Archie) purposely set out to make Saga a book without limitations and, by their own admission, difficult to adapt.

First released in March of 2012 by Image Comics, Saga has since received as much critical acclaim as it has controversy. It should surprise no one that the bulk of the controversy concerns the art, which is understandable since comic books are, first and foremost, a visual medium. For all of the critical analysis of Saga’s narrative through Vaughan’s writing, it’s Staples’ art that grabs our attention. The fully realized sci-fi/fantasy landscape of war, sex, magic, technology, and family is as much a product of Staples’ imagination as it is Vaughan’s scripting.

Vaughan’s writing on Saga has received high praise, especially from this author, for his criticisms of art, war, and media, much of which stems from what John Parker of ComicsAlliance refers to as Vaughan’s examination of the anxieties of post-9/11 America where the genre serves as “the delivery system to explore significant real-world issues.” Interestingly enough, Saga is one of the most diverse books regarding gender, race, and sexual oriFiona and Brianentation but never brings attention to it because, in the world of Saga, these aren’t issues.

Vaughan is certainly no stranger to casts of characters with a high female count. Saga continues this predilection, sporting an ensemble cast of at least seven female characters in play, as of the current run, compared to the roughly four or five male characters that appear. It’s the diversity of race and sexual orientation, however, where Saga earns major points with readers. While both Vaughan and Staples have pointed out that race and skin color have no correlation in Saga, Staples was instrumental in the multicultural design of the characters, creating a book where only one of the main characters, out of roughly twelve, who could even be considered white (hint: it’s The Will). According to Vaughan at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con:

“When I was pitching to Fiona, I said, ‘I don’t care how Alana looks, but no redheads. There’s a glut of redheads in comics.’ And Fiona was like, ‘Well, she doesn’t have to be white either.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, right.’” [Source: Hero Complex]

GwenThis revelation from Vaughan shows the importance of diversity amongst creative teams alongside their books. Would the story have changed if Alana was white? Probably not, but by not defaulting to white, Staples gave Saga its own default and a galaxy enriched by diversity. Said Staples:

“Representation and diversity in comics is something that’s important to me, and I also think it just makes a more realistic universe when you’re constructing a brand-new world and you want it to feel authentic. Most of the people on Earth are not white. Why would this galaxy be?” [Source: Hero Complex]

The same is true for the visibility of LGBTQ characters. Though Alana and Marko are the straight couple at the center of the story, the Saga universe is far more fluid when it comes to sexuality. Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex, is most likely bi-sexual since she lost her virginity to a woman named Velour. Upsher and Doff are journalists and a committed gay couple trying to put the truth out about Alana’s defection. And Hazel’s babysitter Izabel recently talked about her girlfriend Windy with whom she loved and lost after stepping on a landmine. Sexual orientation is incidental to upsher and doffthe characters of Saga. The more pressing concern is the struggle for love amidst the tragedy of war.

When asked why he wrote so many strong female characters, Joss Whedon infamously answered, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” The same is true for Saga. We still have to keep pointing out just how diverse it is because there’s a dearth of comic books like Saga for readers interested in anything other than what mainstream publishers think is “diverse”. Thankfully, more comic books are beginning to emerge in the same vein as Saga, giving readers a playground of characters where they can see themselves without having to rely on surrogates due to lack of options. I’d like to be able to say things will change as time goes by, and I’m confident it will, but for now we’ll have to rely on Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to continue delivering in their gorgeous, poignant, and heart-wrenching space opera.

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This article was originally written for Comics and Human Rights week on Talking Comics and the London School of Economics.

 

Braga

I’m gonna keep this one relatively short and sweet (not unlike myself…ha!) because once Rat Queens: Braga #1 is released on January 14th there’s going to be a much bigger conversation about visibility and representation in the transgender community and how comic books and genre fiction factor into it. At least I hope there will be because Braga’s one-shot, written by Kurtis Wiebe, drawn by guest artist Tess Fowler, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and lettered by Ed Brisson is an exemplary piece that highlights the struggle for acceptance and the need for change that occurs even in the world of Rat Queens.

