Like the rest of the internet, I have now seen the trailer for the new Jem and the Holograms movie. It looks like a painfully cliched made-for-TV band flick written to reassure its young audience that they’d hate being rich and famous. As to how it compares to the original cartoon, I can’t say.
I’ve never watched it.
I KNOW, RIGHT??? I love 80’s pop culture, 80’s pop music, cartoons, and over-the-top pink girly glitter, and my name is a gem, so Jem and the Holograms seems like it should be an obvious win for me. I don’t remember ever being aware of it when it was on originally. I saw commercials for the dolls, but I thought they were knockoffs of Barbie and the Rockers. I’ve known for awhile that Jem is on Netflix and that there’s a new movie in the works, but haven’t taken the time to check it out.
Welcome to my obligatory year-in-review post! As of the precise moment in time that I’m writing this post, these were my 10 most-viewed posts of 2014. A couple of these, including #1, weren’t even written this year. It’s encouraging to know that my posts have staying power, considering I usually write about pop culture and internet culture, which can be particularly fickle. Continue reading “My Top 10 Posts of 2014”→
Okay, so. If you’ve been anywhere near Tumblr this weekend, you know that the infamous Korra/Mako/Asami triangle was resolved with Korra being on friendly terms with her ex-boyfriend Mako and…going off on a romantic vacation with his ex-girlfriend, Asami. #Korrasami is canon. The Legend of Korra ended the same way as The Last Airbender – the Avatar gets the girl. Or the girl gets the Avatar. Or something. However you want to put it, The Legend of Korra began with teenage Korra in love with a boy and ended with adult Korra in love with a woman.
There are enough bloggers talking about what a great thing this is for bi representation. All I’ll say on that is ZOMG THIS IS AWESOME FOR BI REPRESENTATION!!!! But beyond that, what really struck me about the way The Legend of Korra ended is that it gave us the story that How I Met Your Mother promised and didn’t deliver. Korra finds True Love, loses True Love for completely legitimate reasons, regains a genuine friendship with her ex-True Love, and finds True Love again in the end. Like I said in my review of the How I Met Your Mother finale, you almost never see this in television. Either the first love turns out to not really be love, or the first love is the only possible TRUE love and you can never really get over them or be as in love with someone else.
The Legend of Korra didn’t go either of these predictable routes. Korra was undeniably in love with Mako in the first season. In her own words, she felt like they were meant for each other. And, because I dearly love Korra and want her to have everything she wants, I was completely on-board the Good Ship Makorra. (Seriously, after the Season 2 finale, I was playing “Set Fire To The Rain” on a loop.)
Then Season 3 started. Cue post-breakup awkwardness with Mako. But through the awkwardness, it never went into “I never want to see you again” territory on one hand or “I’m secretly trying to get back together with you because I could never possibly love anyone else” territory on the other. And meanwhile, here’s Asami displaying no lingering feelings for Mako whatsoever and flirting up a storm with Korra, and Korra seeming remarkably okay with that. Season 3 ended with all three points of this forgotten triangle totally single and in no hurry (or condition, in Korra’s case) to change that.
Season 4 revealed that Korra, Mako, and Asami had all been single for the three years between seasons. Mako and Korra affirm to other people that, by the end of Season 3, they’d come to think of each other as friends. In the finale, they affirm this to each other. They share a beautiful scene near the end as two people who sincerely respect and care for each other. But neither one moves toward making their relationship more than that, and I, a die-hard Makorra shipper for the first two seasons, didn’t sense regret on either side.
Then, in a scene mirroring Avatar Aang’s happy ending with his future wife Katara, Avatar Korra gets her happy ending taking the hands and gazing into the eyes of her second True Love. Balance has been restored. A children’s show has given us one of the most mature, adult romantic storylines in modern television. That beauteous rarity known as an emotionally satisfying series finale has been achieved. All is right with the world.
