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Tag: Spirits

The Integration of Science and the Supernatural in the 19th Century

 

“Every age, and not just the modern age, has felt the need to make its religious beliefs comport somehow with the best scientific and philosophical learning of its day.”

– Thomas Laquer (2006)

Karl Marx famously stated that urbanisation rescued people from the “idiocy of rural life”, this quote alludes to the widely held belief that as technology progresses, it immediately results in the embrace of scientific rationality. Part of the reason why this is such a popular belief stems from the desire of 21st century historians to perceive themselves as technologically advance and thus dismissing any possible connections with the ‘primitive’.

The ‘Long Nineteenth Century’ (1789-1914) as coined by Eric Hobsbawm, was a period where modernity’s arrival was hailed by a mass of new inventions, but also a time where science managed to seeped into the psyche of the public and did no just exist in the minds of intellectuals. The abundance of scientific breakthroughs created an environment where people were beginning to challenge ingrained beliefs: Science and the supernatural were two competing parties trying to establish their influence in the battlefield of academia. Ironically, despite their competitive nature towards each other, both parties were often reactionary to the rising beliefs in the ‘opposition’s’ field of knowledge. Whilst possibly difficult to grasp in today’s context where popular culture portrays science and the supernatural as polar opposites; many technological inventions were seen as methods to tap into the supernatural. The 19th century within the western world was a time where science and the supernatural became intertwined and arguably reliant upon each other.

The new inventions which owed their existence to the industrial revolution and progress within the realms of science were (paradoxically) used by spiritualist as evidence of a world beyond the material. William Henry Harrison, the founder-editor of the Spiritualist proposed that thermometers and ultra-red illumination could be used to measure the spiritual activity in séances. In 1875, Harrison advocated the use of photographs as evidence; “We spiritualist would then be able to go to the scientific world and say… these flames can now be photographed… by the process which is laid before you”. The consistent desire to be validated as a legitimate in the eyes of already established fields, reflects how deeply 19th century spiritualism wanted to be accepted by science as a valid inquiry of the world.

Machines which were capable of recording sounds, capturing photos or typing were perceived as eerie by a majority of the 19th century audience, with such functions transgressing over the line of the supernatural. This equipment evoked the uncanny valley because it blurred what was once rigid lines between the animate and inanimate. Thomas Edison himself saw these new technologies as ways to tap into the occult since the machines seemed to be alive or extensions of the human conscious. Interestingly, new technologies were seen as steps towards a Utopian future and there was a growing movement which attempted to harness the power of spirits as an inexhaustible source of energy. Just as the steam engine had completely transformed the western world and created capitalism as a byproduct; controlling these supernatural forces were simply a new step in the evolution of mankind and its technological wonders . It can be argued these avenues of the supernatural were only opened up with the introduction of new technologies on the market. Due to humanity’s obsession to identify the supernatural in everyday life, it is not surprising that slowly such machinery came to embody some paranormal characteristics.

The practice of ‘typtology’ which developed quickly in the 19th century was heavily influenced by the invention of the electrical telegraph: Coincidentally the ‘Hydesville rappings’ only occurred four years after the first successful telegraph connection between Washington and Baltimore was established. In fact, often spiritualists were described as simple relays along a communication system with spirits, such imagery obviously pays homage towards the invention and popularisation of long distance communication. Likewise the many references to spiritualist as ‘celestial’ telegraphs evoke the image of a supernatural current transitioning between the medium and the occult in a similar fashion to electricity. This wording may have been deliberate to make their philosophies more understandable to the average laymen, however it does also reflect how many spiritualist often adopt the vocabulary and products of their scientific ‘rivals’.

The spiritualist community also quickly embraced the type writer as a new method of interacting with the occult. Whilst the 21st century audience may see this machine as a tool to inscribe words onto a piece of paper, two centuries ago it signalled the unnatural severing of the author from the physical act of writing. This distinction between authors and (type) writers was due to the fact that a finalised text did not carry the characteristics of an individual’s handwriting. Thus typewriters were eventually seen as people who were tapping into the thoughts of the author or simply possessed by the machine itself. Slowly this idea of possession began to develop supernatural connotations and this is reflected in how the noun ‘typewriter’ was used in the 19th century. Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy was often referred to as a ‘human typewriter’ due to her ability to channel the supernatural when writing and explaining her beliefs. Blavatsky dismissed claims of plagiarism by stating that all her writing had been done in a state of trance, and thus her body was simply a tool for channeling invisible forces. Likewise, mediums who used spiritual rappings and table tipping were often called typters, which roughly translates to ‘I strike’ in Greek. It is from this origin that the words ‘typist’ and ‘typing’ developed. The act of tapping found in the Morse code and typewriting were seen as physical and technological ways to invite spiritual possession by severing the ‘natural’ connection between the eye and writing.

