Of the many beloved fandoms I proudly belong to, the one that will always have my heart without a doubt is Avatar: The Last Airbender and it’s successor The Legend of Korra. If you’re familiar with my content, you already know how I feel about the Avatar universe and its legacy. Honestly, the only person who can rival my fangirling is the foaming mouth guy.
So, we already know the basics on why, these shows worked then and still translate to people now. The Asian-influenced animated shows by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino center on the adventures of the “avatar” and his/her ragtag team as they travel the world to maintain world order. Both series utilize some magical realism, wherein some of the characters are “benders,” or individuals able to control one of the four elements — earth, air, fire, or water — with the use of their chi while striking martial arts forms and techniques. Both series focused on mature themes and topics which for a long time was believed to be taboo for children’s cartoons. There are a plethora of reasons why these shows have been crowned animation royalty, but it goes without saying that one of the unmistakeable jewels in the legacy of the Avatar universe is its representation of badass women. What better month than Women’s History Month to dive into this topic?
One of the series’ biggest assets is its development and representation of strong female characters. These strong women, both bender and non-bender alike, who not only play integral roles in the show’s plot but they’re also badass fighters. With many of the top benders in the Avatar universe being women. Can the choir say amen?
Avatar has no shortage of strong female characters; each of these female characters have their own definition of strong. Katara, the first female character we’re introduced to, is a kind Southern water bender who’s a maternal voice for the group. Aside from being nurturing, she’s not to be messed with; as the show progresses, not only does she becomes an impressive healer, but a master water bender. We also have Toph Beifong, a character who’s tough, rebellious, and doesn’t let her disability get in her way (or her gender). Not only is she already a master when we meet her, but her fight scenes are iconic. Both of these girls are different, and they’re both strong — but in their own way.
The girls of Avatar and Korra all vary greatly in personality, skills, flaws, and appearance, but they’re all forces to be reckoned with. Princess Azula (and the true villain of Avatar) is not only amongst my favorites in Avatar, but is one of best villains in animation history. She’s determined, ruthless, cunning, and a fire-bending prodigy that shoots blue lightning. Let’s be honest, everyone has rooted for Azula from time to time. But Avatar also showcases women who don’t need any fancy tricks to kick butt. Suki, Ty Lee, and Mai all hold their own without bending.
If you look to Avatar’s successor, The Legend of Korra has continued cranking out strong female characters. Amongst my favorites are Chief Lin Beifong, daughter of Toph and head of the metal-bending police force. She’s a natural born leader, amazing bender, and mirrors her mother’s strong will. Lin is so cranky, lovable and badass; she’s easily my second favorite character in Korra. Plus she’s such a mood.
Korra also has amazing female villains such as Ming-Ha and Kuvira. Much like Toph, Ming-Hua was a disabled character who didn’t let her lack of arms keep her from giving the new Team Avatar a run for their money. She meant business, people. As a double-amputee, she performed as well as and even better than the other benders; her fight scenes still have me shook. Korra finishes with a bang with Kuvira as it’s last villain. She’s a phenomenal bender, a soldier, assertive, and doesn’t back down to anyone.
Now you know I had to leave the best for last. Avatar Korra is probably one of my favorite characters within the Avatar universe. She receives a lot of unnecessary hate due to her flaws, but it’s her flaws that makes her great to me. When we first meet Korra, she’s assertive, cocky, and stubborn, but she still has a lot of emotional growth to do. Throughout her various impressive battles, she gets knocked down numerous times, suffering physical and mental trauma and even experiencing PTSD and depression. We’ve all failed and been in dark places, so connecting to Korra felt like looking in a mirror at times. Korra is spectacular because her persistence and ambition to succeed pushes her–resulting in her unlocking a great source of power.
The women of Avatar and Korra didn’t fall flat nor did they feel forced. They showed us all the different ways girls can be strong–something we should be keeping in mind for women’s history month!
Feature Image VIA CBR