Closing Thoughts on Korra

The Legend of Korra has ended, and what a series of surprises! I have to say my favorite Books of Korra have to be One and Three. Amon was such a tragic and complex villain, and the peril inflicted on Korra by Amon and the Red Lotus really tested our heroine’s character.

—–1) But let’s take a closer look at Book Four‘s episode 8: Remembrances. This episode was more like a recap to prepare us for the finale stretch, but this was no filler episode. Some intense insight was to be seen:

KorraMakoWhen Mako and Prince Wu are sharing their stories with each other, Mako shares with us what he learned from his time with Korra, and then with Asami. The takeaway here is that when we date, we should be able to breakup without turning our girlfriend/boyfriend into an enemy. If the two do become enemies, then what was the relationship worth in the first place? Obviously then both were too immature and irresponsible with one another’s hearts. Now, this doesn’t mean the two cannot argue. Arguing is actually a healthy thing if the argument is over something extremely important! But it’s vital not to tear each other down in the argument, but to work together and find out the truth. Arguing should strengthen your relationship, not bomb it into oblivion.

But here’s the gem from Mako’s experience, when he says: “I had to figure out who I was without a lady in my life.” This is exactly why it’s so important for boys and young men to have good fathers and big brothers. Boys will stay boys if they don’t have a mature man to guide and challenge them. Boys will stay boys and really mess up their girlfriends if they don’t learn from their fathers how a women should be respected and honored. For Mako and Bolin, they grew up without a father or mother, so we can see now why it took them so long to mature, and to do it the hard way with much hurt and hurting others involved.

This is also a reason why seminarians focus so much on fraternity (the good kind, not the college frat-boy kind) and put dating on hold (either temporarily or permanently). We’re finding out who we are, so that we can better serve and sacrifice in whatever vocation God is calling us to. Because without this self-awareness, then we have no idea what our flaws and strengths are, and without this understanding we can never better or humble ourselves. Chastity and modesty are the virtues that help us achieve this. Men also need more time alone in prayer with God, without the distractions of dating (because dating should only happen after our relationship with God [Love itself] is on the right path — after all, how can you hope to love anyone if you don’t first know Love?). For more about this, please visit ChastityProject.com.

And there’s seemingly a throwaway line from Prince Wu: “I’m not strong like you, Mako! I can’t help being weak! I was born this way.” Yet, there he is, Prince Wu learning to toughen up under Mako’s training. It goes to show that yes, we are all born weak, illiterate, ignorant and with a bunch of other deficiencies, but does that mean we should stay that way? Heck no! And we see the Prince really mature as the season progresses.

—–2) And as for the series’ finale with episode 13: The Last Stand? A few things stuck out to me:

KorraSavesKuviraFirst, the whole series has been recurrent with self-sacrifice. We see this again, but this time Korra sacrifices herself to save an enemy (no one before Jesus ever taught us to do this!). Especially noteworthy is that it’s Kuvira’s own weapon that is going to kill her, until Korra steps in as a body shield. This analogy fits well with how Jesus took on our fallen nature and our sin (our own weapons, our own mess and selfishness was going to condemn and kill us) and died in our place.

KorraBrokenSecond, after both Korra and Kuvira are blasted into the Spirit World, Korra shares that she has finally realized that all the suffering she has gone through actually were blessings in disguise — without them she would not have matured and grown in wisdom, humility and compassion. Throughout the season, she was struggling to find meaning in her near-death experience and past trauma, and it was only after saving Kuvira that Korra understood. This is one reason why Christians believe suffering is permitted (not caused directly) by God, and that just because someone is suffering does not mean it is better for them to die, thus why euthanasia is morally evil (because murder is a sin, but suffering can be for our good as long as we suffer with Jesus).

Third, forgiveness of one’s enemies was found three times in this episode alone: when Asami forgives her father’s betrayals and deceptions, when Korra forgives Kuvira and saves her out of compassion, when Kuvira herself forgives Korra. Earlier in the season, we saw Korra forgive even Zaheer and accept his help! And it’s important to understand that forgiveness does not necessarily mean trusting the offending person again. It means you let go of the resentment you have for the person who hurt you and move on.

