It’s time to get serious here. Supergirl season 2 has lent itself to a lot of discussion, from those squeeing with delight at the all things Sanvers, to those who…may be less enthused at the not exactly flawless portrayal of Mon-El. However, one topic has been criminally overlooked in fandom conversations. The most important topic, at that.
What the fiddlesticks is up with the DEO?
The DEO is, of course, The Department of Extranormal Operations, a subdivision of the US Department of Defense. And with its portrayal in Supergirl, it sort of feels as though it makes no sense. But don’t worry; Kylie and Griffin have a foolproof ten-step plan (only eight of which will be skipped) for discerning if this is truly the case.
Let’s start with the basics. The name itself is rather woolly. What exactly does “extranormal” mean? What is their legal definition when it comes classifying “extranormal”? Does that include the paranormal? And, if so, are there officially sanctioned Ghostbusters? Does this mean that Ghostbuster merchandise is government propaganda that helps fund our defense department? We think the implication here speaks for itself. Well played, Director Bones.
From what we can tell, the general population is fully aware, and accepting, of the fact that aliens exist. Well, accepting enough to debate their status as citizens. So then, why is the department that works on their cases secret? In fact, wouldn’t this be for the protection of said aliens to understand that there are dedicated government agencies, or is this just the secret group behind a public one, which is kept secret because… They have to do shady things that violate alien rights?
That seems rather unconstitutional, so maybe it’s just because the government doesn’t want the public to know the wasteful shit they spend their money on for the DEO.
For instance, they paid money to put lead into their paint at the DEO headquarters. Which yes, isn’t out of the realm of possibility for our government as of late, but you’d think the health hazard alone would turn them off of the idea. We promise, Superman would still fuck them up if things got really bad, even with their well-hidden stash of kryptonite.
More wasteful still, they are willing to pay for property in the heart of the city, which happens to comprise the entirety of a massive of a high-rise that also happens to be one of the most recognizable buildings in the National City skyline.
We don’t know a ton about real estate prices in this fictitious city on Earth-38, but we have a feeling it would have been just a touch cheaper if they had gone with the ol’ bunker-in-the-desert thing. Also because no one would get into it by accident.
Which reminds us, what the hell do the people of National City think is in this building? Does the DEO have to spend money to hire actors (who would have to be agents with security clearance) to play disinterested administrative professionals in a fake corporate office, or is it more like a very fancy hotel that is always booked? If it’s the latter, how do they feel about letting people use the lobby bathroom? During coffee breaks, are agents required to put on suits and dresses and mill around the foyer? Our personal recommendation would be holograms, of course, despite the fact that power outages would render them useless.
Oh, speaking of power outages, the DEO goes on lockdown like…a lot. And even if it wasn’t a regular lockdown, there’s always emergency drills of some kind because they have to do that, just like any other government agency. So do they just eject the poor people who wandered into the lobby having to pee using a blast of pressurized air? Granted, we can think of other ways to throw them onto the streets, but imagine how much better this would be (on the environment too) if they hadn’t insisted on renting space on the busiest damn block of the entire city.
Is it cloaked? Did the DEO drop money on a downtown high-rise that needed a constantly running cloaking device, with the hopes that helicopters might only sometimes hit it? No, even that’s too stupid (not to mention environmentally irresponsible) to be a true possibility. Much better that they have fake hotel workers.
Don’t even get us started on Kara entering and exiting through the windows. Though we suppose if they went with the fake hotel scheme, the public might just assume that she lives there. We’re glad they have their contractors in mind.
BUT WAIT. Contractors! It’s all coming together now! The DEO clearly contracts construction workers so that the building will appear closed down. They’d of course have to be real crews, or else competing construction companies would be trying to figure out who the fake team was, and why they don’t appear anywhere else in the city and… It’s a whole thing. Just trust us. Now, what these construction workers are actually fixing is beyond us, but maybe there’s a constant gas leak. Or they’re always being bug bombed for termites. Or perhaps the DEO agents use their coffee breaks to destroy entire sections of the facade for fun. And stress relief. We know Alex would dig it.
But this, dear readers, brings us to one of the most confusing and glamorous aspects of the DEO—payroll. Real talk: is Kara a contractor or internal employee? We lean towards the former, because we don’t recall “Agent Supergirl” ever being uttered (and good thing too; it sounds really stupid). She also didn’t even know an HR department existed, which suggests an incredibly haphazard onboarding process for her, if there ever was one at all. From what we remember, she just kinda showed up one day, and J’onn never told her to leave. Good thing too, those employee handbooks must be thick as redwoods and quite the dull read.
The only thing that gives us pause here is that J’onn made Kara and Mon-El fill out an HR form to disclose this relationship. Mon-El is most likely the same status as Kara vis a vie internal vs. external worker, but it does seem over and beyond to require relationship disclosure for contractors. Especially since Alex didn’t even mention this potential conflict-of-interest when she cheerily insisted that Kara date the boy. Maybe this was J’onn going rogue, thinking that the paperwork would seem like too serious of a commitment and by asking them to sign it, Mon-El would choose to go the way of Poochie. We applaud J’onn for trying.
