The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Quit.


This is a show I want to like. Really. I really do. "Book One" had problems, but the scales didn't tip for me, the good outweighed the bad. But Book Two so far... well.

Korra… she’s just a completely unlikable idiot who never learns a damn thing. The little girl who called her "the worst Avatar ever" got applause from me. I almost think the show would be more interesting if she was evolving into the primary antagonist, a corrupt and dangerous Avatar who the world needs to band together to take down. But they won't do that.

I don’t like Bolin. He’s not funny, he’s just stupid. Bolin is asking Mako of all people for advice on how to cleanly end a relationship in a way nobody gets hurt. And all the attempts at humor with him make me cringe. Sokka was funny, but there was way more to him than that.

Mako is, at best, horribly bland and at worst a complete abomination of a character. Oh yeah, and Mako referred to Asami as a blood sucking leech. You know, the girl who sacrificed everything for him. I reiterate this… bland at his best, a complete abomination of a character at his worst. Please kill him! Please! But they won't. In fact, the creators spent half of the entire audio commentary for the first season defending/justifying Mako and behaving as if his critics didn't know what they were talking about. The last time I saw that kind of defense in a commentary was about Sofia Coppola's performance in "The Godfather Part III"

I like everyone else on “Legend of Korra”, but these three are the leads… and for a show I desperately want to enjoy, they are sinking the ship for me.

And while I like the new locale and the new characters, I hate that we’re pretending the Equalist uprising never happened, sweeping it under the rug. It was a nuanced plot that should have had consequences, regardless of whether or not Amon was a fraud or not. But nope, out of sight, out of mind… no dealing with aftermath. Barely even a mention.

Tenzin is a great character. So are the members of his family. Lin? Awesome. Even Korra's parents are good, as were Amon and Tarlokk. There's a lot of good in this show. So why am I quitting? Because this is easily one of the most frustrating shows I've watched in a long time. I know they are capable of better. The supporting cast is wonderful. But I don't like the three main characters at all. This isn't like a Michael Bay film where I know it's going to make me angry, it's dead on arrival anyway. This could be spectacular, should be spectacular. I don't think it is. It actually breaks my heart. I originally said I would give it the entire season, and I might be lured back in due to my wanting to like it. But, for now, I'm not going to go out of my way to watch it. I doubt I'm going to miss it.

And yet, despite all this, I still root for it's success. Because I want action cartoons to be seen as profitable. My prediction is people will claim that the low ratings it's now receiving is because the lead is a lady and then we'll never get it again. They say that every time a comic movie with a lady tanked...no matter how awful it is. You never hear that with "Jonah Hex" or "Lone Ranger". 

41 comments:

  1. This was my attitude towards LoK for the most part.

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  2. What's next for action cartoons? Beware the Batman? No toyline, no commercials or advertising, and a lousy airing schedule. Sound familiar?

    TMNT? It's already getting three seasons and a strong toyline. Though I honestly don't care about it and find it annoyingly overrated.

    Let's not even touch Marvel's stuff.

    I guess we've got Weisman and Filoni's new Star Wars cartoon and that's about it. Kinda sad.

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    1. I heard Beware the Batman is mediocre at best anyway.

      I prefer the 2003 TMNT series.

      Yeah, "Rebels" seems to be it. Well, like I said before... the pendulum swung. It has before, and like before it'll swing back. Who knows when, though.

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    2. "Beware the Batman" has been really good so far in my opinion, and Greg Weisman has also said it's awesome on Ask Greg. I especially like Katana.

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    3. Katana has a great personality. Not stiff at all. I find that too often an Asian female warrior is given no characterization beyond being an Asian female warrior. So far they've avoided any such cliches.

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    4. Beware the Batman's alright. A nice little show, but it doesn't feel like they're trying to be much more than a Batman show. There's no pushing the envelope. The ongoing plot and characters move at the snail's pace too. There's nothing really bad about it, there's just nothing that great about it either. But I can still watch it every week and enjoy it, unlike the current Marvel shows.