Interestingly, as psychology became more of a respected field of knowledge, slowly it was able to strip away the supernatural associations of automatic writing. Both F. W. H Myer and Edmun Gurney were intensely motivated in proving that mediums who would produce writing or quotes during a trance, were simply tapping in their subconscious past, in a Freudian manner. Interestingly, both men attempted to discredit automatic writing because they believed the notion of an eternal spirit and afterlife was threatened by the popularisation of medium possession, which proposed a more fluid image of identity. New scientific inventions allowed spiritualist the opportunity to appropriate new tools into their repertoire, but evolving fields of science was also eventually responsible for stripping away the occult associations of type writing.

The commercialisation of electricity and its incorporation into all levels of society played a fundamental role in changing how the supernatural developed in the 19th century to today’s understanding of the paranormal. This was most famously reflected in the novel of Frankenstein, as electricity was regarded as the most basic and fundamental component of life. Shelley, inspired by her husband’s fascination with mesmerism, captured the growing public’s unease and fascination concerning the manipulating of electricity to create life and to interact with the dead. Mesmerism, which quickly became embedded into the consciousness of the public discourse and imagination was built upon many new scientific discoveries. It could be argued that the technological advances of the 19th century were not only a contributing factor to mesmerism’s doctrines, but rather it created a context where a belief system which frequently mixed technology and pseudoscience could thrive.

Mesmerism stood as a direct challenged to the traditional pillars of the medical community, proposing that the building of rapport and the interactions of two minds was able to overcome illness. This was in opposition to the general direction of the scientific community in the 19th century, which had turned towards an increasingly materialistic outlook on life. A notion which would only become more ingrained with the publication of On the Origin of Species. Franz Anton Mesmer a frequent user of magnets and electricity, attributed his medical successes to his ability to form an electrical conduit between himself and his patient. Even when the notion of electricity as the ‘essence of life’ was challenged by the emerging scientific discoveries, the mesmer community simply embraced ‘od’ or ‘odyle’ forces; a form of transparent magnetic fluid (Noakes, 2012). The key point isn’t whether or not 19th century spiritualism used these terms and descriptions in a ‘scientifically’ accurate way. But rather, by absorbing this scientific jargon into their terminology, it reflected a desire to legitimise their dogma in the eyes of their ‘rivals’, but also a wish to drop the connotations of irrationality which had long been a stigma on the occult. Mesmerism’s challenge to science during the nineteenth century is one of many attempts by supernatural ideologies to gain ground in the battle for how one perceived the world. Interestingly enough, mesmers relied and embraced new technologies so much, that they frequently accused scientist of being blind and dismissive to new avenues of thought, and readily referred to themselves as the ‘true scientist’.

Practitioners of mesmerism also regularly incorporated phrenology into their consultations with their patients. The belief that the brain was an organ with different areas which would trigger a certain response when touched was directly linked to the imagery of a machine. More tellingly is that the brain was often referred to as a ‘galvanic battery’ during the 19th century, and altered states of reality was believed to occur if too much blood (a metaphor for electric) was sent to the head. The rise of supernatural arts that was heavily intertwined with the latest scientific research shows that technological progress does not automatically equal to a decrease in superstition. This is because unlike religion or science, which carries with it a structured view of the universe, magic and technology are simply tools which make no such grandiose claims.

The rise of photography within the 19th century was not just influenced by the growing movement of spiritualism, but arguably its rising popularity was indebted to its supernatural associations. Much like the typewriter, a camera blurred the line between life and death, seemingly without a conscious, yet able to do things (such as recording sound or images) which previously only humans could perform. Spiritual photography worked under the assumption that the person in front of the camera was able to ‘mediumise’ the equipment in order to capture the unseen supernatural forces around them. As the theories and arguments for Darwinism and positivism seeped into the public conscious, this produced a yearning for the assurance of an afterlife. Spiritualist responded to this sentiment, and regularly attacked science as being harshly dismissive of personal spiritual experiences, all the while using tools of science to argue their position. This shift towards a supernatural which was more focused within the individual’s personal experience, can also be viewed as a response to the rise in technology capable of recording evidence. Thus, possibly this trend towards ‘smaller’ and more ‘personal’ interactions with the paranormal might have been a natural shift to legitimise the supernatural in the face of increasing demands of evidence.

