Immediately after my previous entry, I marathoned episodes 6-10 of The Legend of Korra. Was I utterly and completely foolish in prematurely accepting the viewpoints of the Mako bashers? My verdict is absolutely not.
But before I dive into the ongoing failure that is Mako, I will confess that I was too harsh on the show in general. Episode 5 really made me forget just how fantastic this series is outside of his drama. Episode 6 was truly awe-inspiring from start to finish, and the rest were also superb (aside from you-know-who). Tenzin is amazing. Lin is amazing. I wept for her. I wept for Tahno. Tarrlok’s metamorphosis into a vicious antagonist was superbly done. The art, choreography and music are as amazing as ever. This production is one for the ages. They’ve gotten so many things right. So, so many things.
Yet the romantic storyline — the one element that gets so much disproportionate weight from the fandom and seemingly from the writers — has gone horrendously wrong.
Bolin, alas, isn’t as amazing as he should be. I don’t blame him, really. I blame the botched development and whitewashing. There is nothing that can be done for his character, at least not this season. Maybe they’ll give him his due in the next season. Or maybe they’ll just make him even stupider and more susceptible to getting manipulated. For now, I can’t consider him my favorite character anymore, not when Tenzin and Lin are tearing it up so much. Yet even at his most one-dimensional, he’s still a much more interesting character and better person than his big brother.
Asami is who I’m worried for right now. There is a loose parallel between father and daughter here. They’ve both been hurt by firebenders. Hiroshi Sato’s love of his life was murdered by a firebender, and he subsequently collapsed into bigotry. Asami’s love of her life is (or was) a firebender, and she — according to Korra at the end of Episode 7 — supposedly needed his emotional support to overcome the grief of her father’s betrayal. She doesn’t receive that at all. At this point, the correct resolution would be Asami learning that she doesn’t need a boyfriend, much less an unloyal douche, to overcome grief. Even in her heartbreak, she would defy the temptation of bigotry and instead become the beacon for the benderless.
In my opinion, Asami becoming a villain would be profoundly damaging and insulting. As much as I resent Mako and think she has EVERY RIGHT IN THE WORLD to be angry and pissy, I really don’t believe it justifies a backstabbing. He is only one person, and a glorified blank slate at that (which I’ll get to shortly). Everyone else on Korra’s team has proven more than worthy of her loyalty. Anyone as intelligent as she’s been established should understand that, even with a broken heart. Mako should not be given so much fucking weight.
Yet giving Mako all the weight in the world seems to be the writers’ agenda. That’s how Bolin was sabotaged and I fear the same for Asami. The impending arrival of General Iroh gives me faint hope that she at least won’t become evil, if only because he seems like the logical rebound for her (and he already displays more class and integrity in one scene than Mako in 10 episodes). Which leaves the door open for Makorra.
Which leads me straight to the man of the hour.
If you strip away all of his love triangle bullshit, then what’s left of the character Mako? What identity does he have outside of his romances? He’s a good-looking young man who is good at pro-bending, but what drives him?
Mako is a public figure. In the show’s universe, he must have admirers. He has fans. Particularly fangirls. They could’ve had a few scenes of fangirls (and other admirers) congregating as they express concern and support for their pro-bending champion as he joins the fight against the Equalists. They could’ve had Amon or Tarrlok threatening those fans to catch Mako off-guard and derail whatever strategic advantage Team Korra was trying to achieve. We could’ve seen both his compassion and his rashness come into light.
Mako had a teammate who bailed on him before Korra came along. They could’ve brought back this teammate, who could’ve felt very bad about leaving his team after witnessing their bravery against Amon. He could’ve even sacrificed himself for the greater good. We could’ve seen how Mako inspires others. We could’ve seen how much he cares through his subsequent grief and guilt. This could’ve been a defining moment for Mako.
Mako was a gang member. He could’ve had lingering sympathies or ties to this unsavory facet of his past. We could’ve seen how this might’ve affected this pro-bending career and public image. Or maybe we could’ve seen him desperately calling up his former gang acquaintances for assistance against the Equalists. This of course would’ve backfired, as the gangs would simply use Team Korra for their self-serving agenda. It could’ve been a learning experience for Mako, as he resolves to make better decisions in the future and not succumb to vices or false solutions.
