Musings on Avatar

With the Legend of Korra on Netflix, I’ve re-watched the entire Avatar animated series twice now during quarantine. For a show aimed at kids, the two series are known to be surprisingly deep both in character development (the strength of the original series) and conflicts (where Korra really shines). Here are some incoherent thoughts that have been swirling inside my head:

  1. With the use of lightning benders as power generators in Korra, one wonders what sort of physical laws govern the Avatar universe. It is mentioned that radio and EMF exist in the universe alongside internal combustion energy. The more interesting question to me is the issue of conservation of energy, and if so, where does the extra energy from lightning and lava benders come from? One possible clue to this is answered in Korra with the Kuvira plot line.

    It turns out that spirit vines contains vast amount of energy which can be harnessed in the physical world, akin to the strong nuclear force in our world. Furthermore, the powers of a bender seems to be distinctly tied to the spirit world: the first benders were given the power by Lion Turtles through energy bending and the avatar’s powers are amplified by the spirit Raava. So if a sort of conservation law were to exist for bending, it must be that the benders are channeling additional energy from the spirit realm. Could it be that this is why there was animosity amongst the spirits and humans initially? And could the energy somehow be filtering back towards the spirit realm through the portals?

  2. Korra touches on a lot of topics that occurred in the real world during the 20th century. One wonders how the avatar and friends would handle a pandemic. Whole episodes can probably be written about this.

    Ideas include: it’s all airbender conspiracy that’s killing people, Future industries is secretly sabotaging the republic by poisoning the radio, the spirits are actively killing people because *insert any arbitrary reason*

  3. In the Avatar universe, there’s no such thing as equality among races. Water benders definitively cannot fire bend and vice versa. Similarly, it’s also implied that genetics play a huge role in the power level of a bender: the stronger your parents were, the stronger you likely will be. I suspect this is part of the reason why the royals of the water tribe and fire nation was so strong in their bending (this begs the fact why the earth kingdom’s monarchy was so inept at the time of the show).

    Therefore, the great man theory should be the prevailing theory in that universe’s history. The level of change one single powerful bender can have over local events is huge. Need to conquer an opposing village? Just send your strong bender and wipe them out. And let’s not even talk about the overwhelming power the avatar wields. It’s a world where being born without any bending skills means a life closed off from many jobs and employment. Honestly, this is one of the reasons why being born in the avatar universe seems miserable at times.

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