Confession time: I haven’t seen an episode of Korra since the fifth one. The first four episodes were awe-inspiring works of art that made me believe this was a landmark in American animation. The fifth episode somehow quietly flickered away all desire to keep watching for the time being.
Maybe it was because Bolin, my favorite character, was shafted without any glimmer of growth or retribution for what had been done to him. Or maybe it was how Makorra supporters spent the entire previous week bleating about how Asami, my second favorite character, would be a slutty, bratty, conniving, selfish bitch simply because she was rich and white and feminine… only for both of their precious love birds to behave exactly that way towards Bolin. I don’t want to call it a bad episode, but quite frankly, it takes a very special kind of awfulness to affect my fandom for any show as much as that episode did.
The last few days, I’ve been reading various Korra tags on Tumblr and I’m seeing a ton of hatred for Mako. At first, I wondered if this was just a fandom overreaction, but my personal research on the matter (combined with my very sore feelings about episode five) has led me to gravitate towards their viewpoint.
My understanding is that he keeps stringing along Korra despite being in a relationship with Asami and is generally being a selfish dick. Asami eventually finds out about this and what does Mako do? He apparently goes and blames Bolin for telling her, even though Bolin never blamed Mako for the way HE had pissed on HIS love life. It also turns out that Asami had sacrificed her wealth and her family standing so she could be with Mako and gang, and apparently this is how she’s rewarded.
Someone as selfish and dickish as Mako could make for a very interesting character deconstruction, but unfortunately, they don’t seem to be writing him that way. Apparently, we’re supposed to LIKE him. Apparently, we’re supposed to CHEER his inevitable pairing with Korra and not care how he dragged Bolin and Asami through the mud. Apparently, according to apologists and even one of the producers, his behavior is acceptable because “he’s a teenager”.
I’m sorry? I thought The Legend of Korra was about destroying cultural stereotypes. I thought people loved Korra because she shattered the racial and gender expectations of heroic protagonists in animation. And I thought people loved (or, in many cases, grew to love) Asami because she broke past genre expectations of the rich and pampered beauty queen. Yet Mako is justified by defaulting to the cultural perception of his age bracket. Huh? Why is this stereotype less worthy of being defied than the others?
Overly hormonal behavior in general can be considered realistic amongst a sizable portion of teenagers, but to tar every single teenager as being just like him is bullshit. And the specific extent to which he’s taken his hormonal rage is despicable and very hard to justify with an age excuse. It is either a fundamental personality defect or very poor writing. Considering the apparent intent of the writers, I’m leaning towards the latter.
What truly upsets me about Mako being an ass is how it’s been so utterly at the expense of Bolin and Asami. I love these two characters very much and it pains me how they’ve been mishandled thanks to Mako. They deserve so much better than this crap. Bolin’s hurt feelings have been whitewashed because, apparently, immature people aren’t supposed to feel long-term emotional pain, much less actually grow from it to become a mature person. Asami’s hurt feelings have led to speculation that she’ll become an Equalist.
Unlike Bolin’s situation, Asami turning bad is at least an actual consequence instead of more whitewashing. However, it would be truly disappointing if they took a promising character with so much initial growth and reduced her into very caricature of jealous, catty evil that the Makorra shippers accused her of… all just to try and further reinforce just how much we’re supposed to love the “deep”, “multi-dimensional” Mako and his “perfectly acceptable teenage behavior”. See the pattern here? Everyone else is made to look bad so Mako can look good, even though he hasn’t earned it in the slightest.
And what about Korra herself? I thought she was just as bad as Mako in episode five, but in fairness, I assume she’s redeemed herself with tons of awesome moments since and I haven’t seen anywhere near as much criticism of her behavior as Mako. But really, what would it say about Korra as a pro-feminist character if she ultimately accepts this manipulative douchebag as her boyfriend without any penance on his end?
I reiterate: I’ve only seen the first five episodes and only read about the later ones. But what I already know about Mako in the later episodes has made me dread them, and I’m even more dreadful of what he’ll do to the rest of the series. No amount of exhilarating fight scenes, gorgeous production designs or stirring music will make me swallow a Karma Houdini, especially not one that wrecks everyone else’s character development.