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So. Avatar: Legend of Korra politics came up once again

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  • #46
    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
    You also don't see things like how much a country had proto-democratic values/ideals before a democratic government was formed vs. not.
    Even in cases where there is a widely stated and culturally familiar perception of democracy such as the United States (which did exercise such things in colonial governments and inherited them from Britain), you can have cases where expansion of the franchise and other factors lead to severe corruption. Actual democratic values and ideals did not prevent the existence of Tammany Hall, the process of having men with lots of facial hair lose beard and moustache in sequence that they could vote three times.


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
    Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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    • #47
      Considering only a few people could vote I don’t see if it counts as “democratic” in modern sense. Also Asami’s father Hiroshi Sato hates Benders cause a bender killed his wife. That’s not how discrimination works.

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      • #48
        I think it could be of interest if, instead of focusing solely on the unavoidable problems that changing a political system entails, one focuses also on another factor - a factor that's very core to populisms of all stripes (democratic or not. Note: Populism isn't inherently un-democratic, albeit Equalist take certainly is): Identity

        A)The United Republic it's an ex-colony of the Fire Nation in Earth Nation territory, that was forced into this multicultural independant place after the war.

        B)Nationality in Avatar it's strongly related with bending and the rule of benders. It's in the names of the nations, but also in the way they organize their lives. Most of the "technology" of the nations depends on the nation's respective element (ice/water manipulation in the frozen poles, the ways walls and lifts opperate in Earth cities, even the metalurgy of the fire nation - albeit that last one it's the least dependant on magic.). The "way of life" in the core of the realms strongly suggests benders are better

        You can also see how the armies of each nation are almost entirely composed of benders of the nation's element. Only after the world get's way off balance you start seeing "mixed" forces. The place of nonbenders in society it's more doubtful, and with few exceptions they're most likely to be victims in any conflict between nations

        SO:

        My perception it's that Amon's rethoric was about convincing the people that the undeniable innate advantages of benders are unjust, and the world would be better if nobody had them. But this focuses more on present social issues than eugenics:

        Benders are called to be unfit to rule because they're responsable of the recent war - or so Amon says. He gains the sympathy of nonbenders by saying he was disfigured by a Fire Nation soldier - considering point A), I would think the peeople of Republic City had a lot of suffering in the hands of Fire Nation soldiers (and/or ex-soldiers turned bandits?)

        I think we could infer Equalist are people that are far too tired of being brutalized by benders. Bender criminals are just a quick, perhaps not too good, example. Hiroshi Sato's story most likely it's far from an isolated case. And now they feel they can do something about it.

        I would say the political changes provided most of the material conditions: A much less dominant bender caste (compared with that of the traditional Nations), a nonbender population that most likely suffered the war at hands of bender soldiers, a mixture of ethnicities weakening nationalist feelings that could legitimate the rule of benders...
        Republic City's "multiculturalism" provided the perfect place for nonbenders to reject any previous identities related to the old nations and the old order, in favor of a new identity that's also based on bending, but in a negative way (as in, not having it).

        Add now a new Avatar that's still learning, and thus isn't as powerful as Aang was (and that has some serious problems of attitude, that very much fall into the stereotypes Equalists are preaching: She's violent and uses her status as "bender among benders", so to speak, to disrespect the law).

        Amon gave voice to the grievances, added the terrorist ninjas and self-defense technology to empower nonbenders into taking action, and used religion coupled with unique powers to legitimate himself as the absolute leader

        Of course, this is mostly speculation. I think it would be interesting if this was actually more present *in* the show. But then, time can be tyranical - the show it's short, and it's about Korra, so I think one can't really ask for many explicit details.
        Last edited by Aleph; 05-07-2021, 12:56 PM.

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        • #49
          Originally posted by Konradleijon View Post
          Considering only a few people could vote I don’t see if it counts as “democratic” in modern sense.
          What's the context of this comment?

          Also Asami’s father Hiroshi Sato hates Benders cause a bender killed his wife. That’s not how discrimination works.
          It's not how discrimination works, but it is a psychology frequently seen in bigotry. It requires a preexisting prejudice, but esp. among people that are in the upper classes of society, there's a tendency to focus on personal trauma caused by a member of their targeted other (as if it couldn't have happened by someone in a different group) to attempt to justify the idea that it is a black and white case of victim vs. oppressor and not have to examine their own actions. Hiroshi could have chosen to use his power to push for social change that would have addressed the needs of the non-Bender community instead of choosing to act on a persecution complex.

