I have all these “feels” and I just want to throw my creative writing bachelors degree (which means nothinnnng) and my critical race studies and women’s studies textbooks (bell hooks in your face) and my social justice-oriented in-progress grad degree (not sorry anti-sjers) at the Korra writing team and wave around giant intersectionality pom poms. It’s not that all the writing was awful, it was definitely a fun show, but but I just envision this alternate universe where:
- Korra, Bei Fong, and other benders who got chi blocked stayed chi blocked. Yeah, that’s a total cliff hanger, but “The Blue Spirit” was the end of a 13 episode order for the original series and that was a huge cliff hanger, too.
- Toph’s “oh no what a nightmare” line is lampshaded. (Sokka: “It’s so dark! I can’t see!”) Oh what, you have to make a fire out of sticks or bathe with a bucket or use a wheelbarrow to move rocks? The humanity!
- The fundamental beliefs of the Avatar world are challenged by new ideas and new ways of being. Where “equality” isn’t a co-opted word but a concept that can be reclaimed by the people.
Have Korra give herself back her bending instead of Aang. Instead of depicting Korra crying on a bluff because she has now been “downgraded” (from bender of all elements to bender of one special element only five people in the world can bend) and getting her powers back from Aang, have Aang tell her “sorry tough luck but maybe you can find someone to help you.”
Send Korra on a trip through the world on a quest to relearn bending (I know the creators didn’t want another road trip but she is the Avatar and it kind of comes with the job.) She has spent her whole life living among benders. Have her live with nonbenders and learn from them. (Lin can come, too!)
Have Korra discover who she is outside of bending or being a bender. Like how every other nonbender in the world does it. Even Aang had hobbies like animal taming and crafting flower necklaces. Maybe she’ll discover a love for cabbages.
Have Korra pursue a tip on a group of people who have managed to teach themselves bending. If bending has to do with how much spirituality a person has, we can either posit that people are born with spirituality or innately spiritual as their personality, or we can posit that people can—like they do in real life—become more spiritual over time through meditation, mindfulness, etc. Korra would then have to learn these skills, unlock these chakras, etc. (ulterior motive of teaching viewers mindfulness skills.)
Have Korra be okay with identifying as a nonbender instead of having it be a great tragedy. Alternatively, have her keep identifying as the Avatar. She is still Korra even if she is less “godlike” than she was before.
Radical thought! Deconstruct the premise of an Avatar all together. That would be an incredible sequel. The concept of the Avatar as this person with divine right to lead isn’t as humanist as it could be.
Where are the philosophers of the Avatar world? We see that nonbenders like Sokka have shifted the government towards republicanism. Why hold on to this belief that the Avatar is the only person who can bring the four nations together? Make the Avatar obsolete. Let there be determinism.
Why is the only person people believe can unite the world and bring peace to the world also someone who is born into the gig? Korra doesn’t NEED to be able to bend to be an amazing leader or the bring balance or peace or unity to the world, does she? Can anyone be an “Avatar” if bending is removed from the job description?
I just think it would be so amazing to see Lin Beifong still leading the police force with a belt full of Batman gadgets and a team of both bender and nonbender cops (including other women, please!) Maybe even getting to the point where she realizes she misses bending but not that much, life is good, and realizing she can have non bending cops work more than just the central park security beat.
How awesome would it be for Korra to get to the point where she is like, “okay, right now I’m stumped, and can only airbend. I cried on a bluff for a bit and sat with my friends and grieved something I lost, a violation to my body, my person, and my identity. It sucked to have my bending taken away. But I’m still the Avatar. The world still needs me. I will still do my best to be a good leader, even if I am no longer a human flame thrower. I will try and understand how Amon manipulated us into this mess and why all this happened.”
And then, for Korra to continue to do Avatar-y things and resolve disputes and get a share of “you’re not a bender why should we listen to you” and really understand more of what the world is like. And we can see Korra trying and trying to puff out a bit of smoke or water and get nothing, over and over again, until she decides to pick up a sword like Zuko and learn something new.
And then maybe, after a lot of soul searching and thought, it hits. Korra realizes she is aware of her situation. She still feels responsible for everyone, including nonbenders who she recognizes has it tough, but she doesn’t feel responsible for uplifting or saving them, just for standing with them as an Avatar. More than that, she accepts her situation (spirituality win!) She is completely comfortable with being a bending-less Avatar. Furthermore, she recognizes that to bemoan her lack of bending as a “bendingless Avatar” would only further marginalize nonbenders.
Why not? From the inception of the series the Avatar has been the great unifier because he/she supposedly represents a part of each of the four kinds of people in the world…always forgetting that there are also a group of people who can’t bend at all. ”You’re our Avatar, too!”
Korra losing her bending provided the show with a unique question: Why can’t there be a nonbender Avatar representing for once? The answer seemed to be that a benderless Avatar is simply not the Avatar or a fully functional Avatar. But for the show to espouse that also reinforces a clear bender-privileging hierarchy.