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Surprise! Boys Don’t Care If Avatar Korra Is A Girl

The Legend of Korra, the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, premiered this weekend on Nickelodeon. We know you probably have a few strong opinions on it (feel free to share them in our comment section) but today we’re here to clue you into something you may find shocking -The Legend of Korra, featuring a female lead, appeals to boys! In fact, they think Korra is “awesome.” 

Creators of the series, Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino, recently spoke with NPR about the premiere and how they approached the new series and spoke about the live-action film that flopped.

NPR writes, “On the big screen — an adaptation DiMartino and Konietzko had no control over — the show’s hand-painted look was coarsened with cheesy CGI effects and live actors. Shyamalan’s film cost $150 million — and flopped epically. Fans complained that the casting added weird racial implications, and they lamented the ham-fisted script.”

“It’s very nice to be back in the driver’s seat,” said Konietzko.

“Konietzko says The Legend of Korra takes audiences back into the Last Airbender‘s shadowy snowscapes and pastoral tribal villages. But this show – meant for older kids — also includes a steampunk metropolis with coughing, old-fashioned cars and floating iron blimps,” writes NPR. “Some episodes find Korra fighting in alleys and at night, and DiMartino calls the show moodier and more noir than its predecessor.”

“She’s muscular, and we like that,” said Konietzko. “It’s definitely better than being a waif about to pass out. I know, I look like a waif — who am I to judge?”

But probably the most interesting bit of information to come out of the interview was a little background information on getting Nickelodeon to approve the show.

“Some Nickelodeon executives were worried, says Konietzko, about backing an animated action show with a female lead character. Conventional TV wisdom has it that girls will watch shows about boys, but boys won’t watch shows about girls,” they write. “During test screenings, though, boys said they didn’t care that Korra was a girl. They just said she was awesome.”

(via NPR)

Previously in The Legend of Korra

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  • Kash Mitaukano

    My girlfriends 10 year old brother confirmed that Korra was simply awesome last week. He also thought Meelo was hilarious. 

  • Bel

    Well of course she’s awesome.

  • Jeremy Thompson

    I’m a big fan of this. I can see a lot of Aang in her, but I also see a lot of Sokka and Katara in her. She may be the Avatar, but she’s an aggressive and blunt Water Tribe Avatar and I love that. I am fully in support of Korra. She may be female, but she’s a strong female lead that will, in my opinion, appeal to everyone.

  • Kat Valliant

    So far I’m loving Korra.  They manage to make her impulsive and headstrong without making her annoying – not always easy.  And the art/animation is gorgeous.  GORGEOUS.  

  • Anonymous

    I would expect a creator of the show to say that boys don’t care. I also hope he is right. I have heard a lot of adults watched Avatar and some talk of Korra. I am normally not a fan of anime with a few exceptions (Spirited Away, Akira, and a few others) but I think I may give it a look. I am drawn to shows with strong female leads. I just can not usually get over moments in anime where they over dramatize character reactions (huge eyes, falling over, etc) or have 10 minute talk scenes that ends in a short battle where the loser twitches a bit, says something  dramatic, then dies. Also the hair, yes the hair, anime hair is crazy.

  • Benjamin Eugene NElson

     I like what I’ve seen so far.

  • Benjamin Eugene NElson

    People will watch shows if they’re good irregardless of the gender of the protagonist..

    What a concept!

  • Sabrina

     Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are not really animes. They are US cartoons that use the visual style but otherwise don’t use all those tropes you just listed. Give it a try, it’s awesome! :D

  • TKS

    “Some Nickelodeon executives were worried, says Konietzko, about backing an animated action show with a female lead character.”
    That surprises me.  Nick wrote the book on producing female-lead programming that appeals to both boys and girls.  Alex Mack and Clarissa just to name a few.  They were the first to go against the conventional wisdom of “boys only watch boys, but girls watch both.”  That sentence disappoints me a little.

    I watched the premier this weekend, which is just another way of saying “I smiled for an hour strait.”