      Korra is... I don't know. I want to love it but Mako and Bolin are horrible; their character’s are just "the love interest" and "the comic relief". I don't hate Korra that much, but it does feel like the writers called a do-over for her character and some plot points from season 1. Asami is the best character on the show and I don't know why they can make her so great but fuck up with the three main leads so much.

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    5. Agreed. I don't think this is the time and place to try to sell "Beware The Batman" to anyone, and no one's saying it isn't a good show. Just not great.

      Disagreed that Asami is the best character on the show: that honor clearly goes to Tenzin. Asami has her problems too, like how she hasn't done nearly enough to fix her situation, and if she has, we haven't seen it.

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  3. 1. "I don’t like Bolin. He’s not funny, he’s just stupid. Bolin is asking Mako of all people for advice on how to cleanly end a relationship in a way nobody gets hurt. And all the attempts at humor with him make me cringe. Sokka was funny, but there was way more to him than that."

    Not to mention that:
    A. Sokka did some jerk moves warranting some crap treatment.
    B. The jokes weren't always based on laughing at him.

    2. Also, maybe it's just me, but it seems like Bryke more or less tried to retconned Mako and Asami's break up. When they sum it up, they leave out the whole two-timing bit to make it seem like he broke things off honorably.

    And while I considering my assumption faulty, I feel Civil Wars, Part 1 makes it official.

    3. "And while I like the new locale and the new characters, I hate that we’re pretending the Equalist uprising never happened, sweeping it under the rug. It was a nuanced plot that should have had consequences, regardless of whether or not Amon was a fraud or not."

    Also, I'd think that with the establishment of Korra's ability to rebend everyone, we could get an interesting story on her deciding whether to err on the side of mercy (restore everyone's bending and hope she doesn't regret it) or err on the side of caution (denying criminals or gangs their bending ability to limit their potential as a threat).

    But why give us boring crap like that in an episode when they can give the answer in an interview:

    http://family-room.ew.com/2013/09/13/legend-of-korra-season-2-burning-questions/

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  4. Disappointing. Looking at Korra here in book 2, you have an Avatar trying to play peacemaker and deal with what looks to be a spiritual crisis. This from the very same character who, by her own admission, had been more inclined to start a fight and who had more trouble with grasping the spiritual aspect of being the Avatar. Yet somehow all the critical crowd takes away from this is "she's a jerk!" and "she isn't learning anything!" and "she hasn't changed at all!" This is unreasonable and I predict book 2 will make all this sound very foolish by the time it's all done. If anything, her strongest weakness lies in her self-confidence, considering how she gets frustrated and / or questions whether she can live up to the job in both book 1 and book 2.

    Heck, forget the end of the book, look at the end of episode 3. In the prior week critics were all bent out of shape over her being angry with her dad (never mind that he kept a major secret from her for years). But here she ultimately makes up with her folks, and Tonraq rightly apologizes for his part too.

    This is someone trying to do what's right and live up to her duty, not a petulant brat.

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    1. And I would be more patient with her and the show except for, and I admit this has less to do with her...

      Mako and Bolin need to go. They need to be killed, written off, put on a bus. Whatever. They are awful. Awful enough to get me to stop watching the show.

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    2. Except that she's started off this story as a petulant brat with no friends and no care for anybody but herself and her duty as the Avatar, which she seems to think revolves all around wielding power and fighting with it. If the critical crowd is crying "she's a jerk!", "she isn't learning anything!", and "she hasn't changed at all!", it's because that's what comes off on screen. It's the objective truth about her character. I do agree that this story has the potential to change her, but right now it seems like we're supposed to find her unlikable and disagreeable. And that's what ultimately separates her character from Mako. When Korra's despicable, it's meant to be seen as such. When Mako's despicable, it gets brushed off as him being a "typical teenage boy."

