Apple’s plan for greater emoji diversity backfires

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With expressions ranging from happy to sad to ironic, emoticons serve as a kind of virtual extension of the self on online messaging platforms. As a result, many rejoiced when Apple decided to import Japan’s Emoji keyboard back in 2011, eliminating the need for app extensions. Yet something was still missing. “Where’s the diversity?”asked everyone from Tahj Mowry to Miley Cyrus, addressing the notable lack of non-white cartoon faces.

It looks like Apple has been listening closely to these concerns, with plans to implement a more racially and socially diverse set of emoji for iOS 8.3 later this year. Problem solved? Not quite. As Apple unveils its most recent developer betas, a furor has broken out in China regarding what some regard as a prejudiced depiction of Asians. While one can certainly make a case for this position, Apple claims the startlingly yellow emoji at the heart of the uproar doesn’t depict a normal human face at all.

The controversy began with the series of emoji shown above. At first glance, it seems Apple’s aim with these new emoji is to provide a greater range of skin tones, thereby promoting one aspect of diversity. This then leads to the inevitable question of whether the emoji are also intended as a visualization of race.

Many Chinese citizens seem to think the emoji do, in fact, depict a variety of races, rather than a mere progression of skin tones. Therefore, they argue, the yellow face furthest to the left cannot be construed as anything but Apple’s idea of an Asian face. At this point, the problem becomes obvious. Comments on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, included the following:

“That emoji is seriously yellow. How does a person get to be that kind of color?”

“That can’t be an Asian person… I’ve never seen anyone so yellow in my life.”

“Has anyone ever actually seen someone who shade of yellow? I’d be worried they were ill.”

However, the ultra-yellow emoji might not be showing a natural skin color at all, Asian or otherwise.

As it happens, the developer of the emoji is not Apple itself, but rather Unicode Consortium, which aims to promote a greater range of skin tones in 2015. In a document on the subject, they write:

“Five symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji are planned for Unicode Version 8.0 (scheduled for mid-2015). These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology… The exact shades may vary between implementations.”

This is followed by a graphic showing the emoji modifiers.

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You can see how the sample colors on the left side align with those of five emoji in the upcoming release. So what about the bright yellow face? The reason it is absent from this chart is because the yellow tone is, as Ritchie noted, the default color. Gradations in skin tone are achieved by adding a color modifier to the default, as seen below:

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In light of this information, Apple’s explanation suddenly becomes much more plausible. Even so, it might be too late to reverse the damage. Sales of last year’s iPhone were higher in China than they were in America, making the former a vital market for Apple–which must now surely be concerned about its image among Chinese consumers. Ultimately they will decide with their wallets whether or not to give Apple the benefit of the doubt.

The importance of diversity, and ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat”

IMDB TV:

Press Tour wouldn’t be Press Tour without a few stunningly thoughtless questions posed to panels of actors and producers.

Most of the terrible questions that get asked as part of the Television Critics Association’s press conferences don’t turn up in articles. We keep them as Press Tour war stories to be hauled out for our own entertainment later on. Plus, we’re all just trying to do our jobs here. Nobody’s perfect. Cover this beat long enough, and attend enough TCA events, and a person is bound to bungle a few questions. Besides, to the millions of folks who aren’t here, a minor gaffe at an industry event simply isn’t interesting.

But every now and again, someone sputters out a verbal air biscuit that leaves the room reeling while also speaking to a larger conversation about a show. This is precisely what happened Wednesday morning during the panel for “Fresh Off the Boat,” ABC’s midseason sitcom based on the bestselling memoir by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.  Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu,Fresh Off the Boat” is the only sitcom on television that stars Asian actors and captures one view of what it’s like to grow up Asian in America.

And what, some may ask, makes that experience unique among minorities? For the “Fresh Off the Boat” cast and producers, nearly all of whom were born in the U.S., it means getting a question like this in a forum where people really should know better: “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”*

Yes. That happened.

This may be the most ignorant question spoken in this room in a long time,  but it also demonstrates why television desperately needs “Fresh Off the Boat” and more shows like it. Comedies and dramas that deftly employ universal themes and humor that resonate with the wider audience, featuring minority-led casts that don’t ignore said cast’s ethnicity, are still uncommon.  In fact, ABC is the home to more series featuring non-white leads than any other broadcast network. Think “black-ish,” “Scandal,” “Cristela,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Amazingly, in 2015, ABC’s insistence on diversity is met with a sense of awe, and an implication that what the Alphabet network is doing is a bold experiment.

