Monday, December 3, 2012

Tenzin never goes down like a chump

Lily has recently gotten into the Harry Potter movies and when we were watching the Prisoner of Azkaban, she asked, "Who's your favorite teacher?"

And I was like, "Duh, Snape," but she didn't like that answer, so I went with my runner-up, Professor  McGonagall.

I've always had a soft spot for the "reasonable authority figure" and I've always liked McGonagall much more than Dumbledore. She's strict, but treats all of her charges equally in a way that Dumbledore doesn't. I lost any kind of respect for the character at the end of the Order of the Phoenix, where Harry runs headlong into an obvious trap, after being warned it was a trap, and Sirius is killed in the rescue attempt. And Dumbledore absolves him of all guilt, ("It is my fault Sirius died...the blame lies with me and me alone." (The argument can be made that Dumbledore said this as part of his effort to manipulate Harry, but I don't think that's the case.)) That's not something that McGonagall would do.

Also, it doesn't hurt that she's played by Dame Maggie Smith, who radiates awesome into the infrared wavelengths.

I was up at a party a couple years ago with my friend Tim. I didn't know anyone, so I spent the first hour smiling awkwardly while they all told stories about people I didn't know. But Tim's a cool cat with a bunch of awesome friends and I got talking to a girl who used to work with him.  Anyways, she said that Timmy turned her on to some bands she likes, and that's the case with me too. I mentioned that I had seen Juno recently and that the soundtrack was like a Josh mix tape. She casually replies, "Oh, my cousin's in that." and I said, "Oh, really? Which part?" and she said "He's the dad." and I was like "J.K. Simmons?" and she like yeah. So we talked about him for a while. He's one of my favorite actors, so that's cool.

The Legend of Korra has a ton of wonderful characters, and J.K. Simmons voices my favorite, Aang's son Tenzin. Shockingly, he's not on tvtrope's list of reasonable authority figures, but as it's user editable, I think someone should rectify that soon. He is named, I believe, after the current Dali Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who also gives his name to Monk Gyatso in the original series.

Tenzin has the same traits I love in McGonagall. He's quietly competent, stern, but loving. And like McGonagall, he's a stone cold badass when push comes to shove.

He acquits himself better than the Avatar herself in the final episodes. Chi-blockers ran all over Korra for most of the series, but Tenzin first fights off an ambush, defeating his attackers even after they bind both of his arms.

Then, he makes his way to police headquarters, where he keeps those present safe within a sphere of clean air after the Equalists launch a gas attack,

and then he fights off more of the mecha tanks before finally being overwhelmed.

That last fight has two of my favorite Tenzin moments too. The first is when the mech fires a grapple arm and Tenzin deflects it with a quick blast of air, and the clang! sound effect is perfectly matched to the action.

 The other is when they finally get him and even as he's falling, he airbends a cushion of air to lessen the force of his impact .

I also like him because he loves his family. He's just a good dad.  There's a bit of an interesting backstory too. He used to date Lin Beifong, the chief of police and the daughter of Toph, from the original series. They were already growing apart when Pema, Tenzin's future wife approached him and told him how she felt towards him. ("Pema didn't steal me, Lin and I had been growing apart for some time. We both had... different goals in life- Why am I even telling you this?! It all happened a long time ago and we've moved past it. )It's a really interesting dynamic, and one you rarely see on TV, much less kid's TV.

And while we're on the subject, of characters I love, there's Asami Sato. She's the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Her mother had been killed by a bender several years ago, which drove her father into the arms of the Equalists, but she never let her grief poison her. She was dating Mako, but he fell for Korra, and even in light of this revelation, when things are at their worst, she screws her courage to the sticking place, puts her personal issues aside and pitches in to help any way she can.


  1. Jesus, how about a spoiler alert? I'm still on Avatar season 3, now I know Aang has a son! Curse yooouuuuuu!

    1. Relax. It's not like I told you Katara's his mom.


  2. I felt pretty much the same way about Dumbledore, but now I'm second guessing that... :D

    Seriously though, I think the argument can be made that Dumbledore and McGonagall aren't in the same position. Dumbledore definitely exerts influence over everyone in the school, but he isn't teaching classes and doesn't have direct contact with many people on a daily basis. I don't think this absolves him--Hermione nails it on the had in book 1 when she says Dumbledore was irresponsible for setting the stage for Harry to meet VoldeMort--but I think Dumbledore's position as a semi-absent headmaster makes comparing him and McGonagall less straight forward.

    Plus, you conveniently ignored Dumbeldore's statement to Harry that he isn't so arrogant as to take responsibility for how everything played out. I agree he lets Harry off the hook, but he also steps back to look at the bigger picture.