Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Legend of Korra

I recently ranted about how much I hated the portrayal of Cheetara in the new Thundercats. I then reviewed Thundercats and called it the best action/adventure cartoon in some time. One of the big differences between it at Avatar, which I thought was technically better in most respects, was that there was very little sense of danger in Avatar, since Nickelodeon's ridiculous requirements mandated no violence. Thus, no one ever died. The show even made fun of itself after a character kinda'-sorta' dies, but they never address it. That was the creators giving a somewhat playful middle finger to Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon has since reformed and is desperately trying to attract boys, a demographic that they essentially abandoned to Cartoon Network, by proving that they too have characters that punch each other.

This creative freedom appears to be in the new Avatar, where even the trailer to the show is more violent that the entirety of the original Avatar. I hope that this translates into a greater sense of danger and drama than the limp-dicked elements of the first series.

But while the original Avatar paled in comparison to the drama of the new Thundercats, it positively mopped the floor with it when it comes to representing female characters.

In Thundercats, Cheetara, who is one of two major female character thus far, is a strong, powerful character who does much to save the day. She is also constructed like a post-Photoshop Playboy model and dresses accordingly. Thundercats imported one of the worst elements of comic book-dom: females are valued as much for what they say and do as for how they look.

Compare this to Avatar: The Last Airbender, where fully half the cast were dynamic, visually distinct females. They are never portrayed in a vulgar, sexualized way. They are portrayed just as the males are portrayed.

The Legend of Korra appears to be putting an even more powerful female front and center. Her body is still attractive, incredibly fit, and feminine, but it is also realistic and not blatantly exploitative. It's excellent.

All that said, I'm not against sexual exploitation. I've never had problems with Playboy, or porn, or general sexual portrayals of both men and women. We are sexual and it's entirely reasonable to celebrate that sexuality in imagery.

My problem is with cultural norms that sexualize women to the detriment of other attributes. There is a persistent theme of women not being valuable unless they are attractive, regardless of what else they might be able to do. In comics, and in Thundercats, this is taken to an extreme with wildly overt, exaggerated, near-comical sexualization.

If we're just selling sex to men, as with porn, that's fine. But with cartoons like this, we're selling a collection of values to highly impressionable kids. We should be selling them aspirational ideals. Ideals of being physically healthy, honorable, strong: these are great things! But continuing to pump our boys and girls full of overt, sex-based valuations for women does us all harm.

Moreover, I think that it is bad business! How many girls are watching the new Thundercats? If Warner Corp's stated demographics are to be believed, it's not many. Compare this to Avatar, which has a gargantuan female following. Opening night, The Last Airbender (**shudder**) at my location was 50/50, with more women dressed up in costumes than men. Of the two other showings that I have knowledge, both had about as many women and men. An inaccurate sampling, to be sure, but it must have some truth.

I'm unable to find the actual demographics, which I suspect skewed slightly male. But what Avatar showed is that if creators legitimately try to attract females, the profits are significant. The Last Airbender was an awful film, and the reviews showed that, yet it still made money. I seriously doubt that those profits would have happened if not for the large female turn-out.

So kudos to the creators of Avatar for being both business savvy and not so blinded by their erections as to create a thoughtful, realistic female form.


  1. I've already submitted a comment on cheetara for pending on another post cba to reiterate. However I don't agree etc. in fact one thing that is irritating is the assumption that only unattractive females have personality which most people make. You can't portray cartoon women as electrically as real life, you're not going to please everyone. I like the fact cheetara is sexy it shows sexy in a positive light as opposed to sexy women are shallow and useless and only good for sex till you marry someone plain blah blah.

    Anyway my point I wanted to make is this, it wasn't until I became a stripper I started to identify as a feminist although I believe women should choose whatever path they want, I realised views on the sex industry are very generalised. Either all porn stripping etc. is dirty horrible and degrading or people think it's fab. Actually I don't think it's that simple. For example escorts I would say are up to the woman and I have no issue with their existence, but street walking needs looking into and regulating or something as so many people are forced into it.

    You say here you're fine with porn. I'm fine with mainstream porn I have issue with fetish porn, personally believe it should be only contributed to by amateur porn stars couples who actually enjoy it. The porn industry is rife with women being misled into acts they're not comfortable with, or pretty much ignored when they're begging for them to stop (for real not the acting ones) maybe you should search mya manson.

    You really would do well to focus on ACTUAL issues that harm women than whether young girls might emulate the figure of a cartoon cheetah (hence the extremely narrow waist and big chest, uhmm like a cheetah). Instead of proclaiming you're fine with the porn without looking into it. all men and women need porn/erotica/escorts/strippers to indulge in fantasy with how those women are treated once they join that industry by their employers and society is a different matter.

  2. Roxanne,

    Thanks for the comments. I think that many of your issues are stemming from inferring things that I didn't mean to imply.

    Firstly, I have never, and did not imply in these posts, that only unattractive women have personalities. I'm arguing the opposite is true in comic books and, now, this cartoon; female characters are only valuable if, on top of everything that they do, they are also attractive.

    I also think that you are projecting a real female persona onto Cheetara. If she was a real person doing real things, I would have ZERO problems. Anyone can do anything that they want to make themselves happy. My problem is that Cheetara is the creation of a bunch of guys who are projecting their sexual values into a story meant for kids.

    I'm well aware of the abuses in the porn industry, some so widespread that it's actually kind of shocking. I had never heard of Maya Mason before, though, and even the description of what happened to her was disturbing.

    What I was referring to was that porn is philosophically fine. Cheetara is philosophically fine. But this is meant for children who are already growing up in a twisted environment. That is what is damaging. That is why I see this as something that is an actual issue that does actual harm.


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