If you’re unfamiliar with Rat Queens, you’ll – seriously? How do you not know about Rat Queens? Never mind – Braga is a secondary character introduced in the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, as the lady orc muscle of the Peaches, a questing group led by Hannah’s rival Tizzie. By the first arc’s end, a few tidbits of information are laid out about Braga that Wiebe elaborates on as Braga tells her story, post-the night of regrets, to Human Dave of the Four Daves. At least she tells most of it. The clever turn from Wiebe and Fowler is the transition from Broog to Braga is never brought up in the narrative proper. Instead, Broog, next in line to lead his clan of bloodthirsty orcs, struggles to combat the culture of his people. While still aroused by battle and blood, Broog sees the orc culture as stagnant, uninterested in evolving past insular communities where reading and writing are practically novel concepts. This isn’t the creators sidestepping the issue of gender, it’s them focusing on the environment and the culture that suppresses individuality and free-thinking, the kind of culture where alienation is palpable. In Broog’s case, he’s not like other orcs because he wants more than just the frenzy of war that has no end. He wants peace and the opportunity for his people to advance. But orcs like his father and brother are less interested in advancement. They prefer their lies and accolades of immortality. They want a less complex world. But like the real world, it’s only going to get more complex as more marginalized groups understand they don’t have to take this kind of suppression and oppression any longer.

BroogWhat’s become apparent in Rat Queens is the underlying theme of families formed from misfits. As we’ve seen so far in the current arc, at least with Violet and Dee, the Queens have left their blood relations and communities to explore a much bigger world. They don’t quite fit in anywhere but Palisade and with each other. Braga’s story is no different in this regard. That she’s no longer a man is indicative of finding her true self after leaving and seeing the rest of the world. The circumstances that led to her severing ties (and limbs) with her clan are best experienced by the reader. And yet there’s still a bittersweet tone to Braga’s story. She’s not bitter about her people, telling Dave she’s more disappointed than angry. The toxicity of an environment like her home could never change through force of will alone and, while it saddens her, she knows leaving them was for the best. Someday she may go back, but for the moment she’s happy to keep her life of questing and fighting in Palisade.

The end of the story, however, raises a thought or two. Even though we’re seeing Braga’s origin as Broog, Dave indicates that he wouldn’t have taken her for a chieftain’s daughter. This could actually be interpreted two ways. One, Dave was told the entire story, knows Braga used to be male, but still refers to her with feminine pronouns because that’s who she is, or two, Braga told her story as if she, as Braga, was fighting her father and clan culture, not as Broog. If it’s the former, then Human Dave is awesome! If it’s the latter, then it serves as a reminder that people like Braga still feel the need to hide and keep secrets. She’s all woman, but even in the fairly open and accepting city of Palisade, she still maintains her distance.Braga1

And before I wrap this up I just wanted to say that Tess Fowler’s art is fantastic! Even in the midst of blood and gore, she makes Broog and Braga endearing characters. There’s just the right amount of sweetness to counter the melancholy. Braga’s smile is just adorable for someone more than happy to cleave a person in two. Of course, Kelly Fitzpatrick brings it with the colors as well. Orcs aren’t the fanciest of dressers, but Fitzpatrick still finds a way to make the background colors pop despite the muted palette of browns, greys, and drab greens associated with the species.

So, yeah, this didn’t turn out to be as short as I thought it would be but, whatever, it’s a great one-shot and here’s hoping more characters from Rat Queens get their own individual story. Except Gary. Fuck that guy.

Rat Queens: Braga #1 will be released on January 14th, so until then you’d better catch up on the previous issues!

Sam is joined by Sean and Miguel to talk about The Legend of Korra finale and the series as a whole.

Legend-of-Korra-The-Last-Stand-10

Two years and four seasons, with plenty of bumps along the way, and here we are at the end of Korra’s legend. At least the part that’s animated. We’ve seen Korra grow in so many ways – as a person, a woman, and as the Avatar. From adorable prodigy to well-intentioned, though naive and hot-headed, teenager to mature adult, Korra’s journeybook four has been fraught with multiple crises. But in her persistence and resolve to prove herself Korra, and by extension her creators, have given us a story of triumph over insurmountable odds; one that embraces mature themes of class equality, spirituality, revolution, and the price paid for being guardian to an advanced world. While The Legend of Korra owes its very existence to the popularity and fantastic storytelling of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the sequel series has, in my opinion, exceeded the legacy of its predecessor, carving out its own space as an iconic piece of Western animation.

Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in 2012, Korra was originally a one season exploration of the world created in Avatar: The Last Airbender through the eyes of the next Avatar in the cycle, a girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra (Janet Varney). Had the show only run for the one season, I’m sure we would have looked at it as a fun trip back into the realm of fantasy where people bend the elements and the Avatar thwarts yet another nefarious plot in order to restore balance. The subsequent seasons, however, became the show’s proving ground. After some backtracking in season two, Korra forged ahead with an agenda that challenged the status quo of storytelling in animation and what is ostensibly viewed as “children’s programming” while still being an entertaining and engaging action-adventure fantasy series.

korra-all-the-avatarsThe Legend of Korra is a multifaceted show that defies simple categorization. Over the course of four seasons we’ve seen this work to the show’s advantage as it essentially grew up under the scrutiny of a generation steeped in internet culture. Avatar: The Last Airbender began and ended before Twitter, Tumblr, and a number of websites were in heavy rotation, but Korra was born within the epicenter of social media and the blogosphere, a place where representation and visibility were, and still are, of the utmost importance. But even with a woman of color as the lead, Korra wasn’t a guaranteed success especially in an environment where anything with a female lead was considered “tricky” or some kind of magical unicorn never to be seen twice. Two years later and the attitude of viewing audiences have towards properties like Korra has changed for the better and yet remained frustratingly the same. DiMartino and Konietzko, or Bryke as they’re affectionately called, aren’t responsible for all matters concerning representation, but they still took it upon themselves to make certain that Korra resonated with her audience despite consistent network interference. By ending the series with Korra and Asami (Seychelle Gabriel) holding hands and staring lovingly at each other as they enter the Spirit World for a much-needed vacation, The Legend of Korra solidified itself as a program indicative of its time and place. Having a queer woman of color in the lead role of a Korrasamifantasy action series put Korra in the unique position of taking a small, but still huge, step forward in the nuanced portrayal of women of color and the LGBTQ community in Western animation and children’s programming. Yes, I’m well aware that anime has been doing this for quite some time.

The uniqueness of the show also stems from a combination of storytelling and character development that, again, isn’t seen a lot in Western animation. For instance, the show follows patterns reminiscent of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey”, but goes to even greater lengths to examine those tropes through the lens of Eastern storytelling. From the beginning, Korra has been a character who embraced the call to action. In fact, it was the central conceit of the pilot and the starting point for the series as a whole. Korra is a more proactive character in her approach to being the Avatar; where Aang tried to find the peaceful route first, Korra was always ready for a fight and the storytelling reflected those traits. Avatar: The Last Airbender was all about the overarching plot of Aang and friends going up against the Fire Lord while The Legend of Korra had contained arcs for each season, which allowed Korra to go up against multiple villains. The advantage for Korra lies in the character growth achieved through her battles with Amon, Unalaq and Vaatu, the Red Lotus, and Kuvira. It’s also another means of showing that the hero’s journey is hardly a linear model with a definitive beginning and end. If legend-of-korra-series-finale-korraanything, the hero’s journey is an ongoing process with multiple starts and stops along the way. The destination is still important, but the journey matters more in the long run and Korra’s journey has been all about growth and change in a world going through the same process.

As a character, Korra has an inherent connection to the struggles of the world she protects. Throughout the series her internal doubts and conflicts are reflected externally. Season one was about elitism and equality in a technologically advanced world, season two the lack of spiritual connection as a result of these advancements, season three the chaos of adjusting to rapid change, and season four the need to control in order to combat the turmoil of chaos. All of these hardships belong to Korra but they are just as present in Republic City, the four elemental nations, and in her enemies. This grounds Korra and gives her personal stakes in the fate of the world regardless of her position as the Avatar. Even if she turned away from the problems facing the world they still live within her. That’s incentive enough to act, but Korra’s peace of mind only appears to be fulfilled when she and the world are in balance.