There is something we can’t applaud J’onn for, however, and that’s letting random people just walk their asses into the headquarters. It’s not even like this is a rare occurrence. Maggie may as well have security clearance at this point, because she’s magically able to waltz in at all hours at the night for no reason other than to see her girlfriend (well, only the mind-reader knew this for the bulk of the season) and get a slightly earlier start on their date. It’s possible that J’onn just takes the head on security clearance given his abilities, except…he’s not there all the time. And even when he is, he can sometimes forget to do the mind-reading thing for plot purposes, so it’s not very useful.
While we’re on J’onn, that reminds us: the Director of the DEO directly participates or intervenes in many of their operations. Like, he’s the one punching people. It’s great that he’s the Martian Manhunter, but maybe that means someone else should be in charge since he’s always in the field and cannot do administrative work. Or, you know, direct the operations. If only they had a living skeleton who sweats cyanide and has a lovely collection of neckties.
But frankly, do they even need a director? They only have maybe 3 or 4 agents active at a given time, unless the plot demands otherwise. Heck, they didn’t even have a dedicated IT guy until Winn got the job this year. Which sadly just bring us back to the GIANT BUILDING! Who is using it, if no one is in it? Or are they just sub-tenants with the following floors: top, ground-level, basement, and sub-basement. Those poor businessmen who work in the middle and have no way of getting in their building (or out). Is this up to code? We have our doubts.
No no, back to the agents. From what we can tell, there is a constant fluctuation in team size from 4 agents to…over a hundred. You know, for those operations where the vans come and stuff. What happens to the van crews during the normal day-to-day, when they’re almost never needed? Do they have other day jobs? Does everybody have an incredibly high number of vacation days they can take? Are they temps and called as-needed (and if so, how does no one know about them)? Are they there, but merely hiding behind the cameras during most episodes? OH! Maybe they live in the vacant parts of the building, which means that the DEO definitely owns and operates a luxury hotel with actual service.
Well then, nevermind us. We were going to go on about how Maggie magically knew of the DEO despite it being a top secret held secret, or how their HR department is sorely lacking in recourse for its employees stealing equipment and going on rogue missions, but it’s clear these are mere quibbles. The DEO makes perfect sense, and its agents are true American heroes.
Especially the ones who cook the meals for the room service of the hotel that they clearly live in and staff.
Images courtesy of The CW , Toys R’ Us, and DC Comics
A Definitive Guide to Queer Lady Names on TV
It’s happened to all of us at least once. You walk in on a conversation between a couple of your fellow queer ladies while they’re discussing TV fandoms. One of them is raving about her favorite wlw character, and you agree wholeheartedly, only to realize you’re not even talking about the same person. Then you get very confused. Wait, are we talking about Supergirl or Orange is the New Black? Turns out they’re talking about Degrassi and you look like an idiot.
Let’s face it, when we meet female TV characters with certain names, we just know they’re probably going to turn out to be queer. Maybe it’s especially obvious to me because I have one of these names, but there’s a clear pattern. This past year or so of TV brought us a new queer character with at least 4 of the following 6 names, so I know I’m onto something here. Behold, my totally scientific list of names that signal your newest TV crush is probably into chicks.
There haven’t actually been a ton of wlw characters named Emily (as far as I know), but they’ve all been memorable enough to make this name an easy pick for the list. The big one is Emily Fields, the Pretty Little Liars resident lesbian jock. She’s famous for her gay as hell outfits, kind and loyal personality, and having ALL the girlfriends. Emily Fields was an incredibly important character to have on screen. Though she had the obligatory coming out story, the show moved past that early and made her sexuality just one part of the character as a whole. She was allowed that angst as she figured out who she was, but also the happiness that comes with self-acceptance. We got the full journey over seven seasons with Emily. Unfortunately, the show disappointed by killing off many of its other queer female characters, including transwoman CeCe Drake.
Before Emily Fields, we had Emily Fitch of Skins. She was one of the major characters in the group the British teen drama followed in seasons 3 and 4. Her romance with Naomi Campbell was both adorable and gifable. It also brought the drama and broke our hearts. It may have been hard to watch at times, but in 2009 we still had a dearth of teen wlw characters on TV, and hey, we can all relate to angst.
The treatment of the couple by the show was controversial, however. Certainly in terms of negative tropes. They pulled the lesbian sleeping with a man trope, which was disappointing. It’s debatable whether or not that counted as cheating since Naomi was still being unclear what she wanted from Emily at that point, but in any case Naomi later cheated on Emily too. The cheating wlw trope tends to target bisexuals more, but still, this wasn’t the best. Then the show pulled the Bury Your Gays trope (barring a miracle) in Skins: Fire, but we don’t speak of that. Emily and Naomi lived happily ever after, okay? On the bright side, we got to hear Emily proudly declare that she wanted to have sex with girls and liked soft thighs and tits and fanny. So… there was good with the bad.