Whilst it may seem like the relationship between the ‘spiritual photographer’ and the subject is unfair; since one is actively exchanging falsely created goods for money. Often, both parties were active participants in this lie; William Stainton Moses, a famous paranormal investigator commented that people regularly mistook a “broom as their dearly departed”. Similarly, even after William Hope, a famous spiritual photographer was proven to be a fraud, he still continued working as a photographer and a medium; as he was financially and publicly supported by his loyal fans. Science and emerging technologies were not so much the counter to ‘irrational’ ideas, but instead, simply gave 19th century citizens the opportunity to validate their attachments to the supernatural through modern methods.

Thomas Edison (a firm believer in the supernatural) famously remarked that death, “the final frontier”, was being opened out through the invention and commericalisation of new technologies. Likewise the industrial revolution gave Britain (and the rest of the western sphere) an opportunity to close the frontier between the east and west. Thus producing the great paradox of colonisation, whilst Anglo-Saxon culture was elevated to the most dominant position, it was not left ‘untarnished’ and was also transformed by its contact with foreign cultures. This absorption of eastern occultism was reflected in popular literature, with Dracula standing as a symbol of an ancient eastern evil unleashed upon the civilised (and unprepared) Anglo-Saxon societies. Similarly, Indian marijuana was used by the fictional protagonist John Silence in order to tap into the supernatural vibrations of his surroundings. This signified a shift in the perception of the supernatural; the west began to see itself as a piece in the global search for the paranormal and thus adopted other beliefs and rituals.

As science began to chip away at the vast distances and times between nations; linking once distance lands with the west, this resulted in the questioning of previously ‘unquestionable’ beliefs. Inspired by her understanding of eastern spirituality, Madame Blavatsky the founder of Theosophy, challenged the moral and religious authority of the Church as she claimed that she alone held the Truth, given to her through the Great White Brotherhood. Blavatsky’s willingness to challenge such an established pillar on conventionally accepted doctrines shows how technology and the freedom of movement provided citizens a chance to escape ‘pre-destined’ roles; making identity a more fluid conception. The supernatural greatly benefited the growing globalisation of the world through technologies like the railway and the telephone. It allowed the supernatural in the west to absorb and adopt a lot of foreign beliefs and practices, enlarging the circumference of what one perceived as the occult and also offering a refreshing breath of creativity into this field.

Modern historians have largely ignored the supernatural in their construction of history, anachronistically deeming it as primitive and incompatible with a ‘Whigsian’ approach to history. Much like the academics in the Renaissance, there is a sense of discomfort, in relation to just how deeply entrenched the supernatural was during a time of supposed ‘modernisation’. The view that the supernatural (something which dealt completely with emotions and personal experiences) and technology (something built on measured science and rationality) were polar opposites is an overly simplistic view which fails to look at how the supernatural still continues to absorb new technologies into its realms. It is because 19th century spiritualism shared so much in common with established sciences, that it was often hard for practitioners of either field to proper investigate and properly distinguish between each other.

Emma Hardringe Britten, a famous Victorian spiritualist, stated that spiritual science was merely the next step in the intellectual ‘progress of the human race’, echoing a sentiment which a majority of supernatural practitioners would have agreed with. Though, ironically, it is telling that her quote obviously alludes to both evolutionary theory and the survival of the fittest; the cutting edge of scientific thought. By describing the rise of her discipline in relation to the static older sciences, Britten is unconsciously exposing how deeply intertwined the destinies of scientific advancement and the supernatural was in the long 19th century.

