When The Legend of Korra first debuted on Nickelodeon in 2012 it was hotly anticipated. A sequel to the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, fans had waited four years for the show and with that came expectations. How would Korra tie into ATLA? Would any of the old characters show up? Could it live up to the high level of storytelling ATLA maintained? Would they reveal what happened to Zuko’s mom?!
While the show instantly won over a large group of fans there were still some detractors who blasted the show for “controversial” choices in relation to those questions and more. Adult Aang, seen in flashbacks, was much more serious than his goofy younger self. Certain characters weren’t as instantly beloved as the previous cast. Korra getting her bending back at the end of season one was seen as a huge waste of story potential. They made fun of fans wanting to know what happened to Zuko’s mom.
In retrospect these “controversial” choices weren’t as big as fans made them out to be and much of their reactions were driven by not willing to give the new show a chance. It’s hard to live up to four plus years of nostalgia after all.
Even still, Korra voice actress Janet Varney understands why fans reacted this way when the show first aired.
“When you have something that is so beloved, the way the Last Airbender series was, people felt this emotional connection to it and they had this resistance (to Korra,)” Varney tells Den of Geek.
Varney equates it to a child’s reaction to a divorced parent finding a new spouse. No matter how great that new spouse is, they’re still not one of your original parents.
“I know that there are still people who feel that it was a betrayal,” Varney states. She’s also quick to add that for all the detractors there were many fans that got something they loved out of Korra that ATLA didn’t have. She lists the concept of a lead female Avatar as one but another that fans have also resonated with was the confirmation that Korra and Asami were queer and in a relationship at the end of the series.
As the years have gone on and Korra finished its four-season run, fans have had the chance to reevaluate the title by watching it all in one go. This was especially the case last year when both ATLA and Korra were brought to Netflix, many experiencing both for the first time.
For Varney, this led to a completely different reaction because these new fans didn’t have to wait four years between ATLA and Korra. She describes the experiences of new fans as,
“Here’s one adventure, here’s this next adventure, wow these are both so great. It’s just two great TV shows and nobody needs to fight about it. I think it’s been nice to have that reprieve.”’
Varney, along with Zuko voice actor Dante Basco, are launching an Avatar rewatch podcast titled Avatar: Braving the Elements on June 22. If you want to know more about the behind the scenes of Avatar, that podcast will be for you.