  • Izzy K

    It’s a good year for B.A. female protagonists.  I think that between Korra, Katniss, and Merida, by the end of the year it’ll be pretty hard for anyone to argue against female action leads with substance. (Not that they should be able to be argued against in the first place)

  • Jamie Jeans

    Apparently the morons at Nickelodeon never heard of this little show called My little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which has nothing BUT girls as leads. Girl ponies, yes, but girls nonetheless, and it has a rather large male following. Mainly because Lauren Faust said that just because a show is aimed at girls, doesn’t mean it has to be stupid.

    And yes, I love Korra for being this big, buff, confident awesome protagonist who can kick ass and isn’t wearing dental butt floss for an outfit. *glares at most of the costumes from DC and Marvel*

    Plus, I imagine that the same thought went into Brave as well, but what really makes Korra stand out is that not only is she this buff, awesome lead lady, she’s a buff, awesome lead lady of COLOUR. That cannot be stressed enough! Her name is in the title, the show is about her trials and tribulations, and it’s in a fantasy setting that is not Eurocentric and white.

  • Anonymous

     Just as well this isn’t anime, then.

  • Travis Fischer

    ::Insert my usual amazement that an article like this even exists here::

  • Anonymous

    That was the old Nick, before Nick Studios was closed and the rebranding. Even so, there’s still iCarly and Victorious, so I don’t know what those execs were thinking.

  • Anonymous

    NOT Eurocentric and white? Somebody oughta tell M. Night Shyamalan.

  • Katie

    News like this gives me a lot of hope, not only as a female fan but also as a female artist and writer that WRITES female leads. I hope that this starts changing the traditional perception of female characters, and leads,  at least a little bit. Not to mention the fact that this is one of the very few shows without a heavily white-washed cast. But the colour of the character’s skin does not really affect who they are as a person or a character, even if their culture does. C’mon comic and animation industries! Get a clue!

  • Kaarel Jakobson

     The sales pitch for Korra happened a while back, before MLP came out.

  • TKS

    Me-”I don’t know.  I’m a little worried this show won’t measure up.  I mean, how are they going to match Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph?”


    Me-”…I think we’ll be okay.”

  • Anonymous

    OK OK OK, did anyone else get a little bit of a Samurai Champloo vibe from the show??? I saw hints here and there… Thoughts?

  • Christine Mooers

    Now can we please get a decent girl action figure.  Had to make my Azula from the first series.

  • Amanda McPeck

    My boylios (ages 8 and 10) love the show. They are huge fans of the original series – I believe their favorite character is Toff. They’ve been walking around declaring, “I’m the Avatar and you’ve got to deal with it!!” for weeks. Of course, they have no problem at all with female leads: they’ve been raised on Miyazaki, Power Puff Girls, Dora, Digimon Tamers, etc. I wonder if these execs quite understand their audience. It’s my experience that the current generation of kids are far less attached to gender binaries than their parents.

  • Mandy Threlfo

    awww you reminded me of that travesty that makes me so sad. 

  • Mandy Threlfo

    Oh no no no, It’s nothing like that at all. I would also encourage you to watch the original show, it may not have a female lead but you be forgiven for thinking so, Katara, Toph, azula, ty lee, suki, I could go on, are all amazing female characters and definitely give the boys a run for their money in the show 

  • angelx03

     I am curious what anime you were watching because there are some that doesn’t follow that.

  • Anonymous

    …those 2 shows are not action cartoons, the target audience of which are usually boys, which includes Korra, this article is important for the simple fact that Korra has to succeed with boys in particular or else it will be considered a failure… because its an action cartoon and that’s the target audience.

    On the other hand that does not apply to iCarly or Victorious.

  • Amanda Allen

     haha, irregardless

  • TKS

    But it wasn’t before Alex Mack, Clarissa, and Wild Thornberries.

  • TKS

    I’m a bit dyslexic, so when I am tired and reading things, words sometimes decide to say whatever the hell they want.  At first I thought you said that you got a BA in female protagonists.  

    That would be a kick ass degree.  GET IT! puns.