BONUS: the final scene of The Last Stand has most viewers interpreting it in a way that advocates for LGBT issues. All we see is Korra and Asami walking into the Spirit World hand-in-hand and turn to face one another. To me, this is more likely to be about the two becoming closer as sisters. We saw earlier how Mako and Bolin grew as brothers, but now we also see how Asami and Korra grew in their sisterhood. This is supported by the fact that the whole series moved from the romance between the friends in the beginning (Mako and Korra, Mako and Asami) to their love of one another as close siblings at the end. To see this love between Asami and Korra as romantic seems a far stretch to me, and is a sign of how lustful and perverse our society has become to see even this simple innocent gesture between them as sexual.AsamiKorra

Yet, even if our two leading ladies have same-sex attraction: all persons are called to love and to be loved, including those of us with same-sex attraction! And to have same-sex attraction itself is not sinful (despite what many Christians wrongly believe), but to act on that love in a sexual way is a sin, because love need not be sexual (if it needs to be sexual, then it ain’t love). In fact, sexual expression is only appropriate in a holy marriage between one man and one woman (not a marriage done for lust, for social gain, for politics and power, for money, for polygamy, etc.), because the marriage vows [of sacrificial love] help the husband and wife prevent sex from becoming lustful, abusive, perverted and harmful to their love. Catholic teaching pushes back against this culture’s lust and perversion with true love that is understood to be genuine and selfless, chaste and courageous. I hope to share more about this in a more in-depth post, but for now, please let me share these insightful videos and interviews of persons with same-sex attraction instead: The Third Way, and the Desire of the Everlasting Hills. And for more authentic and compassionate Catholic wisdom on this topic, please start here.

Well, that’s all I have for now about this latest Avatar series. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey it put me on, and I hope the best for the creators and cast of the Legend of Korra. Pray for them all!

For more about Korra on HolySmack, look here: The Avatar and the Pope and the Passion.

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The Avatar and the Pope and the Passion

KorraMy brother first introduced to me Avatar: the Last Airbender eight few years ago when it was still on TV. And since The Legend of Korra (LOK) started airing, I’ve been more and more surprised by how much goodness the two series has. Not only is the story tightly writ, but the characters also exhibit virtues (sacrifice, pro-family and pro-life) and the overcoming of struggle, as well as dealing constructively with the consequences of bad decisions. Both series are very mature, not merely for kids (in fact, there’s a lot that only mature viewers could grasp).

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to post about the LOK, and this weekend’s season finale really gave me no way to ignore posting. Here we go…

SPOILER ALERT

PopeFrancis     1) Though the show involves reincarnation,* the line of unbroken succession from Avatar Wan to Avatar Korra hints very much at the Catholic line of unbroken Apostolic succession from Saint Peter to Pope Francis.

This is especially interesting since though each avatar is carrying on the “spirit” of the past avatars, each avatar is still unique (which seems to go against true reincarnation)! Korra is not Aang is not Roku is not Kyoshi is not Kuruk is not etc. Just like how Francis is not Benedict XVI is not John Paul II is not John Paul I is not Paul VI is not John XXIII is not Pius XII is not etc.! Each pope continues the office of Bishop of Rome (aka: the Papacy) as an individual, just like how each avatar continues the office of Bridge between the Human and Spirit Worlds (did you know “Pontiff” [one of the Pope’s titles!] comes from the Latin Pontifex, which means “to make a bridge”).

And if this symbolism isn’t enough, it hit me recently that when a pope leaves office, the next pope is always a surprise choice! That’s the same with the avatar! Nobody knows who the next avatar will be, just like how nobody knows who the next pope will be. It’s all up to some unknown power (Holy Spirit!) working with the Conclave that determines the successor!

