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Avatar Reboot : How optimistic should we be?

Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) struck a lot of people as special when it first aired in 2005.  If you’ve seen the show, specific examples of your favorite jokes or minor characters come to mind. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Although it is a “kids show,” it has complex character dynamics and conflicts that all humans face. Don’t let the fact that it’s animated stop you from watching a story of genuine love and growth. The characters are so easy to love and there are amazing female characters. It’s just such a feel-good show while still being interesting and engaging. It has one of the best redemption arcs in television history, accurately reflecting how people change and learn. It restores my faith in humanity. If you still need convincing, there’s also the fact that it has a 100% score on rotten tomatoes! The first episode starts with teenage brother and sister—Sokka and Katara who are members of the Water Tribe. In this universe, the Water Tribe is one of the four nations based off of the four elements, and tensions have been rising. Sokka and Katara are on a fishing trip when they accidentally discover a young boy asleep in the ice, glowing. He looks, unlike anyone they’ve ever seen. He introduces himself as Aang, but we find out much more about his identity as the three become closer.


Avatar the Last Airbender originally ran for three seasons, ending a whole decade ago, back in 2008. But it’s been in the news again because it was recently announced that there would be a second attempt at a live action adaptation. My parents rightfully shielded me from the first attempt, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, which was a disaster. It mispronounced the main character’s name, it completely whitewashed the previously diverse set of characters, and it won “Worst Picture” at the Razzies (a parody awards show), and, in contrast to the show’s perfect score, has a 6% Rotten Tomatoes score. The entire fan base felt utterly betrayed. Hopefully, the unfortunate white savior narrative M. Night Shyamalan sprinkled into the movie will not be included this time around. It seems as if this second attempt might be exactly what the first one should have been.



One reason to be hopeful is that it’s by Netflix which has produced some quality entertainment recently (See: Stranger Things and Bojack Horseman). It’s also a streaming service that previously had the show available which means they are familiar with what made the original series resonate with so many people. Netflix also brought in the original creators, Michael DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko, to serve as showrunners. DiMartino and Konietzko said when announcing the reboot, “Netflix is wholly dedicated to manifesting our vision for this retelling, and we’re incredibly grateful to be partnering with them.” Not only are the creators returning, but the composer will also be returning to the project, indicating that they are trying to capture spirit of the original. Similarly, choosing the format of a TV show rather than a movie means that there will be time for backstories, a more true-to-the-original mix of dramatic and comedic moments, and earned character development. It’s fair to have reservations. I’m not always a fan of live-action recreations—but if they do it right, it could be just as much fun. A live-action version could offer a more immersive experience of Aang’s world, an experience I am very optimistic about.


Merlin Garcia

New School '21

Merlin Garcia was born in Austin, Texas and now attends Eugene Lang College. She studies film with a concentration in screenwriting. She hopes to someday work in television and publish a book of essays.
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