These are just a few of many ways they could’ve given depth to Mako’s character. An actual sense of purpose and proportion within the story. Legitimate growth. Reasons to like him and support him. A flawed, textured, admirable person worthy of Korra’s attention.
Instead, what do we get from Mako?
A vacuum of douchebaggery.
A vacuum of entitlement.
A vacuum of manipulation.
A vacuum of unfaithfulness.
A vacuum of hurt feelings.
A vacuum of character derailment.
Vrrm vrrm, Bolin.
Vrrm vrrm, Asami.
No matter what you personally think of Mako, or Makorra… can you honestly tell me that Mako is a well-developed character? On the same plateau as characters like Tenzin and Lin? As Korra, sans Episode 5? As Asami, sans her impending character assassination?
You can like him as much or much more than any other character, and that’s a completely valid subjective response. But can you actually claim that Mako’s character holds up from an objective perspective?
Is there anything about Mako that makes him a worthy man for Korra? Why should Korra want him? Why should I want her to want him? Why should I want him to be a part of this story at all?
Vrrm vrrm vrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm.
Mako the vacuum, ladies and gentlemen.
Some say his character was modeled as the show’s equivalent of Zuko and that his entire relationship with Korra is the writers’ penance to shippers that wanted Katara and Zuko together. I’ve personally never watched most of A:TLA, yet I understand that Zuko is a rounded character with multiple motivations for his antagonistic role and a fully-realized redemption arc. Zuko is not a vacuum.
One Tumblr entry tried to justify Mako’s behavior by likening it to Sokka’s various love interests. Wow. There is literally nothing to compare here. Sokka has a relationship with one girl before circumstances forced them to separate, then has a relationship with another girl who ultimately dies, then reunites with the first girl who helps him bear his grief over the second girl. Somewhere in between, he has a fleeting infatuation with a third girl’s looks. That’s not love at all, yet the entry felt compelled to give it as much weight as his actual relationships. Which occurred at separate intervals of time. Sokka did not cheat or manipulate anyone. Sokka is not a vacuum.
I’m personally disgusted whenever I read arguments like “Mako is just like Zuko/Sokka” or hypocritical sexist bleating against Asami, but in all honesty, these people are a shameful minority on their end, just like the people sending hate mail to David Faustino (seriously WTF is wrong with you?) are a shameful minority on our end. The majority of Mako/Makorra supporters are just viewing and appreciating everything at face value. That’s 100% fine. I just want them to respect and understand why we feel like we do right now.
I should be heading into The Legend of Korra’s season finale with extreme fanboy giddiness. Thanks to Mako, I am dreading it. I have already resigned to the fact that Mako won’t receive his correct resolution (e.g. swift commeupance) this Saturday. I’m just hoping the cumulative damage will be as mitigated as humanly possible.
I’ll probably make one final post discussing my feelings about the season finale and how it affects my overall opinion of the series. Or maybe not. I’d honestly rather forget aboutLegend of Korra at this point. This entire ordeal has drained me far more than I ever wanted or expected. I thought my fandom activities this weekend would revolve around fretting overBrave’s less-than-stellar reviews and whether or not it’ll live up to my expectations. Thanks to this, I’ve barely spared a thought for poor Merida. I’ll probably see it on Saturday night, with the aftermath of Korra’s finale still fresh in my mind. Hopefully it won’t distract me too much from absorbing Pixar’s latest.
Before I wrap this up, I want to address DiMartino and Konietzko aka ‘Bryke’. I harbor absolutely no personal animosity towards either of them. They are a superlatively talented duo who have given us a modern mythology so richly detailed and so capable of evoking such raw passion from all sides. This is their creation and their right to do as they please within 22-minute runtimes and S&P. I will absolutely NOT condone any activism or campaigning intended to force Bryke into altering their creative vision. I wish and hope the anti-Mako camp never degenerates into such selfish entitlement.
All that said, I would be lying if I said this entire situation won’t affect my trust or interest in the remainder of Korra or any future projects they take upon. Because for all of their talent and vision and imagination, they have somehow created a monster out of Mako. They never wanted to create that monster. They just wanted to create a character named Mako that would be entertaining and compelling to the viewer. But at the end of the day, that monster arose from good intentions. They should have foreseen this monster and neutered it before it was too late. Now that monster is out in the wild, and they’ll have to live with the consequences to the series and it’s legacy.