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    3. You know Eric, the fact that you and I have entirely opposite views about this should tell you that your assessment of Korra is something besides "objective" and incontrovertible truth.

      What's in the 1st 3 episodes of book 2 is, IMO, genuine conflict and not one-sided idiocy. It's also odd to me you would cite Korra's lack of friends at the start as a reflection on her. You forget she was secluded in the south pole prior to book 1, which was a significant part of her discontent in the present.

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    4. What's on-screen shows Korra being a angry, self-entitled brat. Even if conflicted, she's been unwilling to really make an effort to get better and learn the spiritual way to approach things she can't punch into submission.

      And it IS a reflection on her. She had Tenzin, his family, Lin, Bolin, Mako, and Asami all behind her in Book One. She threw them all away except for one. It's not her fault she grew up the way she did, but the way she handles herself now totally is her fault.

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    5. Frustrated maybe, but not angry. Seriously, show me the the blind aggression in Civil War part 1. It doesn't exist. I don't know what to say to this, except that I think you're fundamentally misreading this thing. I suppose and hope time will further illuminate things.

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    6. She showed improvement in Civil War part 1, but that doesn't whitewash her behavior before that, and the fact that she still seems at a loss at how to handle her problems without resorting to violence. She TRIES for sure, but she will never succeed until she truly connects with the spiritual aspect of being the Avatar.

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  5. I understand why you feel this way, but I'm still willing to give Book 2 a chance due to a few things.

    I feel it's obvious that Korra is being set up to finally learn something and spiritually improve as the Avatar. In the post-premiere trailer, we see that she goes back to wearing her regular outfit (I think her darker new one is symbolic in that way), reconciles with Tenzin, takes spiritual lessons with Jinora, and when she states "I am the Avatar", it's not with pride: it sounds almost broken. So I think that, like Zuko in early Book 3, we're meant to dislike her until she moves away from "potential antagonist" territory.

    Bolin's been said to be getting some actual development later on, along with the currently MIA Asami. But considering the source, I'm not sure how much I trust this.

    Mako...ugh. Agreed on everything. And the fact that the Equalist uprising got swept under the rug because they had no clue how to actually end it in a way that made sense. Amon getting outed as a fraud should have made the hate for benders even WORSE, and dissolving the council to elect a nonbender president isn't going to magically make everything go away.

    I did an entry on my feelings on LoK too, y'know. And also one about the story with Yakone and his sons, which I felt was the best part of the show so far.

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    1. "I understand why you feel this way, but I'm still willing to give Book 2 a chance due to a few things."

      I'm threw, because, quite frankly, I don't want to be one of those people who complains about a show and yet keeps watching it every week.

      "Bolin's been said to be getting some actual development later on, along with the currently MIA Asami. But considering the source, I'm not sure how much I trust this."

      The source is the same two people who spent half of an entire audio commentary for a 12 episode show belittling people who (correctly) don't like Mako. And still... fuck Bolin, too. Awful.

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    2. Then can't you be one of those people who watches a show every week but keeps quiet about it 'til all is said and done? xD

      My thoughts exactly. They also promised that the Equalist plot would be nuanced and morally ambiguous. And yet by the end, that conflict was reduced to a battle of good against evil, with the Equalists being less nuanced than the Fire Nation. And Bolin is awful. Alot of people like him and sympathize with him, but really, he deserves what he's getting from Eska if all he can do is whine like a baby about it.

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    3. "Then can't you be one of those people who watches a show every week but keeps quiet about it 'til all is said and done? xD"

      Nah, I'd rather spend that half hour more productively. And wow, the comments on this are coming faster than I can approve 'em. I wish my blog post about "Much Ado About Nothing" received this kind of attention.

      "And Bolin is awful. Alot of people like him and sympathize with him, but really, he deserves what he's getting from Eska if all he can do is whine like a baby about it."

      DING! DING! DING! DING!

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    4. OK then. If you do hear word that it's gotten better, would you revisit it?