This past spring brought a new queer Emily to our screens, an especially heartbreaking one. Ofglen of The Handmaid’s Tale, whose real name is Emily, had one of the worst storylines in season 1. After being caught with another woman, she was subjected to mutilation and forced to watch her lover hanged. Understandably, this upset some people in the community. However, I maintain that this was a good use of the Bury Your Gays and gayngst tropes and indeed a necessary one. Queer people would absolutely be targeted in a right-wing religious regime, and it’s important no one forget that. Not us, and definitely not those outside our community who think we have achieved equality.
Paige McCullers of Pretty Little Liars is basically me as a TV character, and her arc hurt so good. While Emily’s coming out was somewhat difficult for her, Paige’s story was arguably more painful. Raised in a religious family, she was deeply closeted and had to fight through a lot of self-loathing homophobia. She was also bullied deeper into the closet by Alison, who didn’t want her getting close to Emily. But after some seriously problematic behavior and scared false starts, she managed to come out and be happy with herself. Some people don’t want to see homophobia and painful queer storylines on TV, but I strongly disagree. This is important. Those of us who have gone through things like this need to see ourselves represented. And people who still are going through it need to know there’s hope on the other side.
Degrassi: The Next Generation also had a wlw by this name, the bisexual Paige Michalchuk. One of the main characters, she got involved with bad girl Alex Nuñez midway through her run on the series. The two dated for a couple of seasons, and after they broke up Paige hooked up with a guy again during season 7. And no, this did not somehow invalidate her queerness. I don’t want to hear any of that nonsense around here. Bisexual women are still bisexual when they’re dating men, period.
There’s a couple more examples. Paige of Mary + Jane seemed to exhibit bisexual (or at the very least heteroflexible) tendencies. She had a weirdly hilarious queer sex dream, perhaps influenced by marijuana and her business partner’s sexual fluidity. Also, Community had a guest character named Page in one episode, who wasn’t actually a lesbian but was mistaken for one. Perhaps the name had something to do with it.
Lisa Simpson has got to be the most famous queer Lisa on television. The fact that she’s both polyamorous and bisexual is not necessarily common knowledge, but a series of family photos in The Simpsons 23×09 “Holidays of Future Passed” revealed she had two girlfriends (at once) in college before marrying Millhouse.
Arguably the most notorious queer character named Lisa, however, fittingly comes from the most notorious wlw show. The L Word’s Lisa the lesbian man is not a wlw, but still, he identified as a lesbian. That entire storyline made little sense and seemed to be an off-color joke. It hasn’t aged well either, as in retrospect it appears to be mocking a nonbinary character. Of course, The L Word rarely handled any trans or genderqueer issues with anything resembling tact. Additionally, there was at least one more queer Lisa on The L Word, possibly two. Then there was Tasha’s straight dead friend from the army who was also named Lisa. It’s by far the most common name on the show.
Shameless added to this trend in 2015 when it introduced a lesbian couple to the Gallaghers’ neighborhood. Not just one, but both of them were named Lisa. The Lisas were part of the gentrification storyline that took off in season 5 and has dominated the show since. That explains part of why they are not generally liked, but homophobia seems to come into play too. The couple is referred to by lesbophobic slurs as much as their name(s). I don’t like them either, since they are your typical overbearing and judgmental suburbanites, but some of the slurs and threats they were subject to were a bit much. We haven’t seen the Lisas since season 6, but at last sighting they were pregnant. At the same time. Stereotypical and hilarious.
The appearance of Nicole’s surprise wife Shae in Wynonna Earp this year cemented that name’s place on this list. She came on the heels of Orphan Black’s Shay Davydov. I think fans of Lost Girl were ecstatic to hear Ksenia Solo was going to play a queer woman until they heard the character was an alternative love interest for Cosima. Then boy, did she get internet hate. It was really too bad, because Shay was an interesting character who seemed to be really good for Cosima. She was caring and a good listener and overall a terrific catch, and I was sad she didn’t stay on the show in some capacity.
Though it was her last name, I also count Chicago Fire’s Leslie Shay in this tally. No one called her by her first name, anyway. Leslie the lesbian was probably a little too on the nose. The sassy paramedic had off the charts chemistry with her partner, Gabby Dawson. When Dawson moved on to firefighting, she also had some serious sexual tension with Allison Rafferty, her (probably self-loathing) homophobic new partner. She had a sketchy girlfriend named Devon for a while, too, probably because they needed a lesbian with an even gayer name than Shay.
Sadly, Shay was lost to a convenient pipe hitting her head, one of the more dramatically underwhelming instances of Bury Your Gays in the last few years. She was pretty much fridged for the development of her best friends on the show. One was a guy, and the other was Dawson, the woman we all wanted her to hook up with. Yeah, that was a tear fest.
Does Shane McCutcheon from The L Word count, since the names are so similar? Close enough, I say. Do I even need to get into her story and impact on the community? Probably not a good idea. It gets me riled up, and we could be here for hours.
Being Canadian, Alex Nuñez was the first queer Alex I became aware of on TV. She came out in 2005 during Season 5 of Degrassi: The Next Generation. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I didn’t watch the show. Because of my nationality, that is, not necessarily because it’s good (my friends’ reviews are mixed). But I remember hearing about it when Alex came out, because at the time it felt like a big fucking deal. And it was. We had so little representation at the time outside of The L Word, which was full of characters I couldn’t relate to. To be fair, fellow Canadian teen drama Edgemont also had a lesbian character. And I really related to Shannon’s story, as I was also a gay Christian. But Degrassi is a much more well-known show, which made Alex’s coming out and her relationship with Paige extra important.