Season four was a dense playground of themes and ideas, the most poignant being the Buddhist philosophy of suffering. At the end of season three, Korra is poisoned and nearly killed by Zaheer (Henry Rollins). She survives but is broken by the latest in a long line of battles. For three years she attempts to regain her strength and force herself into readiness, but only by accepting the trauma, and learning from her enemies, does she truly begin to heal. Suffering leads to perspective and wisdom, which ultimately allows her to triumph over Kuvira (Zelda Williams); not through the awesome power of being the Avatar but through sympathy and empathy. It was the worst kept Legend-of-Korra-The-Last-Stand-10secret that Korra and Kuvira were reflections of each other. Hell, Bolin (P.J. Byrne) practically spells it out for the audience and I’m fairly certain that the name Kuvira was chosen to be just similar enough to Korra so we wouldn’t miss it. The point being that the similarities between the two in attitude and demeanor forced Korra to go beyond her training as a fighter and find another angle of approach. While the two have some intense and amazingly animated battles thanks to Studio Mir, their conflict ends only when Korra offers a sympathetic ear, something that season one Korra wouldn’t have considered because she didn’t have the experience needed in order to understand Kuvira’s position or her plight. By resolving the situation as peaceably as possible, Korra comes into her own as the Avatar, and the person, she wants to be.

What is specific to Korra, but still a point of connection between her and the audience, is the idea of relevancy. The entire series hinges on a single question: Does the world still need the Avatar? By series end, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” All the mecha suits, spirit kaiju, and political haranguing aside, Korra is still relevant, still necessary to the world around her. But just as importantly, Korra and other shows in the same vein are needed and necessary to the viewing audience. Korra offers something we don’t see as often as we want in the television landscape: a place where women are valued.

beifong womenI’ve written before about the amazing cast of female characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, but the final season of Korra presented a plethora of women offering sage advice or kicking ass – both in Toph’s case. While Korra had plenty of male teachers and enemies, seasons three and four tipped the scale in favor of the show’s female characters. It doesn’t make Tenzin (J.K. Simmons), Mako (David Faustino), Bolin, Bumi, or Kai irrelevant, but it shows that the creators wanted to celebrate women as heroes, villains, mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, leaders, scientists, spiritual guides, and everything else under the sun. The fact that Bolin’s hero is Toph still makes me happy because it isn’t often that we see male characters on television, animated or otherwise, showing unabashed hero-worship for a female character. Bolin, more than any male character in the series, has been the ultimate cheerleader for women. He’s the first to believe in Korra, laying out all of the qualities that make her amazing, he worships Toph, and he defends Kuvira’s cause because he wants to see the good in it before the reality of his situation sets in. Through Bolin, Bryke found their own surrogate to tell the male audience that the Avatar universe is a world of celebration for women and men. Yes, it’s a realm of fantasy, but fantasy has a way of influencing reality.Bolin and Mako

Is it a feminist agenda? Of course, but the seeds have been there since Avatar. Making the next Avatar a woman as well as the reveal that the Avatar is a literal avatar for Raava, the female spirit of light and peace, are choices on the part of the creators to enrich their world as they see fit. By emphasizing the importance of the feminine spirit alongside the extensive female cast, DiMartino and Konietzko have crafted a realm where girls and women are equal in every way. The Legend of Korra accomplishes this without ever having to explicitly state the obvious in-universe compared to the first season of Avatar that went a long way to get the point across that women could fight just as well as men. The women of Korra are, without question, active agents in their world. Youngsters like Ikki and Jinora make just as much impact as the older Lin (Mindy Sterling) and Suyin (Anne Heche) Beifong. Age doesn’t denote skill or importance, giving girls of all ages in the viewing audience a contrasting image of how to define their own value and self-worth as they grow up.

So what’s next for Korra? Not sure. Hopefully a comic book is in the works a la the continuing adventures of Avatar: The Last Airbender that bridged the two series. After the series finale and the ending that will definitely be talked about for some time, it’s clear that there’s plenty of unexplored territory to cover. As Korra says to Tenzin, she’s not done learning. But if this is the last we see of Korra and company, then it’s definitely a legend worth telling.

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