          Originally posted by Aleph View Post
          I think it could be of interest if, instead of focusing solely on the unavoidable problems that changing a political system entails, one focuses also on another factor - a factor that's very core to populisms of all stripes (democratic or not. Note: Populism isn't inherently un-democratic, albeit Equalist take certainly is): Identity
          Agreed!

          A)The United Republic it's an ex-colony of the Fire Nation in Earth Nation territory, that was forced into this multicultural independant place after the war.
          I think there's a matter of how perspectives change over time. The narrative (though we only get it through a biased source) presented in the show is that in the aftermath of the 100 year war, the Republic was massively lauded by the general populace. The Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom were both amenable to ceding the city, and Aang's involvement as the Avatar who brought peace to the world gave it large scale popularity as a way to preserve that peace.

          It's only in the next generation(s) that the shiny glimmer of idealism starts to tarnish in the face of reality. The downsides start to seem larger as the initial fervor for the good sides diminishes, and increasing cultural exchange doesn't magically resolve lingering social resentments (both the Bender vs. non-Bender issue, and post-war trauma issues).

          You can also see how the armies of each nation are almost entirely composed of benders of the nation's element. Only after the world get's way off balance you start seeing "mixed" forces.
          I think the large point is spot on, but this one is overstated. The front-line soldiers of the Fire and Earth armies are shown as all Benders, but we see non-Benders in other military roles; esp. espionage and special operations because Bending is really flashy and doesn't really help much when stealth and subterfuge are important mission parameters. Training non-Benders in chi-blocking anti-Bending techniques isn't really something that's going to be useful for a traditional battlefield soldier. It's great for dealing with a small patrol of Benders, or assassinating a Bender general if you need to engage them in a fight.

          The Water Tribes are generally shown as having a more integrated military. Some of that is the Fire Nation specifically targeting Water Benders, but the Water Tribes are generally presented as having a better grasp of building a culture of mutuality between Benders and non-Benders. Though it's pretty easy to say this backs up the larger point anyway.

          My perception it's that Amon's rethoric was about convincing the people that the undeniable innate advantages of benders are unjust, and the world would be better if nobody had them. But this focuses more on present social issues than eugenics:
          Yes? I mean, this feels pretty much straight from the show to me. The only reason why there's hints of eugenics in Amon's rhetoric is because Bending is a semi-inherited thing (it's not strictly genetic, but that's not really something that's ever stopped eugenicists before). You can't really talk about getting rid of Bending no matter how much you want to focus on the social inequity, without having to address the in-born talent nature of Bending.

          Of course, this is mostly speculation. I think it would be interesting if this was actually more present *in* the show. But then, time can be tyranical - the show it's short, and it's about Korra, so I think one can't really ask for many explicit details.
          I think a lot of this is in the show, even if not given a lot of focus. Though Kuvira voices a lot of this in her ultranationalist fascist (yes, she's definitely a fascist, but no she's not a Nazi, she's way more in-line with Franco than Hitler) populist rhetoric. After Kuvira throws a military coup of the Earth Nation with the queen assassinated, and then uses that military to bring all the local governments into her control, the Republic is a necessary target for her. It's "rightfully" Earth property and she's been purging non-Earth citizens from Earth territory, the Republic is protecting the heir to the throne and thus the only legitimate threat to her control of the country, she has to justify that massive military that's the source of her power with something more than roving bandits, and the Republic is the key source of alliance between the other three Nations and if it goes away the other Nations lose legitimacy to interfere with internal Earth matters.

          Fascist propaganda need to touch on things present in the populace. So her ability to get people behind her against the threat of the Republic means there needs to be lingering resentments towards the Republic and how it formed.

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          • #50
            So the first season of Korra’s allegory could be seen as how facism starts from one individual to a group that has tell know never been discriminated against. And once he’s proven as a fraud facism goes away,

            Or how communists want to cut of out let’s because it’s unfair to the legless. Either way the allegory doesn’t work

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            • #51
              Or the allegory is to neither of those things, and it works just fine as an allegory about how easily people can be riled up by populist rhetoric, but that populism alone isn't really a sustainable movement. And that checks out just fine.

              Fascism and Communism are not definition lacking terms that just mean whatever's convenient to score political points by applying labels. Amon never positions himself as either. He's not a nationalist which is an essential component of Fascism, and he's never shown as giving a shit about changing the class dynamics of society by changing how control over production is handled which is an essential component of Communism.

              How are we on page 4 and still beating this horse?