 

… Science will continue to be colonized by spiritualists and other religious groups seeking to assert what they know, intuitively and spiritually, to be true, for in spiritualist perceptions, truth and science are inextricably linked

– Jennifer E. Porter (2005)

The Legend of Korra: Change – Review & Analysis

[SPOILERS, PLEASE WATCH THE SEASON IF YOU HAVE YET TO COMPLETE IT]

It’s been over a month since the Venom of the Red Lotus aired, signalling the conclusion of Change and I have yet to give my input on a series that is very dear to my heart. In many ways, my attachment towards the Avatar universe has stopped me from writing up this review, since I feel like anything short of ‘perfection’ would be a great injustice to Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino and the audience. I will say I enjoyed Change, it was a ‘breath of fresh air’ after what I personally considered the weakest book in the Avatar franchise; Spirits. There is a clear distinction between the Korra seasons and the original seasons featuring Aang, Konietzko and DiMartino have matured and this is reflected within their increasingly sophisticated plots. Though this book isn’t perfect (what piece of art is?) hopefully I can explore the strengths and the flaws of Change whilst balancing my affection and rationality. Generally this review will explore themes and characters rather than give you an episode by episode summary since you can just watch the book by yourself.

It is important that the characters in a fictional world stand for themes which transcend them as individuals, personally I feel like this is especially true for the antagonist, thus giving deeper meaning to their conflict with the protagonist. When Luke Skywalker fights Darth Vader, it isn’t just a clash of lightsabers, Luke’s victory also symbolises Vader’s redemption and Luke overcoming the tempting powers of darkness. Likewise the Joker mirrors the Batman, both characters are lonely, misunderstood and margalinised by society and when Batman defeats the Joker he is also defeating his inner chaos. This is one strength of Change that I felt was lacking in Air and Spirits, Amon and Unalaq were decent antagonist in their own right. However Zaheer’s polarising set of justice and freedom meant he developed into one of the more entertaining villains in the Avatar universe, allowing the audience to empathise with him on a level that never happened with the villains of the previous books. Whilst one can argue that Amon was more intimidating since his whole identity was clouded in shadows, the ending of book one severely hurt his characterisation. It was revealed that Amon’s main objective was not equality amongst benders and non-benders but his revolutional campaign was a way to amass more power, immediately cheapening everything he stood for and thus relegating him to the role of the stereotypical power-hungry villain. This trend repeated in Unalaq’s characterisation, he hungers for power and is even willing to sacrifice the world to obtain it, once again cardboard cut outs of villains.

Enter Zaheer, slowly but surely Zaheer became my favourite character within book three, maybe it’s my natural affiliation towards air bending, but I think it was his intelligence and charisma that won me over. Zaheer represents the worst of the air nation, he took ideas like isolation and separation to the extreme and his characterisation clearly contrasts against that of Aang. In many ways, Zaheer is what Aang would have become if he passionately believed that the ends justify the means and he had failed to develop a strict moral compass. Aang’s biggest weakness arguably could be his inability to accept responsibility to his failure to fully deattach himself from ‘earthly links’ which ‘hindered’ his journey towards becoming a fully acquainted Avatar, master of the four elements and a force of stability in the world. Aang couldn’t elevate above his emotional bonds, his reluctance to let go of Katara nearly resulted in both their deaths and would have signaled the end of all resistance to the Fire Lord. However when compared to Zaheer, we can view Aang’s flaws in a new perspective, maybe his inability to shed his humanity isn’t a flaw and it was his emotional bond with his peers stopped him from becoming an emotionless robot without the ability to empathise. Through Zaheer’s characterisation this has been one of the few times the show has criticised the air nomad culture, as the original Avatar series offered a very black and white view of reality; fire nation is bad, air nations are good. I believe this shows the evolution of the creators, their texts blur the distinctions between good and bad, of justice and injustice and just like the real world, everything has positives and negatives.

It was sad that Zaheer managed to unlock weightlessness only when P’Li was killed, his last attachment to the world had been cut forever and now he was forever suspended in a state of indifference. In many ways P’Li was Zaheer’s ‘earthly tether’ their private discussion before her eventual demise showed a softer side to Zaheer which remained hidden to the audience and a few scene later that tenderness was ripped apart, Zaheer gained the world but lost his humanity in the process. Maybe that’s why it was so effective when Jinora and her fellow air benders defeated Zaheer, for me it symbolised how communal bonds of affection will always trump individualistic pursuits, that relationships are not burdens but something which gives colour to life.