      I'm really only still with it because I cling on to the hope that it catches the "Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated" syndrome. Where the first half of the first season was a waste of potential and filled with badly written shipping melodrama, but the second half made the show get steadily better. And then by the second season - HOLY CRAP!!!

      Wow, do I get a prize? Yeah seriously, if Bolin can't man the fuck up and can only go crying to his jackass big brother and the half-baked Avatar about his current woes, then fuck him.

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    5. "OK then. If you do hear word that it's gotten better, would you revisit it?"

      I said I would in the original entry. But I might be back next week... my brother is currently working very hard to get me to be more patient with it. He and I usually see eye-to-eye on most things; so there's a good chance he'll succeed.

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    6. Maybe. But it'd be best to check back into it only after some episodes have passed.

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  6. I know this can't be helped as much, but I think another problem with the show is this current season is that it's simply lacking the sheer antagonistic BADASS factor that Amon/Noatak provided. And as you mention, his revolution holds no consequences now, which is an insult to such a fantastic villain. If anything, being exposed as a fraud should have made the conflict he was taking advantage of WORSE.

    And oh God, Mako....some have defended him by saying he called a relationship a leech, not Asami. The problem is that the leech comment is still clearly in reference to his relationship WITH Asami, as is the whole "just gotta tell her you're not that into her anymore", and he's so despicably CASUAL about it, showing no regards for how Asami felt when the "leech" got pulled off, and showing no hints that he cherished or misses any part of the relationship with her. Even when a relationship doesn't work out, you can't just brush it aside so unemotionally! Hasn't this assclown seen "Annie Hall"?

    Also, if Michael DiMartino did NOT mean for this to come off as hypocritical, then I've officially lost all respect for him, because that would mean he can't even remember his own writing: Mako DIDN'T break up with her and "tell her he's just not that into her anymore", he strung her along and avoided sorting out their relationship problems all while cheating on her with Korra, until SHE justifiably broke it off with HIM.

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    1. Between this and the Avatar Dark Horse comics, which Bryke are heavily involved with, I'm beginning to think the original show was a fluke. Lots of artists are one-hit wonders.

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    2. Like I have said before, I think head writer Aaron Ehasz was the true mastermind behind the original show's greatness, Mike and Bryan are good creators but not good writers at all, and they might have very well succumbed to the Shyamalan syndrome (ironically enough) where the success of their first hit makes them think they are immune to criticism and that their finished product is flawless by default. Such a sad waste.

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    3. That could be it. This show needs some Aaron Ehasz.

      Oh, and Matt, I read your blog. I love this rant:

      "To name a character Mako after the deceased portrayer of Uncle Iroh is a very sweet move on the part of the shows' creators. Sadly, it all backfires when said character ends up being their worst! Mako is a boring, unlikable douchebag whose potential to be interesting is ignored in favor of bullshit romantic plotlines, where he does stuff like cheat on his girlfriend and hurt his own little brother and never take responsibility for it, and yet ends up getting everything he could possibly want without consequence! He's portrayed as too much of a badass for his own good; even the villains sing his praises! And every other character usually ends up out-of-character or looking bad to make him look good, especially main character Korra! That Bryke insists on defending this guy is an outrage and only further proves what a Creator's Pet he is. And until Mako is stopped, the show he's in will suffer"

      Yeah....

      "It's such almost a shame to take the bending from someone so talented. Almost." ... Oh my god, Amon wants to suck Mako's dick, too!

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    4. And that line was a follow-up to "You're the FIRST person to EVER get the best of me like that." Seriously!? A lifetime of hard work and training to master bloodbending, and the first one to break free and land a hit on Noatak is a punk Firebender kid from the streets turned professional athlete? That's like if Azula pre-mental breakdown was given a run for her money by Haru! It makes NO SENSE!

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    5. Sadly, Aaron seems to be out of reach these days. He will be missed. Especially with a franchise that's gone downhill after the original show ended. First James Cameron, then M. Night, then Gene Yang, and ultimately Mike and Bryan themselves. They've all contributed to running this franchise into the ground.

