The Legend of Korra is an anime, action, fantasy, steam punk comic drama series. Unlike live action film, it is difficult to understand who is the author of an animation. In live action film, the author is considered the director. Animation is a more collaborative process with a long list of creatives which tends to diversify the form. The Legend of Korra series is created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino who are also writers along with Bryan Konietzko and Tim Hedrick. The credits routinely list 4 directors and too many to count artist and voices. Blending of themes and form of production is an attribute reflected within this particular series.
Avatar: The Legend of Ang (The Last Air Bender) which aired 2005-2008 was the forerunner of the Korra series. Many who started watching Avatar Ang are now in their twenties and remain devotees of the realm. The resurgence of a complex fantasy genre, expanded beyond the play of young children, may speak more about reality than the make believe worlds in constructs.
Korra appeals to people who are, or want to be, cross cultural. Fantasy is the activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable. Fantasy is also closely linked to play. There seems to be a need for the play in creativity both in art and science. In order for the human mind to develop properly we know that children require play. In the past, children were less exposed to the harsh details of the “real world,” making it easier to figure out. The importance of play in the past may have been confined to developmental ages 2 to 10 years. However, the inundation of more complex exposures, ending childhood earlier, seem to have required more complex and prolonged play… I’m just sayin’. There is a resurgence of detailed fantasy story-lines in animation and in literature over the past twenty years.
The Legend of Korra unfolds in a mythical world, at once futuristic and merging of ancient Asia, Inuit, and steam punk visuals. Characters are heterogeneous, including animals, spirits and human beings. The series deals with war and conflict. The strength to change conflict is dependent on diversity, the ability to be or do more than one thing. This is contrary to reality, which often focuses on singularity as a major attributes. In The Legend of Korra, Bison’s fly, people cross between worlds of spirit, human and the elements. Humans of this universe have psychokinetic capacity to merge with and animate the major elements, fire, water, earth and air.
Avatar Korra is a 17 year old girl, not male as is often more common in the fantasy genre. Girls and women have significant representation during critical points in the series. In Hindu, ‘Avatar’ loosely translates as an “incarnation of a higher being.” There is only one Avatar on the earth at a time. Avatars are reincarnations of other Avatars. The power to psychokinetically bend (or move) all 4 major elements, Air, Fire, Water and Earth is the defining characteristic of an Avatar. They differ from other “benders” in the universe who generally only can move one of the elements, the one from the similarly named kingdom from which the person derives. It is this synergistic bending of all elements, which empowers Avatar Korra to potential resolve universal conflicts and promote harmony.
These Avatars differ from standard Super Heroes, say, of the Marvel or DC universe in other ways. Avatars are born children, not converted by science or tragedy. Avatars are well cared for by their families and communities, who are obligated to help them grow into their identities. Unlike Superman or Batman, they generally are not orphans, loners or hidden behind alternate identities. To learn to bend all 4 elements, Avatars must be trained by mentors. The most complex and cerebrally taxing bending is that of Air. In a real world, were children and adults are essentially latch key kids, the appeal of this fantasy is understandable. Korra is in training to bend air as the series opens. Villains are those who manipulate the elements for purposes other than peaceful.
Persons born after 1985, are often referred to as the millennial generation, generation Y, or the fantasy generation. They watch screens for entertainment, information and socialization on a variety of devices. Screen narratives are currently watched at will and repetitively during much of their conscious lives. Television broadcast times are not retro but made archaic by technological access transcending confines of time and geography. Eighty-three percent of adults in the USA have cell phones, 35% of which are smart phones. Those who are Black and Latino reflect trends of higher usage and using their phones as their major source of Internet access and “watching.” This watching places people in realms other than realism continuously and simultaneous with the dwelling in the “real world.” That is to say technology allows parallel universes in the mind.
There was a time in history where real dead people were not shown on screens amidst real wars. It may be that, reality is overrated in the minds development.” We still do not fully understand the positive power of immediate escape into fantasy on screen, but we do understand that it is important in early childhood. In this time, when the evolution of brain capacity is being vastly accelerated, in ways which most schools are not designed to accommodate, one could argue that the current digital leap parallels speaking, counting and writing in its importance. It may be protective from the barrage of non-fantasy life dependent on the narrative line.
The task of Bioethicists is to seek the knowledge to understand the ‘good’ of screen fantasy because it is delivered by a ubiquitous technology. Its appeal well into generations of adulthood parallels unprecedented pressure to make sense painful realities. The question is how does screen fantasy improve coping for this generation? There must be a reason why so many are driven to “watch,” and particularly watch animation, and create it.
The Legend of Korra blends humans with natural elements in the way that the born from Manga anime Ghost in a Shell creates cyborgs. The series minimalist sophistication indicates the need for more thought about the meanings of repetitive viewing and stimulation by animation. To do that, Bioethicist should consider watching viewing trends in The Legend of Korra.
The Legend of Korra (television series) created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino ( 2012 – current) Nickelodeon Animation (33 episode: 24 minutes.)
Williams, S. book review. Bioethics at the Movies by Sandra Shapshay. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry September 2010, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 329-331
Ford, Paul J. in Bioethics at the Movie’s Existential Enhancement in Ghost in the Shell in Bioethics at the Movies by Sandra Shapshay. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
Special thanks to Curd Williams-Hertz for flagging the Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Legend of Ang and the quote,” reality is over rated,” see curdwilliams-hertz.com