attackfish: Discretion prevented me from saying that I thought she was a fiend from the underworld (Lin Bei Fong MWT quote)
[personal profile] attackfish
Written for [livejournal.com profile] avatar_500 prompt #73, Revolt.

Summary: Even when Sokka says the right thing, it becomes the wrong one.

Small and Afraid

He used to joke about it.  He told the kids the story a couple of times, shaking his head and smiling.  It isn't a funny joke anymore, not with the Equalists saying that that's what all benders really think, and how they treat anybody who can't bend.  Tenzin sometimes tells the story, with a tight, unhappy look.

She asked her uncle Sokka once, about it, when she was fourteen and gawky, and taller than her mother already; he was the one who kept telling the story anyway.  She remembers folding herself up on a bench in a back room of her mother's school, and watching him attempt some new fighting move.  "You want to help me practice?" He asked her.

Lin stood up reluctantly, shoulders hunched.  "Okay."

"Your mom riding you hard?"

She shrugged.

He waved her close.  "She does that to everybody, don't worry about it.  You know what she said to me first time we fought together."

Lin rolled her eyes.  "Yeah.  You only told us all the story a million times.  Why she say that anyway?  You can fight as well as anyone."

Grimacing, Sokka rested his hand on her arm.  "I think when she was a kid, she hated the way people pitied her, and assumed she was helpless because she was blind, and that for a little while she believed it."

"What does that have to do with anything?"  She stood back and slipped into a guard stance, waiting for him to do the same.

Sokka didn't move.  "What I mean is, and I don't think your mom's got any idea she's doing this, she decided that we're the ones who should be pitied everybody who isn't Toph Bei Fong.  She has these amazing powers, and she feels like that's all she's got, so she has to think that's the most important thing, or she'll feel small and afraid again."  He sighed and copied Lin's stance.  "She used to say she felt bad for everybody who can't see with their feet, the same way people felt bad for her because she couldn't see with her eyes."

"But I can see with my eyes and with my feet," Lin pointed out.

"And nobody will ever pity you," Sokka assured her.  "Now, I want you to block this punch, and I'll try to get around the block."

Lin snorted weakly, aping her mother's bravado.  "Yeah, you'll try."


Date: 2013-04-02 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
Great explanation for Toph's often brash and dismissive tone. I've noticed this kind of thing in real life, too, that often the people who feel a need to put others down are fighting some insecurity themselves. At least Toph makes up for it with many other redeeming qualities.

Unfortunately, I have memory fail and don't remember the line that kicked it all off. Enlighten me?

Date: 2013-04-02 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
TOPH: We can take 'em. Three on three.
SOKKA: Actually, Toph, there's four of us.
Toph: Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't count you. You know, no bending and all.
SOKKA:I can still fight!
TOPH: Okay. Three on three plus Sokka.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
Oooh yeah. That is, as they say, problematic. And I don't imagine Toph grew more politically correct in her time as Chief of Police leading an all-earthbender force and all. I can't help but think her attitude, which I don't think was uncommon in her society (though others have less excuse for their casual bigotry), contributed to the rise of the Equalists.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
Yeah, I don't think so either. Though Sokka was just about her best friend in the world, so she might have softened up some.

I really really hope Book Two deals with some of the issues raised in the first, the poverty, the privileged position of benders, but I'm afraid they won't.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
I'm not getting my hopes up for Book 2. That way there's a possibility I can be pleasantly surprised.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
This. Me too. The above is the Korra of my dreams, not the one I expect to watch.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
Btw, I'm skeptical about Sokka's softening-up effect on Toph. See: "My best friend is a black man." Toph would walk into the gates of hell for Sokka, no doubt about it, but I also wonder if she doesn't have all sorts of reasons why he and Suki are different from run-of-the-mill nonbenders, whom she can still be prejudiced against.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
That's very true... Maybe Mai and Ty Lee also have something to say about it to her? (Maybe I'm just an optimist?)

Date: 2013-04-03 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
And I just like to read the ATLA world in the worst possible light. :D To clarify, even in this headcanon I don't think Toph was a) a bad person or b) out to get nonbenders. I just think it would be interesting to read her as a good person with casual personal prejudices enforced by institutional prejudice, e.g., "Why would I want a bunch of nonbenders on my force? I have METALBENDERS and they're AWESOME." Cue a force that's good at showy violence and riot suppression, but understaffed for careful investigative work. Which results in gangs and unsolved murders galore, fertile ground for the Equalists.

Date: 2013-04-03 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
I do that with some things (seriously, my fic. Not a happy place) but I've been reading Les Mis, and I need happiness in my life, so I need Toph to be just pure concentrated awesome right about now.

I do see Toph as having a pretty severe case of cowboy cop. I imagine this shaped Lin's attitude towards the Law and her job.

Date: 2013-04-02 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chordatesrock.livejournal.com
Interesting. I like that take on Toph.

I haven't seen Korra yet, but the more I see it referenced in fandom, the more I suspect the Equalists are going to be like the Abominators in Dragonriders of Pern: straw villains who make a point the narrative never quite manages to address. I hope it doesn't turn out like that.

That should say "she couldn't see with her eyes," not "...their eyes." You're also missing an L in "she'll feel small and afraid again."

Date: 2013-04-03 12:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lalunatique.livejournal.com
You might actually enjoy Book 1 more with those lowered expectations. It's fine as an escapist/action adventure, but as a political tale it's a bit... icky. Or you could see it as an epic exercise in unreliable narrator, which I kind of do.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:34 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-03 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
They aren't straw villains, but they do raise questions that aren't acknowledged. I hope the show deals with them in Book Two.

It's worth watching just for the awesome that is Lin Bei Fong.

Date: 2013-04-03 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
fixed, BTW. Thank you.

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