In the case of “Fresh Off the Boat,” maybe it is. Networks have a long history of waxing and waning on the diversity front, though the occasional industry-wide pushes for diversity every few seasons tends to benefit African American and, to a far lesser extent, Latino actors. “Cristela” and “black-ish” may not be monster hits, but they still have mass appeal, and are not required to divorce the culture of their characters from the story. Credit the success of Norman Lear‘s comedies in the ’70s, “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son”, and just as significantly, “The Cosby Show” in the ’80s, for that.

Can you remember the last time a series gave us a view of life from an Asian American perspective? There was 1994′s “All-American Girl,” the short-lived and quickly whitewashed sitcom vehicle for Margaret Cho that nearly killed her. (It also aired on ABC.)  The show only focused on Cho’s character and her family briefly before revamping into a weak “Friends” clone, then disappearing altogether. For years after its demise, shows cast an Asian friend now and again, but it took until 2005 before audiences got a deeply complex, powerful Asian character in “Grey’s Anatomy‘s” Cristina Yang. So yes — there have been strides.

Then again, see: “2 Broke Girls.” As long as characters like Han Lee are still on TV, well, one can understand why somebody would think that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a cast of Asian actors if their eating utensils will play a prominent role in a comedy about so much more than their cultural experience.

The thing is it’s important to have, for me, [is] a qualified support for the show, to make sure the show stays authentic, the show stays responsible to the book and the Asian community and people of color in America in general,” Huang explained to the TV reporters in the room. “I believe the show is doing that, and I believe the show is very strategic and smart in how it’s opening things up.”

In its first episode, “Fresh Off the Boat” dives into the absurdity that can be found when one moves from a large, multi-ethnic city (Washington D.C.) to a homogenous Florida neighborhood; the universal appeal of hip-hop to outsiders and its caché within the dominant culture; and the odd, clique-ish behavior that exists within suburbia. The same episode also shows what happens when its young central character,  Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang), gets slapped by a racial slur.

Through it all, the rap music-obssessed Eddie has the same concerns as any kid his age would have. He’s trying to fit in at his new school but he doesn’t eat the right food, or wear the right shoes. He just out there trying to survive. No wonder he idolizes Nas and Biggie Smalls — their music extols the virtues of hustling to get rich and getting over, ideals that many consider to be the at the heart of the American dream.

In America, I’m a foreigner because of my Korean heritage,” Cho once said. “In Asia, because I was born in America, I’m a foreigner. I’m always a foreigner.
Nowadays Cho is a personality known for her comedy and for her outspoken support of gender equality and LGBT rights. She’s currently a co-host of a TLC’s weekly series “All About Sex,” where she serves as the show’s expert on alternative sexuality.  With time, and more television series that expose viewers to artists like Cho and stories like the ones told in “Fresh Off the Boat” — American stories with a different flavor — the day will come when Asian culture is fully recognized as an aspect of American culture. On that day, nobody’s going to care about the chopsticks.

It was a great year for Asian-American women on television

 

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We’re finally getting past all those geisha and ninja stereotypes.

Asian-American women, and women in general, have long faced the woes of horrible storylines or just plain missing from shows. This messy writing or lack of diversity on the small screen stems from the absence of minorities and women in the writers’ room.

But in 2014, we’ve seen some inspiring portrayals of Asian-American women on television that have brought dimension to ladies who are often turned into flat tropes. We still need more of these types of characters, but thankfully we’re inching toward better representation.

Headliners: 

Lucy Liu proves that Asian-American women can be leading ladies without being a stereotype. Liu is one of the most recognizable Asian-American actresses in Hollywood, known for her roles on Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill: Vol. 1, two movies that tokenized her race. But Liu currently co-stars as Dr. Joan Watson in Elementary, a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, alongside Jonny Lee Miller.

Watson is incredibly intelligent and capable, but not without flaws. She was once a surgeon, but accidentally killed a patient. Unable to trust herself, she let her medical license expire, and eventually becomes Holmes’ detective apprentice. She’s sexy, she’s smart, she makes mistakes — in short, she’s a human being.

