I did this as a three part series, because I just can’t get enough Beifong in my life and thinking about them brings me immense joy.
Here’s the first two:
And last but not least:
The Beifong family is the best thing that ever happened to Avatar and quite possibly my life. The thing I love most about them, though, is how human they are. They are the epitome of what happens when life is messy and emotions are raw and people do stupid things and life doesn’t go as expected. Each and every one of them is batshit crazy, and I love them for it. Here’s my take on the illustrious Beifongs. Last is Su.
Suyin: An Analysis
Oh, Su. What can I say? Su is just as complicated as the rest of the Beifongs. Su is no saint but neither is she a devil. Su is human, and that’s about all there is to it.
Su obviously took her mother’s absence in a very different direction. I would imagine that both Toph and Lin were very excited to welcome Su. However, very shortly Lin is old enough and probably mature enough to watch her, which leaves Toph free to be Chief, which means Su is shortchanged in her time with her mom. I don’t think Toph sat them down one day and was like ok girls I’m going to be spending more time at work so Lin you’re in charge. I think she just slowly wasn’t really needed at home (at least not in a way that computed in her mind) and she just kind of drifted away.
Well if I’m Su and my big sister starts bossing me around I’m like ok no that’s not happening, and she obviously started to resist it. However, saying “I was more of a rebel” is like saying “that ghost pepper is a little spicy”. Like Su, honey, there’s a rebel and there’s criminal enterprise. It’s not the same thing, and even later in life she obviously hasn’t made that connection.
Whether because of her absence, or because she perhaps saw herself in Su, Toph turned a blind eye (pardon the pun). It’s also obvious that Toph isn’t even aware of half the stuff that goes on. And because she’s clueless, Toph probably doesn’t believe Lin when she tells her. Whatever the case, Su is that kid who could do anything or say anything and get away with it, while Big Sister probably sneezes wrong and everyone glares at them, because they’re older and supposed to be more mature. Lin at this point is beyond frustrated with Su.
So here we go, Su steps out of the car and I’m sure Lin is feeling a lot of things. Probably like she failed her little sister, angry because WTF Su, and maybe even a little vindicated. Now Toph will HAVE to pay attention. Su is the dumbest bitch this side of Whale Tail Island, however, and actually thinks that Lin is going to let her walk away. Well of course she’s not, duh. But Su is so full of anger and frustration, that she lashes out.
When I say Su is full of anger and frustration, I mean that as much as Lin kept a lid on it, Su did, too. Su had less time with Toph at home than Lin did, which wasn’t fair. Su had to put up with Lin mothering her, when she wasn’t actually her mother and only a few years older than her. Su had very little direction in her life, from anyone. Su was obviously very impressionable. Those two idiots she was with probably could have convinced her to commit Grand Theft Auto, and it wouldn’t have taken much. If things hadn’t gone down the way they did, Su probably would have ended up dead or as a true villain.
Hm, excuse me while I jot down a story idea.
Anyways, my point is, Su had just as many feelings as Lin, her bottle just looked very different. So in a moment of pure anger she lashes out when Lin tries to arrest her. I believe she regretted it, and here’s why: she’s in Toph’s office with Lin. Had Su been completely devoid of any feeling, she would have run away and never looked back, or at least tried to rationalize it. Toph is obviously fully aware of what went down; she asks both of them what they were thinking, so even though Su’s not saying sorry she’s not sitting there trying to deny it. She knows she got caught. She may not be sorry, but she’s still sitting there in the office. Frankly I give her points for that. Not many, but a few.
If I’m Su, I know I did wrong but I don’t care. So I love to hear Toph ask Lin what she was thinking, too. I’m like ha! Yeah, you tear up that report, Mom! But wait, I have to leave the city? Holy shit, did not see that coming! So now the mom who I didn’t have much time with in the first place and has been largely absent is sending me away to my grandparents (and who knows how well she knew them) where only the Spirits know what’s going to happen then. Well this sucks. Not an excuse for her shitty behavior but it still sucked for her.
So then she goes traipsing around the world to prove to herself she is outside the realm of rules. She finally settles down with Bataar Sr and builds Zaofu. Her ideals still seem to be based on the idea of life without limits, which fits her history. She seems more like someone who creates opportunities than someone who makes a lot of rules. Aiwei calls her the matriarch so she’s not exactly in a position of true political power, at least not in name.
I truly believe Bataar loves Su and that he is a good husband and father. I also believe that for the most part, Su is a good mom. Here’s why: her kids are quite well-adjusted. Except for Bataar Jr who seems to have inherited her impressionable nature. But Wing and Wei are cool and obviously very accomplished, Opal is rather prissy but she does have some good qualities, and Huan is very passionate about his banana art. They’re kind of a fun family. Su tells Korra that she always wished Lin were a part of her life, and I believe her. I really think Su misses her big sister. She and Lin are alike in that what they want most is their family to be intact.
After the fall of the Earth Queen, Su says she doesn’t want to impose her ideals on the nation. Again, she doesn’t like rules, so she's not going to go around telling everyone else what to do. I don’t agree with that decision but it is consistent with her character. Her decision to try and assassinate Kuvira I believe comes from a desire to protect those around her, anger at Kuvira for betraying her and taking her son away from her, and guilt because it was her inaction that precipitated the whole thing in the first place. It’s a stupid ass decision, and is an emotional one. Su seems to be ruled by her emotions, from the first time we see her until the end of the series, which is interesting because she does keep her cool most of the time. Emotional people are like that, though. I’m ok until you make me mad or feel something and now I have to do something about it. Oftentimes they resent the person who made them feel it, and blame them. Su definitely falls into that category. Because she is so governed by her emotions, she tends to rush headlong into things without seeing the long game, or the risks. When she gets caught, she knows she messed up. But now Korra has to come and save her, Su knowing full well she’s not ready. But Korra tries anyways because even though Su is incredibly stupid and selfish, she is a friend and they still care about her. Anyone who watches Dragons Race to the Edge, it reminds me of Snotlout, when Astrid says he’s a muttonhead, but he’s their muttonhead. For better or worse, Su has become one of them.
Quite frankly, I like Su. I think her biggest faults are that she tends to follow her emotions which gets her into trouble and she doesn’t really like to acknowledge when she’s wrong, even though she definitely knows she is. Neither of those things are traits that I would consider unforgivable. I don’t think she and I would be bosom buddies but she is an interesting person. I would be endlessly frustrated with her and probably tell her I told you so a lot. But Su is there when it counts. She defeats P’li and helps defeat Kuvira. She helps save Korra and teaches her metal bending, and she is quite cheerful. As far as Lin forgiving her I feel like that was more for Lin than Su, just like forgiveness is for everyone. For anyone who says Lin deserves better, keep in mind this is her little sister who she loves very much. There’s history there and families are messy and complicated and I for one trust Lin. Lin also doesn’t just jump in, she tells Su she just won’t show up and attack her. They only become more involved because that’s how things played out. Lin is very sincere when she tells Su that she loves her, and it almost seems like the first time Lin has said those words out loud, based on Su’s expression.
Su may not have known or believed it before that. Right or wrong, good or bad, Su is family, and families are stupid and crazy. Like I said before, Su is no saint, but she’s no devil either. She makes shitty decisions and yes people have to keep coming to her rescue, but I think her heart is in the right place. I really do.