Week 2: Legacies of the Avatar
Day 4: The New Era: The Legacy of Avatar Wan
Day 5: The Legacies of Kyoshi and Roku
Day 6: The “Cop Out:” The Legacy of Avatar Aang
Day 4 is for the first ever Avatar, and for consequences and mistakes.
All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.
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All right, get it together, us.
Korra learns Wan’s story in Book 2, and it is covered in its entirety in parts 1 and 2 of “Beginnings.” Wan is the first Avatar and he pretty much single-handedly creates a new era in which humans and spirits are kept separate, and he, as the Avatar, serves as the bridge between the two worlds. He does this because he messed up. But, more importantly, he worked to fix his mistake.
Let’s be a little bit selfish and spend some time claiming that Wan can totally be read as an aro-ace. Surely it makes enough sense, as Wan is never depicted as having a romantic relationship. Instead, his friendships with humans and spirits are shown.
(^^ this guy though)
He influences the humans he knows and teaches his spirit friends that humans aren’t completely worthless. There’s also Mula, his animal friend. But the most important relationship in his life is his relationship with Raava, the all-powerful (and female-coded) spirit of light.
Raava rather dislikes Wan at first (with good reason) but eventually as they have no choice but to team up to defeat Vaatu, she learns, as other spirits have before her, that humans can actually be quite, well, human.
Their relationship is intimate, as we see Wan lie dying on a battlefield, apologizing to Raava for failing to bring peace to the world. And she replies, “It’s cool, bro, we’re going to be reincarnated.”
When Korra meets Raava finally, she and Raava have a similar warmth between them, which only makes sense as she’s the latest in ten thousand years of Wan reincarnations. This is how you show meaningful and yet no-romo, platonic relationships without erasing the aro-ace aspect. If that had actually been what they were going for, then we would hesitantly say they succeeded.
As it is, that’s probably not what they were doing but whatever. Wan is aro-ace forever in our hearts. Of course it doesn’t really matter what orientation Wan is or isn’t, but his and Raava’s bonding is quite beautiful to watch and important in a world that apparently struggles to see any value in relationships that aren’t sexual or romantic. So.
And then there’s Wan’s legacy, which was supposed to be the point of today’s entry but things got a little sidetracked.
Like every Avatar discussed in detail, Wan makes huge decisions that effect his life going forward and that effect the lives of his later reincarnations. It is Wan who splits Vaatu from Raava, and it isn’t until ten thousand years later that Korra ‘splodes him and ends that.
Wan also closes the spirit portals, believing that in order to maintain peace, spirits and humans can’t coexist physically. Korra reverses this decision as well, beginning a new new era. But his decisions are shown humanely. We understand why he makes the mistake of freeing Vaatu – he felt empathy for the poor, restricted all-powerful spirit of chaos. And his decision to separate spirits and humans makes perfect sense in his own context. Showing Avatars make decisions that have difficult consequences later on, and here specifically, showing the first Avatar lie dying while regretting what he hasn’t accomplished, is just another example of how complex and brave this show is.