  • Anonymous

    Not a single one of those cartoons were action shows. It doesn’t matter as much if boys watch those shows cause those shows don’t have such a narrow target audience the way action cartoons tend to… action cartoons tend to be primarily targeted to boys. That’s why it matters that Korra appeals to them because its an action cartoon an that’s the target audience (for ad reasons). Those other shows on the other hand did necessarily not have to necessarily reach many boys.

  • TKS

    I’ve discovered that my favorite shows have an excellent “scooby gang.”  That is to say, it’s character driven with a strong ensemble of characters.  (Buffy, HIMYM, Community, etc.)  Avatar did an excellent job at that.  Every character was so different, but they all worked together so well.  All of it’s characters were well rounded and strong.

    Avatar: The Last Airbender was a case study in excellent story telling and character development.

  • TKS

    I’m going to go into the history of Nickelodeon a bit,

    When Nick first started in the 70s it was mainly educational, like an older PBS, and it failed.
    When it changed hands in the 90s, the new leadership of the network (headed by a woman) decided that “quality children’s television” didn’t have to mean educational television, it could mean television in which girls and people of color are featured in meaningful ways.  Clarissa, the character, was designed to appeal to both boys and girls.  When she became a huge success (Clarissa Explains it All is still one of the most successful kids TV shows in it’s following and influence.)  Clarissa busted the “girls watch boys but boys don’t watch girls” myth, and they repeated with shows like Alex Mack and Shelby Woo (both should be considered action shows) and they all were wildly successful with boys.  Nickelodeon proved throughout the 90s and early 2000s that kids of whatever race or gender will watch shows that feature girls, blacks, latinos, etc. as long as they were good stories.  (It is all really fascinating.)

    The “boys won’t watch girls” myth is constructed from a couple of studies from decades ago that indicated girls were more likely to have favorite boy character than boys were more likely to have a favorite girl character.  These studies ignore the fact that there were no dynamic female characters on television at the time.  There were no Alex Macks, no Korras, not even a Dorra the Explorer.

    The “action shows are for boys” is just as much an artificial construction as “boys won’t watch girl characters.”

  • Anonymous

    firstly …it doesn’t matter if the “action shows are for boys” myth is a construct or not, because for better or worse that’s the target audience they always go with for action cartoons, and since they go for that audience with those shows that’s where it has to succeed, and that includes Korra, and that’s why teh article is important.

    That is not true for any of those other shows you mentioned, even if they did appeal to both boys and girls, boys themselves were not the primary target audience for those shows, say it with me now, “primary target audience”.

    for example, Young Justice, in teh producers (Greg Weisman) own Words “I think, from an economic standpoint, we have to hit boys 6 – 14 for Cartoon Network to sell their ad space or whatever, so if you think of it as a bull’s eye with concentric circles, that’s the bull’s eye we have to hit – but I’m not satisfied with that and I don’t think Brandon is either. A, we want boys and girls, so there’s a lot of great relationship stuff in this, there’s humor in this show – I mean, it’s a serious show, but there’s a lot of humor in it, there’s a lot of eye candy for little kids”

    Also for the record Shelby Woo ended up being canceled so i wouldn’t exactly call it wildly successful with anybody,  and Alex Mack was not an action show by any stretch of the imagination.

  • TKS

    Dear Mary Sue,

    For some reason, I assume the settings you have on your website to avoid encouraging silly discussions like the one in which I am participating, I cannot respond to the comment below.  The fact that a discussion in which I was a participant ends with the sentence, “Also for the record Shelby Woo ended up being canceled (after an impressive 41 episode run) so i wouldn’t exactly call it wildly successful with anybody,  and Alex Mack was not an action show by any stretch of the imagination,” makes my internet-soul cry.

    Yours truly,

  • Nick Gaston

    Hear, hear! Though frankly, knowing toy companies, my money’s on them trying to release Neon Arctic Nano-Armor variants of lesser minions before they actually do a figure of the main character. Argh.