She has her demons, but she doesn’t let anyone make her decisions for her. She’s an interesting main character who just so happens to be Asian.

More than just casting:

Television is also making progress with writing storylines centering around Asian culture. MTV’s Teen Wolf, a teenage-supernatural drama with a dark side, may be the best example. This year, the series introduced Kira Yukimura and her family.

Portrayed by Arden Cho, Kira shows that there are many ways to be Asian — in her case, Korean-Japanese. She’s also a kitsune, a mythical fox spirit with the ability to absorb electricity, plus some deadly skills with a katana.

Furthermore, Kira’s powers and one main storyline of Teen Wolf‘s third season are deeply rooted in the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s, a smear on America’s history that’s often overlooked. The mistreatment of Japanese people during World War II is a part of many Asian-Americans’ identity and experience in the United States. Integrating this part of the past into the show is an effort to bring underrepresented history to wider audiences.

Funny and flirty:

Asian-American women can be sexual and go on tons of dates. The Mindy Project features Mindy Kaling as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a spunky OB-GYN who makes her way through a cavalcade of flings before settling down with fellow doctor Danny Castellano in the show’s latest season. While Kaling is Indian-American and might not have the same experiences as a Korean-American, she still falls under the Asian-American umbrella.

The Fox comedy is filled with sex and intimacy, showing that Asian-American women can be vocal when it comes to the bedroom. Mindy knows what she wants, when she wants it and if she doesn’t want it (as in the episode about anal sex).

The Mindy Project also flips the script on the typical dating storyline. Usually it’s a white protagonist who goes on dates with a pretty homogeneously white lineup, until bam, there’s one diverse hottie who “makes up” for being the only one (ahem, Girls). In Kaling’s show, we see her dating a crop of primarily white dudes, showing that she’s as much in control of her dating destiny as anyone else.

Room to grow: 

The one-dimensional Asian-American character on television shows still exists — take a look at Awkward‘s Ming (Jessica Lu) or Scorpion‘s Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong). Visibility is essential, but stereotyped writing can be dangerous. Fortunately, the Dr. Joan Watsons and Kira Yukimuras are making important progress toward more diverse actors getting multifaceted characters to play.

Other disenfranchised communities are also making their way to the small screen. For these minorities, including Asian-American women, increased visibility might seem slow. But while more, and more accurate, depictions should be a given, we can celebrate what we do have — and continue to fight for diverse inclusion in the shows we love.

Racially diverse emojis are on the way

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Dazed:

 

People have been grumbling for some time now that emojis are too white. There currently aren’t any emojis that reflect black, Asian or Latino users, but that’s all set to change: the Unicode Consortium, the industry body that regulates the pictoral symbols, has just announced its intentions to include five skin tones in the Unicode standard. That means you’ll finally get a more multicultural look on all platforms that support emoji, including Android or Apple smartphones.

People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” Unicode Consortium wrote in a draft of its report. “The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.”

Unicode Version 8.0 will add a a skin tone modifier to its system, which means that every human emoji – like dancer in a red dress or praying hands – will be available in its original white skin colour as well as four other shades.

Everyone from Miley Cyrus to actor Tahj Mowry have complained about the lack of diversity in emojis. Back in April, Apple pledged to work with the Unicode Consortium on giving the system an urgent ethnicity update.

The update is currently only in its draft stages and there is no set date for when Version 8.0 will come into play. But it all sounds pretty promising, right?

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Asian-American domination in elite schools triggers resentment and soul searching

 

Student at Stuyvesant High School
Student at Stuyvesant High School Wikipedia

The rise of Asian-Americans and their dominance in academia may be exemplified by the extraordinary performance of Asian-American students in New York City.

According to recent media reports, Asian-American students account for almost three-fourths of the enrollment at Stuyvesant High School, one of the city’s eight specialized, elite public schools that strictly use test scores for admission. Asians represent less than 14 percent of the city’s entire public school student body, meaning they are disproportionately represented at Stuyvesant by a magnitude of about five. (In 1970, Asians accounted for only 6 percent of Stuyvesant’s student body.) Whites, including Jewish students whose numbers made them prominent as a group at the school, now represent less than a fourth (24 percent) of Stuyvesant’s enrollment, down from 79 percent in 1970.

