Wed
May 9 2012 11:00am

Abandon Ship! The Legend of Korra: “The Spirit of Competition”

There are three major threads running through this season of The Legend of Korra: The Equalists, professional bending, and romance. It seems like we only get two of the three in each episode; “The Voice in the Night” dealt with The Equalists and set up a romantic triangle by introducing Asami; “The Revelation” was about trying to get money for the pro-bending tournament as well as Amon and the Equalists, and “A Leaf in the Winds” introduced the “brothers from the school of hard knocks” and the sport of bending all at once. The most recent episode, “The Spirit of Competition,” is all about the love triangle and the world of professional sports, with nary a mention of The Equalists.

This was a big episode for spoiling people’s shipping preferences. Really, I think it is the lightest “poke it with a stick” version of that, though you wouldn’t know it judging by some fan’s reactions. In a spoilery nutshell: we get Korra going on dates with Bolin, even though she isn’t interested in him romantically; we get Mako confessing that he has feelings for both Asami and Korra, and he hasn’t sorted them out, and then immediately thereafter we get Korra kissing Mako and Bolin witnessing it. It is handled as one big romantic farce, and for my money, I like it that way. Twelfth Night is my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, after all.

Korra is not perfect. She is a flawed and human character. I said there was no mention of Amon and the Equalists, but that isn’t quite true; I can’t help but think that Korra’s actions are informed by a little post-traumatic stress. They are definitely informed by imperfect advice—Jinora is adorably nerdy, giving Korra advice gleaned from epic tragedy; Ikki’s version of advice seems like it originates in the second season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Pema’s advice is simultaneously far too specific and far too generic all at once. Pema told Tenzin her feelings when he was in a relationship—of course that begs the question of “with who?” and since Lin Beifong is the other most notable adult woman we’ve seen Tenzin talk to, she’s fandom’s suspect number one—but she doesn’t lay out a path for Korra to talk to Mako about her feelings. Leaving her to muddle through them in a sloppy, disastrous fashion.

You know who this is in character for? Someone who is a reincarnated Aang. Let’s not forget the previous Avatar’s poor choice of timing when it comes to kissing. At the invasion, Aang kissed Katara…and then took off before they could talk about it; then on Ember Island Aang kissed Katara again after she had just said she didn’t know what her feelings were and needed space to figure them out. Korra shares in that impulsiveness. You know what? Lots of people do. Relationships are messy and confusing. I think the “zero tolerance for cheating!” people are a little bit quick to the post, and ignore the realities of the situation. Mako and Asami just started seeing each other. We don’t know that they are exclusive. Yes, obviously Mako needs to talk to Asami about his feelings regarding her and Korra, and yes, everyone is going about everything in a mixed-up, backwards way. Drama! Conflict! These are the things that drive stories. Just because Korra is the Avatar, that doesn’t mean she has romance all figured out.

I think there are elements of the Legend of Korra fandom who need to settle down. People have built up an untenable and personal “headcanon”—their very own preferred version of what they think The Legend of Korra is and will become—and they need to understand that they’re creating an internal mythology that is not necessarily going to be supported by the show itself. I don’t know what the resolution of the romantic triangles will be. None of us do. If you are picking a team because you think it is fun to root for your favorite relationship—“Makorra” or “Masami” or “Kolin” or whatever— then so be it, but the intertextual relationship of fandom, fan fiction and the core text material itself is a bad place to draw a line in the sand. If you approach the show with the idea that your opinions are the only correct ones, you are dooming yourself to disappointment. The Legend of Korra is a roller coaster, complete with ups and downs; come along for the ride.

There are complaints that I definitely sympathize with. I would like to see more Asami on screen; right now we’re seen her meet Mako and immediately the two of them are arm in arm, rubbing their noses together. We the audience need to see more of her, we need to form our own attachment to her for the Korra-Mako-Asami triangle to really work. and I know some people feel like the Bolin-Korra-Mako triangle was hurried, but I think that is the wrong way of looking at it. What “The Spirit of Competition” did was get the easy romantic comedy angle out of the way up front, and showcase the characters in situ. We know Bolin is a good date; we know he and Korra have good chemistry on at least a platonic level. We know Mako does in fact have some kind of romantic feelings for Korra, but also has them for Asami. Cards are out on the table. We know that Mako and Bolin are brothers, and that their fraternal relationship is not so fragile that romantic competition will break it. Heck, for that matter, we know that their sense of loyalty to their team mate is so strong that romantic rejection—from either direction— won’t ruin their friendship with Korra. Now that the puppy love is over and done with, we can let the story run to deeper currents.

On the pro-bending side, I’m excited that we’ve now gotten a chance to see all three members of the team save the day in the eleventh hour. Early on we see Mako single-handedly take down the Tigerdillos with his “trademark cool under fire” style; this episode we see Bolin really shine with his earthbending, winning the tie-breaker round against the Boarcupines, and we see Korra pull out a hat-trick triple knockout against the Buzzard Wasps. It is great that we get to see everyone working both as an ensemble and as individuals; it would be easy to make Mako the family phenom, but showing that he and his brother are both strong competitors adds an element of depth to their relationship, keeping it from some of the easy fraternal traps of resentment. Mako may be the brooding, dreamy firebender, but Bolin is a charming, photogenic earthbender with his own strong suits.

The team names in pro-bending are awesome callbacks to Avatar: the Last Airbender. Remember how terrifying the wolf-bats were in the secret tunnel? Or how scary it was when Appa had to fight that boarcupine? Good picks for team names and evocative of the greater world of the Four Nations outside Republic City. Speaking of, this was a great episode for the animal characters of The Legend of Korra overall. Naga’s big bad wolf impression startling smug jerk Tahno? Wet Pabu? Fat Pabu? The Air Nomad family feeding the flying lemurs? The only thing missing was “Oogie, yip yip!” Oh! Oh! and Flameo Instant Noodles! Come on, with that gag and basically every single one of Bolin’s lines, this one deserves way more credit than I think it is getting. Romance and comedy, without devolving into rom-com clichés? Score another one for The Legend of Korra.


Mordicai Knode can’t wait to see Korra talk to Aang in the spirit world but is even more excited for Uncle Zuko. Tell him who you want to see from Avatar: the Last Airbender in The Legend of Korra on Twitter.

55 comments
treebee72 _
1. treebee72
I really liked this episode. I think they did a great job dealing with the messiness of everyone's feelings without making anyone EVOL. That was really, really refreshing. And I liked that they dealt with this plot point so early instead of letting it drag out like so many other shows.

All the shippers need to chill the frell out. It's only the 5th episode! Let the show be what it wants & needs to be.
Mordicai Knode
2. mordicai
1. treebee72

I mean-- I heart you 'shippers, I really do! I don't want you to stop with your crazy theories & your kissing stories! I just think...hey, we are only five episodes in. I know that it halfway through the first season, but we're only really now starting to see the threads tying everyone together. You can carry a torch for your favorites, but understand what you think is best is not neccisarily going to be canon....& that is okay.

Like you, I am glad they aren't milking it for all the manufactured pathos they can get. Yes!
J Mccaffery
3. J Mccaffery
The decision to play the romance A) early in the series and B) as a comedy instead of a melodrama are genius strokes. I think the entire episode hinges on totally effing nailing the comic timing for Bolin's weepy, arm-flailing heartbreak. I would have bet somebody twenty dollars that they were going to cut to commercial break after the heavy "DUN DUN DUNNNN" musical sting.

The other big takeaway-- a television program aimed at young adults that doesn't treat teenagers and young adults like idiots. See how everyone handles their hormonal romantic feelings and isn't a huge drama king/queen jerkface aout it!

And for the record much of the romance in The Last Airbender, particularly anything involving Aang, is a little squicky and one of the few things in that show I consider missteps.
Mordicai Knode
4. mordicai
3. J Mccaffery

I mean, the creators were up front with the fact that this series was going to have a love triangle so...I can't help but find total glee in the fact that they are mixing up the cliches of drama with...well, I can't say it any better than I did above, farce. In the best possible way, this is a romantic farce.

I don't think the romance is a mis-step in Avatar-- particularly anything involving Sokka-- but the reason there is such a slow build in Avatar: the Last Airbender is because...well, is because that is the difference between kids & teenagers, in a nutshell? "Sozin's Comet" is like, their graduation into being teenagers! Well, except Zuko & Azula who are teenagers the whole time...& have fully fleshed out romantic lives. Well, Zuko does, anyhow.
J Mccaffery
5. realmcovet
This episode was great. Basically, everything happened that you wished would have happened inside your head but typically doesn't. Korra is impulsive. SO. FUCKING. WHAT. & I agree with you in that now that the show has gotten some of the romance dealt with, it can focus on more pressing issues like The Equalists trying to take over.

I can't stop thinking about how adorbs Bolin is. & p.s... Tahno is kinda hot. NOW BACK TO MORE PRESSING ISSUES
treebee72 _
6. treebee72
@2 mordicai - I actually have no problems with 'shippers (am one myself in many fandoms!) , but unfortunately, 'shipper wars tend to turn ugly & ruin the fun. Especially when people start bashing the 'other woman', which started with Asami before she even appeared on screen! I just hate and am sad that we are only 5 eps in & things are already this heated in fandom. :(
J Mccaffery
7. J Mccaffery
4. Mordicai

Yeah, but while The Last Airbender is a coming-of-age story in a lot of respects, it always seemed... off. Aang develops and grows emotionally, but his demeanor, voice, and appearance remain that of a pre-teen-- you know? That sort of brink-of-young-adulthood romance is tough, though. The only example I can think of that really "worked" is in The Amber Spyglass.
Mordicai Knode
8. mordicai
5. realmcovet

Oh yeah, it is definitely worth noting that now that Tahno officially exists on screen, there is a new character for people to go nuts over, which is awesome. Sultry bad boys are popular on Tumblr for some reason...
Evan Langlinais
9. Skwid
My only problem with this is more a problem with any culture that elevates "love" polygons as something romantic and not something that's obnoxious and horrible.

But that's probably outside of the scope of a YA show.
J Mccaffery
10. Kingtycoon
I thought this episode was kind of a miss. Compare it to the first series and I see that Book of earth chapter 5 was one of my least favorite episodes too. Inasmuch as I didn't care for King Bumi - I don't care for the pro-bending story angle. This is one of those things that's kind of pandering to kids - Bumi was a nutty childish character that's immediately appealing to children and gets a big shrug from me. The pro-sports angle is something a lot of kids like but that I sniff at. Really I wanted them to lose so that this aspect of the story could be done away with.

Otherwise I guess I'm waiting on more screen time for the Equalists themselves. Zuko had about 1/4 - 1/3 of a few episodes to himself by this point - where in the current series you know nothing about the Equalists as characters really.

The romantic plots are all just fine - just what I'd expect or care to see. Some aspect of the characterizations is lacking though. Bolin? Man - he's no Sokka - and I mention that cause it seems that's the role he's supposed to be filling.

So... I guess this weekend I'm hoping to see a lot more Tenzin and a bit more Equalists - those are the underserved elements in the story's development as it is the story is - romantically conflicted people play sports - and that's got a very limited appeal.
Scott Silver
11. hihosilver28
The first time I watched this episode, I wasn't really a fan. Especially after the expectations I had at the end of the previous episode.

Second (and third and fourth...well you guys get the point) time through, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think divorced from what my expectations allowed the episode to stand for itself, and it did. Fantastic character work, and holy crap, the fight scenes! I also love that Bolin goes on a bender and gets "drunk" on noodles. Brilliant! Did anyone else get a Templeton the rat vibe from Pabu waddling after Mako and Bolin?
Mordicai Knode
12. mordicai
6. treebee72

The bashing of the "other woman" thing is the worst, & just a sad example of how crappy misogyny can be so entrenched; demonizing a character just because you like another one...ugh! Not to mention the horrible slut shaming. That being said, hey! At least Tor.com is a community of folks who aren't like that, right? I don't want to seem like I'm bashing the whole fandom, or shippers, or anything-- just, you know, the ones doing it wrong.
Mordicai Knode
13. mordicai
10. Kingtycoon

I actually was just saying at lunch that I think Tenzin is the Sokka. Or as in, he's the character with the rich emotional growth as a character arc. The maturity changes things, but then, I don't think looking at the Gaang as a template is going to work as a metric; Bolin isn't the Sokka, he's the Bolin!
Mordicai Knode
14. mordicai
7. J Mccaffery


I think there is a struggle with character recognition, voice actors, & the dual prong of the timescale-- in our world it is three years, but in their world it is what, just a crazy summer?
George Brell
15. gbrell
I was surprised that people didn't like this episode. I thought it managed to hit the comedic timings across the board, gave the pro-bending story an antagonist, featured beautiful choreography and managed to go through nearly the entirety of a love triangle in one episode, which means that future episodes will hopefully be able to deal with the aftermath of the love triangle (something so often glossed over/ignored).

It didn't feature the equalists, but not every episode of A:tlA featured the primary antagonist. In fact, IIRC, Azula completely disappeared for three episodes after her introduction to the Gaang in "Return to Omashu" ("The Swamp," " Avatar Day," "The Blind Bandit," the last of which doesn't even feature Zuko/Iroh or the Fire Nation at all) and then appeared in the fourth in flashbacks ("Zuko Alone").

One thing I'm excited about has been the variety of waterbenders we've seen in the series (who were rather minimally represented in A:tlA). Tarrlock and Tahno (you can tell he's a waterbender because his helmet has a blue front which can be seen as the Wolfbats are walking out to their semifinal match) both represent interesting characters very different from any waterbenders we've seen before.
Mordicai Knode
16. mordicai
10. Kingtycoon
&
11. hihosilver28

Actually, it occured to me a bit ago that what we are seeing with the romance kind of parallels what we see with Zuko; which is to say that the story turns in upon itself, making the implicit explicit? Normally the romance would be all dragged out, no one would communicate with each other; normaly the villain wouldn't have his viewpoint explained, at least until (for both) there was a "very special episode." Korra & Avatar both avoid those easy techniques & dive for the throat.

& I increasingly think that Asami is our Equalist viewpoint character. After all, somebody has to be funding Amon.
Mordicai Knode
17. mordicai
15. gbrell
(&
(I guess 10. Kingtycoon again)

I like the pro-bending. I'm not a huge fan of sports in real life, but part of that is the drag of them; here we just get the highs & lows, the climaxes & crisises.

There is a "Tahno is a bloodbender!" theory floating around, which...well, I don't know if there are spoilers behind it-- I'm spoiler free!-- but if so, it might tie into the Yakone mention? Assuming that Yakone had to do with bloodbending...which is a lot of assuming.
J Mccaffery
18. Chris F
Flamey-O Instant Noodles made my month.
Mordicai Knode
19. mordicai
18. Chris F

There were...a lot more Flameo Instant Noodles (The noodliest!) jokes in the first draft of this post, I will confess.
J Mccaffery
20. Esme
I just wanted to ditto on the utter joy and hilarity that was Flameo Instant Noodles. Well played.

Yes on more 3D Asami. Right now I know nothing about her, and I'm not even sure how much *Mako* knows about Asami.
Mordicai Knode
21. mordicai
20. Esme

Actually, the fact that she's such a cipher is what is making me lean toward her being an Equalist...that, plus the slo-mo gifs of the masked Equalists Korra fights proving that one of them is a woman. I mean-- I figure that there has to be a non-extremist alternative to Amon; I thought The Lieutenant but maybe now I think Asami!
J Mccaffery
22. Andrea K
I would prefer no love triangle at all - let Mako hook up with Asami if he likes her, and have Korra fall for someone else. At the moment it does feel a little transparently a 'faux-triangle' with Asami having ulterior motives, but that's entirely because they haven't let us get to know Asami.
J Mccaffery
23. Sarah Mac
If there's one thing we've seen with this franchise- it's that they like to make things not quite what we expected. I was initially surprised they put all of those love-triangle cards on the table so quickly, but I believe other commenters had it right- they did this episode just right. It got that romance element (which, honestly, had to be delt with or risk major cliches with characters) out in the open/ momentarily aired so we can move on already to the things we are missing- Korra's development as a bender, the Equalist movement, Amon himself maybe!

As was also commented earlier - we had a lot of personal drawn out in A:TLA and the antagonists' POV made pretty clear by this point. The Equalists, though, are clearly going to be no repeat of our previous A:TLA Bk 1 antagonists. They are going to flesh them out in a completely different manner and I'm so looking forward to it!

Different team dynamics, different antagonists, different structure altogether. I enjoy being surprised by writing and this show does it every time!

Also: FLAMEO! Made me gigglesnort and feel the fan-love from the creators!
Mordicai Knode
24. mordicai
22. Andrea K
&
23. Sarah Mac

I think the fundamental thesis of this episode is that Love Triangles are fundamentally an immature form of love. & that more mature bonds like friendship & brotherhood trump crushes & drama.

I do think people are making a bad mistake comparing the story structure of the two shows; we don't even know what this show will be about, ultimately. Like, my theory is that pro-bending is a season one story arc, only, & season two she won't have time to play, she'll be too busy...whatever, Avataring.
treebee72 _
25. treebee72
@10 Kingtycoon, yes Zuko had a lot more screen time at this point in ATLA, but it wasn't because he was the antagonist, but because he was the co-star (even if the viewers didn't know it yet). ATLA was just as much about Zuko's journey as it was about Aang's.

In ATLA we didn't know what the overarching story/theme was going to be until S1 eps 7 & 8 (the Winter Solstice eps). Everything before that was full on world building. Which is exactly where we are with Korra. This show is a different world, different characters, different story & theme. It's going to develop in it's own way, but at the same time, it's not really going any slower than ATLA was at this point.
J Mccaffery
26. Lsana
I'll admit that I expected to hate this episode. I'm not all that interested in the "pro-bending" plot, and I always find romantic comedies painful and embarassing rather than sweet and funny. But I didn't. I won't say it was my favorite or one that I will watch over and over, but I thought they covered some necessary plot threads just about as well as they possibly could.

To all the comments about how we "haven't gotten an Equalist PoV" that lets us sympathize with the antagonists, actually we have. Not in the same way as we did with Zuko and Iroh in the first series, but we've definitely seen their perspective. Every time the Triads demand protection money from the store owners, or we see how the leadership of the city is almost exclusively benders, or even when Pema feels left out of her own family because she isn't an airbender, we see their point of view. Thus far there hasn't been an individual Equalist we can sympathize with, but in many ways we're getting more of their viewpoint than we ever did about the Fire Nation.
Scott Silver
27. hihosilver28
@26:Lsana- That's an excellent point regarding the equalists. I was thinking the same thing in the third episode. "Hmm, the guy with the megaphone has quite a few good points."

I'm very excited to see where the rest of the season goes. So far, it's more than lived up to its predecessor while being quite different. Usually by this time I can guess where a show will end, but that's not the case here, and I couldn't be more excited to be along for the ride!
Mordicai Knode
28. mordicai
26. Lsana
&
27. hihosilver28

I think what we're getting is a statement of privilige. Korra lives in a world where she takes it for granted that being a bender is awesome. Her teachers are all benders. Her surrogate family of Air Nomads are all benders, save Pema. The leaders of the city are benders. The cops are benders. Her friends are benders. Her heroes are benders. Bending gives authority; even the criminals are benders. Bending is power, the defining powerline in the world. It is an assumption that benders are on the side of "right" in the world; because the Equalists are opposed to them, they must be "wrong." These are the assuptions of people in the hegemony, whether it is patriarchy or race or class.

We see things from her point of view, but because we are outside of the story, we see that it doesn't match up. The Equalists have a lot of good points, & eventually Korra is going to have to realize that the "balance" is deeply out of whack.
J Mccaffery
29. Chris F
Let's explore the noodle situation more deeply. "flamey-o, hotman!" wasn't a real phrase, right? It was just Aang imagining how fire benders talk. So he (and the Gaang, I suppose) are the only ones who even KNOW that word. So which of them started the instant noodle company??? My money is on Sokka. He loves wordplay and appreciates quickly-prepared food.
E M
30. herewiss13
@ 29: Chris F

It wasn't that Aang was imagining how Fire-Benders talk; he'd been to the Fire Nation and had friends there. It was that his slang was 100 years out of date...kinda like someone saying "groovy" and "far out" in 2060. Clearly, there has been a revival of pre-imperialist Fire-Nation slang. :-P
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
29. Chris F
&
30. herewiss13

Oh, I totally disagree (well, & agree with herewiss13); I think "Flameo, hotman!" is totally a reasonable piece of etiquette...just a hundred years obsolete, which is why everyone took him for a bumpkin from the colonies. Like, I think he did the equivilent of going to London & being like: "Pip, pip! Cheerio Guvna!" That doesn't rule out a Sokka/Aang business venture though...
J Mccaffery
32. elliesaurus
Bryke has a habit of mercilessly torturing the shippers. All the tumblrs/fans I follow at this point just sort of throw up their arms and look at each other saying, "No! Don't react! It's what they want! Don't feed the trolls!"

Plus Nick.com and korranation were all "Who's better? Masami or Makorra?" So the shipping wars seem to be driven from the company as much as from the fans. : P *I say all this as a shipper*

But, this episode. It was HILARIOUS. I just wanted to grab Bolin and hug him. How he reasoned he and Korra would be awesome as a couple, how he asked her out, his reaction to finding the girl he liked jumping his brother, it was so. Funny. I watched it three times and cracked up every time. Also, I want the noodliest noodles in the United Republic!

I think, overall, this was a Breather Episode. We get the heaaaavy Equalist/Politicking of 'A Voice in the Night', and it's still a kids show so now we get Comedy! And Pro-Bending! And Romance! Which I was perfectly fine with.

I am pumped for the next episode. Fire Ferrets v. Wolfbats! And the Equalists will take center stage again, I believe. Saturday can't come soon enoouuuugh.
Mordicai Knode
33. mordicai
32. elliesaurus

Shipping is a funny thing; I mean, I think am desensitized to creators trolling it because I'm a Homestuck fan, & if you want to see something surgically designed to make 'shippers go BONKERS, Homestuck is it. Bryke ain't got nuthin' on Hussie. I warned you about 'ships, bro!

I mean-- last episode was like, a brutal parade of fear & powerlessness! So having an episode where Bolin gets to wave his arms around like Kermit the Frog is totally due.
J Mccaffery
34. Thorvald Magni
It will be an insult for Zutarians if they choose to ship korra with that firebender boy.
ZukoxKatara are done. No need to reenact their ship with korra and firebender boy just to apologize to Zutarians.

Do it right the first time, or never do it at all.
Mordicai Knode
35. mordicai
34. Thorvald Magni

I don't think Mako & Korra are at all the same as Zuko & Katara. You are right to note a similarity in temperment-- I wonder how much "bending" correlates to personality, how much your Nation correlates to personality. I mean, we all remember Iroh's whole "This Nation is like this, that Nation is like that" speech--
Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor. Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribe are capable and adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.
Right? Which-- I dunno, the issues of race & essentialism in The Legend of Korra & Avatar: the Last Airbender something I think about a lot; can Airbenders really only come from the Air Nomads? I mean, if sky bison's taught humans, maybe a non-Air Nomad with the right potential could learn? Bolin & Mako's mixed heritage & mixed talents add to the muddle.

So what I'm saying is...I don't think Makorra is Zutara, redux.
Cait Glasson
36. CaitieCat
Just caught up, mordicai - sorry for my silence, but I only get to see the show in two- or three-week bursts, as my partner arrives from the US with iTunes joy on her hard drive.

I'm so in love with this show, it is definitely, already, in my top five shows ever. Maybe in the top two. I loved ATLA, but this is better - the storytelling more mature (I don't mean more "adult", but more refined, more deft, more assured), the characterization gorgeous, the weaving of storylines effective in not letting any one monopolize, while still keeping the sense of relative importance.

I'd love to see a bit more of Korra's airbending training. She's obviously advanced notably, judging by her most recent performance with the spinning barriers thing.

Speaking as a long-time athlete, I'm loving the job they did with the sport of pro bending. It's beautifully designed, easy to follow, the rules are pretty much intuitive, and it's exciting to watch. The bouts are really short, comparatively - I don't think we're missing much of the games, honestly, and we saw how quickly the Wolfbats disposed of their opponents in the last game. The only thing I was a bit surprised by, and I get this could be just for exposition purposes to show Korra can do it, was Bolin being surprised at waterbending healing. I would have to think, given that we're talking about throwing large rocks and ice shards and fire blasts at more or less unprotected people, that the pro-bending circuit would have to have some investment in waterbender healers. It's just common sense: any pro league's only real assets are its players. Without the players, there's no league, no game, no action. Not taking good care of their wounds/injuries is foolish, when there are simple and available options - surely they could afford at least one?

I'd like to see a little background hint of the kids' leagues that would lead to a structure of pro bending, and maybe see an airbender who breaks the mould and wants to play. They wouldn't need to alter the arena, as the air is there already.

All your descriptions of the outrage in the fandom, only reminds me of why I spend very little time with most online fans. That's why I enjoy the rare places like tor, where we can have relatively intelligent discussion, even with disagreements, without the misogyny and racism and blech of the greater fanstream of thought.
Mordicai Knode
37. mordicai
36. CaitieCat

YOU'D BETTER APOLOGIZE FOR THE SILENCE! No wait, I'm kidding, I'm just glad you're hear for the conversation. I haven't written up yesterday's episode yet; I'm still mulling it over. Happy to have a chance to talk about this stuff as a way of sort of digesting the events of "& the Winner is..."

Maybe the "healing" is sort of a casualty of the social changes brought on by Avatar: The Last Airbender? That is, maybe as the Norther Water Tribe relaxed their sexual discrimination, the more delicate art of healing with water became sort of looked down upon & disappeared? I could be reading too much into that, but you're right. Given that lightning bending runs the electrical grid, I'd assume that hospitals are run with healing bending, too...but maybe not. Maybe-- now this is PURE conjecture-- Yakone, if he was a bloodbender, gave water-healing a bad name? I don't know, that is totally wild speculation.

If we're going to talk about adding airbenders to probending...what about non-benders?

& as for the fandom...I mean, WE are the fandom too, right? So obviously it ain't all bad!
Cait Glasson
38. CaitieCat
Ooh, hey, what if Amon entered a team into the pro-bending tournament, but they were all chi-blocker non-benders?

Oooh.
Cait Glasson
39. CaitieCat
Also, the one thing I seem to be saying consistently at the end of every episode is:

The only thing I want from Korra
Is to see right now some MORE-A MORE-A!
Mordicai Knode
40. mordicai
38. CaitieCat

Well the non-benders would have to be able to cross zones or something; there'd have to be new rules made up for it. I'm thinking...anybody else seen The Blood of Heroes?
Cait Glasson
41. CaitieCat
Maybe they could get three different weapons, padded or blunted or whatever - or, wait, no, in keeping with the show - BOOMERANG! So, maybe one boomerang each, and one short striking weapon, like a bo stick or nunchaku or something like that, or even just the boomerang. But yes, there would have to be allowed a slight encroachment, maybe no more than two into the o-zone at a time? Dunno, but I bet it could be worked out pretty easily.
Mordicai Knode
42. mordicai
41. CaitieCat

I'm sorry, wait, did you just invent using boomerangs in pro-bending? I AGREE TO YOUR TERMS.

