Airspeed’s Editorials – Character Development and Flawless Syndrome

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As I always say at the start of these to please give me suggestions for new topics to write about in these editorials. So keep them coming.

Character Development and Flawless Syndrome

Korra Fight

Korra has definitely developed since this moment, She will always be the fierce and powerful Avatar we know, for good and bad. It is a strength and a flaw.

It is always a contradictory issue among fans. X character is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu they are perfect with no flaws, X character has Y flaw and needs to develop past it. So what is it that we want, do we want characters to be flawed or flawless. It seems to be an issue either way and it has definitely come up with Korra.

Mainly with regards to Korra herself, I often see people say that she still has a lot of developing to do. She is still really impulsive and too quick to be tough and jump into a fight without thinking, she needs to develop past it. The key point I want to make in this editorial is that sometimes some character traits are so integral to a character that to have the character develop past that basically makes them a different character and not the same character who has had a meaningful journey. For Korra I think that trait is that she is very driven and intent when it comes to performing her duty as the Avatar, Korra is tough and always ready to jump into a conflict. To have her and to want her to develop and take this out of her character to me would be turning her into a completely different character. That is not to say that character development cannot be had in relation to that specific trait. In many ways Korra has smoothed out that aspect a bit already, compared to the early episodes of Book 1 where she was leaping into conflict without thinking at all, with K104 The Voice In The Night being the height of it, trying to get past her fear of Amon by doing what she knows best, confronting him. She develops in the sense that she thinks about these situations a bit more, as seen when she escapes from Amon in K109 Out Of The Past, she had a chance to confront Amon, but instead escaped. The key thing is that the writers did not or have not attempted to erase it as something she does as a character, but rather smooth it out so that it is still a key aspect of her character just not a MASSIVE or obvious flaw with her as a character. She still gets herself into bad situations because of this trait, but some development is clear to be seen.

I think an ATLA example can help me to explain this. Aang, our main ATLA character. His big character flaw is that he is too attached to those that he is close to. This is shown in multiple episodes like 103, 201, 211, 219, 220 and of course the finale. It is a key aspect of Aang’s character, he cares about his friends A LOT, to the point where it puts him in bad situations where he is nearly hurting others around him or putting the world at risk. It is not something that is erased from his character due to character development, he ends the show still caring A LOT about his friends, it is still a flaw. And you know what, that is perfectly fine and this is shown in The Promise Part 3,

“In a way you’re my family, Zuko. And no matter how hard I’ve tried I have never been able to detatch myself from those sorts of bonds. It’s a flaw, I know, but it’s one I have decided to accept. For this life, at least.” – Aang, The Promise Part 3

Aang talking to Zuko accepts that that it is one thing that he will never be able to change about himself, it is a flaw that he is willing to keep despite any negatives that may come from it. This was one of my favourite scenes in The Promise and honestly is up there with many of my top scenes from show. It is something I have rarely seen done in anything, a character in conversation noting and accepting a potential problem with themselves, but being willing to accept it.

Aang’s is the most obvious because he literally says the point I am trying to make, but most of the ATLA main characters have something like this. Zuko will always struggle with making the big decisions, but is willing to take on his role as Fire Lord and give himself a chance, he may struggle with making those decisions, but he will try and make the right ones. Katara will always to some extent let her emotions control her, we see this in the show at the expense of the group’s goals at points, but it is to do the right thing most of the time so she accepts it rather than trying to become less emotional. Sokka is the opposite, sometimes his ideas miss out on the emotion of the situation and focus more on the goal, the Painted Lady shows this. It is both a strength in that he can put emotions aside, but a weakness in forgetting about some key things at times, but he accepts it and doesn’t stop being a practical person.

The same applies to Korra and the other Korra characters. At the end of Book 2 Korra accepts that she is strong and powerful even if she was not the Avatar, that is true, she is strong and always willing to stand up for what is right. Why is it that her cosmic spirit representation is simply a giant form her herself, it is her greatest strength despite the negatives that often come with being so impulsive and fierce. Korra beats up Unavaatu by kneeing him in the face, that is Korra to a tee, she was never going to suddenly become Sokka or Mako and think of a super clever plan, her strength is that she is strong. Changing that would make Korra someone else.