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              • #52
                In my opinion I think part of the issue is Legend of Korra doesnt really give the social issues it wants to explore time to breathe. I mean the show's structure really doesnt lend itself to to complex political idea's. Last airbender had about 3 seasons to go through what it wanted to go through, to compare "Katara has deep underlying issues with her mothers murder" has at least 1 episode and a lot of screen time in other episodes and that's a minor plot point wereas Book 1: air has to establish setting, Characters and arc in 12 episodes. It's going to struggle to really struggle with something as complex as a setting were intrinsic talents are so extreme would naturally lean towards Technocratic hierarchies and that's before we explore the meta issue that Legand of Korra relies on the projection of Western historical cultural trends onto an fantasy asian setting.
                The question for me isnt what themes Korra wants to explore it's if it explores them effectively enough to even be recognized which from this discussion i personally don't think it did.
                Last edited by Ragged Robin; 08-18-2021, 06:39 AM.

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                • #53
                  I think the only flaw in the conclusion is that neiter ATLA or LoK are shows about politics. They're shows about personal conflicts set within a larger world that acknowledges how politics frames personal conflicts.

                  The primary themes of LoK aren't the dangers of populism or the difficulty of finding a way to transition to better governmental structures. LoK wanted a more complicated political backdrop than "Fire Nation imperialism needs to be stopped," so Korra's emotional struggles would be less clear cut than Aang's struggle to balance his pacifist inclinations with no way to stop the Fire Nation without violence.

                  The political themes of LoK don't have time to breathe and get muddled because they're secondary or tertiary themes.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                    I think the only flaw in the conclusion is that neiter ATLA or LoK are shows about politics. They're shows about personal conflicts set within a larger world that acknowledges how politics frames personal conflicts.
                    I don't think LoA and LoK are very comparable in that regards. In both cases the main conficts are arguably personal for most of the time, but I think Korra takes politics a step further from a tertiary theme to a very important secondary theme

                    Fire Lord and his "henchmen" seem like the classic "I'm evil 'n want to conquer/destroy the world" type more than those of any real world imperialists, but that's OK because politics trully aren't important in the show and you're supposed to not give more than half a tought about them. Hence nobody cares. They're super filmsy if you do.

                    Compared to that, LoK villans always proselitize about what they do, and why they do it (why it is "good") - almost in every chapter. Like: Amon has a "party", pampleths, tries to convince people, tries to establish a new goverment...

                    ...compare that with AtlA glossing over how the Fire Nation does things to such an extent you even missed that they were very much colonizers (with all and the pretended ideal of "civilizing" the world) in spite of watching them trough 4 full seasons instead of just one, and that some of it bleeded into LoK lore. Trully, the show focuses a LOT more on the destruction, and the "divine salvation" that the avatar represents, than in the political structures and the actions of the people.

                    Many of Korra's personal conflicts are in relation to the political role of the Avatar. From the first chapter when she believes to be above the law, to the last I saw where her symbolic place (more than her "magic power level") seems to be a problem for Zaheer's Anarch agenda

                    Compare that with Aang's never questioned role in mantaning the status quo of the 4 nations, that's always treated as a net positive (In fact, isn't IT questioned in LoK? The way republic city was founded seems to be a problem for Kuvira, isn't it? I don't think Aang "freeing stuff", so to speak, was ever mentioned as a political problem before. Well, it was a problem for the direct antagonists but it was never explained as a political problem with a reasoning behind that could rally people towards helping the antagonists).

                    Heck, for a "pacifist", Aang seems to solve many, many, problems by figthing. But that's ok to me, after all, he's a martial artist And the show it's *about that*. Note how everything it's solved at the moment the Fire Lord and his daugther get their asses handled to them in duels Of course, there are "explanations" to this (it's not a plot hole) but it's solved rather nonchalantly, and the obvious instability this should cause it's either solved off camera, or has to wait until LoK.

                    The political themes of LoK don't have time to breathe and get muddled because they're secondary or tertiary themes.
                    I disagree. Not in that they're secondary themes, but in the rest.

                    It would be an interestinge excercise to see how much screen time does LoK invest on each theme vs. LoA (albeit I would never be motivated enough to do it), but I do think it's political themes breathed and were muddled ... As the existance of so much content, and so complex, about this very topic (vs, say, Fire Lord's take on imperialism) seems to indicate.
                    Last edited by Aleph; 08-20-2021, 04:49 PM.

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                      Fire Lord and his "henchmen" seem like the classic "I'm evil 'n want to conquer/destroy the world" type more than those of any real world imperialists, but that's OK because politics trully aren't important in the show and you're supposed to not give more than half a tought about them. Hence nobody cares. They're super filmsy if you do.
                      This feels pretty flimsy analytically.

                      AtLA spends a huge amount of time on Zuko and Iroh's perspective, and gives plenty of screen time to Azula and her crew as well, all of which reveals that the Fire Nation is not meant to be some two-dimensional villain.