Around the same time, The OC’s protagonist Marissa Cooper had a fling with Alex Kelly, the bisexual manager of local music venue The Bait Shop. This was, again, a big deal. The OC was more mainstream in the USA and this storyline turned some heads (as well as the tide). This may have been the character who cemented the queer Alex trope. A few years later, a lesbian named Alex dated a main character on the original UK version of Mistresses. When the series was adapted for US audiences, most characters who filled similar roles had their names changed. Not Alex, though. I wonder why…
Then Alex Vause came along and stole our collective hearts. The Orange is the New Black co-lead is easily one of the most crushable characters on the show. Between the glasses and sultry voice and assertiveness, it’s no wonder Piper fell for her. That and, you know, she’s played by Laura Prepon. The community likes to argue about to what extent the Pipex relationship is toxic and if it’s good representation. I’m not gonna dip my toe in that cesspool, but in any case I am very glad Alex is around. The identity intersection of poor queer women is one that does not get nearly enough attention. I strongly related to young Alex being teased about wearing Bobos instead of Adidas and how her mom worked multiple jobs. That and her depression storyline, and pragmatism, and the way Piper’s antics never fail to make her roll her eyes.
The real life person she’s based on is actually named Catherine, which could have been shortened to the gay-ish Cat/Kat. But her name was already changed to Nora in the original memoir to protect her anonymity. And I guess Nora just wasn’t gay enough for Jenji Kohan and company.
We can count The 100’s Commander Lexa here too, because her name is shortened from Alexandria. Like Shane McCutcheon, for the sake of brevity it’s best not to get into this one, but suffice it to say everyone knows who I’m talking about and what her impact was. RIP, Heda. You deserved better.
Supergirl’s Alex Danvers is the latest in this long line of wlw characters by that name. She wasn’t originally conceived as a gay character, but they felt it fit for her, and she already had the name. Coincidence? Or is every Alex destined to be queer? To be honest, I’m pretty sure every female Alex I’ve known in real life has turned out not to be straight. But I digress.
Coming out stories for women in their late twenties and older aren’t common on TV, so Alex Danvers is a novelty in her own way, despite the common name. Her coming out story was done incredibly well and respectfully. It was both earnest and honest. Though I can’t relate to her coming out process in particular, she’s an amazing character, and the show has done a great job with her arc. The backstory and arc of her girlfriend, Maggie Sawyer, was more relatable to me. Honestly, it made me cry. Especially the scenes this season with her father, because I grew up in a similarly unsupportive environment. In short, Supergirl is doing amazing with this shit. This is the kind of queer representation I want to see on TV.
There aren’t as many examples of this name because it’s not a common one, but the percentage is still high. Rest assured, if you meet a woman on TV named Frankie, chances are she’s a fanny bandit. Frankie Stone was a wlw character on All My Children for a few months in the fall of 2001. You know, until they killed her, as you’d expect. The actress later came back and played Frankie’s twin sister, Maggie, who ended up involved with the character everyone had previously shipped Frankie with. (The name Maggie borders on deserving a spot on this list too. More on that below.)
Despite a close call with a blowtorch and lots of prison power struggles, Franky Doyle is somehow still alive on the shitshow that is Wentworth. (I mean that in the best possible way. The show got too intense for me and I had to quit watching it, but it’s fantastic.) Franky has been in and out of prison a couple times and been involved with several ladies over the course of the show. You know, as fanny bandits do. She has a special place in my heart because she, much like Vause and Nuñez, is reflective of my underprivileged upbringing. I love seeing those girls succeed. Even if it’s just succeeding at seducing the head bitch in charge or escaping from prison.
Let’s not forget about Frankie Alan of Lip Service, the iconic British wlw-themed show that came on the air shortly after The L Word ended. Frankie was somewhat of an analogue to Shane McCutcheon, only bisexual. She had similarly terrible emotional and family issues and, just like Shane, had a tendency to self-sabotage. Another thing she shared with Shane was the sex appeal and fandom following, for good reason. That attractive androgynous wounded woman thing just pulls us right in, doesn’t it? I blame Graham Eaton.
Stef and Lena Adams-Foster at one point had a bun in the oven whom they pre-emptively named Frankie. Because of course the lesbians would give their child a totally gay name. (Yes, I know she was named after Stef’s recently dead father, shhhh.) Tragically, Frankie had to be aborted for medical reasons. But if she had been born, she probably would have turned out to be a wlw too. If not for the name, because of the show she was a part of. The Fosters loves its queer characters, after all. And we love them too.
As those last three names illustrate, wlws are often given gender-neutral names on TV. It’s par for the course, seeing as wlw content creators tend to favor those names as well. (I myself have often wished I had a gender-neutral name, not a boring straight-sounding one. At least that second part is changing, on TV anyway.) I have a feeling we started it and the trend was picked up by the mainstream media. Either that or everyone just assumes queer women are going to be gender atypical and they give us names to reflect that. So really, any gender-neutral name can be considered an honorable mention here.
