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The Problem Fans Have With Katara In The Legend Of Korra

Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel series The Legend of Korra has been off the air since 2014, yet the series has enjoyed a recent uptick in interest thanks to its new streaming life on Netflix. The show is set some 70-odd years after the war with the Fire Nation reached its conclusion, and features a new cast around the latest incarnation of the Avatar, a waterbender from the South Pole named Korra (voiced by Janet Varney).

Although many of the principal characters from the beloved original series passed in the intervening decades between the two shows, some are still alive and thriving — including three members of the original Team Avatar: Zuko (Bruce Davison), Katara (Eva Marie Saint), and Toph (Philece Sampler). In a bold — and ultimately effective — decision, series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko elected to pass the narrative torch to the new characters instead of leaning too heavily on the established relationships viewers forged with the original cast. Zuko, Katara, and Toph all dip in and out of the storyline at different moments to play relatively minor roles without ever really stealing the spotlight from the young cast around Korra.

Although Legend of Korra largely benefits from this creative choice, even the relatively small contributions made by the original characters have sparked quite a bit of fan discussion. Katara, in particular, has been the subject of some fierce debate on Reddit, with fans questioning why she was relegated to the role of non-combatant.

Why was Katara benched on Legend of Korra?

Redditor u/remenation posed the question, "Why wasn't Katara a fighter in Legend of Korra? Her whole character was ruined!" The outrage seems to stem from the fact that waterbending master Katara, well into her 80s at the outset of Legend of Korra, has retired to a quiet life as a healer with the Southern Water Tribe. Some fans felt that this passive role doesn't square with the powerful heroine they came to know and love through three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

While it might seem normal for an 84-year-old woman to take a backseat when it comes to the fighting, several users aptly pointed out that the world of Avatar is literally teeming with septuagenarian, octogenarian — even centenarian — combatants of deadly skill and strength.

"I think a lot of fans would have been perfectly okay with the original Team Avatar sitting out if we hadn't been spoiled with the White Lotus in A:TLA," user forthewatch39 wrote in reply. This comment references the secret society of geriatric warriors who helped bring down the Fire Nation in the original series. Even in Korra we saw Fire Lord Zuko, nearing 90, take a more active role in season 3's central struggle against Zaheer (Henry Rollins) and the Red Lotus.

Not every Avatar: The Last Airbender fan is down on Katara's retirement

Some fans did come to the defense of passive Katara. "I don't like these arguments that Bumi and rest of White Lotus were very old but capable, so Katara and the rest has to fight too. Even when it comes to Toph, as much as I remember, she wasn't jumping around the enemies being super in shape. All she did was doing grand earthbending moves, minimum motions, just whatever her old body is capable of doing. Katara, even because of her look, is old and it's visible she's not really a fighter anymore. I think it makes no sense for her to jump and just fight. White Lotus was a society where they intentionally tried to be prepared for fights, especially because they lived through years of war," wrote user amonhensul.

u/AHealthyDoseofFran added, "I don't get why people hate that she wasn't a fighter? Like dudes, why is it a bad thing that she settled down in her later life as a healer? Or became a stay at home mum? It's like the same people who think Pema was a basic character who did nothing – the woman raised the next generation of airbenders and enjoyed it even if she was exhausted all the time."

It's an interesting point. Just because some characters choose to return to the field of battle in their senescence doesn't mean every character is obligated to. As many fans have pointed out, it's entirely reasonable to think Katara at 84 might not be the exact same person she was at 14. Maybe we should all just let the woman enjoy her retirement. One thing's for sure: The fan interest in these characters seems destined to live as long as Avatar Kyoshi.