TV recommendation: The Legend of Korra

Here are some quotes from the latest episode of The Legend of Korra.  People familiar with the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997 will find familiarity in these phrases:

Korra: I understand why you brought your troops here, but I’m afraid it’s sending the wrong message.
Unalaq: Your father has been talking to you.
Korra: Not just him, Varrick too. There was a meeting at my parents’ house. A lot of Southerners feel like their tribe is being invaded.
Unalaq: I am their chief. I am uniting, not invading.

The People's Liberation Army entering Hong Kong for the first time in 1997.  For "unity", not invasion, of course.

The People’s Liberation Army entering Hong Kong for the first time in 1997. For “unity”, not invasion, of course.

Unalaq: As the Avatar you must remain neutral in this conflict. You will naturally want to help your people, but showing favoritism will not help our tribes find unity.

[Korra rides in as a fight is about to break out]
Korra: Stop!
Southerner: Tell these thugs to go back to the North. They’re not welcome here anymore!
Northern soldier: These Southerners need to stay in line!
Korra: Everyone calm down! You’re all part of the same tribe, start acting like it!
Southerner: You’re taking *their* side? We thought you were one of us!
Korra: I’m not taking anyone’s side!
[Korra gets hit by a snowball]
Korra: Hey!
Young Southern girl: You’re the worst Avatar ever!

Korra: Everyone’s trying to hold me back! Unalaq is the only one who believes in me.
Senna: That’s not true, Korra.
Korra: No? Then why is everyone in the South turning against me when all I’m trying to do is help them?
Senna: The problems between the North and the South started long before you were born! You can’t expect to undo them in a day.
Korra: So I should just sit back and let the water tribes go to war?

It is worth noting that after a long war, the Southern Water Tribe of the Legend of Korra series was completely decimated.  (Similarly, the population of Hong Kong had fallen from 1.6 million to 500,000 during the Japanese occupation, euphemistically called “the Three Years and Eight Months” by locals.)  Almost all the population of the Southern tribe are settlers from the north, much as in Hong Kong.  And yet, a unique Southern identity has emerged.  While Korra and the North talk about a singular Water Tribe, it is clear to everyone else in the South that there are two.  The series’ parallels to real-world politics has always been strong, and I have always loved it for that.

And I highly recommend it for everyone.  It’s for kids, but it’s not specially dumbed down for them either.  And they take their Asian culture seriously.  They have a martial arts consultant.  They have a Chinese calligraphy consultant, Dr. Lee Siu-Leung.  Of course, every fan of the series knows that the movie version was the worst case of whitewashing in history, but for the most part we pretend that movie doesn’t even exist.


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