One notable example is Nicky. Aside from the obvious Nicky Nichols of Orange is the New Black, there’s Nikki from Nikki and Nora, the unfortunately aborted cop show about a couple of detectives who were partners in more than one sense of the word. Thanks to those two and Wynonna Earp’s Officer Haught, Nicole is starting to creep up this list.
And I would be remiss to leave without tipping my hat to Maggie, seeing as I’ve already mentioned two of them in this article. Maggie Sawyer was already canonically a lesbian in the DC comics, but hey, that’s still a form of media. While this analysis focused on TV characters, the pattern extends across mediums into books and movies, comics and video games. (See Emily Kaldwin of Dishonored, for example.) Maggie Sawyer has been in multiple TV shows and video games, so she’s almost pushing that name up the list all by herself.
So, what do you think? Are there any other trending names I missed? Any examples of these names I don’t know about? Hit me up in the comments.
Images Courtesy of Hulu, Warner Bros., 20th Television, NBC, The CW, SoHo, Showtime, All3Media, and Netflix
Legend of Korra Season One as an RPG Campaign
A while ago, I wrote an article where I explained how the excellent Marvel Netflix show, Jessica Jones, is quite like a Hunter: the Vigil chronicle. I’m here today to put a different spin on the theme. You see, even though Legend of Korra is a show we go on about a lot around here, it’s not perfect. I, in particular, have issues with its first season. Many of them. And recently, it clicked for me: the first season finale of Korra is very much like an RPG campaign that had to be wrapped up quickly and forgotten about.
Unlike the last time, I will not use any particular system for my example. The way the finale resembles people whose ideas grew out of control is fairly universal, and there’s no single system I would pick for the Avatar universe, either. People have adapted quite a few rule sets to it.
If there’s anyone here who has run a tabletop game, you might be familiar with this sinking feeling as your plot falls apart. As you realize that the story you had in your head just doesn’t come together. That you have grasped more than you can hold. It’s less acute from a player’s point of view, but still there.
I can, therefore, imagine the story of the Equalist revolution as such a story, woven by an ambitious GM who is nonetheless not up to the task. Let’s call this hypothetical GM Clive. He had a good idea for this one. Several good ones, in fact. First, he decided to make the big bad a bloodbender. Then he had another idea: what if the bloodbender could take away bending? Like Aang had, but evil. That would be a real twist. But if he takes away bending, what if he had a whole bunch of followers who thought bending is evil? What if they were non-benders, whom benders bully?
It was too late when Clive realized that those ideas just don’t add up. Why would a bloodbender lead a non-bending revolution? The best explanation our poor GM could come up with was “daddy issues”, a theme he falls back frequently.
Still, before that came to a head, Clive had a whole revolution to plot out. If only he had known how. He didn’t really have a very good idea on how to make it look like a revolution, besides having Amon and some unnamed guy shout bad things from podiums. Eventually, he decided to just run the campaign and figure it out as he went along. He had the beginning in mind, after all.
Unfortunately, the players just weren’t biting the hooks he threw them. Korra’s player (‘et’s call her Juliet) wasn’t terribly interested in a political upheaval. She was playing the Avatar, and she was going to kick some derrière. She also wasn’t really sure why the enemies were all non-benders. Aren’t they, like, super weak? But their boss can take away bending, which is scary. She certainly wasn’t going to let her character be deprived of the thing she spent all her points on. She didn’t even know what a car was at the start!
Mako’s player, Ron, was mostly there for role-playing and personal conflicts. Unfortunately, because he was still a bit new to the whole thing, that meant brooding, love triangles and people who express emotion by either silence of yelling. We all have to start somewhere. At least he didn’t play a short, murderous half-elven wizard in a big hat, like the man writing these words.
Bolin was player by Ron’s sister, Dianne. She was just there to have fun, goof around and tell jokes. Even though her heart and soul was in the game, she likewise didn’t have a lot of patience for a story of a burgeoning revolution.
Asami’s player, Sarah, was really serious about her character. She read the notes. She familiarized herself with the plot and even decided her character would be the daughter or one of the villains. Unfortunately, when the campaign started, a lot of things happened in her life and she just couldn’t really focus on it.
Clive’s job, therefore, wasn’t easy. Try as he might, no one except Sarah treated Amon as a demagogue or revolutionary leader, and she had to skip the first few sessions. He was just this guy in a mask who could take away bending, and his minions were exclusively no-benders. Juliet wanted to beat him up. Everyone else went along with her.
He managed to introduce Amon with a bang, but then he ran into his first problems. Juliet, Ron and Dianne somehow managed to land their characters in a giant pile of Equalists, right under Amon’s nose. Clive hadn’t planned on a direct confrontation just yet. In a rush, he decided that Amon will let them escape, to further some plan of his. He still didn’t know what that plan was, but he was… getting there.