In my opinion, The Legend of Korra succeeded where How I Met Your Mother failed because Korra‘s showrunners could acknowledge that their characters had evolved beyond their original vision. The first season of The Legend of Korra was supposed to be a stand-alone miniseries, so obviously Korra and Mako were originally meant to be together. But, like Ted and Robin, Korra and Mako evolved. Barney Stinson and Asami Sato evolved, too (man, I never thought I would name those characters in the same sentence). I applaud the Avatar creators for letting Korra’s new relationship with Asami follow this path. Seeing these two walk off into the sunset together was, in Korra’s words, “perfect.”
But, hey, who the hell is Su Jin Beifong’s father?
The trailer for Book 3 of The Legend of Korra has been viewed about 1,140,000 times, which means people other than me have viewed it about 140,000 times.
The Legend of Korra was my introduction to the Avatar franchise. I watched The Last Airbender after Book 2 ended last fall because I missed my Korra fix. I loved Aang and his story, too. Aang is as different from Korra as humanly possible, and the two shows have very different feels to them, so I can understand why some people who fell in love with Avatar Aang and his team first aren’t huge Korra fans. But Korra was my first love, and I can’t wait to see more of her and her team. Here, in no particular order of favoritism, are ten things I love about The Legend of Korra.
10. LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG
I had virtually no knowledge of The Last Airbender when I started watching The Legend of Korra, so I didn’t meet Lin as Toph Beifong’s daughter. Her awesomeness was all her own and not a matter of legacy. I couldn’t remember her name at first, so I just called her Lady Magneto in my head. She quickly became one of my favorite things about the show. Really, how many shows have you seen with a middle-aged gray-haired female action hero? Where her age and grayness weren’t played for laughs or irony? Lin got even cooler for me when I did watch The Last Airbender and Toph became my favorite member of the Gaang. This video is, imo, the perfect summary of the Beifong legacy:
9. MOAR GROWNUPS
I like it when kids’ stories are well-populated with an active, non-useless adult generation. Lin, as I mentioned above, is clearly middle-aged and drawn with unambiguously gray hair. The Avatar wiki gives her age as 50 in the first book and 51 in the second. She’s far from the only one. Tenzin, Korra’s Airbender mentor, is the same age as Lin. His older brother and sister, Bumi and Kya, get a lot of screen time in Book 2. Their family issues take up almost as much of the story as the actual Avatar’s arc. Also earning plenty of screen time is Pema, Tenzin’s wife and the mother of his four children. Even Korra’s own parents are key players in Book 2. Yes, you read that right – there is such a thing as a fantasy protagonist with two living parents!
8. ASAMI SATO
Asami is the resident muggle on Team Avatar, and she’s a very conventionally attractive and conventionally feminine girl. It would’ve been really easy to write her as weak and shallow to make Korra look stronger and more authentic by contrast. Instead, Asami is intelligent and courageous. We quickly see that she’s someone Korra can learn a lot from, and not in a cliched “Girly girl gives the tomboy a makeover” way. Asami is a valuable asset to Team Avatar and eventual friend to the Avatar herself.
7. LOVE TRIANGLES THAT DON’T COMPLETELY SUCK
Love triangles are pretty case-by-case for me. Sometimes I find them entertaining, and other times I’m like, “Why? Just…why???” I have to admit, it could be argued that this story didn’t need love triangles at all. But accepting the fact that they are a big part of this series, I think they’re handled really well. Like I said above, Asami, Korra’s “rival” for Mako’s affections, isn’t portrayed as weak or shallow in contrast to Korra. I put “rival” in quotes because for a long time Asami didn’t even know Korra had asked Mako out, and she and Korra get along reasonably well considering Korra’s secretly in love with Asami’s boyfriend who may be in love with Korra. Or with Asami also. (Mako’s an idiot. I didn’t say it was a perfect love triangle. 😛 ) You sympathize with both girls and want to see them both get a happy ending.
