Earth, Fire, Air, Water.
When the first episode aired in 2012, four years after the rushed final season of Avatar: The Last Airbender in 2008, fans of the show were hesitant to accept new characters in a modernized steam-punk Avatar world.
It was a strange pill to swallow: on the one hand, we were getting more Avatar, but on the other hand, having Korra as the new Avatar meant our beloved Aang was dead. Which is a pretty morbid concept for a Nickelodeon spinoff.
Korra was first introduced as deeply flawed, probably more than Aang, and definitely more angsty. But viewers grew to love Avatar Korra and her gang. They eventually stopped comparing the new characters to the previous show and let the team Korra members grow and develop as unique characters.
Instead of the pre-teens of Airbender, Korra’s friends are a few years older, lending the plot more complexity both in saving the world and in navigating burgeoning identities.
While Airbender had a fairly cut and dry “good versus evil” plot, Korra and the viewers were forced to face the more complex problems of a bender-dominant society, radical anarchists and oppressive government regimes. Korra had to make difficult decisions that radically altered the human world, the spirit world and the role of the Avatar.
While all of these feats are spectacular in their own right, what makes Korra and Avatar such a special show is the diverse representation of cultures it provided. The regions of Korra are based on East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian Inuit, Eskimo, aboriginal, Pacific Islander cultures, which shows an amazing amount of representation, since most these cultures are underrepresented.
The show is filled with strong, diverse women in leadership positions: from Republic City police chief Lin Beifong to the beautiful Asami, an extremely gifted engineer who runs her family’s engineering company, to Jinora, the prodigious air bender with a stronger connection to the spirit world than the actual Avatar.
Korra and Asami’s relationship is particularly important. They both date the same guy at different times in the story, but that doesn’t get in the way of their friendship. In fact, their bond becomes the strongest on the show. Eventually culminating in them falling in love and walking into the spirit world for their own joint adventure.
Yes, you read that correctly. Korra and Asami are canon bisexual lead females of color. In a Nickelodeon cartoon.
So with all of this diversity presented to children and young adults, what does Nickelodeon decide to do? Leak episodes through affiliated networks. Slash the budget. Poorly advertise the next season’s premier. And what was possibly the final blow, take the show off television mid-season and air it solely online.
Why would Nickelodeon do that? If the show was doing poorly in ratings, pulling it off the air will not make any more money for the network. Even the switch from television to online was poorly advertised, confusing many viewers who tuned in to watch the new episodes.
Because of Nickelodeon’s complete negligence and almost intentional failure to support its show, Korra is over.
If Nickelodeon was a responsible network, they would realize the significance of the show in plot and in representation for its viewers. It passes the Bechdel Test, the Mako Mori test and the Phryne Fisher test.
Shows like Korra are essential to young audiences still learning about the world and learning about themselves.
While it’s great they had bisexual characters in the last 30 seconds of the finale, it would be even more exciting to have actual established bisexual characters that continue their plotlines beyond “coming out.”
Korra and Asami could be positive bisexual role models for viewers, but instead we are left with a semi-vague affirmation of their love and an online confirmation from the writers of the show.
If Korra is really over, it’s time for another network or show to step up its game and include a more diverse representation of sexuality and women of color.
It is crucial for their self-esteems that children see themselves reflected in the media they consume.
Nickelodeon may have made a huge mistake, but Korra shouldn’t have to be the only show catering to diverse audiences. If Avatar Korra can integrate two different dimensions within a few seasons, television networks should be able to add more marginalized people to their casts.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.