Week 7: Cool AF Old People Parties
Day 19: Iroh Party
Day 20: Su and Lin Party
Day 21: Tenzin Party
Day 21 is for Tenzin being flawed, but AWESOME.
All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.
Tenzin is the closest to Uncle Iroh that we get in Korra, just because he’s the mentor figure to Korra and is super wise.
But he’s also pretty flawed. This is one of those instances in which Legend of Korra basically outpaces The Last Airbender, because though we love Iroh dearly, depicting a mentor-mentee relationship in which the mentor is just as flawed as the mentee and in which the mentor ends up learning just as much as the mentee learns (just in different ways) is a really interesting thing to do. Iroh is crucial as a mentor for a Zuko-type, but how Tenzin is depicted as a mentor ends up saying a lot more about teaching, patience, and forgiveness than the Iroh-Zuko relationship does.
It’s important in children’s entertainment to show that the adults don’t always have it together. Sometimes children’s entertainment does this in a kind of shallow but entertaining way (consider the Dursleys in Harry Potter), and sometimes in a hella complicated way that aids the “coming of age” narrative that goes on (consider Albus Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows) because it finally requires the child to take that final step in becoming an adult: recognizing that even the wisest, most brilliantest, most powerfulest, most supportive-est most educationalest, most adultest of the adults are still flawed people and forgiving them for it.
Also, it’s really important to portray the mentor as flawed when the mentor is a dude and the mentee is a dudette.
Korra is a spirited kid. She’s powerful AF, idealistic to a fault, naive, stubborn, doesn’t take any crap, and is easily frustrated. We might even have been inclined to forgive the makers of Korra if they had gone the Iroh/Zuko way, portraying Korra as a silly, angsty teenage girl (not without her charms and relatability, of course, but still), with Tenzin as the calm wise one, always patient, always perfectly supportive and ultimately right about everything.
That isn’t how it goes at all.
Tenzin often loses his patience. He often overreacts. But just like Korra, we know what’s going on with him and we forgive him his little outbursts. In a lot of ways, they make him more likeable than if he’d just been some zen, wise master.
Also, and we have to mention it because this is Avatar Land: Tenzin is a master air bender, and an adult one of those too. He has some moves, in other words.
Our favourite thing about him is that he is flawed, and that he just kind of goes with it. In this following scene, he is very close to giving up and losing himself in the spirit prison, all because he believes that he has failed his father because he doesn’t connect with the spirit world as naturally as he believes that he should, being freaking Aang’s son.
Aang helps him out (thanks buddy), but ultimately, just like in a similar type scene in The Lion King, ghost dad just kind of shows up to remind living son that he is perfectly capable of doing the thing if he can just remember who he is.