This is all foreshadowed when Korra confides her feelings about Mako to Pema, Tenzin’s wife. Pema encourages Korra to go for it and tell Mako how she feels. She recalls that, when she fell in love with Tenzin, he was interested in someone else, but that she made a move because she couldn’t stand the thought of him being with “the wrong woman.” Pema is a likable character. She and Tenzin obviously have a happy marriage. I took her words at face value, interpreted the scene as an older woman empowering a younger one, and was interested to see how her advice would serve Korra.
Then it turns out that “the wrong woman” was LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG. Who evidently never found anyone else. The story gives no easy answers as to who “deserves” to “win” their love interest. No matter how things are resolved, someone will have every reason and every right to be hurt, and someone else will have every reason and every right to have made the choice that hurt them. And young impressionable viewers will learn the valuable life lesson that love effin’ sucks.
6. THE AIRBENDER KIDS
Okay, so, something a bit lighter. Tenzin and Pema have three little airbenders. Meelo has all of Grandpa Aang’s boyish exuberance and Great-Uncle Sokka’s goofy sense of humor. Ikki is the Keeper of the Baby Sky Bison, and if you don’t think Blueberry Spicehead is best bison, we’re not friends. Jinora…Jinora is everything. EVERYTHING. The next spinoff could easily be Legend of Jinora. Rohan, the baby born in Book 1, is predicted to be an airbender, but personally I think it’d be interesting to see what happens if he can bend some other element, or if he isn’t a bender at all. Time will tell.
5. PRO BENDING
I love everything about this. I love that, in this universe, superheroes have turned their superpowers into a competitive sport. I love Korra, Mako, and Bolin as a team (when they are functioning as a team). I love that Korra can learn bending best in the context of a dangerous, high-stakes game. I love the old-timey radio announcer. And I love the Fire Ferrets’ mascot.
4. THE CHANGING WORLD
Even without having watched The Last Airbender, I could tell that Korra’s story took place in a world that had seen a lot of change over the last century. Benders, once the saviors, had come to be regarded with suspicion and fear. A world once strongly divided along nations and races had overcome these barriers only to create new ones, namely benders vs non-benders. After watching The Last Airbender, I could appreciate even more how different the political landscape was in the two series. I think my favorite change, though, is the progression of technology. It’s like The Last Airbender is around the mid-19th century, and The Legend of Korra is circa World War I.
3. ESKA AND HER FEEBLE TURTLEDUCK
I am a horrible person.
2. “WHEN WE HIT OUR LOWEST POINT, WE ARE OPEN TO THE GREATEST CHANGE.”
This line is really insightful and thought-provoking to me because, in my observation, it’s usually true. Though not necessarily in a good way. The biggest changes in my life were usually the results of decisions that were made at someone’s lowest point. Sometimes they were my decisions. Sometimes they were decisions made by my parents or by other people with direct influence on my pre-adult life. There’s something about being at that low point that makes you open to a level of change you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Sometimes those changes aren’t good, and you find that it is in fact possible to reach an even lower point. But other times you look inside yourself and find a power you’d never quite been able to tap into before, and you finally make that change that lets you save yourself and become what you were meant to be. At least, that’s how it worked for Korra.
You guys, I freakin’ love Korra! Yes, she’s a hothead. Yes, the writers were playing ping-pong with her mental state for most of Book 2. Yes, she’s Not Aang. But having “met” Korra without the weight of Aang’s shadow, I saw her as an engaging, entertaining, likable, and believable 17-year-old girl. She wants to do the right thing and solve all the problems of the world even though she doesn’t always know how. She wants to excel at her calling even though she doesn’t always have the patience to learn the skills that don’t come naturally to her and polish the ones that do. She does excel at bending and fighting and has since she was a toddler. Her arrogance and brashness hint at years of knowing very few people skilled enough to teach her. Once she knows what she wants, she goes after it right away. She has a joy and enthusiasm that you don’t see in a lot of contemporary YA heroines. She is fire. She is earth. She is water. At last, she is air.
