When I first saw Avatar: The Last Airbender in elementary school, I was immediately amazed that in the very first episode, a character named Katara called her brother Sokka out for being sexist and immature. From the get-go, I knew that this show was special and that there were empowering undertones to it. Despite being a children’s show, Avatar has gained a huge fanbase of all ages, and it proves how incredible writing and character development can resonate with audiences.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues and everyone is stuck in self-isolation, this is a perfect time to follow Avatar Aang and his friends as he tries to master controlling all four elements of earth, fire, water and air. Overall, the show has several facets that can make this time of uncertainty better.
- Undeniably strong women
After just watching the first episode, it becomes evident that Avatar is not just about letting the male leads rise up. Its feminist ideals highlight the presence and importance of strong women throughout the show. For example, Katara is a fierce, self-taught water bender from the Southern Water tribe. Her determination and bravery are evident as she defends her friends and helps those around her, demonstrating her empathetic heart. Another character, Toph Beifong, is a 12-year-old earth-bending master with immeasurable skill and wit. On top of that, she is blind, and she is able to sense and feel the earth around her, elevating her bending abilities to another level. Toph is irrefutably one of the coolest and most powerful characters on the show, and her sarcastic personality make her all the more entertaining to watch. The women in Avatar are not only my favorite characters, but I think they are some of the best characters in the series as a whole.
- Non-benders are fantastic characters too
A lot the show focuses on Aang trying to master the bending from each element, and that can easily imply that those without the ability to bend are weak. However, this is not the case at all. In fact, each character plays an important role, and it is empowering to watch those considered to be ordinary heroes. For instance, one character named Suki is a Kyoshi warrior, and while she is not a bender, she is an amazingly skilled fighter who has spent most of her life training with other strong women. I am telling you, the women in this show are awesome. She often puts her warrior capabilities to good use as she helps propel Aang and his friends on their journey.
- Uncle Iroh’s wisdom
Ah, Iroh. At first, he comes off as the unsuspecting tea-loving uncle to Prince Zuko, but then all of the sudden, he starts giving some of the best advice that I have ever heard. His guidance and wisdom can be applied to real life, and he can be the comforting figure that we all need in this time of uncertainty. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “While it is always best to believe in one’s self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
- Mature and powerful theming
While it is a children’s show, Avatar still explores serious themes involving power dynamics, war and death. By no means does the show dismiss tragedy and the effects that come with it. Viewers watch the characters’ journeys as they cope with the mental and physical repercussions of losing loved ones to war.
Each character has a rather different, multifaceted perspective, but this humanizes them and their personalities. For instance, Zuko initially seems rather jaded about his situation, but as his story unfolds, viewers are able to understand his emotional depth and behavior. He also ends up having the most well-executed redemption arcs ever! Katara manages the grief of losing her mother differently and grapples with these emotions throughout the series.
Although they both struggle with their individual circumstances, their reactions display the vitality in recognizing and validating their personal emotions.
- