Mon
Sep 23 2013 12:00pm
Brother Against Brother in The Legend of Korra: “Civil Wars: Part One”

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

Oh Korra, poor, poor, foolish Korra. Or I should say naïve Korra; either way, she certainly isn’t the Sokka of the bunch. I guess Asami is the brains of this operation. (Though did you see Korra fight this episode? Wowie-zowie; she’s a badass.) While I still think the season will resolve with Unalaq being proven to have been “right” about the spirit stuff and Tonraq “right” about politics, with Korra uniting the two tribes by mediating between the brothers, it sure hasn’t happened. We get Korra siding unilaterally with Unalaq, and in fact “tattling” to Unalaq about people unhappy with…being invaded. Which…you know, getting invaded is a pretty good reason to be unhappy and start planning a resistance, if you ask me.

Listen, it is entirely possible that the Dark Spirits are not spirits out of balance, but are in fact Spirits who are trying (clumsily) to fight Unalaq, to prevent him from catastrophically tearing down the borders between the Spirit World and the Mortal World. I mean, we walk in on him brooding on a shadowed throne, after all.

You know, Werewolf: The Forsaken is an RPG, where you play a werewolf, that leans heavily on shamanic traditions. Two of the antagonists in the game present a similar dilemma; the Beshilu—rat spirits—and Azlu—spider spirits—who also interact with the veil between the Spirit and the Real. The rat spirits want to gnaw through the barrier, while the spider spirits want to weave an impenetrable wall. A happy medium—see what I did there, medium?—is what is needed.

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

Frankly, I find Varrick’s turn as a freedom fighter to be…well, actually pretty plausible, profit motive and all. I mean, his rotting fish problem isn’t all that different from a bunch of guys who don’t want to pay import tariffs for tea. Is he a corrupt lobbyist or is he the Ben Franklin of the Southern Water Tribe? I guess that remains to be seen; whatever it is, Bolin and Asami are obviously going to be caught up in it. Like I said, I think Unalaq is probably sincere an probably genuinely wants to unite the Water Tribe via the Spirit Portal but…that doesn’t mean his methods are just or that the South isn’t right to resist occupation and, well, you know which road they say is lined with good intentions….

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

“This storyline makes me uncomfortable,” was how my wife described Bolin and Eska, and I’m starting to agree with her. Originally played for laughs, things have rather rapidly taken the turn into “emotionally abusive,” depending on your reading of the situation. It isn’t too late for the show to twist it into something more complex, but now it has a sort of “ha ha, dangerous relationship!” element to it that I find distasteful. The fact that Eska is an aristocrat of a regime that is currently occupying another country just makes the power dynamic that much worse.

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

Now, it could be that this is The Legend of Korra trying to show how bad it is to be invaded, as military forces occupying a nation is a pretty standard trope…well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Googling “comfort women” or “Recreation and Amusement Association” gives us a taste of how incredibly dark it gets in reality, and while this is an all-ages show, we know that Avatar: The Last Airbender used Lake Laogai to talk about “mature” issues like torture and concentration camps. I'm probably over thinking it—Bolin and Eska may very well be a “light” romantic b-plot—but the possibility remains that Bolin’s fear of Eska may not be Bolin being a wimp about breaking up with his girlfriend, but emblematic of something deeper. Don’t discount your friends and family when they try to talk to you about their domestic issues, don’t brush them off, is what I’m saying; there may very well be something bad going on.

…and of course there is…Eska’s laugh….

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

Again, the gem of the story are Aang and Katara’s family; Tenzin, Bumi, Kya in particular, off to look for a missing Ikki, driven off by Jinora and Meelo teaming up to tease her. Tenzin is also teased by his siblings, and teases them back, and fault lines start showing. Bumi, the non-bender, is teased by his bending sister and brother, and it is easy to guess that even as adults that is a sore spot, especially given the political tensions of the world these days.

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

The parallels between Ikki and Tenzin become pretty unsubtle once the conversation turns and Bumi and Kya start teasing Tenzin. It has a different tone then the “Vacation Tenzin” jokes because there is something there. See, Aang’s family trips were…well, just Tenzin. Kya and Bumi felt abandoned by their father, and for my money that is a really interesting choice for the story to make. Aang as a less-than-perfect father is humanizing; we the viewers have beatified Aang and so have the people of the Avatar-verse...but Aang wasn’t perfect; he had struggles and failures too, in case you forgot. Just like Korra.

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

I’m guessing we’ll get a more nuanced picture of those childhood events; Kya and Bumi are coming from a place of hurt, Tenzin from a place of nostalgia, but I would bet that the truth is a little of column A, a little of column B…and a heaping helping of column C. Maybe we’ll get it from Katara, maybe we’ll get it through flashbacks, or Jinora bonding with Grandpa Aang in the spirit world, maybe we’ll get it through the three siblings talking it out, but we’ll see it.

The Legend of Korra season 2 episode 2 Civil Wars Part 1

I know I’ve been very “wait and see!” about this season, but I’m interested to see how the events set up in The Legend of Korra do end up wrapping up; right now we’re in the part of the story where we see Chekhov’s Gun; it won’t be till later that they pull the trigger…


Mordicai Knode thinks they should have gone all out & aired “Civil Wars: Parts 1 and 2” simultaneously, but he’s just greedy. You can follow him on Tumblr and Twitter.

25 comments
Alejandro Melchor
1. Al-X
Korra made the same mistake she made when joining Tarlok's anti-equalist task force: she paid heed to an idea that sounded good on the surface by a person in power, fully oblivious to the possibility of ulterior motives or plans. Hopefuly, Unalaq SPOILER.....





...SPOILER arresting not only her father, but her mother as well, will be a wake up call for her that she needs to choose her advisors more carefully. Especially if they start by pandering to her ego.
Fenixmagic
2. Fenixmagic
I, too, was troubled by the show's treatment of Bolin, who once had main character status and is now relegated to butt-monkey. I hope that he regains his dignity soon and that the abuse stops.

The animation quality seems to have taken a turn for the worse this season as well. There were a lot of scenes in this episode where characters were off-model. I feel like perhaps the animators chose to spend the budget on some spectacular fights to be seen later, and this is the workable animation until we get there.
Fenixmagic
3. Lsana
I didn't get a chance to catch up on LOK until this weekend (something about being in a Biblical-level flood not leaving much time for cartoons), so forgive me if some of my comments overlap with last week's episode.

1) I really hope you're right that Unalaq is not as 1-D evil as he appears to be. I'm 90% positive at this point that he's the one stirring up the spirit world (why is it that he knows about these spirit attacks and Korra doesn't?). I had some hope for him in "Southern Lights" where he did seem to have good intentions, but those hopes were knocked down several notches by "Civil War I." I'd much prefer for Unalaq to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but although he's talking like he's concerned about the spirit world, he's acting like all he's interested in is power.

Oh, and if he's Korra's teacher, shouldn't he be, I don't know, TEACHING her stuff. Thus far, he's taught her almost nothing, just used her to first open the portal, and then second be a symbol of his power.

2) I thought I was the only one who was seriously uncomfortable by the Bolin/Eska storyline. I'm usually the one who sees "romantic comedies" and thinks that they are neither romantic nor comedy, just painful and awkward. I assumed I was just reacting to that. Now that you point it out, though, there are even more disturbing undertones here. Asami, come save poor Bolin!

3) Speaking of Asami, we haven't seen nearly enough of her, and particularly, she hasn't interacted with Korra at all. I loved watching the Korra/Asami friendship develop in the first season, and I want more of it!

4) Aang...I was actually rather gratified that it was Korra's father who insisited on the whole "Korra will stay at the South Pole and her teachers will come to her" aspect of her training rather than Aang. I had a hard time believing that she would be better off deprived of the chance to see the world and all the different cultures.

However, based on what we learned about his treatment of Bumi and Kya, I have a hard time coming up with any justification for him as a father. If it was just that Aang had taken Tenzin on a tour of the Air Temples to prepare him to be an Air Master and not realized that his other children resented it, I could see that. But taking Tenzin to Kyoshi and Ember Islands without the others? Only he gets beach vacations and elephant tours? Kya and Bumi have every right to resent that.

5) So where is Ikki anyway? I'm getting worried. While I sympathize with Kya and especially Bumi, I want to scream at them to stop it with the fighting/bonding and focus more on the little girl who disappeared from what should be a very small area.

As a side note, are we sure it was Jinora and not Ikki who went to the statue in "Southern Lights"? I thought it was initially, but when Ikki disappeared, I was wondering if I got it wrong and Ikki went to the statue and was pulled into the spirit world.
Christopher Bennett
4. ChristopherLBennett
@2: The animation is by a different studio this season (although the design and layout work is still by the same people), so that might explain the difference in the execution.

@3: It was definitely Jinora who encountered the statue.
Sean Fagan
5. sef
Am I the only one who thought of the Fire Nation's actions 170 years ago, when Unalaq attempted to justify his actions?
Scott Silver
6. hihosilver28
The review on the AV Club about this episode very much sums up the problems that I've had with the start of this season. I do appreciate that Korra was trying to apologize for her errors at the end of this episode though, and that makes me hope for the rest of the season. But still, they are making her do stuff in the show for no damn reason other than "We told you so". It's really reminding me of the "Cylon Detector" arc in the first season of BSG and was a major contributor to me quitting the show.

This was the quote by Emily Guendelsberger that sums up how I feel about the plot so far. "Video game logic"
So I guess portals are like clogged pores? I am not at all buying that opening them is necessarily a good thing to do, as we’ve never gotten any reasoning for that point. It’s all been video-game logic — just do it. Why? Because that’s your mission. Go on, now!
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
1. Al-X

Or at least to wake her up to the fact that being impartial & a great compromiser isn't the same thing as being a collaborator. Unalaq has very successfully manipulated her but like I said; I'm still not convinced he's evil. I think "evil" is too easy for Avatar; they did "crazy evil" with Ozai, sure, but Unalaq resembles Amon superficially, so I am assuming there will be a twist.

2. Fenixmagic

Partially why I wanted to see "Civil Wars: Part 2" right away is because in many ways this episode ist just...all...set-up. The first two episodes addressed the roots of the conflict, both personally & cosmologically. Now we are seeing it play out but it is in...well, slow motion!

3. Lsana

1) I'm willing to believe we're seeing an incomplete picture; I HOPE that Unalaq doesn't have more of a heel turn in him, though. I like the idea that he's right, but also a jerk & also an imperialist. That is a new dimension for the show, you know?

2) Yeah; given that we've seen Eska use her waterbending against Bolin, his comments about her threatening him are...not funny, but actually scary? Now, Aubrey Plaza plays a similar character on Parks & Rec, but there her aggressive misanthropy (also coupled to a goofy guy) is tempered by the fact that we have seen her relationship being fundamentally....well, delightful. We need to see more of Eska, either for better or worse.

3) I don't think any one would disagree with wanting more Asami. Preferrably in a mecha.

4) Notable that what we've learned is Kya & Bumi's hurt lashing out about Aang, so take it with a grain of salt. Like I said, I think there is probably a kernel of truth in the middle, but I doubt their recollection of the events is any less fuzzy than Tenzin's, you know?

5) Jinora...but you could have a point, maybe Jinora will be looking for Ikki when she goes into the Spirit World?

4. ChristopherLBennett

Hi CLB!
Mordicai Knode
8. mordicai
5. sef

Nope; those boats roll into the Southern Water Tribe EXACTLY the same way the Fire Nation's boats rolled in.

6. hihosilver28

What! Baltar making a "Cylon Detector" because the angel in his head told him to is the best!

I get your point though, but I like to think that is on purpose. Korra IS a video game logic kind of woman! She wants to know where to go, & who to punch. Punch punch punch! Overcoming that is her struggle, but it is why Unalaq was able to manipulate her so easily-- she's eager to have a clear objective.
Christopher Bennett
9. ChristopherLBennett
@8: I agree -- Korra needs to feel useful, to have a goal and something to do. Stillness does not sit well with her. So she'll grab at any opportunity to take action. It's a character flaw that Unalaq is exploiting.
Fenixmagic
10. Lsana
@6,

I think the "video game logic" was part of the point here. Korra opened the portal because she was told to--by a family member claiming to be teaching her and acting for the benefit of her tribe. Was it a good idea? Beats the heck out of me, but right now, Vegas is setting the odds in favor of "no." Should Korra have been more suspicious? Well, I would have been, but I'm not a 16-year-old who spent the first 15 years of my life living in a guilded cage. I could be wrong, but I suspect this season will be about the consequences of Korra opening the portal, not about her running around the world to "collect" more of them.

@7,

The thing about the vacations, though, is that either it happened (Aang taking Tenzin to the islands without the other kids) or it didn't. I'm having a hard time coming up with a middle ground there.

@7,3,

I thought it was Jinora, but the fact that we never actually see the scene where Ikki runs off made me think, well, they do look similar, Ikki is older than she was, making her look a bit like Jinora did last season, I tend to assume that anything "bookish" happens to Jinora rather than Ikki...maybe I made a mistake.

Regardless, I want to know what happened to her! When Mordicai Knode thinks they should have gone all out & aired “Civil Wars: Parts 1 and 2” simultaneously, Mordicai Knode is right!
Scott Silver
11. hihosilver28
@mordicai
I think it's more than Korra being a "video game logic kind of woman". She absolutely is one who wants to see things in black and white, or in her case "punchable and non-punchable" with trying to fit everything into the "punchable" category. That said, there wasn't any set-up for the spirit portal. Why is it there? For drama. Why is it clogged? Who knows. Why is it the only way to bring balance? Because Unalaq says so. Why does everyone take him at his word? Because the plot needs for that to happen.

That last one is the part that's bothering me. The plot was being moved forward by the characters in the first season, and here the characters are being moved by the plot and I can feel it pretty heavily.
Mordicai Knode
12. mordicai
9. ChristopherLBennett

Exactly. It is very painful to be in the part of the story where she's flawed but not overcoming it, but I think her "hugging it out" & Unalaq threatening her family is a watershed.

10. Lsana

How about a middle ground where Aang ALSO took Bumi on a visit to Omashu without any of the other kids, or when Katara took Kya on a waterbending tour to meet the swamp folks-- for instance. Or how about, Tenzin was so impossibly shy & withdrawn & was being bullied, so his dad took him on a trip to keep him out of a bad situation? Or "Well I bonded with Bumi because he was first & was my only kid. Then Kya took to your mother, but you! I wanted to bond with you the way Katara & Kya had bonded, the way I'd bonded with Bumi when he was your age!"

I'm just spitballin' but...yeah, I could do that all day.

Or how about "yeah, I was just excited that the Air Nomads wouldn't become extinct with me. I may have made the wrong choices, I may have doted on you & not given your brother & sister enough attention but I never-- never-- loved them any less. I've always been distractable; I'm not perfect, & tell your brother & sister I love them."
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
@10: Korra is 17, actually, or was at the start of season 1. And she wasn't discovered as the Avatar until she was 4, so she only spent 13 years sheltered by the Order of the White Lotus.

And again: It absolutely was Jinora, not Ikki, who encountered the glowy statue. See the screencap at the top of last week's thread. The girl there has straight shortish hair with a single bun on top -- that's Jinora's hairstyle. Ikki has pigtails and two buns.
Fenixmagic
14. Lsana
@11,

"Why is it there? For drama."
Admittedly, we haven't heard anything about it before, but it doesn't seem that far-fetched to me that it should be there. There was a lot of wacky spirit stuff at the North Pole in Avatar. It doesn't seem that much of a stretch to say that there's also some wacky stuff at the South Pole, but it was neglected due to how badly devestated the Southern Waterbenders were in the war.

"Why is it clogged? Who knows."
Excellent question, and one I expect the season to address. If it doesn't, you'll have a point, but I don't think it's worth dismissing because they haven't answered the question yet.

"Why is it the only way to bring balance? Because Unalaq says so."
Precisely. Right now, we don't have any idea whether opening the portal brought balance, disrupted the balance, brought balance but at too high a cost, or what. Unalaq says so, but we don't know what his motives were or what we've actually done.

"Why does everyone take him at his word? Because the plot needs for that to happen."

"Everyone" doesn't take him at his word: Korra does. Tonraq doesn't think this is a good idea, Tenzin doesn't think this is a good idea, and Mako and Bolin don't know enough about the spirit world to have an opinion. But because Korra is the Avatar, what she says here goes.

As for why Korra takes Unalaq at his word, there are a lot of reasons. (1) He is the only one who seems to be able to handle these spirits, he seems to know more about them than anyone else, she's willing to try his remedy, (2) He flatters her and tells her he trusts her, while everyone else is trying to manipulate her, (3) As CLB said @9, he's offering her a concrete step she can take to do something, and she's the sort who always needs to be doing something. I'm frusterated with her for not seeing that he's obviously evil, but her decision to trust him doesn't come out of left field.
Fenixmagic
15. Lsana
@13,

I didn't remember the exact ages, but the point is that she is still very young, and has lived an extremely sheltered life (I doubt she saw too much of politics before the White Lotus took custody of her). The point is that it's not surprising Korra is more than a bit naive.

Also, I don't doubt you guys that it was Jinora. My initial impression was that it was, but then I started to doubt when watching this episode for the reasons I gave. You guys have convinced me I was right the first time.
Alicia Dodson
16. LynMars
I can see Aang being an imperfect father. There were times in TLA where he'd do things--like pay attention to people flattering him, epsecially girls--and not realize until later how he'd hurt Katara's feeling, or other members of his group.

He also could have been trying to loosen Tenzin up, and/or treating things like training trips in Aang-fashion, not realizing his own laid-back approach made it seem more like a fun trip than work. Or how his other kids would feel about it.

Aang had to be the Avatar, train the only other airbender in the world, help guide the earliest days of the Republic, and be a husband & father. That's...a lot for one guy. And he probably screwed up a few times, as he WAS just human, and doing his best. That was one of the things to love about young Aang in TLA--he made some mistakes then, too. It's very likely he would with his kids.

I would have found it ridiculously unrealiztic if there wasn't some tension between the siblings. A nonbender, a waterbender, and an airbender, all children of the Avatar--it's a recipe for drama the showrunners are right to flesh out.

MORE ASAMI PLEASE! I do hope she returns with Varrick's prominence in the plotline so far.

The Bolin/Eska story is very quickly going from played-for-laughs to creepy. I can't help but feel that Bolin telling Mako he's so good at breaking girls' hearts is a fan shoutout for the fuss over Mako's treatment of Asami last season, and how so much resolution to that was left offscreen. Mako seems to be learning as he deals with Korra, though without his police job he's relegated to "Avatar's armcandy" which isn't helping his character growth too much (or endearing him to viewers).

I agree with the view that Unalaq isn't actually "evil" just ridiculously misguided and too narrow-minded to see any other way (possibly manipulated by the "Dark Spirit" said to involved in things this season?). He has an agenda, and as we've seen, Korra is naive enough to believe anyone who butters her up and seems to know what they're doing. As headstrong as she is, she's not actually a leader herself yet--she wants direction and focus and Unalaq gave her that for a bit. She doesn't have the wisdom to ask critical questions and see beneath the surface. She's going to have to learn, and seems on the way to that, with that final scene with her parents.

Varrick sliding things past the sensors (that scratching his itch comment!), the mature themes, and the 6pm Friday timeslot...while it's perfectly viewable by kids, they seem to have given up pretense this is "only" a children's show!
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@16: I didn't get a sexual-innuendo vibe from Varrick's reference to getting "that itchy rash" when Zhu Li wasn't there to scratch it. I just took it to mean that he's spoiled rotten and depends on his assistant to do everything for him, even unpleasant menial tasks.
Fenixmagic
18. Nessa
I hope that Korra finally realizes that Unalaq is manipulating her after the events at the end of this episode. Sure, he's giving her a free reign, but I feel like he's also using her to do his dirty work for him. Since when was it the Avatar's job, instead of the chief's, to keep the peace between the Water Tribes? Unalaq should be getting his hands dirty trying to fix this mess. Instead he sends Korra off on errands, like she's his personal servant, and in the end it's Tonraq who actually solves the conflicts. Because that's what a chief's job is!

The cloudbaby plotline is swiftly gaining aangst (ha! sorry...). Still, I don't fully believe that Kya and Bumi are completely right about Aang. I think part of their resentment comes simply from the fact that Tenzin is an airbender and therefore was intrinsically more 'important' than they were. And maybe Aang only didn't take them on vacations because he was busy rebuilding the world (you know, Avatar stuff), and then later when he did have time to play with Tenzin, maybe he thought the other kids were too old to tag along or something? I dunno, I see Aang as a caring and goofy, and yes maybe a little thoughtless, but not neglectful...Anyways, I hope they manage to get their feelings sorted out, or at least keep the important things in mind (like finding Ikki!).

@17: It's weird. My sister gets all the hidden references and is amused by them. I never get any of them until she points them out, and am slightly disturbed when I find out. I can't figure out if they're intentional or not...
Mordicai Knode
19. mordicai
16. LynMars
&
18. Nessa

Yeah, I totally agree. I think Aang is fallible & I think Kya & Bumi's hurt is real...but I also think there are plausible reasons why Aang behaved the way they remember. Like you said, yeah, another good point is that Aang was in the process of dealing with the fallout from 100 years of colonialism-- a hundred years of imperialism can mess stuff up, just ask Africa or the Middle East-- whereas when his youngest kid was born, Aang had probably put things like the Republic City Council in place to sort of soak up some of the work.

17. ChristopherLBennett

I didn't either, but considering that the bit with Ginger was pure code for "making 'adult entertainment' if you know what I mean," I don't discount the possibility...
Fenixmagic
20. BDG91
So is Korra just going to go through the exact same character arc as last season? Didn't she have some kind of spiritual break through at the end of the last season? Learned to trust Tenzin? I feel like all of that work is coming undone just to play up artifical drama.

Mako still the most boring character to come out of the Avatarverse, but at least he's not being an jerkhole this time round. Bolin is still horrible misused and Asami is, at the moment, under used. But seriously not really feeling the start of this season, hopefully it picks up in the next episode.
Fenixmagic
21. Jineapple
I'm still skeptical about LoK to be honest. I do like that they are trying a more mature approach while still being kids-friendly, but for me, it quite often falls short of really being serious about it.

Like last season, Amon definitely had a point, and I think that we by far haven't seen how much abuse non-benders would get if that was a real scenario. I mean, look at our world, how many racists and national supremacists we have - yet in our world humans are actually born equal. How much worse would it be, if there was actually a distinguishable criteria that makes a group superior (at least in force) over the other?

Anyway, they started exploring that with Amon, but then the Bloodbender-storyline came, Amon was exposed. He didn't really care about non-benders, was just out for his own goal, so that cast him as perfectly evil. Then, the obvious solution, he gets defeated, and everything was happy. This seasons, we get a few short lines about the president, everyone apparently cheering him, and...that's it? I desperately hope this theme will be visited again, but I'm not that sure.

I feel Unalaq is going the same way as Amon. There is some problem that really has a substance to it. Unalaq tries to fix it, but goes way over the top. So far it would be fine. But my fear is that we'll soon learn that Unalaq himself roused the spirits, opening the portals has some sinister purpose behind it etc...

They can still turn it around, but I'm skeptical.

Bolin-Eska (is there some shipping-contraction out there already? Boliska?) is definitely disturbing to me. Imho, the joke has gone a bit too far here, we're entering abuse territory. I hope there is more purpose to this than laughing at Bolin. Speaking of which, I'm still waiting for a redeeming quality which makes Bolin more than just a goof. Sokka was comic relief in TLA but he was also the strategist, the leader, the smart guy. Bolin is....nice I guess, and he is determined, but beyond that...?

And I'm hoping Korra gets a lot of character development...she's cool, but can also be very irritating when she just rushes at things without thinking about it and I'm not sure if I want to put up with that for another season or more...
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@21: "How much worse would it be, if there was actually a distinguishable criteria that makes a group superior (at least in force) over the other?"

Ask a woman. "Superior" isn't the word I'd use, of course, but women have to be constantly aware of the force advantage possessed by men.
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
21. Jineapple
&
22. ChristopherLBennett

Or white people & the force of authority bias, or rich people...
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@23: But I think Jineapple's point is that those kinds of inequalities are cultural constructs rather than something resulting from an intrinsic difference in physical power between two groups of people. A social order can be overturned so that the privileged race or class becomes the downtrodden one, but the physical advantage of males over females or benders over non-benders is a more fundamental one, something that can be compensated for by laws and customs promoting equality but not actually erased.

Although it's worth pointing out that males don't seem to have an advantage of strength in the Avatar world. On the whole, the females tend to be the most formidable fighters there. Although it does seem that the Southern Water Tribe c. 100 ASC only had male warriors, and Sokka had some chauvinistic preconceptions he had to outgrow.
Mordicai Knode
25. mordicai
24. ChristopherLBennett

We do see men tending to be "stronger," but with a compensation in more agile & weapon based martial arts for women. Mai & Ty Lee & the Kiyoshi Warriors are a mix of "hard" & "soft" martial arts but they do rely on precision & agility. I don't know where I'm going with this; I'm not disagreeing, & your clarification is on point.

We do see gendered warfare, & the Northern Water Tribe was pretty gender segregated; it is reasonable to think that the South might have had similar issues.

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