This was a big reason why I was offended when Zaheer became insane at the book, it was an easy tactic on behalf to the producers to ensure that the audience sided with Korra. But in many aspects this character assassination was exactly what Konietzko and DiMartino inflicted upon Amon, it cheapened everything that Zaheer represented and this moment of insanity contradicts his calm and reversed persona. This was also seen in what I consider the most emotional moment of the book, when Tenzin refuses to submit and states he would rather die than endanger the air nation, the look on Zaheer’s face is blank and emotionless. Surely someone with that much respect for air bending values would cringe or display some sort of reluctancy before attacking someone who is willing to sacrifice everything for their beliefs.* These examples of character assassination were never found in the original three books, Azula and Ozai were both terrifying but in their final moments, they displayed a genuine sense of fear and humanity. I could only wish this was extended towards Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming-Hua.

“The question is not can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?”

Generally I feel like a major flaw of Change was the lack of back story for Ghazan and Ming-Hua, both Konietzko and DiMartino are more than capable of making the audience empathise with characters, just look at P’Li and Zaheer’s last words. Over all apart from their flashy skills, these two Red Lotus members remained fairly underdeveloped and many questions about their origins still remain. So Ghazan is tough, powerful and overly masculine but where did he develop his skills? Why does he so strongly believe in the Red Lotus? The same thing can be said for Ming-Hua who remains even more of an enigma for me. Thus when it came to their eventual deaths, I felt nothing, two unknown characters were whisked on and off the stage before the audience could properly become acquainted to them.

I have always believed that to build a believe cast of characters, their actions must have consequences otherwise the plot becomes unbelievable and redundant, characters must grow and learn from their mistakes. This was a major issue I had with the ending of Air, apart from the reveal of Amon’s hidden identity, Korra magically getting her bending powers back without struggling to recover them was a slap in the face to the fans. Like Zaheer, the creators of Korra developed her to be the complete opposite of Aang, she’s fiery, passionate and just itching to embrace her role as the avatar, whilst Aang was naive, timid and passive. A large portion of Korra’s identity is built upon her role as the avatar, from a young age she’s relished her ability to bend the elements and his ‘fight now, talk later’ mentality has gotten her in trouble many times. By removing Korra’s bending, Konietzko and DiMartino would have allowed Korra to embrace her spirituality and slowly overcome her rash and hasty personality to become a more balanced and well rounded individual. Instead Korra learns very little from her ordeal with Amon, she may of grown physically, but emotionally she’s the same and her lack of trust in her father and Tenzin at the start of Spirits reflects this. Now I don’t want to just attack Korra’s character, her passionate personality is a welcome change from Aang and it is clear that by the end of book two that she has become a more weary and careful Avatar after her legacy was literally torn away from her body. I just feel Korra would have been even more engaging if the consequences of having her bending removed would have manifested itself in previous books. A criticism of the Legend of Korra is that seasons are more ‘episodic’ with villains and events from the past seasons rarely getting any screen time in the following books. What happened to the Equalist movement? Why was there a distinct lack of spirits in Change? It would have been wise to show the consequences of these events in order to build a more realistic world where the future is intertwined with the present and the past.

Personally I loved seeing Korra in a wheel chair at the end of Change, because finally the audience can see how Korra maintains her identity when she has lost such a fundamental aspect of her personality. Already the changes to Korra were becoming more apparent, especially after book two, she was more cautious and less willing to rely upon force to solve her problems. A major strength within Legend of Korra is how the villains are reflections of a modernising world with concepts bending and the avatar being challenged. Amon’s character was a constant reminder of the inequality between the benders and non-benders, potentially pointing out the flaws behind an avatar who is basically an reincarnated deity with immense physical and spiritual power. As mentioned before Vatuu and Unalaq basically ripped out of Korra’s past, she’s arguably the most isolated avatar since Wan as she can no longer call on her past lives for guidance. Korra can still bend the four elements but her status has been weakened, her words and actions no longer hold the weight of 10,000 avatars before her. After the finale of book three, Tenzin announced that the new air benders would be filling in the role of the avatar as Korra heals, I think her single tear stems from the realisation that her worth and purpose in this world is slowly being diminished in an ever changing environment. This is one major strength that the Legend of Korra has over Aang, the villains are reflections of Korra’s flaws and society’s changing beliefs. Aang was always quite distant from Ozai and Azula and never viewed them more than enemies. Personally this is why I think Zuko is the strongest character in the series, his emotional bond with the villains makes his switch to team avatar so triumphant and rewarding.