During the very next session, however, Juliet decided that Korra would challenge Amon to a duel, alone. Clive had no idea what to do with that. Should he have Amon ignore it? That would destroy his tenacious image as a legitimate villain. He decided to weasel his way out of it by having Amon appear with a platoon of chi-blockers, monologue at Korra and… well, let her go. Clive realized that if he had Amon take her bending there and then, the entire plot would jump into the endgame a few sessions in. And he still didn’t know what that endgame was. It was mysterious enough that he felt he’d bought himself some time.
After spending a while on interpersonal drama, Clive decided that he needed to crank things up a notch. He felt that his players had no real intention of seeking the Equalists out, but what he failed to notice was that he hadn’t given him much to go on. The Equalists left no clues and everything they did happened off-screen. The players’ lack of interest in the plot was thus partly a result of insufficient engagement. It didn’t help that after Amon’s initial speech, Clive neglected to have any Equalist, or even non-bender, voice their ideology.
In order to amp it up, Clive had the Equalists attack the stadium, as we know. That was a fun session, with plenty of action and Amon making yet another speech. Clive started to believe that everything would work out fine.
The next session let Sarah finally return to the game properly and bring up Asami’s connection to one of the villains. But it brought Clive no closer to properly resolving his plot. As the party cruised Republic City fighting Equalists, he decided to be on the nose and had an NPC yell at Korra: “You’re our Avatar too!”
Unfortunately, all it accomplished was Korra running off to fight Tarrlok alone. Not the result Clive expected. He took the opportunity to have Tarrlok kidnap Korra and deliver his backstory in a vision. Unfortunately, he had forgot to remind Juliet about how she received the first vision of Aang after Amon had knocked her out… So the connection between him and the bloodbenders was still a mystery.
With the plot meandering and no way to advance it, Clive decided to forcefully push it forward. He had the Equalists invade the city. In doing so, he neglected to explain the logistics of it, like how they managed to get all those airships and chi-blockers. He also hadn’t got around to writing the enemy profiles for Equalists using shock-gloves, so he had to use chi-blockers as the rank-and-file enemies.
The party loved it, though. Lots of combat, and the mecha-tanks even provided some challenge. They didn’t even mind having to run away. After they holed up in the sewers, though… Clive realized he’d backed himself into a corner. The Equalists controlled the city. The party had no way to oppose them, other than to just beat them up until they stopped being a problem. Which completely clashed with his initial idea for the campaign.
And that is where everything well and truly breaks down. Clive gives up. He has no way to tie all this together and makes it work. The Equalists are just an army of mooks with a masked leader. The bits of Amon’s backstory he managed to drop, the players missed. And the players seem intent on confronting Amon with his entire army of Equalists.
What does he do, then? He lets Korra and Mako infiltrate the Air Temple Island, where they find… Tarrlok. Who then simply tells them everything they need to know about Amon. Everything Clive had hoped to deliver in a more organic manner. He then has him say he thinks Amon really thinks bending is evil. That was his plan, after all. It just never got to see the light of day.
Juliet and Ron are entirely unsurprised. Of course Amon is a bender. It’d be too easy if he was just a non-bender, right? And no way the campaign’s villain would be one, anyway. Their course of action is obvious: just go and tell everyone that Amon is a bloodbender! Clive just rolls with it at this point.
Meanwhile, Asami and Bolin chase the only other remaining plot hook, which is the Equalists’ airship fleet. Thankfully, no one asks how they got their hands on one. They need to destroy it, but Clive realizes that two people have a poor chance of that. But… he had just introduced an NPC he’s very fond of. General Iroh, the grandson of a character of his from a previous campaign. Why not… just let him destroy the whole fleet? Yes, that’ll work.
In the midst of all this, Sarah manages to roleplay a genuinely poignant scene as Asami confronts her father. It makes Clive wistful for that the campaign could have been.
In the other half of the final session, Korra and Mako storm the Equalist rally with no plan, exit strategy of backup. Clive isn’t really sure what to do here, so he just has Amon chase them by himself as they escape, and use bloodbending on them. Then he realizes just how overpowered he’d made it. In order to prevent him from wiping the floor with Korra and Mako, he has the Lieutenant appear at just the right time for Mako to get a free action.
As Mako and Korra escape, Amon catches up to them again, and Clive declares that Korra can use airbending now, because… she had unlocked her final chakra after seeing Mako about to lose his bending. Yeah, something like that. It doesn’t make a lick of sense to him, but seems to satisfy his players. When Korra blasts Amon with airbending, Clive decides that there’s a window behind him. He falls off and drops into the water. Then he reflexively bloodbends and the water washes off his makeup. He’s a a fraud, and the Equalists give up. Everyone goes home and the revolution is over.
And that, as they say, is that. The campaign had some good combat and action scenes, but everyone agrees the plot unraveled on it. Still, it’s over, and it was fun. Now Sarah can run that sci-fi FATE game she keeps going on about.
Images courtesy of Nickolodeon
Asami’s Wardrobe, the Ongoing Saga
There has been an egregious oversight. For all the love we Fandomentals have given Avatar: The Legend of Korra, from its unsung hero, to its subversive end note, to even its crackships, there has yet to be a single piece on this site about its deuteragonist.
