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Analysis: The Legend of Korra

The Equalists' Character Alignment.

From the get-go, we, the audience know that Amon and the Equalists wants to rid Republic City (if not the entire world of Avatar) of benders. From a distance, one would see them clearly as a rogue group of villains who clearly want their ultimate goal fulfilled. However, there may be some legit points they raise.

There is a clear drift in social classes in Republic City, as the sudden appearance of Sparky Sparky Bush Man clearly indicates in the first episode. There are also Street Urchins like Skoochy that wander the streets of Republic City asking for money from strangers. There are sets of gangs who terrorizes civilians and actively participate in illegal activities, like bribery and extortion. The citizens in question would probably be pretty sick and tired of seeing benders impose their will in this manner, if they have not already have resentment about their powers. This is where Amon comes in. Here we have a charismatic guy with a passion in his voice that probably mirrors their complaints about benders. They look at him and say to themselves "Wow he's been through the same things we have" and they quickly find a connection with him that they can easily identify with and understand. The massive crowd that showed up at Amon's rally rectifies this. They see Amon as a Robin Hood-esque hero who tries everything in his power to help his fellow people. Of course, this could all be smoke and mirrors so Amon could replace the Avatar as a world hero that succeeded in riding the world of benders, so this all could be an elaborate ruse. So, this really depends on the viewer's interpretations.
  • Amon is intended to evoke comparisons to the Communists (and to a lesser extent, the various fascist movements of the 1920's).
  • Skoochy is actually an earthbender street urchin, according to the Welcome to Republic City flash game.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering Character Alignment stance (which is quite Grey, to say the least), the Equalists pretty much count as White villains, being fundamentally a Well-Intentioned Extremist organisation that fundamentally desires equality, only that they went too far and use methods like terrorism and stripping benders of their identity. Even from a practical stand point in regards to attack mechanics they are very White, preffering to incapacitate their foes above lenghty combat or killing.

Technology in Korra

In "The Legend of Korra's" parent series, Avatar: The Last Airbender there was already the seeds, if not the outright saplings, of Steam Punk technology. Much of the Avatar world was quite primitive, due to a combination of reliance on bending, a lack of resources and technological isolation. For example, the Water Tribes were able to build elaborate cities thanks to their control of water, but still relied on sail-boats. Travel in the Earth Kingdom seemed mostly Ostrich-Horse driven, with the occasional aid of Earth-Bending.

The Fire Nation, however, were far more technologically advanced. Fire powers and access to coal allowed them to develop a variety of steam based technology, everything from jet-skis to battle-ships. The war seemed to have spurred technological innovation, much as it did in the real world. However, in many ways technology was even more advanced than what we have today. For example, they were able to build a gigantic drill capable of burrowing into mountains, all powered by steam.

By the time Korra arrives in Republic City, seventy years have passed, so its expected some technological progress was to be made. Early auto-mobiles are just begining to become common place, mostly due to Hiroshi Sato, who like Henry Ford in the real world made them more accessible. People are often heard listening to the radio, and many of the mechanisms in the pro-bending ring seem driven by electrical power.

How feasible is this technological jump? Opinions vary. Gut instinct for many was to say it was too fast. However, a closer inspection shows the development of technology closely mirrors the real world. Imagine all the things we have created in the last 70 years; in the 1940s the ability to read this very text anywhere in the world on a device that allows you to store thousands of songs, read maps for almost every city and talk to people you've never met would have been ridiculous. Human innovation is a lot faster than many think.

To be specific, Korra takes place in an equivalent to our 1920s, as reflected in the fashions and music. Indeed, many of the technologies on display in Korra were already being used in this time period, and in some cased had existed for decades, such microphone and radio (first used in 1876 and 1873 respectively.) In fact, some people have even levied the criticism that technology in the show seems to have progressed more slowly than expected.

Whether the development was too slow or fast, no one can deny the creativity and ingenuity the show's technology shows off, thanks to the inclusion of bending into the world's tool-box. Earth and metal-bending allowed for taller buildings and better infrastructure. Fire Bending is used to weld, while the related lightning-bending can generate electricity (definitely cleaner than coal!). We can imagine that this is only the tip of the ice-berg. With something as versatile as the bending arts, one can imagine that its helped spur and aid industry in all sorts of ways.

Another question raised about The Legend of Korra's technology is whether or not it can truly be classified as Steam Punk. This was the way much of the advertising described the setting, and some of the art style does seem reminiscent of it, especially when we catch glimpses of the factories. Many have noted that actual steam power seems fairly scarce in the new series, as most things seemed powered by electricity. Also, Steam Punk as a genre is usually combined with Victorian England in terms of style, since that's where this technology was most prevalent in Real Life. Some might argue that the distinctive Asian stamp of the Avatar universe erodes a lot of the tropes and styles usually associated with true Steam Punk. Perhaps a better classification would be Diesel Punk, as the setting combines electricity, combustion engines and Magi Tech.

The Government of Republic City

It is ruled by a five member council with far reaching and so far totally unrestricted power that has been in authority for more than forty years. There may be some form of constitution, given mentions of due process, but if it has any authority over the council even Tenzin has failed to bring it up. Because of this a militant bender with a small amount of support can easily pass laws that severely restrict the lives of non-benders that make up an unknown but large portion of the city's population. Tenzin's protest appeared to be the only defense non-benders had against the sudden change in laws.

No explanation has been offered as to how council members rise to power. Given that they are apparently representatives of their various nations it is extraordinarily unlikely for them to have been elected by the people of the city. There is no guarantee they had even seen Republic City before being handed absolute power to control it. In this case, the people of Republic City have no control over who forms this unchecked council.

The government appears to have functioned better in the past, with its degeneration beginning around the time of Avatar Aang's death seventeen year before the start of the series.

After Book 1 it seems that the council has disbanded and put in their stead a democracy headed by a president. It is clear that while all benders despised the equalists, the council members understood enough that the circumstances that lead to the rise of the equalists were really bad for non-benders and they needed fair representation.
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