The definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. From the very beginning, Mike and Bryan had a concrete plan for Avatar. They knew it was only going to be three seasons and had a timeline for all of the events. This show was highly rated by critics and audiences.
I would consider Avatar a successful show because of the fans. The first episode aired over ten years ago, and the show ended about eight years ago. Fans are still actively going to comic cons and dressing as characters, still actively blogging and debating aspects of the show, still making fan fiction, fan art, and fan videos. I think about this show almost everyday of my life. I learned many life lessons that apply to my world all the time.
At the end of every episode, you can see who wrote the episode. I could always tell when Mike was the head writer on an episode. It was usually the really emotional ones, or any of the season finales. The dialogue was always engaging and real. Watching the bending battles was always really cool, whether it was the same elements battling or different. I loved seeing the different styles interact with each other.
Nickelodeon was the distributor of the show. At the time, it was pretty well advertised. There would be promo-commercials throughout the week reminding the viewers of the day and time it would be on. Prime time on a Friday night, I thought, was a great time slot. My friend and I were in the eighth grade at the time of the third season. Every Friday night we would get together at her house to watch it. When the series finale happened, I told her I needed to watch it alone so I could take it all in with no distraction. I still have the original taping I had my dad do of it on a VHS. I will never get rid of that tape, even though I have the box set on DVD.
The creators love hearing from fans. It is what kept them going. They would hang up fan art in their office and answer fan mail. They loved meeting fans at the comic cons as well.
I have a fan blog, or what started out as a fan blog, on Tumblr that I originally dedicated to Avatar.
Now it’s just a cluster-fuck of memes and shit-posts. It is amazing to me that after ten years, people still fight about Kataang verses Zutara (Zutara all the way) and analyze other aspects. We are still an active community, and we are never going away. Some shows get left to be forgotten about, but Avatar has left a stamp, a footprint.
I have learned recently about cult television and what classifies a show as a cult television show. I think Avatar falls well under the classification of a cult TV show. This show has an extremely dedicated fanbase, as I have explained, there is a mythology to it, the fans have an encyclopedic knowledge of the show, and the content is edgy for Nickelodeon and the intended demographic. I am mentioning this because I consider a show successful if it has a cult following. I believe this because clearly for there to be a strong fanbase the show must have deeply impacted its audience. Different ages of people are discovering Avatar all the time. On Tumblr people talk about re-watching it and still being so amazed at all of the life lessons that were taught in the show.
Something else that makes this show extremely successful is the character development. I have never seen such well written characters on a cartoon before. I know now there are more cartoons that have started doing more character development, instead of resetting every week. A show like Adventure Time is a good example of a cartoon that is currently airing and it has good character development. Finn has grown as a character.
And then you have a show like Spongebob, which I love deeply, that just resets every week. Spongebob has not grown from anything. The show has been on for over ten years and he is the same goofy sponge he has always been.
I would like to think that the character development and story telling skills on Avatar is what inspired creators of other cartoons to do more development, rather than leaving their characters as one-dimensional things. Don’t get me wrong, I love relaxing and watching a classic episode of Spongebob, but I also like feeling something when I watch TV. Avatar made me feel for the characters because I got to see them grow.
Zuko is the best example of excellent character development because not only do you physically see him develop, but you see him mentally go through his changes.
Zuko starts out the series with one goal in mind: capturing the Avatar to bring back to the Fire Nation to restore his honor and prove to his father that he is not a cowardly failure. Throughout the first book we learn a little about his past. The episode called “The Storm” is where we see how he got his scar. After this, Zuko is no longer a one-dimensional villain. He was a boy who was trying to do what’s right. He still thinks the Fire Nation is in the right though. Then in the second book, he starts to learn how others are affected by the war, and he learns what it is like to be on his own. He goes through a metamorphosis after he finds Appa trapped and releases him instead of stealing him. After this he becomes a whole new man, and at the end of book 2, he almost joins the gaang. But he makes a horrible mistake and joins his sister instead. I was mad about this, but I understood his decision. After being gone for three years, I would want to go home too. In the third book, however, Zuko realizes his mistake. He knows he has to leave the Fire Nation, teach Aang fire bending, and end the war. Zuko becomes the new Fire Lord at the end of the series. I cried for him because I never thought he was going to reach this point and I could not have been more proud.
Throughout the series Aang’s development paralleled Zuko’s which I thought was so cool. They were basically foil’s for a lot of it.
In this scene from “The Awakening” Aang says he needs to regain his honor, and then the camera dissolves into Zuko’s face. They have so much in common and they don’t even know it. That’s why it was so great when Zuko finally joined them. He was able to bond with everyone. Some relationships took longer to mend than others, but he ended up being a valuable member of their team. When I first watched the series it was the greatest surprise to see that he joined them. He finally found his way and did the right thing.
The creators achieved their goal and told the story they wanted to tell. They did an amazing job with developing the characters. The show ended up having a strong cult fanbase, that is currently active. Due to all of this I would definitely call this show a success.