Heck, is “deuteragonist” even a fair title in this case? We’re talking about the a character arc so packed with thematic significance, so nuanced, so weighty that it quite possibly rivals Korra’s healing arc of Book 4. And now that the post-canon comic Turf Wars is out and this growth continued, it’s downright shameful it’s taken me this long to finally give this well-earned recognition.
I am speaking, of course, of Asami’s Wardrobe.
That’s right, the clothing and accessories worn by Asami “the angry one” Sato should be considered, in many ways, the backbone of Legend of Korra. Or perhaps the backbone of the backbone. But while Asami had that obvious story of background suffering and devotion to Korra’s cause, only to be treated like gum stuck to the bottom of various characters’ shoes, it was her wardrobe that truly offered the sacrifices.
Most fans will point to her bangles as the obvious example here, and they’re not wrong, of course. We were introduced to these fancy bracelets on Asami’s first date with Mako back in Season 1, when they clacked and clinked happily along. Or possibly in fear of the giant meatball flowers.
Then we all know how the next time they appeared, it was when Asami went to see Bolin’s mover in “Night of a Thousand Stars.” During the conversation where she and Bolin commiserate over the displaced Team Avatar, the bangles made not a single noise. It is my personal belief that they perfectly fit the trope of the “suffering empath,” given how clued into Asami’s emotional state they are. The wedding at the end of the show where she and Korra finally confessed their feelings is proof of this, as once again the bangles were clinking together. They are just that naturally attuned to those around them.
Now, I completely understand why they steal the attention for that reason, because that level of character growth was hard-earned. Not to mention, the seamlessly tied together not one, not two, but three of Asami’s fancy outfits—something even her festive yellow clip couldn’t manage. She was clipless at the wedding, after all.
But it’s the clipless point in and of itself that leaves me flummoxed about the fandom’s unfortunate bangles-focus, because Asami’s hairclips told the single most nuanced story in the entire franchise.
It’s easy to be dismissive of such things given that Asami was, on the surface, polyamorous with her clip choices. And indeed, even in her first episode we saw both her yellow standard clip and her fancy yellow dress clip. Perhaps this is the reason her initial reception was one of suspicion, because she wasn’t even willing to stand by a clip.
But what people need to remember is that Asami was a much younger character then, and indeed her shedding of her naivety was a rather central moment for her. Her casual yellow clip was her go-to while donning her Book 1 non-action outfit, or the outfit she wore when she was still but a daughter of Future Industries. It’s true she learned of her father’s nefarious plans in the seventh episode, but it wasn’t until the Book 1 finale that she saw how their fractured relationship could never fully repair. He tried to murder her, after all.
It should be considered no surprise, then, that when the time came for Asami to select a clip with her non-action outfit of Book 2, she selected her blue clip, forever leaving the casual yellow one behind. I personally feel like yellow’s send-off was appropriate, given Asami’s headspace at the time. Yet there are those who point out how this played into the unfortunate Clip Triangle Trope, and I suppose on another level, it would have been refreshing to see the writing rise above such things. At least the blue and yellow clip were never shown to be envious of one another, happily trading places on a dime during Asami’s clothesbending.
But, I’ll admit it…I’m biased. I can dismiss so much of this because Dutiful Princess Blue Clip leaves me clutching at my heart. Because the blue clip was Asami’s action clip, since we first saw her don a sporty outfit to give Korra a thrill. Platonically.
We know Asami lives in her head, and when she’s in action-mode, it gives her a break for once. Her mechanic’s jacket outfit likely empowers her for this reason, which is why it was her go-to choice for her sexy spirit world getaway. But what’s a girl to do when she has to run a company and look nice? She took a small piece of that outfit, the blue clip, and donned it all through Book 2 and 3. What’s more is the blue clip was happy to step into that role—eager, you might say.
Think back to the one time in Book 2 we saw her without it: “Night of a Thousand Stars.” Well, what happened there? She was rendered completely useless, merely cheering on the sidelines for Bolin despite having found out that the man she sold a majority share in her company to was actually trying to steal it and start a war for profit. Thanks, fancy-yellow clip.
Blue clip would have never allowed this to come to pass. And we know it had nothing to do with the impracticality of her dress, as we see her fight some of Kuvira’s baddies in a skirt during the events of “Reunion.”
No, it was the confidence of the blue clip, and should that come as a surprise? This was the very same clip she used to free Tezin from handcuffs as lava rapidly approached.
Now, there are some who argue that it was actually a bobby pin underneath the blue clip that freed him, and I have to ask: what show are you watching? Why would Asami wear two clips at once, first of all, and secondly, her hair is clearly clip-free during the escape, meaning she pulled out the only one in her hair. I instead hold the firm believe that Asami merely removed the wiring from the blue clip’s shell (there’s likely to be snaps in place for this), and put it back together again in time to bring down the Red Lotus guard guarding the other airbenders.
The blue clip was there for her, it provided her with utility, and yet, when Asami made the decision that her life needed to be clip-free—that she could no longer live with a crutch—it was more than willing to step down. Dutiful to the end. Excuse me while I lie down.