In stark contrast, the enrollment of blacks and Hispanics (who together account for about three-fourths of the city’s entire public school system) at Stuyvesant is almost minimal — and falling. According to the New York Times, only seven black students were admitted to Stuyvesant this year (down from nine last year), while the number of Latinos dropped from 24 to 21. (Stuyvesant has a total enrollment of about 3,300.)

At two other prominent elite public schools in New York, Brooklyn Technical High School and Bronx High School of Science, the number of black pupils is also small, and it’s declining compared to previous recent years, the Times noted. For example, black enrollment at Stuyvesant peaked in 1975 at 12 percent of the student body.

Some critics blame the low enrollment of blacks and Hispanics at Stuyvesant (and the other specialized schools) on one principal factor: their lack of access to test preparation academies and tutoring classes.

Reportedly, many students in impoverished black and Latino neighborhood schools are not even aware of the testing procedures and how to prepare for them, nor can many afford the costly classes to train for these crucial pretest examinations.

The city’s Education Department said that 28,000 students across the city took the “Specialized High School Admissions Test” last year, and about 5,700 of them were offered admission to the elite schools. Of that figure, 53 percent were Asian, 26 percent were white, but only 5 percent were black and 7 percent Hispanic.

Two of the city’s most powerful voices, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, have called for a revamp of admission policies and procedures.

We must do more to reflect the diversity of our city in our top-tier schools — and we are committed to doing just that,” Fariña told the Daily News. “In the coming months we will be looking at ways to address the gap that has left so many of our black and Latino students out of specialized high schools.”

De Blasio, whose mixed-race son, Dante, attends one of the elite public schools, Brooklyn Tech, has promised to change the admissions procedures, although any proposal he makes is subject to approval by the state Legislature in Albany, which made the single-test admission requirement state law in 1971.

These schools are the jewels in the crown for our public school system,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “This is a city blessed with such diversity. Our schools, especially our particularly exceptional schools, need to reflect that diversity.”

Karim Camara, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, is preparing a revised bill that would give the city power to control admissions rules in the elite public schools.

The Brooklyn Reader reported that Reginald Richardson, a high school principal in Brooklyn, said that while the enrollment numbers for blacks and Latinos at elite public schools are unacceptable, the root problem is that there are insufficient educational opportunities available to non-Asian minorities, and the main problem is not the testing.

These outcomes tell us that the education that black and Latino kids are receiving in the elementary schools and middle schools in the city is poor, and that they’re not able to be competitive,” he said. “But those same kids are going to have to sit for the SATs when it’s time to go to college, and you won’t be able to change the metrics for the SATs. We need to address the fundamental problem of all kids getting a great education. And that’s not happening in the city. And these results of these entrance examinations in the schools are just evidence of it.”

Academics are divided over these various issues: why Asians perform so well academically, and whether testing should be the sole basis of admission to top schools.

Guofang Li, an associate professor of second language and literacy education in the Department of Teacher Education of Michigan State University, is one scholar who does not believe that admission-by-testing is unfair to anyone.

In a culture where Asians are still a minority group — and often marginalized in society– tests are actually providing a good pathway for Asians to get opportunities like … attending a good school with good resources … which can help them get into a better university and hopefully better employment in the future,” she said in an interview.

But Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, believes that admission testing is quite unfair to economically disadvantaged Hispanics and blacks.

Access to unequal resources will result in unequal outcomes,” she said. “Until we can provide adequate resources for all New York City children to prepare for admissions tests, we will continue see racial disparities in admissions to schools like Stuyvesant.”

On the other side of the argument, Li  believes that applying affirmative action-type policies to public school admissions would be disastrous.

[Stuyvesant] is diverse, just [with] different [racial] ratios,” she said. “Normally, most schools in suburban areas are 75 percent white and 25 percent other ethnic groups, while urban schools [may typically have a] 75 percent black or Hispanic population and 25 percent other ethnic groups.” She noted that such school racial compositions are accepted by most people as “diverse,” but when Asians form the dominant ethnic group (as in Stuyvesant), suddenly questions and complaints arise.

I do think people have a perception [of] what a diverse school has to be,” she said. “[But] if Asians are in good schools, they have a problem with it.”

Jerome Krase of the sociology department at Brooklyn College-CUNY, author of “Seeing Cities Change: Local Culture and Class,” said that if de Blasio and Fariña want to change admission policies at elite high schools, it would defeat the schools’ very purpose. But he does see race playing a role in denying opportunities to blacks and Latinos.