I FOR ONE WELCOME OUR NEW BOOMERANG CHI-BLOCKING NON-BENDING OVERLORDS.
Ashe Armstrong
43. AsheSaoirse
I see so much shipping on Tumblr that I almost turned the episode off and ALMOST decided to quit watching entirely. My reaction might not have been so visceral if the shippers weren't so bloody active and spewing headcanon everywhere.
Mordicai Knode
44. mordicai
43. AsheSaoirse

See, that is what I worry about; personally for me I don't have a problem keeping the world of "headcanon" & shipping out of the real narrative, but I don't want to see it capsize the whole series for someone.
Ashe Armstrong
45. AsheSaoirse
@Mordecai

Like I said, partially tumblr is to blame. Thar be shippers, e'rywhur. I guess, personally, after devouring ATLA, I was expecting them to build up to that. I mean, I get that young adults get the "omg, want" going on about people but it just seemed like it should've been something that came up later in the season or in the next season all together.

Thankfully, though, Bolin really saved the episode. I had a good hard laugh when he told Mako, "Save some girls for the rest of us!" And his date with Korra was fantastic. It did make me want to shout at Korra for being all derpy towards Mako but ya can't always help who you're attracted to. Plus, as you said, Bolin saving the day with the tie-breaker was great.

Also, I was a little frustrated with the "advie" Korra got. Just, blurg, I know romance is gonna be a part of the character arcs and I'm for that, I just wanted to get to know everyone a bit better first.
danielle g
46. daniellegee
RE: the shipping...

At first, I was only aware of this cartoon's existence because of Tumblr. That, and a few RL friends were referencing that it was about to start. But once it had its initial airing, suddenly Tumblr was awash with gifs from the first episode. By the second, two very definite shipper camps had formed and I was seeing gifs with very specific angles to them, either pro-Bolin or pro-Mako. I thought that maybe the show was just about THAT. But coming into it a few weeks late, and seeing a few episodes, I'm happy to see there are definite personalities to the characters, not to mention some FOR RILZ action and plotlines. I think @AsheSaoirse is maybe right-- but I think I wanna just turn off Tumblr instead of the show. Shippers be crazy these days, y'all.
Mordicai Knode
47. mordicai
46. daniellegee

It is just that shippers don't have to, like...pass around handwritten zines at sci-fi conventions any more. Seriously, the K/S shippers back in the day-- I'm lead to believe that Kirk/Spock as "kay slash ess" is the genesis of the term "slash"-- must have been so lonely.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
48. tnh
Mordicai, I wasn't a shipper or a slasher, but non-ST fanzines -- mimeographed on twiltone, distributed by mail -- were my primordial fandom, and I shared it with people who were into the whole K/S thing. I suppose we were often lonely by modern standards, but we didn't feel it that way, because my ghod, we'd found fandom. Mail was slow, conventions infrequent, and your local fan group was whatever it was; but we knew there was a place that was ours, and that there were others like us. That knowledge was a luminous wonder, even at moments of direst exasperation with fandom's concrete and specific instantiations, i.e. our fellow fans.

The K/S branch may have had it worse. They shared all the same awkward weirdnesses as the rest of us. On top of that they had the slash thing. Even fandom found that strange and embarrassing.

At this remove it's hard to remember how little most people knew about sex back then, including basic facts of the universe like "There are kinks, people have them, so what." There was a vague awareness that someone might have a thing for feet, or latex, or cross-dressing; but slash? That was undreamt-of, except for the isolated individuals who dreamed of it. Most of them were women. In fandom, they finally started finding each other.

A lot of us were early internet adopters. Bulletin boards and email weren't all that different from the world we'd been living in, except that they ran faster. When you look at the core fannish technologies -- fanzines, APAs, community-run conventions -- they're all pre-internet mechanisms for many-to-many communication. When we got online, it was like someone had turned off the gravity and given us all jetpacks. That's why early dictionaries of online slang are so full of fanspeak, and why the demographic profiles for "SF fan" and "internet user" didn't really diverge until web 1.0 brought in its massive influx of new users.

