Avatar: The Last Airbender is a revolutionary show. It follows the lives of kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen. People watching the show are able to watch kids their own age do amazing things and basically save the world.
Some cartoons like Scooby Doo have a laughing track, but Avatar does not. Even though there are some comedic elements to the show, I would consider it more of a drama. But that does not mean that laughter is not provoked. Sokka is an extremely sarcastic character, in fact, all of the characters are sarcastic with one another. Some of the things they say to each other are hilarious. When Zuko joins their team, you think he is explaining himself to the gaang, but you find out he has been talking to a frog in the woods. His awkwardness in that whole episode it pretty hilarious.
This show is extremely nationalistic. Everyone seems pretty loyal to their nation, and are seen as traitors for going against the grain. Zuko is considered a traitor for joining the gaang and deserting the Fire Nation. Zuko also has the personal value of restoring his honor that his father took away from him. Zuko restores his own honor when he joins the group. Katara has a personal value of doing what is right and helping others. She also is desperate to get revenge on the man who killed her mother.
In one of my favorite episodes of that season “The Southern Raiders”, Zuko helps Katara find the man who killed her mother. He notices that she has been the one to not accept him.
She gets angry and mentions about how the Fire Nation killed her and Sokka’s mother. Sokka tells Zuko about what happened and Zuko realizes he knows who killed their mother. Aang wants her to just forgive and forget, but Zuko takes her to find the man anyways. Katara does not end up hurting the man, but she gets satisfaction knowing that he just a pathetic old man. Aang thinks she has forgiven the man, but she didn’t. She did however forgive Zuko for everything he has ever done to them and to her personally. And the greatest moment ever happens:
This is where the concept of telos comes into play. Katara had to make the moral decision to not kill the man that basically ruined her life.
This was a big deal for her because she had so much pain and rage, and she was able to let it go. It sets a good example that violence is not always the answer.
A lot of the episodes throughout the season have to do with right and wrong, good and evil, and if violence is the answer. Since Aang is so against violence and believes that all life is sacred, Zuko asks him what he plans to do when he faces the Fire Lord. At this point Aang does not have the answer, but in the end he figures it out 😉
The audience always has the chance to come up with their own conclusions. Since “The Southern Raiders” leaves with Zuko asking a question, it leaves the audience to think about what Aang might do. There are many fan-boards and sites where fans come up with “head canons”. It is a good way to ease the mind while you are waiting for new episodes.
This show has made me extremely emotional in a couple of different aspects. As I have said in previous posts, I think of these characters as my children, and therefore have cried many times while watching this show. “The Beach” episode made me cry when they showed the pictures of when Zuko was younger and happy.
I have felt other strong emotions while watching this season. The second episode, “The Headband” made me feel really happy. Aang joins a Fire Nation school and gets time to socially interact with kids his own age. The episode is sort of an homage to Footloose. He’s the new kid in town, goes against authority, and puts on a big dance party for the kids. Dancing is not allowed in Fire Nation schools. He taught the kids to be free.
The finale of the show is in four parts, and is filled with different emotions. I felt pride, happiness, and sadness. Proud of the gaang for completing their journey, happy that none of them died, and sad because my journey with them was over.
As you can see, there was a lot going on. I think the most emotional part of the finale for me was when Zuko jumped in front of a bolt of lightning so it wouldn’t hit Katara. Even though they don’t end up together, that to me was proof enough that he would do anything for her because he loved her. Since Zuko was hurt, Katara was then left to finish the big battle with Zuko’s sister, Azula.
Katara ends up chaining Azula to the grates and runs over to heal Zuko. She cries tears of joy because she saves him. They are left to wonder how Aang is doing.
For audience members, they can learn that things get better. Zuko struggled for years, but overcame every obstacle thrown at him. He cried, he got frustrated, but he always had hope. In fact, the entire gaang never gave up hope. They fought for what they wanted and even though they didn’t win all of the battles, they won the war. (literally and figuratively)
I think this show had a tremendous influence on its viewers. It got kids into martial arts, it showed that females can be strong role models for any gender, and it showed you are never too small to win at something. No one can tell you, you can’t do something. All of the characters had different body types which is nice to see. The girls were curvy and some of the boys were scrawny. At many comic-cons many people do their best to recreate the characters’ clothes and hairstyles. Some are easier than others to achieve. The creators love seeing it either way.
The program relates to the culture of its time by using many Asian elements. The kids write using different styles of calligraphy, they wear different types of ceremonial robes. There are no historical errors in terms of technology. There was a lot of research done by the creators in many Asian cultures.
The show hails the viewer by having certain episodes end in cliffhangers. There were so many episodes that made me feeling like I wanted more. Each week seemed more exciting than the last. The filler episodes never felt like filler episodes either.
The viewer has to decide for themselves how old everyone is. We know for sure that Aang and Toph are twelve when they enter the show. By the time the show ends they are both thirteen. We can assume that Katara is a year older than Aang, Sokka is a year older than Katara, and Zuko is a year older than Sokka. Azula, Mai, and Ty-Lee are all the same age as Sokka. Sokka and Katara are Inuits, Zuko and the others from the Fire Nation are Japanese, Toph and others from the Earth Kingdom are Korean, and Aang is Tibetan. All of the cultures are represented both realistically and are made within the show itself. The creators help create the cultures and societies for each nation. The only people not represented in this show are white people. Anyone who is Caucasian would be seen as an Other.
The only person that sees Katara as an equal is Zuko. The rest treat her with respect, but as a motherly figure. They are constantly undermining her and treating her as though she is not as strong as she really is. Zuko is the only one that does not rely on her as a mother, he mainly sees her as a friend and equal. I think this stems from how powerful his sister is and seeing that women are more than just maternal.
Throughout the show we see this symbol:
And it becomes more prevalent in the third season. This is the symbol of the White Lotus. The tile shown here is part of a game called Pai Sho. Many elderly characters play it and seem obsessed with this one tile. We learn in the third season that it represents a group of older people who help protect the natural order, a time before the Fire Nation started the war. A time of peace.
The audience can be extremely involved in the show because this show provokes many emotions. There are so many pieces of fanfiction and fanart out there. The creators even used to hang up fanart in their office at Nickelodeon. Now fans have been getting into fan-animation videos and abridged series. There are so many outlets and ways for them to get involved. I think the emotion helps get viewers involved while they are watching because they could be going through something heavy and watching the characters go through something heavy could ease their pain and know that they are not alone. You are able to learn and grow with the characters. A show that can do this effectively and without trying too hard is a good one and definitely worth watching in my book.