[It would be] better to improve the local schools and improve the life conditions of those who are disadvantaged,” Krase said. “They could also make sure that all schools provide the best education possible for all students. [But] this is not likely, because it means paying higher taxes to help other peoples’ children. New York City and Americans in general are no longer as generous when it comes to helping those in need, especially as the composition of those in need have become less ‘European’.”

Asians in New York City, who comprise a broad array of ethnic groups, including Pakistanis, Chinese, Indians, and Koreans, among many others, are uncomfortable with comments suggesting that there are “too many” of them in the metropolis’ best public schools. This perception puts many Asian students and their families on the defensive about their cultures’ emphasis on education and personal sacrifice, and many feel it also can lead to racially biased statements about the work habits and intelligence of other ethnic groups.

Jan Michael Vicencio, a Filipino student at Brooklyn Tech, explained to the Times how Asian students are both ridiculed and praised for their academic excellence. “You know, [other kids say] ‘You’re Asian, you must be smart,’ ” he said. “And you’re not sure [if] it’s a compliment or an insult. We get that a lot.”

Other Asian students point out that parental discipline and rigorous scholarship, which are common in their cultures, explain their relatively superior performance in American schools, not any innate intelligence or intellectual superiority.

Most of our parents don’t believe in [the word] ‘gifted,’” Riyan Iqbal, a son of Bangladeshi immigrants and a student at Bronx Science, said. “It’s all about hard work.”

Citing the poverty and hardships his family experienced in their native Bangladesh, Riyan added: “You try to make up for their hardships. I knew my parents would still love me if I didn’t get into Bronx Science. But they would be very disappointed.”

Asians in general value education, according to Li.

“[The] education of their children is often a family affair, and the whole family [invests] a lot of time, resources and efforts, even soon after a child is born,” Li said. “Many Asian families invest a lot of money [in] their children’s studies, including preparing for exams and tests.

But, again, Lee takes a somewhat different view on why Asians perform well on tests. She says that some Asian immigrants — especially Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese — hail from countries where the only means of gaining admission into universities is through a rigorous, national entrance exam.

So, they are more accustomed to the practice of test-taking for school admissions,” Lee said. “And because of the high stakes of students’ performance on this test, Asian parents are more likely to invest their resources in supplemental education for their children to ensure that they perform well on these tests.”

Lee added that some of this supplemental education is offered at no or little cost in ethnic communities through community organizations, while churches also help poor and working-class Chinese overcome their class disadvantages.

So it’s not that certain groups or certain cultures value education more than others,” Lee insisted. “All groups value education. Rather, groups have differential access to available resources to help them gain access into these competitive magnet schools.”

Lee noted that Asian immigrants tend to come from countries in which effort, rather than ability alone, is hailed as the route to achievement.

Because Asian immigrant parents believe that increased effort leads to continuous improvement, they are more likely to invest their resources in supplemental education for their children compared to native-born American parents,” she said.

On a national basis, some Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans are both puzzled and outraged over quota and affirmative action programs that hurt them despite their status as “racial minorities.”

Irwin Tang, an Austin, Texas-based psychotherapist, told Diverse Education that he believes some of the nation’s elite universities impose “unofficial” quotas to limit Asian enrollment, as they once did for Jews. According to reports, up to 18 percent of Ivy League school students are now of Asian descent, and Harvard’s incoming class last year was more than one-fifth Asian. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 28 percent of students are Asian-American, while at University of California at Berkeley, the figure is 39 percent.

Affirmative action lowers the bar for black and Hispanic students,” Tang said. “They don’t have to score high or have as high of a GPA compared to an Asian student. That’s why many Asian students are being advised not to reveal their race.”

Tang added that he would like to see high schools and elementary schools improve across the board. “The solution is not affirmative action. The solution is to have equal standards for everyone and an improved education system,” he said.

Ron Unz, the publisher of the American Conservative magazine, wrote in an op-ed in the Times in December 2012 that quotas on Asians at Harvard and other elite colleges — the allegations are widely denied by university officials — echo similar quotas imposed on Jews decades ago. Unz argued that while the Asian-American population has about doubled since the early 1990s, their presence in Ivy League institutions has either remained flat or fallen slightly.