      Oh yeah, I found it so incredibly offensive that Amon would talk Mako up like that. It was so out-of-character for him. Before the line about Mako being talented, he'd also openly expressed how impressed he was that Mako was "THE FIRST PERSON to ever get the better of me like that." It was clearly Bryke's way of telling the audience that Mako is a cool guy worthy of being the Avatar's love interest. That is not a service to their worst character, and is a flat out disservice to one of their best.

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    6. "Mike and Bryan are good creators but not good writers at all"

      They rely on way too many deux ex machinas for my tastes.

      "That's like if Azula pre-mental breakdown was given a run for her money by Haru! It makes NO SENSE!"

      Thank you! Mako is their Mary Sue, I am convinced of this.

      "It was clearly Bryke's way of telling the audience that Mako is a cool guy worthy of being the Avatar's love interest. That is not a service to their worst character, and is a flat out disservice to one of their best."

      Totally.

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    7. You want deux ex machina? In their series bible, they were going to have Aang learn firebending by watching Fire Lord Ozai doing it during their final battle! Kind of like how they had Korra conveniently learn airbending during her final battle with Amon.

      That said, I will always say that the Lion Turtle and energybending was not a deux ex machina, but rather a representation of "meditating 'til you find a solution" during a time of crisis, and the only way the conflict could have been ended nonviolently. Aang's Avatar State returning due to a sharp rock to the back, though? TOTAL deus ex machina!

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  7. Here's the difference, the original show actually had a team of writers besides these 2 creator guys...

    The Legend of Korra on the other hand is just written by these 2 guys.

    It was arrogance on their part to think they did not need to hire any other writers, and that's probably why this show isn't as good.

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  8. All episodes were written by Bryke in Book One, but Book Two has some other writers on board, though Bryke still wrote the main story since they had conceived it back when "Korra" had begun, but decided it was too big for Book One. We must also remember that Book Two was produced at the time Book One was airing, so it's unlikely that it will address any of the flaws that the writers didn't hear the criticism for when they wrote this one. I have hope that the second season (Books 3 and 4) are an improvement over this one.

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  9. I think the first three episodes of season 2 have still been firmly in the "good outweighing the bad" category (and I don't think Mako's leech remark was quite as bad as you make it out to be), though I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand any of your gripes. I think a large amount of the show's problems stem from the fact that each season has to be only about half the length of the ATLA seasons, which I imagine is one of the reasons for the smaller writing team and probably the rushed plotlines and resolutions. I can imagine a twenty-one episode version of LoK's book 1 being a true masterpiece among American action-cartoons, but alas...

    What confuses me is that Nickelodeon DOES have enough faith in the series to have already commissioned seasons 3 and 4, but at the same time they don't have enough faith to just allow them to make twenty-episode seasons like the original show had. What gives? Is this a quantity over quality sort of thing? Most other contemporary cartoons seem to have seasons consisting of about twenty episodes, so it really makes no sense to me.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with shorter seasons. The first season of "Gargoyles" had only thirteen episodes and it was great. Both seasons of "Spectacular Spider-Man" had thirteen episodes and they were great.

      It's all about how you pace them.

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    2. I'm afraid I can't respect the episode limit. As even a short story can still be better than what we got. Case in point:

      1. Watchmen (Theatrical Cut): Hey if Bryke can compared TLoK to Game of Thrones, I reserve the right to use Watchmen to debunk the 12 episodes reason.

      Mind you I'd recommend the Director's Cut and more importantly the original comic, but I'm going for the shortest version possible. That said here's what Watchmen had to do in it's time:

      A. Introducing and focusing on it's main cast.

      B. Establishing how costumed crimefighters are/were viewed.

      C. Setting up the story.

      D. Even has a bit of a love triangle.

      And the movie in it's first distribution is less than half the length of Book One.