     2) Another point: at the end of the Legend of Korra’s first season, we see her being guided and nurtured by all the past avatars. This, to me, amazingly presented what we Catholics believe about the Magisterium and Church Tradition, in that all the saints and popes and bishops of the past have left us with a huge counsel that we can refer to in time of confusion regarding Church teachings. Their prayers, intercessions, writings are all available to the Church to help guide and nurture us! When I saw the army of past avatars backing up Korra in her darkest moment, I saw something very much like the Communion of Saints. It was beautiful, and we as Christians have that with us as the cloud of witnesses that St. Paul mentions in Hebrews 12:1.

[the Crucifixion of St. Andrew by Peter Howson]

[the Crucifixion of St. Andrew by Peter Howson]


     3) At the end of LOK’s third season (the 1st and 3rd seasons deal with very mature themes), I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There Korra was, willing to sacrifice herself to save an entire people (and the world). When she was bound, the Red Lotus (like the Pharisees) fixed her limbs into a CRUCIFORM. Yes, it was not an actual wooden cross, but the X-shape is exactly the same as how St. Andrew was crucified for his love of Christ. And not only that, but Korra struggled greatly to restrain her power; just like how Jesus refused to manifest his divinity and come down from the cross… Korra also refused to enter the Avatar State. She suffered on the X (which isn’t much different from a t), and her agony reminded me of the Passion of the Christ. Even the poison that the Red Lotus inflicted on Korra was symbolic: the venom was metal based, as the nails in the Crucifixion were metal based. The venom was applied onto Korra through her arms and legs, as were the nails were driven through Jesus’ wrists and feet.

Korra on the CrossAnd finally, when Korra fell under the effects of her crucifixion, her father holds her in a way that mimics the Pieta, when the Blessed Mother holds her Son. At Jesus’ death, the devil howls and laughs in victory (presumably), only then to discover that the Resurrection is God’s last laugh against sin/death/evil. The same happens in LOK: Zaheer laughs out loud (I refuse to type LOL, even though I just did), only to recoil in outrage and horror when Korra is revived after the extraction of the metal (poison/nails) from her body.

Here’s a big difference though: Korra is greatly wounded by the persecution, to the point of being restricted to a wheelchair. Exhaustion and sadness is obvious in her eyes. She won, but certainly looks defeated — not much different from a zombie. Contrast this with Jesus after His Resurrection! He is teleporting all over, visiting His loved ones, cooking breakfast for his apostles, taking hikes and roadtrips, even sharing stories and rising to Heaven! So obviously, Korra (and the other avatars) is not presented as a god in any way. She is mortal. Don’t get it twisted.

     4) And so, I look forward to what the writers (Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) of this series have in store for following seasons. They have not let me down these past nine years since 2005’s first series’ launch. May the Holy Spirit bless and inspire them to create greatness. I mean, they did hire the very Catholic Gene Yang (author of the Rosary Comic Book) to author the comic series that told the story of Zuko’s long-lost mother!

*a note regarding reincarnation: if it were truly real in the show (and in real life), then why bother trying to save others? It wouldn’t make a difference to save Korra, just let her pass on and return via another life (instead of having her continue to endure her present life through a broken spirit and body). Unless… unless it’s true that we are all unique and unrepeatable individuals who are worth saving at every effort. Unless… it’s actually more meaningful and more beautiful to believe that we all are special and have our own customized destinies. In short, I disbelieve the existence of reincarnation because it’s simply meaningless and not beautiful. Reincarnation shows me nothing but a vicious cycle of hopeless repetition. My Catholic Christian faith shows me that God is love, truth, beauty and goodness. Don’t mind me if I’d rather have faith in that.

**Lastly, considering the writers have already exhibited blood-bending (water), and breath-bending (air), I only wonder when bone-bending (earth/minerals) and brain-bending (electrical neural activity) will be manifest. I truly appreciate that they used these frightening prospects only to serve moral stories (and not mindless mayhem), and also have shown restraint in presenting these terrifying abuses of power.

For the HolySmack take on more of Korra, including the series finale, check here: Closing Thoughts on Korra