Airspeed’s Editorials – Character Development and Flawless Syndrome
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
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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