The last 20 years have brought a huge rise in the number of Asians winning top academic awards in our high schools or being named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists,” Unz wrote. “It seems quite suspicious that none of [these] trends have been reflected in their increased enrollment at Harvard and other top Ivy League universities.”

Despite the stellar performance of Asians in U.S. high schools and colleges, their ascendance to high positions in corporations has not caught up.

Many outstanding Asians from top colleges often experience barriers to promotion and advancement at work,”  Li said. “Few Asians are in leadership or management positions [at top firms].”

Indeed, a report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2008 revealed that Asians experience multiple forms of discrimination in corporate America.

There is also a separate issue to consider — given how bewilderingly diverse and large the Asian-American community is, not all segments of this group are doing well, either academically or professionally. Generally speaking, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Indians have excelled academically and earn higher-than-average incomes. But, other Asians, particularly Bangladeshis and some Southeast Asians (e.g., Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, etc.) remain poor, undereducated and underemployed. These facts would seem to provide evidence that “Asian cultural values” do not necessarily guarantee success, given some harsh socio-economic realities.

It is critical to underscore that ‘Asian-American’ is a broad and diverse category that includes immigrant groups who arrive as highly selected and highly educated, as well as others who arrive as poorly educated immigrants or refugees with little formal education and few skills,” Lee said.

 

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Asian-American domination in elite schools triggers resentment and soul searching

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Aliens on TV outnumber Asian American men

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It started out as a pointed wise crack from a comedian. But turns out, there’s actually some truth to it.

Think Progress mentioned a tweet from comedian Wyatt Cenac about a New York Times review of the new Dracula series on NBC.

No disrespect to monsters, but it’s weird that there are more TV shows starring vampires than starring minorities. http://t.co/ZwQMgtO4Up

— Wyatt Cenac (@wyattcenac) October 25, 2013

A closer look by Buzz Feed shows there’s some truth to that when it comes to Asian American and Latino men. According to Buzz Feed, robots and all the mythical creatures on television make up 1.9 percent of all characters. That equals the total percentage of Asian and Latino men on television combined.

Ouch, not a very good reflection on diversity in television.

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Aliens on TV outnumber Asian American men

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Prophesy author Ellen Oh on girls, heroes, and Nickelodeon’s ‘The Legend of Korra’

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Check out this interview with Ellen Oh, author of Prophesy, as she discusses why the Nickelodeon animated series, The Legend of Korra is vital in bringing gender equality to our culture.

Sexism is deeply rooted in our culture, something that is ingrained in both men and women. We live in a world where a mother of teenage boys will write condescending blog posts chastising teenage girls for their choice of clothing and not realize how offensive that is in a society where rape victims are blamed in court for what they wear… “Oh,” I said. “So The Hunger Games is boring?” Immediately, the entire [class]room shouted “No.” “What about The Legend of Korra?” I asked. The room exploded with excitement. Everyone loved Korra. Even the boy reluctantly agreed. “Ok, then,” I said. “So girl heroes are interesting, right?” While the entire room was in loud and vigorous agreement, the boy was determined to have the last word. “Yeah but, there aren’t a lot of them, are there?” I nodded. “You’re right, but isn’t it time to change that?”

And this is exactly why I love The Legend of Korra so much. A room full of young boys and girls, all of them diehard fans of an animated series with a girl lead; all able to agree that Korra is a great character. An entertaining cartoon fantasy television show that is doing more for girl power than all the Gender Studies programs in all of our great universities. Why? Because it is reaching the very audience for whom these types of characterizations are most important. Our children.

Like the Last Airbender series before it, The Legend of Korra is set in a world where girls are equal to boys in every way. They can be like Korra, the Avatar, the most powerful bender in the world, or they can be Lin Beifong, a powerful police chief. But even better, they can be Asami, an ordinary girl with no magical powers who still kicks serious butt. Shows like The Legend of Korra makes the television landscape a better place. And if you roll your eyes at that statement, know that I have three young daughters and I’m also Asian American. Why is this relevant? Because not only is Korra a female lead character, but she is also a person of color. So yeah, I think The Legend of Korra is the best thing on television since I Love Lucy.

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Prophesy author Ellen Oh on Nickelodeon’s ‘The Legend of Korra’

THE LEGEND OF KORRA