It should be noted that while there will always be standout stars in Asami’s wardrobe, they all work together quite well, happily clothesbending without notice when they think she needs it. For instance, when Asami was arrested in “When Extremes Meet,” her wardrobe worried that she might not have been able to handle the degradation of being brought down in her action outfit; those clothes should make her feel invincible, after all. But have no fear, once they were assured of Asami’s emotional state (it was just anger, let’s be real), they reverted back to her mechanic’s jacket and jodhpurs, which was probably far more comfortable for her night’s sleep in jail anyway.
Similarly, her clothes even camouflaged themselves once when she accidentally switched into her business casual outfit while guarding a meditating Korra. Whether this was to prevent the Avatar from freaking out, or because they knew Asami would want to seem action-ready around her is still a bitter war in the fandom. But that misses the forest for the trees. They were willing to work together to do this for Asami, and that kind of synchronicity should not be overlooked.
It’s also part and parcel with the way she can summon goggles out of thin air when the situation requires it. Throughout the show, Asami’s wardrobe predicted her needs and fought to make them a reality. The in-fighting imagined by the fandom only detracts from this point.
So what of her wardrobe in the comics? Well, on the surface, there’s not much here. Asami wears her action outfit the entire time, likely matching her determination to be ~fine~ with the death of her father and push forward, with the exception of her meeting with Raiko. When did she find time to change into them? The timeline is iffy. But it’s not a shock that she would make time to do so, seeing as she’d likely want to put on the face of the person Raiko gave the former infrastructure contract to, rather than the person who openly defied his surrender alongside the Avatar.
However, there’s a small piece of nuance in how quickly Asami changed back out of it in time to watch the sunset with her girlfriend. It’s not like she read the script and knew an action sequence was coming up, so why did the mechanic’s jacket make a reappearance? Well, it’s my own believe that her processing of her father’s grief is not as open-and-shut as her “at least I forgave him” line of the series finale made it seem. Her snapping at the land developer is rather damning evidence of this.
Therefore, it would make sense that Asami would want to don the outfit in which she feels the most secure and unflappable, seeing as there’s already so much vulnerability on the inside.
Another small thing to note is the disappearance of her gloves (both regular type and shock) just as Korra scooped her up in the battle at the spirit portal. For this, it’s rather simple: it’s not very pleasant to touch someone’s face who’s kissing you with a shock glove. Asami’s wardrobe likely knew she’d be able to steal a smooch in this situation, seeing as she was faking a very serious injury; we saw that she was totally fine just a panel before:
So yeah, let her touch Korra’s face without worrying about frying it. Of course her wardrobe would accommodate such a request.
However, it’s the sudden and magical appearance of earrings that should draw attention. At first I thought this was a bizarre mistake—earrings? Asami? But looking at it in context paints quite the story.
You see, they exist in exactly one panel…the panel just after she and Korra get in a small disagreement.
She’s not wearing them before this, she’s not wearing them on the spirit world vacation, she’s not wearing them later in Raiko’s office, and she’s not wearing them during the gazebo chat or final sequence. So…where did they come from? Where did they go?
Well, clearly the only logical explanation is that Asami was so distraught by their disagreement, she thought to externalize her pain by piercing her ears as Tenzin was ushering Korra out the door. Kya’s look there? Yeah, it’s partly because she realizes this was a lovers’ spat, but mostly because she’s wondering if she should offer to heal her earlobes (or at least calm down what’s probably a decent throbbing).
Now, you might be wondering why someone like Asami would even have pierced ears at all. Sure, she wears gowns to weddings that put both the bride and Arianne Martell to shame, but making a permanent alteration to her body without a level of practicality to it doesn’t fit exceedingly well with her characterization. But remember the blue clip. If she was running around with a lockpick in her head for three seasons, you can bet the earrings she had in her pockets served another use.
And indeed they did: ink for her pen. It’s why they’re gone again by the time Korra gets back in her tent, and why Asami seems to be fighting with her pen as she’s making her drawings. Because earring ink is not the most efficient ink in the world.
Look, let’s call a spade a spade here…this was a dark moment for Asami. And we’ve seen her wardrobe adjust to plenty of dark moments before (need I remind you of the silenced bangles?). But we have to remember that we’re in good hands here. So far, Asami’s wardrobe has gone through changes that have touched many of us, and even though I personally haven’t had the experience of piercing my own ears with ink earrings, I have to imagine a few of us have. Then especially situated after a fight with Korra, it’s giving us just another peek at some of that inner darkness teased on the show. My hopes are that it will be fully explicated, and frankly? I’d be shocked if that’s the last we saw of the mini inkwells.
Asami’s wardrobe is at something of a crossroads right now. Should it pretend everything’s fine? Should it allow her these moments of emotional indulgence? There’s no easy answer, but I’m optimistic. The disappearing gloves at the end show us how her wardrobe is still so naturally attuned to her needs and fully supportive of the relationship that serves as a stabilizing and positive influence in her life.
And really, that’s the bottom line. Asami’s wardrobe lived a complicated tale, but at the end of the day, we knew we could count on it. So even if I’ll admit to a bit of nerves until January, this has been a hardfought story and one hell of a ride. Let’s all welcome the earrings, and may they come to earn a place in our hearts right next to the blue clip.
Images courtesy of Nickelodeon and Dark Horse Comics
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