The main reason I wanted to write about this topic is because I do often see a lot of criticism of Korra and even other shows come down to people wanting a lot more character development from certain characters to “fix” x character trait. My advice, think about what makes that character who they are, is that just who they are or something that they may actually need to change. Character Development is not the journey of a character from being flawed to being flawless, in some cases it may be as simple as them learning to accept that they are flawed. Something fans need to accept from time to time just as much as the characters themselves.

Shorter post, but I am happy with how this turned out 🙂

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My name is Morgan Bannon, I am a 22 Year old Male from Ireland and I am the Site Super Moderator. I have watched and been a fan of Avatar since it premiered. I am also a news post writer for the site and host the site's podcast, The Avatar Online Podcast. My strength as an Avatar fan would be just a good knowledge of Avatar Canon and characters.

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Comments - 8 Posts

  1. worldstraveller Said: Comment by worldstraveller on January 31, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    That was a very good insightful and thoughtful post, I do think people need to realize this more, I do agree with you greatly about this subject.
    I wouldn’t say just characters but also as persons.
    Like you said, character development is not about fixing traits just because many people don’t like it, it sounds changing who the person is just to please them, by just that feels quite wrong.
    also sometimes a flaw can be a virtue as much a virtue can be a flaw, because there negative and positive and not always black and white.
    what I love about ATLA and LOK, they always treat their characters as person first, let them evolve as a person and this takes time.


  2. stefan Said: Comment by stefan on January 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Great post! It applies to every character who developed in the show and the comics.


  3. Droc Plug Said: Comment by Droc Plug on January 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Very good article, an enjoyable read and incredibly helpful to the Avatar community. Thank you so much for this post its been an eye opener.


  4. Sogno Said: Comment by Sogno on February 1, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t really argue here. It’s a well thought out post and your examples are spot on. I think many people, including myself, just simply don’t like the kind of personality Korra exhibits. Rather than seeing that they simply don’t care for the character personally, I believe some fans place the blame on development, which really isn’t the issue.


    worldstraveller Reply:

    exactly, they aren’t trying to force us or we have to like all the characters, we can always accept the way they are – the ones we don’t like and continue to like the characters we like.
    Korra’s personality traits aren’t exactly easy to love, specially her flaws, some of her flaws I have soft spot for, because of it’s capacity for growth even though is slow, it needs very strong impacts on their ego and them as a person.
    even sometimes happens, the characters we hate very fiercely are and for being incredibly well written, some of mine being Umbridge from Harry Potter.


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    That is a good point, for ATLA Mai is a good example. Many dislike her solely because they dislike the character trait of someone who does not display much emotion, because they personally may not like that character trait in people in real life. This is nothing really to do with the quality of Mai as a character, why she is like that is explained and her relationship with Zuko is an interesting way for her to express som emotion.
    With Korra sure if you were to meet someone like that in real life it would be frustrating at times, but in universe in a world filled with conflict and the role she has, she is a good character, she is not badly written.


    worldstraveller Reply:

    yes, indeed.
    I do think Korra is very well written different of some think, characters with big egos such Korra, someone who is arrogant but has always good intentions like what she does – takes very long to develop because of their stubbornness, ego and pride…
    she takes very seriously her duty and not wanting to miss a chance to do it shows it, there is thirst to prove herself even though does all this impulsively, for very good reasons, being all closed from the world without giving her a chance to gain experience as the Avatar, she did the many mistakes she did because she was still inexperienced, now she has quite some experience and think things through better.


  5. greeneyes Said: Comment by greeneyes on February 2, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Some really good points here. I believe the writers have done a good job in steering clear from mary/gary stu type of characters, although for me it is more evident in A:tla. They have also steered clear from character-caricatures, which is rare in a kids cartoon show.

    The bottom line is that a written character has to be as close to reality as possible and therefore ‘flawless’ is definitely out of the question. Besides, I think one can identify better ( and therefore like better), characters that have had to struggle with flaws and mistakes, rather than those who miraculously do not.

    Korra starts off as a brash, sometimes over-confident ( and over-protected) teenager, who rubbed many people the wrong way ( isn’t that what teenagers famously do, anyway?) but experience has taught her a lot already, and she still has some growing to do. Korra at 17 and Korra at 37 will be very different, but if the writers are good at what they do, her basic nature will remain the same.



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