      Yet even with the better cut of the movie and the TPB, I can at least enjoy this movie a lot more than I do with TLoK so far.

      But if a more fair comparison is needed...

      2. Gargoyles "Awakening": 5 episodes which had to:

      A. Establish the clan.

      B. Building up the Gargoyles Universe as far as Scotland 994, and Manhattan 1994 goes (as well as both sets of characters for both time periods).

      C. Details on the gargoyles species.

      D. Goliath's arc in regaining some trust in humanity.

      Yeah, the show got even better with later episodes and the comics, but on it's own it's a satisfying piece which doesn't leave really any bad feelings. And as with Watchmen, it's half the length of TLoK Book One.

      "What gives? Is this a quantity over quality sort of thing?"

      Frankly I find that to be Book One's problem. They were more concerned about doing a lot of cool things regardless whether they would work as is, rather than trimming the fat for a more focused story.

      For one thing, take the triangle out and Asami could still enter the story as Korra's gal pal.

      Heck, take Mako out. Anything big he did could be assigned to another person (Like have Tenzin being the one to show concern over Korra in Episode 9, as well as having the trigger for Korra's Airbending beiing to save the Airbending family).

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    3. No argument there, you certainly CAN tell a good story in this amount of episodes as others have proven, but the writers were clearly attempting to tell a story of the same scope and size as they did in Avatar. And not the kind they would have told in just one season of Avatar, but a story that honestly probably could have been a multiple-season series all on its own. In that sense, I feel they just bit more off than they could chew and ended up with a rather uneven season because of it.

      Of course, this isn't really excuse for the show's misfires. You got to make the best of what you have, and I think that's where the first season failed.

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  10. I watched the first three episodes and the whole time, I kept tuning out whenever Korra and company appeared on the screen, and tuned back in when Tenzin and his family showed up. They're just infinitely more interesting than Korra. Not only is she not interesting, but she's a bitch. I lost count of all the times she stormed off in the middle of a conversation, said she was sorry, and then did it again. Mako's a big zero with no established personality and Bolin is just annoying. The show should be about Tenzin and his family, in my opinion.

    I like the twins, though. They're funny.

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  11. In my case, I'm just going to look at this season from beginning to end and see how things will go.

    I actually don't mind Korra's attitude as she is under pressure and is of course, a teenager-so, of course she'll be easily misled. Although that being said, Mako and Bolin don't in particular interest me. It's very evident the writers are trying to way too hard with him.

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  12. And on the topic of how electing a nonbender as President is suppose to make things go away, aside from the stupidity of having this offscreen, isn't that like saying that black people are no longers discriminated against just because Obama was elected President?

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    1. I don't think that's an apples / apples comparison actually. There was in fact a legitimate issue with the council, which reflected the balance of the four nations but also lacked a "normal" person's perspective. The Democratic route gives every Republic citizen an equal voice in how they're governed, bender or not, which is fair and makes sense for a country that brings all peoples together in one land. That's significant, and it would be so whether the general public had elected a bender or a non-bender. The outcome is satisfactory if the goal is actual "equality" and not "bring down the benders", which is what the Equalists were REALLY going for when you get right down to it.

      I'm personally very careful about taking equalist propaganda for granted. Some folks are too kind when it comes to them. I know there were tensions, I know there is economic inequality in Republic City - as there is in every real-life metropolitan city. I do not know that this is all simply the fault of a "bending establishment" actively trying to keep normal people down (by the way, if that's true, what of the success of Future Industries and Cabbage Corp?).

      Of course, Tarrlock was unfortunately provoked into cracking down on normal folks in his draconian efforts to quell the Equalist uprising. But a key thing to remember is that episode title "When Extremes Meet". I don't look at the Equalists and see well-intentioned people. This was a faction that scapegoated a class of people and aspired to hunt them down just for being who they were, regardless of whether the bender had done anything wrong or not. These were fanatics.

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  13. I'm curious as to what exactly was said in the commentary about Mako.

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