                      This skips over the very nature of war as a political action. Wars only exist as a product of politics.

                      It also skips over all the political issues of secondary/temporary antagonists in the Northern Water Tribe, and the Earth Kingdom. AtLA introduced the Earth Kingdom's secret police that brainwash you into obedience, not LoK, if we're looking for overtly political examples.

                      Part of Aang's whole emotional journey is that he has to see the Fire Nation as more than a BBEG and nameless goons, and thus we as the audience are asked to do the same. The fact that "nobody cares" to me just says the more people are willing to ignore the politics of AtLA (perhaps because the show doesn't present them in a fashion that drives engagement) rather than those politics not being there. It's pretty much the central dramatic conflict of the show: Aang has to fix the imbalance of the world, but can't bring himself to do what seems like the only way to do so because that means causing extreme harm to people even if they're people on the wrong side of a conflict.

                      ...compare that with AtlA glossing over how the Fire Nation does things to such an extent you even missed that they were very much colonizers (with all and the pretended ideal of "civilizing" the world) in spite of watching them trough 4 full seasons instead of just one,
                      Who's this "you" here? Lots of people noticed that just fine.

                      Many of Korra's personal conflicts are in relation to the political role of the Avatar.
                      Again though, so are Aang's. The role of keeping the balance between nations is an inherently political role,and the pressures of that job are what causes Aang all his emotional turmoil. He literally questions how he's supposed to do his political job without sacrificing his personal ideals, and struggles repeatedly until he finds a way to balance those drives.

                      It would be an interestinge excercise to see how much screen time does LoK invest on each theme vs. LoA (albeit I would never be motivated enough to do it), but I do think it's political themes breathed and were muddled ... As the existance of so much content, and so complex, about this very topic (vs, say, Fire Lord's take on imperialism) seems to indicate.
                      How one defines "political screen time," clearly seems to be a point of contention that would require resolving as well.

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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                        How one defines "political screen time," clearly seems to be a point of contention that would require resolving as well.
                        Well, yes. You make a claim that "The political themes of LoK don't have time to breathe and get muddled ..." Since this whole thread it's about that, this is a rather heavy claim. Also hard to swallow, given how much mud there is.

                        Supposedly the reason it's that: "...because they're secondary or tertiary themes. ". Yet, secondary themes can be very important and can have a lot of development that would justify them getting muddled. I don't see how that's reason enough.

                        I don't see how your premise would justify the conclusion w/o further elaboration. What would constitute "having time to get muddled"? They had enough time to directly interact with those themes at least once in nearly every chapter, it had enough time for every villan to talk about their political plataform, and to provide a lasting (if a bit tokenish) resolution that has direct relation with that plataform (the president, opening the gates of the spirit world, the whole thing with Kubira taking power from a weak king that I didn't watch) .

                        Even leaving aside the TlA comparison, What IS having such, and why is it relevat to people having complaints (why it's wrong to complain about that)? - I think this is VERY important

                        Who's this "you" here? Lots of people noticed that just fine.
                        It was about a claim that you made, but I took that claim out of context (and the context was already a bit offtopic)...Words like *particularly* or *a lot* can be interpreted in a different way within the context. Shouldn't have done that, if only to avoid muddling the waters even more.

                        (sic), That argument, take 2:

                        There's a lot of colony building from the fire nation, but the way that works (movement of resources and such) isn't "shown on camera" a whole lot. It's just a background for some episodes, while the focus it's on the Fire Nation killing people to get to the Avatar.

                        That's how a tertiary theme works, I think: It shows what are the stakes w/o delving on them. It's background, that's not to say it's unimportant, but it's going to be naturaly glossed over. The Fire Lord minions don't need to go on about why their political agenda or their political system it's correct, because the show isn't problematizing the various political systems that are being shown.

                        AtLA spends a huge amount of time on Zuko and Iroh's perspective, and gives plenty of screen time to Azula and her crew as well, all of which reveals that the Fire Nation is not meant to be some two-dimensional villain.
                        Having the politics of the Fire Nation as a thertiary theme isn't the same as them being "two-dimensional villains". That's not my claim, my claim it's that their take on FN politics it's filmsy if you demand a lot of detail. It's the tale of a royal family (as a secondary theme to the main cast, that's also a very convinient way to solve the main issues), but the political themes themselves aren't really elaborated further:

                        Zuko it's the right FN king because the other two are insane, there's not a single moment, however, where Zuko attempts to gain the loyalty of the fire nation's "powers that be" nor tries to justify his monarchy in any way. He just is the prince, duels, sits at the throne on an empty palace and declares peace. One has to "infer" that probably the fire nation was fed up with the former monarchs, that Fire Lord lack of a bending makes him unsuitable for the throne (¿was it ever explained on camera if that's how FN monarchy works? - I'm infering from the importance of the agni-kai), the influence that the recent defeats might have had. Etc...