    And I for one would love to see that Azula. ;) (I’ve still got my custom Shego around, someplace…getting the hair right was the hardest.)

  • Rose Jones

    I agree. I think it’s also a challenge to make a realistic female character who can show emotions without getting too b!tchy and all “me me me” whiny. They need to know when to pick themselves up and move on. I was also skeptical about the “steampunk 20′s” style in contrast to the nature landscapes of ATLA but the new urbanized setting is clever and original.

    Korra has her angry moments (from what I’ve seen of her struggling with airbending) but she’s a sixteen-year-old AND the Avatar so she’s got a lot to deal with. But she’s also outgoing and friendly, which makes her likeable. I loved her giant bear hug with Tenzin’s kids and how she nearly knocking Bolin over with glee.

    What’s nice is that while Aang is mentioned briefly on this show, Korra isn’t compared to her predecessor. She may be the new Avatar but she’s got her own strengths, weaknesses, and goals.

    P.S. From what little I’ve seen of brothers Bolin and Mako, they are also wonderful characters to watch bouncing off of each other. Mako reminds me of Zuko in the stubborn stoic goal-driven mannerisms but I suspect he knows more than he lets on.

  • Paige Chartrand

    This who is AWESOME! I’ve seen the first two episodes and there is NO reason not to love it! I’m 24, my fiance is 25, and along with all of our friends, we’ve been addicted to the Airbender series from the start, and aren’t about to walk away now! (Despite the atrocity of the film, we know the creators hated it just as much as we did!)

  • Benjamin Eugene NElson

     Did I use the word wrong?

  • Rob

    I believe it’s that you used a word that isn’t actually a word, like “guesstimate”. Sounds similar, sounds legitimate, means the same thing but isn’t a word :p No harm done though, and I agree with you, people will watch what’s good.

  • Rob

    What? Why do executives not live on this planet? Female leads are more popular than EVER with today’s culture and not just because they’re hot. Look at how many males play female characters in their MMORPGs, fighting games, action/adventure games. Look how many tv shows with female leads are extremely popular. As someone mentioned below, a little known show that you might have heard of called -ahem- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has a HUGE fanbase of 12-30 year old MALES watching it. Give me a job as a Nick executive, I’ll show ‘em how it’s done.

    Personally, I have no problem with Korra being a girl. They’ve written her very well and I think she is a pretty kickass character. I also like that she’s got a lot of masculine features (same facial designs as Prince Zuko and Aang), muscles and not being overly girly or sexy, yet she’s not stereotypically tomboyish, it’s something you rarely see done. I think it just goes to show that the creators of this series are truly masters of crafting the types of worlds that can really immerse an audience, they know how to think outside the box and show people something that they’ve never seen before. I love the show.

  • Colin

     I got a Baccano vibe. 1920′s, fluid animation, chase scenes, swing music – it all fits!

  • Benjamin Eugene NElson

     *chuckles*  Not trying to be a jerk, Rob. I needed to see if I was using the word right. 

    I looked it up.  I <3 the "define:" function on Google.

    It's just not used often and some people consider it inappropriate due to having both a negative prefix and suffix.

    It's a real word I'm using it right.   It's totally cromulant.. ;)

  • Colin

    4chan’s /co/ loves Korra, but quails in fear of the shipping wars that consumed it when ATLA was airing. Already, that shot in the trailer for the rest of the season has raised cries of “NOOO, DON’T GIVE THE ZUTARIANS WHAT THEY WANT” “KOLIN 4 EVER”.

    Me? I have Avatar back again. :-D

  • Lonestarr

    I’m pretty sure this is just as far as they have disqus set to go for replies.  If I recall correctly, it only went to 4 when Topless Robot got it back in the day.  Think it goes to… 8 or so, these days.

    For the record, 41 episodes isn’t a bad run at all, and I’m pretty sure Alex Mack easily qualified as an action show.

  • Aviana Knochel

    KOLIN is my OTP now, just for the sheer absurdity of that crack-pairing name. 