In the second last episode Enter the Void, Korra is confronted with a hard dilemma, sacrifice herself to the protect the weak air nation or leave the novice air benders at the hands of the Red Lotus. In the first book, when Korra arrives at a similar situation, her arrogance clouds her judgement and she stupidly challenges Amon to a duel which could of potential resulted in her death. However a more mature Korra chooses to sacrifice herself, she understands that the future of an entire culture is more important than any single individual; even if they are the avatar. That’s why I can not wait to see how Korra rises from her situation, hopefully her physical impairment isn’t just brushed off in the first episode and instead we can explore other aspects of Korra’s personality apart from her overwhelming physicality and her brash personality.

Whilst I can clearly say I am in the small minority, a huge disappointment in book three was the fact that Tenzin did not die. One of my closest friend often jokes “if you want Stanley to care just kill off a few characters” and to some extent this is true. I’ve always believed that when an audience knows that characters can be removed from the plot then the audience feels a sense of urgency and attachment. One major strength of Change was the finale, I was completely absorbed in Zaheer’s plan to poison the avatar and permanently destroy it, I did not breathe for a good ten minutes because the possibility of Korra’s death seemed realistic. This perspective is partly due a fear of death which was very prominent when I was younger, I’ve experienced many sleepless nights as my mind explored my mortality. Thus I see sacrifice as one of the most noble characteristics, humans are fundamentally self fish, so when individuals are willing to perish to protect something they treasure, it’s endearing and extremely emotional.

Aang’s influence on Tenzin is highly visible, Aang’s obligations to the world was often given prioritised over his obligations to his family. Tenzin’s reverence towards the air bending culture is a constant reminder of Aang’s failure as a father, his feelings of inadequacy and regret was transferred to his son, leaving Tenzin the burden of maintaing a lost culture. Tenzin’s sacrifice to preserve the air nation would have permanently removed Aang’s shadow over his character. Instead he would have been able to see to Aang as an equal as he achieved what Aang could never do; revive the air nomads. Personally this was by far the most emotional scene of the entire book, when Korra was dying in the arms of her father, I didn’t shed a tear, she battled Zaheer out of necessity. She had no other choice, as fleeing wasn’t an option with the metallic poison pulsing through her body. In the end Tenzin was faced with a decision, but his actions showed that he was willing to forfeit his life in pursuit of goals which transcended him as an individual.

Jinora’s shadow over her father has also began to increase as she has already surpassed Tenzin in spirituality. Tenzin’s death would have been my third favourite moment in the Avatar world behind Zuko and Iroh’s reunion and Raava’s destruction at the hands of Unalaq. (Q: Have you really made a list of your favourite Avatar moments, A: Most definitely.) His swan song would have helped him escape the constraints of his flaws, which are becoming more pronounced next to Jinora. It also would have been symbolic, the responsibility of air bending being passed down to the younger generation, allowing the air nation to embrace new ideals instead of clinging onto outdated belief systems. Whilst it seems this stance isn’t very popular, it would have immortalised Tenzin; strong, magnificent and proud, much like how Achilles’ legacy resonated strongest after his death.

One major difference between The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is that the characters in the original series were a lot more engaging. Mako, Bolin and Asami whilst mildly fun and endearing (particularly Asami and the fortitude she showed after her father’s betrayal) are in desperate need of further characterisation. It seems that Mako’s character development has really taken a step back with his role diminishing rapidly within Changes. I hope he rekindles his relationship with Asami in Balance, that felt more natural and realistic then his feelings for Korra, plus I want Korra to balance herself internally before building her external relationships in book four. For me Mako really hasn’t changed or matured after book one, his physical skills have become stagnant and his relationships with the other members of team avatar have deteriorated. I think these flaws are mainly a product of the shorten seasons, The Legend of Korra will have 52 episodes compared to The Last Airbender’s 60. Whilst this has resulted in less ‘filler’ episodes with a more ‘frantic’ and an intense plot, it also means that characters are given less time to develop. Filler episodes like The Great Divide and The Runaway were redundant in terms of story and world building, but it offered insights into the mindsets of our characters. Whilst the conflict might not be connected with final objective of the series, these obstacles challenged our lovable protagonist and causing them to shift their perspective in order to overcome these hurdles.