It's been very strange process in some ways. Fandom's always had a distinctive writing style. I've known the sound of its voice for over thirty-five years now. And during that time, I've listened to it take over the world. My husband and I sometimes play a game on long drives where you're going to be addressing the 1956 Worldcon banquet: what do you take with you from this year? I keep wondering whether I could get them to understand the import of the Cluetrain Manifesto -- not its ostensible content, but the voice it uses to talk about them. (Current state of my thinking: 1956 is a maybe, but I'm pretty sure I could do it in 1965.)

I don't know. Maybe I'll live to see fanfic take over literature. What an interesting world that would be.
Mordicai Knode
49. mordicai
48. tnh

True enough; whenever you go look at the exponential arc of information technology, you can always look at the alternative before hand & be glad you're in the future from there. I mean-- a massive national postal service & high speed print reproduction? Heck yeah, zines were are awesome! So yeah, looked at that way...I mean, in 25 years people will look back on these blog posts with nostalgia & be all "can you imagine that there was a fandom even before the Hivemind?"

Anyhow, we live in a world where 50 Shades of Gray is the big book du jour; seems like fanfic is doing just fine.
J Mccaffery
50. phodyr
Caiticat and Mordicai:

Waterbender healing was pretty much an Water Nation only thing (performed by waterbenders for waterbenders only), even in A:TLA. It may be that waterbending would have immeasurable benefits in a more cosmopolitan world where nations can stand side by side in Republic City, but given how "modern" bending seems more focused on power and strength (thuggery, policing, pro-athletics), I don't see it being much valued, even among support crew. If you can bend, obviously you want to use it to make money and get fame. Water healing won't get that for you.
Mordicai Knode
51. mordicai
50. phodyr

What! Now I definitely disagree with you; if there is one thing the current state of the American medical, pharmacuitical & insurance system can prove it is that healing is big bucks! It is interesting to speculate on a "Water Tribe Only" sort of nature to the healing though; I'm really curious about geopolitics, especially with two Water Tribe members on the council...are they the biggest guns in the room, these days?
J Mccaffery
52. phodyr
Mordicai,

Modern medical/moneymaking aside, I don't think waterhealing has stepped out of the shadow of being "waterbending women's work". Katara made it possible for female Waterbenders to learn to fight, but I doubt many male Waterbenders felt inspired by her actions to reciprocate and learn waterhealing.

I've wondered about the political balance of having two Water Tribe members on the council. I expect it's simply a matter of geographical representation, since the two tribes are so isolated from each other. The other nations only have one center of power. Regardless of numbers, the Northern Water Tribe guy (whose name is eluding me) has everyone but Tenzin following his lead. I've always wondered about a past era in which the Water Tribes attempted to conquer the world (since both the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdoms have had go's at it). Perhaps this is his go at it...?
Mordicai Knode
53. mordicai
52. phodyr

The could be a misogynist social stigma, yeah, you are right; I mean, it also could just have faded as an art, while others flourished. I for one am curious; part of the downside of staying in Republic City is that we don't get to see what the rest of the world is up to.
J Mccaffery
54. naupathia
Hm, I guess I didn't consider the love triangle stuff as farcical, so maybe I was harsher on it than I should have been. If the writers really did mean for it to be so ridiculous and stupid, then maybe I can't fault them for how ridiculous and stupid it ended up being.

And I'm not a shipper - I honestly don't care who ends up with who. I just hate watching it all. But maybe that's because I'm an adult and I left high school behind long ago. This episode almost made me stop watching the show. They love to keep showcasing Korra's stupidity and general bad-decision making - so why should I root for her as a protagonist at all?

Maybe I'm not getting the show, but after all the hype it gets I really expected better writing. I honestly do not like any of the characters other than Amon and Bolin. Amon because dude has a point, and Bolin because if there's one thing the writers do well is plucky comic relief (as evidenced by Sokka previously).

Korra is a moron who constantly makes terrible decisions and gets manipulated way too easy, Mako is the cliche "bad boy" love interest who also only cares about looks as evidenced by Asami, who I expect will double cross the team later. The writers have given me no reason to like anything about her other than "OMG look how pretty she is!" (which is apparently enough for Mako). Maybe this could be solved by more screen time, but generally my dislike for the "Krew" is based on none of the characters aside from Bolin having any redeeming qualities. I get that they are all hormonal teenagers, but the first Avatar show actually had something called subtlety, and it was also mature for how young the target audience was.

Anyway, I'm still watching the show because I really want to know the backstory (the flashbacks with Aang) and I do think the plot about the equalists could actually bear fruit. But so far I am not at all impressed with the main characters - it's only the minor ones and Bolin that keep me watching.
Mordicai Knode
55. mordicai
54. naupathia

Oh man, I don't want to spoil anything but uh, Korra is a moron who constantly makes terrible decisions & gets manipulated way too easily, that sure is true.

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