  • Anonymous

    What I saw as champloo-ish was Korra’s fighting style, sort of like Mugen’s?  And something about the hobo in park seemed straight from Champloo!

    I love that with Korra you can pick out references and inspiration, but it’s sooo good and still very much it’s own thing.

  • Jeff Fecke

    So tired of the “Boys can’t like girl leads” myth. Back in the 1980s I was reading books by Madeline L’Engle and Zilpha Keatley Snyder with female protagonists, and loving them. Hunger Games sold approximately a gazillion tickets. Can we please move on? It’s 2012.

  • Kenny Zaborny

    I’ve been waiting for Korra to premiere since it was announced and I’m happy to say that it exceeded my expectations. Toph was my favorite character from the first series. She was no nonsense and headstrong without being irritating. I knew they’d be able to carry the show with a female lead just because of the awesome job they did with the female characters from the first series. Every female character from that series kicked more butt than the males. I mean Azula beat everyone at least once.

    Korra reminds me of Toph with Aang’s innocence and wonder. She is a very likable and awesome character. 

  • super

     i saw the online preview a few weeks ago.  I thought it was fantastic.  I don’t care if the character is male or female.  All i want is a good well written character and story.  My only problem is when shows do the gender bending thing like BSG. 

  • julia chan

    Good comparison for setting but totally different story line. Haha, which reminds me I need to re-watch it.

  • Rob

    I will use “cromulant” today as thanks for you teaching me something new :)

  • Benjamin Eugene NElson

     *chuckles*  I love being able to sneak in a simpsons reference into a serious discussion.

    And my grandma was right, bless her heart.  You learn something new every day, eh?

    Just so you use cromulant correctly too.. :D

  • Anonymous

    I love her personality. …. and also her nice boobs :)

  • Emilio Perez

    Pff, I’m a guy and used to read the trixie belden series right along side the old hardy boys books. Gender isnt important, character content is. 

  • Noah Hood

    I love this show! I’m 16 and I watch it, it’s great for all audiences!

  • randomwordsisism

    ok so honestly when i heard about this and found the protag was some crazy buff girl, for a short time I decided this new series was garbage. Being the cool guy i am, id always enjoyed watching the manly protag snagging the ladies, and was totally turned off by the female lead thingy. ~ But then i decided to watch the first episode and found the animation great, found everything smooth, and would watch a few more to see a new male lead. (-Mako = what i was hoping for) After finding the romance and action very fluid i quickly flew threw it and ended up finding some forum or whatever about the series and wrote this for some good reason i think.

    yes yes yes, Great show of course, cept uuh 1. the general’s dubbed voice (Zuko’s, which i found a bit funny fitting his more youthful tone to the young adult like character). and 2. Cmon guys, Korra isnt buff at all. sure shes totally got strength/muscle and mojo, but she isnt buff. After seeing a few cartoons featuring a super densely muscled, 8pack girl and then seeing the actual series i was i dunno surprised for like 2 seconds and it all made sense. wammo

  • randomwordsisism

    meeeeeh look over the weird typos. i dunno its late

  • Anonymous

    She practically acted like a guy anyway, regardless of her looks. That being said the BGM in this series was excellent. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes but it wasn’t too bad. I never saw the original series.

    I should clarify. She’s a Tomboy, so it is easier for guys to relate to the character, even though she is female.

  • shan

    legend of korra, best show this year for me, love it to death, want more

  • shan

    legend of korra, best show this year for me, love it to death, want more

  • shan

    Seen this show on a site I use for anime and tv series and started watching this, fell in love, wish I found it sooner, Korra is a great character one of the best female characters I have seen in a while, my eyes lit right up and I couldnt stop watching. This appeals to an older audience :) witch rocks my socks, the sound effects and invironments are wonderful

  • shan

    Seen this show on a site I use for anime and tv series and started watching this, fell in love, wish I found it sooner, Korra is a great character one of the best female characters I have seen in a while, my eyes lit right up and I couldnt stop watching. This appeals to an older audience :) witch rocks my socks, the sound effects and invironments are wonderful