On a more positive note the bending and animation in Changes was absolutely sublime. I have previously voiced my opinion that bending in The Legend of Korra lacked the authenticity that it had in The Last Airbender, mainly due to the fact that all elements fight like fire benders. There’s a distinct lack of sophistication behind Bolin’s attacks, which includes creating small boulders and throwing them at the opponent, a long shot from Toph’s destructive capabilities. However the bending in Changes was fantastic, I loved the additions of lava bending, octopus water bending** and flying as the sub genre of air bending. Zaheer’s fight with Kya and Tenzin’s fight with Zaheer stand out as some of the best fight scenes ever created for animation. Speaking of animation, Studio Mir really stepped up their animation during the last few episodes, particularly the scene when Zaheer is dogding an enraged Korra.*** I can only imagine the effort that the writers and animation team went through to create such memorable works of art.

I enjoyed book three; Change, in terms of plot and characterisation I felt it was a big improvement from Spirits which seemed confused and unfocused at times. For the first time in The Legend of Korra, there was a truly memorable villain, the Red Lotus were efficient, mysterious and politically active. Zaheer’s voice actor; Henry Rollins deserves recognition for his ability to embed authority and menace into his character. Zaheer also repeats one of the most memorable quotes in the Avatar franchise “Let go your earthly tether, enter the void, empty and become wind” which was responsible for my interest in meditation. Book three’s pace really picked up after the Earth Queen’s assassination (one of the most memorable moments of the Avatar franchise) and the season became noticeably darker. There were some fantastic moments in this book which were previously mentioned like Korra’s growth, the villains and the animation. On the other hand it seems like the writers of Avatar consistently struggle with maintaining the pacing and plot in the middle of the season and this was evident in Change. There’s always a drop off in quality before the finale completely stuns and enthralls the audience. Some of the flaws were more visible such as the lack of growth and development for team avatar and the Red Lotus but I don’t want to end this review on a negative note. Change built on the foundations paved in the previous two books, the plot was fluid and the ambiguity between good and evil was a satisfying change to The Last Airbender’s simplistic depictions of the world.

The Avatar world has brought a lot of emotions to my life and I can say without a doubt that it was partly responsible for fostering my love of literature. Zuko’s internal conflict, Katara’s motherly warmth and Korra’s single tear are all images and memories that carry weight and meaning to me. Whilst Change was far from perfection, similarly it had moments of ingenious and dignity founded within a beautiful Asian inspired world that The Last Airbender established. Despite all the flaws and weak points within the seasons, I can say without a doubt that Konietzko and DiMartino will continue treating their project with the love and integrity that the audience deserve.

Here’s a toast to the final season of The Legend of Korra, may it be wonderful, emotional, heartfelt and memorable.

See you space avatar.




* It is very hard if not impossible to have an ‘original thought’ since our context will always play a part in shaping our thoughts but my comments about Zaheer’s emotionless glare when he’s beating up Tenzin was stolen directly from Marshall Turner’s WordPress on Avatar. Whilst I certain disagree with some of his thoughts and generally I believe that he focuses on the minor details over than the overall picture or plot, I would recommend it for any fans who want to look at this franchise through an analytically microscope. http://avatarreviews.wordpress.com/

** I have no idea if it is really called octopus water but let’s pretend it is.

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Skip to 2:15 if you want to watch the exact scene I was referring to, it also ends at 2:50.

The First Avatar: Genesis.

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GOOD LORD HAVE MERCY. Those four words accurately summed up my interpretations of episode 7 and 8 in season 2 of The Legend of Korra, Nickelodeon hit a complete home run the one hour long episode Avatar special. Not only were the episodes visually pleasing with the Asian inspired water colours and water colour landscapes, but the voice acting was superb. (Love to Steven Yuen and April Stewart.) Watching the two episodes was like having a one hour long sexual explosion within my brain, so intense that it has disabled various of my bodily functions like my ability to urinate.

Firstly let’s just give Nickelodeon a round of applause, I thought season 2 was getting boring, the characters didn’t intrigue me like Aang’s cast of lovable and unique personalities. The story line was unquestionable with quite a lot of large plot holes left unfulfilled, bending the four elements lacked their distinctive styles and all fights looked like UFC matches. But this episode really set the bar high for this season and thank the good lord we didn’t have to endure another episode of the creepy serial rapist; Eska. In fact I don’t think I’m living in the moment but this might be my favourite Avatar episode of all time, yes it sits in front of Aang defeating Ozai, yes it sits in front of the invasion of the black sun and maybe even in front of Sokka meeting Foo Foo Cuddly Poops.

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“I’m Sokka the meat and sarcasm guy.”