                        FN it's a monarchy and thats how it's expected to work. That doesn't make the Fire Nation, "two-dimensional", though - it merely means that you need to place some pieces together to understand their dimensions. Because whatever they are it's background, the show doesn't care to problematize it.

                        Amon, on the other hand, appears and dies talking about his agenda. All the villans do that, even the second that just wants to be satan: Why it is good, why he believes in it, why the protags are wrong. There's also a lot of "show, don't tell", like with the reactions of the people and the music - that helps to paint the villans - yet the show and even the protagonists also argue that they "have a point". That's problematizing something rigth there.
                        ...
                        The show doesn't go on to explain economic and geopolitical details and such minutiae because this is an action series and not a political drama - yet, as far as secondary vs. terthiary themes go, I would say the political agendas (that is, the organization of society) get a lot of attention, I would argue plenty more (taking in count that the show it's shorter, and has various different villans with different agendas) than what TlA gives to explaining the same things about Fire Nation imperialism.

                        In a fictional show the characters don't just *exist*. They're made to be and talk in a certain way. I see that the rich political background of AtlA it's almost never interacted with in a direct fashion. I see how much Korra's characters like to talk about their "plataforms", forcing the protags to engage with them and formulate answers ... That's why I don't quite agree about the comparison

                        More importantly: How is that isn't "enough time to breathe and get muddled"?
                        Last edited by Aleph; 08-23-2021, 01:54 PM.

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                        • #57
                          Honestly? This doesn't seem a good faith line of though to me at all. It just feels like a slew of hyperbole, nit-picks, and context removal that directly answering would actually add anything helpful to the conversation.

                          So... what are you really getting at? Because right now it just feels like you're treating this like the defense in a criminal case and all you need to do is poke hole in the other side enough to "win," rather than trying to actually interrogate an analysis of the shows.

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                          • #58
                            Your argument sounds a lot like "Korra can't have a bad take on politics if it hasn't a take on politics".

                            All I'm asking it's to elaborate further why you think LoK can't have muddled notions of politics if they're a secondary or terthiary theme. I don't think my comment was anything like you say, I think it was a very reasonable thing to ask for

                            That's certainly not how I see any of this working, and that may come from a different understanding of what is a primary, secondary and thertiary theme, what are their roles in fiction. What is having time - and if not having time and still developping these themes to a secondary (or even terthiary?) isn't muddling them in and of itself.

                            As for the rest: I exposed why I think Politics are more involved for LoK than for TlA. As a Secondary instead of a Terthiary theme (in general, for a place where politics became more prevalent to compare, I would look at the fall of Ba-Sing-Se). Albeit, now that I think about it, terthiary themes can be important, and well worth detailing, too. In particular if the author likes the "show, don't tell" aproach where many details can be shoved back into the background.
                            Last edited by Aleph; 08-25-2021, 12:49 PM.

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                              Your argument sounds a lot like "Korra can't have a bad take on politics if it hasn't a take on politics".
                              I'm not sure why it does, and why any individual statement I've made that could imply that should be interpreted that way given the rest of the thread.

                              I don't think my comment was anything like you say, I think it was a very reasonable thing to ask for
                              How often do we really think our own posts are the bad ones?

                              In this case however, it comes down to a single comma not being used to spark off a multipost tangent rather than a simple request for clarification around ambiguity stemming from that one non-present punctuation mark.

                              However reasonable what you're asking might be predicated on the assumptions given doesn't really matter if those assumptions all stem from your interpretation of a sentence being justified by a typo that seems pretty easy to spot since your interpretation creates all sorts of things that are out of step with a whole thread of positions I've staked.

                              As for the rest: I exposed why I think Politics are more involved for LoK than for TlA.
                              The problem for me is that you're not really addressing the idea that AtLA has lots of involved politics, it just gets a pass because they're simplistic.

                              AtLA basically goes: "Hey look, politics! Feel bad/good about them! Now don't think about the setup because cool elemental martial arts fight!"

                              LoK basically goes: "Hey look, politics! Feed bad/good about them! Korra is thinking about them too as she gets in cool elemental martial arts fights!"

                              So yes, I do think that LoK presents politics in a fashion that invites more audience engagement with thinking about the political themes present. I think the creators have basically said that was their intent. But that doesn't mean politics aren't heavily involved in AtLA, just not as narratively engaged with.
                              Last edited by Heavy Arms; 08-25-2021, 05:28 PM.

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