I have no problem admitting that I am a 20-something-year-old woman who enjoyed watching all three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender (with a special love for Book 3: Fire), and am now watching it’s sequel/spin-off, Legend of Korra. Now, while the first two seasons of Korra — Book 1: Air and Book 2: Spirits respectively — didn’t fully meet my expectations of the franchise, I must say that this latest season, Book 3: Change, is shaping up to be amazing. Now it’s no secret how excited I was for this season. I spent almost an hour breaking down the EPIC trailer that was released, chock-full of bending goodness. But the last few episodes Korra‘s latest season, just made me realize how awesome this franchise is, when it introduced for the second time, a person with a disability accomplishing amazing feats. For those of you completely unfamiliar with the show, during Season 2 of Avatar (Book 2: Earth), we met a young bender (or person who can manipulate an element at will) named Toph Bei Fong. Not only is Toph probably the youngest member of the group we’d later call “Team Avatar”, but she’s also blind — and quiet possibly one of the greatest earth benders of her time. So how is Toph able to bend without seeing? Using her feet as well as her heightened senses. Like bats who use echolocation, Toph uses her feet to essentially feel vibrations that ultimately create images of her surroundings. Quite frankly, it’s an amazing thing to watch (even if it’s only a cartoon).
Just to prove how much Toph can do in spite of her disability, the young girl becomes the first metal bender, when she’s able to manipulate the tiny refined particles of earth while trapped in a steel box.
Fast-forward to Korra Season 3 and we’re introduced to Ming-Hua. Though this gal is a villain, it doesn’t negate the fact that as double-amputee, she’s able to bend water with the best of them. Using water as an extension of her own body, this woman is able to do just about anything and is essentially dubbed one of the four deadliest benders alive.
Take a look at how a woman — again with NO arms — essentially breaks out her female villain compadre, P’Li with minimal help from the menfolk.
Like most people, the first time I saw Ming-Hua, I thought her water tendrils were just an extension of her arms, much like how Katara would manipulate water into large tendrils when engaged in battle, but that’s entirely not the case.
So where am I going with this?
Well, for starters, you can argue that the creators of Avatar and Legend of Korra, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are not afraid of putting strong female characters in their cartoons, who all have an incredible sense of self and purpose. In Avatar, we met (good guys) Katara, Suki, (bad guys) Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai — all immensely talented in their own fighting styles with the ability to take care of themselves without the help of men (or boys). This time around, we have the likes of Korra, a female Avatar (bender tasked with keeping peace and the ability to bend all four elements), Asami, a non-bender and owner of a technological industry, and Lin Bei Fong, Toph’s ball-busting, metal-bending daughter. And in the band of villains, we have P’Li aka Combustion Woman (so dubbed because she can fire bend with her mind as a previous Avatar baddy). It’s also means that Michael and Bryan aren’t afraid to represent people of the world who refuse to allow their “differences” slow them down. Toph, whose parents treated her like a bird in a gilded cage, grows up to be Chief of Police, (who metal bend to enforce order). She also has two children (by two different lovers, by the way), and later in life decides to see the world… obviously with her feet. And even though she’s a villain, Ming-Hua’s impressive skills as a water bender can’t be denied and she’s so good at what she does, she had to be contained in a high-security prison away from her element (which she’s broken out of). As it stands, we’re still learning about Ming-Hua, and I can only imagine her back story will be colorful and amazing because let’s face it, we’ve never seen a bender bend at this capacity without the use of their hands (aside from Combustion Man and now Combustion Woman). Not only is this overall franchise showing that girls and young women can do just about anything, it’s showing females (and even the male population too) that you can do it, even if you’re blind or missing a limb or two. Are you a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra? Chat it out in the comments or let’s talk about it on Twitter