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Let “ATLA” Be the Last of the Live-Action Adaptations

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” had been in production for years, leaving the fans excitedly waiting in suspense for its debut. Now that it’s finally been released, fans have been underwhelmed with its casting, characterization, and storyline. 

This is a far too familiar story, with dozens of other live-action adaptations disappointing the original fans. Whether it be just soaked in mediocrity or resembling a horrifying imitation of the source material, audience criticism always follows these remakes. Live-action movies like “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and “Pinocchio” are almost never chosen over the animations or ever even really talked about. Many of the Disney live-action movies are unbelievably average with much of the magic being erased by the shoddy CGI work. 

Plotlines are arguably the core of a TV show or movie, displaying the producers’ vision of storytelling. It is strikingly clear when the media has poor writing, and it becomes even more stark when compared to an animation so timeless and well-loved. Most of these live-action adaptations are based on an encapsulation of sentimentality; when the story differs, this illusion of nostalgia is shattered, losing that reminiscent spark. This is evident in the new “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series, as poor writing drastically altered original themes. Although the writers may have made these changes with good intentions, the poignancy of these messages were lost when the original script was overwritten.

The topic of casting is an extremely sensitive subject for fans of the originals. Their nostalgic fervor sends them into a frenzy when their favorite character is casted as someone who doesn’t look uncannily like what they imagined. These unrealistic expectations are taken out not only on the casting directors, but on the actors themselves as well. This was especially abundant during the live-action “The Little Mermaid” as Halle Bailey took the brunt of the scathing criticisms, dealing with racist remarks and derogatory comments. This was no different in the case of “Avatar,” where actors who didn’t match up to audiences’ prospects were shamed online. Including an immense amount of fatphobia and judgment of actors’ physical appearances, fanatics have proved once again that their borderline inappropriate obsessions incite bigotry.

Overall, live-action adaptations fail to emulate the original concepts and therefore will eventually fall into obscurity. These adaptations will never meet fans’ standards, no matter how well-executed they may be. Satisfaction is not possible when there already exists a strong devotion to the original, especially when it’s rooted in childhood sentimentality. Despite this, media companies will continue to push these out. Instead of producing original, contemporary material, it’s easy to lazily put together a remake as a low-effort cash grab.

Tracy Li is in her fourth year at Michigan State University, majoring in Mathematics and Secondary Education. She is a social media assistant for the Michigan State chapter. While her major is not aligned with writing, she has a deep passion for it, particularly in the form of creative writing. In her spare time, she enjoys crocheting, painting, and embroidering.