I’ve been watching Sailor Moon on Hulu for the last few weeks. I didn’t get into this franchise until I was an adult, but it’s still nostalgic to me in a way because it’s such a blatant celebration of female adolescence. Usagi Tsukino is the personification of the 14-year-old psyche. All the ups and downs, the joys and tears, the insecurity and the arrogance, are worn boldly on her sailor suit sleeve.
And for most of the first series, at least, Usagi’s main role as Sailor Moon is the defender of female adolescence. She fights demons who prey on typical teenage desires like finding love, shopping for beautiful jewelry, having a cute cuddly pet to play with, slimming down and toning up at the gym, becoming famous, and getting perfect grades to get into a top university.
My favorite thing about these battles? Sailor Moon never blames the victims.
She always puts the blame exactly where it belongs: on the evildoers who exploit these completely normal desires. You won’t hear her chastising girls for caring about their appearance, daydreaming about boys, or chasing fame and fortune. She unequivocally tells THE VILLAINS that they’re in the wrong for creating a world where it’s unsafe for young girls to pursue these desires.
Then she brings the beatdown even though she’s so clueless about fighting that she needs a talking cat to walk her through every step. And a masked man in a tuxedo to create a distraction by throwing a ninja star rose and pithy one-liner. I don’t even mind it when Usagi can’t win her fights without a male character’s help, because Tuxedo Mask’s snarky interruptions still emphatically affirm Sailor Moon’s message. That, if the world isn’t safe for teenage girls, it’s not teenage girls’ fault. That youth isn’t a weakness. That femininity isn’t a weakness. That heroism sometimes throws roses and wears an opera cape.
Or maybe even a pretty sailor suit.
Want to watch Sailor Moon with some awesome nerds and (internet connection permitting) me? Join #SailorMoonLiveTweet hosted by @BlackGirlGeeks at 7pm/6pm Central on Mondays!
Let me be very up-front about this: I am reviewing Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe for the same reason I was compelled to watch it in the first place, that being the presence of a character named Amethyst.
My interest was further piqued when I found out creator Rebecca Sugar worked on Adventure Time and had written the episode “Simon & Marcy”. She’s also the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network.
In the limited observation of a very-early-30-something with no actual kids, kids’ cartoons seem to be pretty gender-targeted. Not to say there isn’t some crossover in fandom (bronies, anyone?), but usually you can watch a cartoon for about 5 seconds and figure out whether it’s targeted at boys or girls. Steven Universe clearly and effectively targets both. Watch the opening theme here:
Nothing about it screams “Boy aisle!” or “Girl aisle!” but it doesn’t try to be devoid of gender, either. It’s at once boyish and girly. The color palette is a pleasant medium between primaries and pastels.
So, how about the show itself? Steven Universe (Universe really is his last name) has taken his late mother’s place in a group of intergalactic superheroes called the Crystal Gems. The surviving Gems – Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl – are like aunts to Steven, teaching him how to use the powers of the gemstone he inherited from his mother, Rose Quartz. He also gets help from his flakey but caring human father, former indie rocker Greg Universe.
What really makes this show fun to watch is the sense of familial affection that permeates it. Rebecca Sugar named the title character after her younger brother, who does background art for the show. I totally see my 10-year-old nephew in Steven. I see a little of myself in all of the Crystal Gems. Garnet’s decisive confidence. Pearl’s cool-headed logic. Amethyst’s unapologetic lack of damns to give. And her name. Her beautiful, fabulous, awesome name.
Most of the shows I watch on Cartoon Network are either outright made for adults (anything on Adult Swim), or ostensibly made for kids but catered to a significant teen and adult fanbase (Adventure Time). Steven Universe does feel like it’s being written primarily for kids. But it’s written well for kids. Which also makes it enjoyable for adults, if you’re the kind of adult who goes to Pixar movies unaccompanied by a child. Will I watch it? Not in its actual time slot, where it competes with Bones and How I Met Your Mother. I will, however, catch up on it online when I feel like watching a quirky, endearing cartoon featuring a superheroine named Amethyst.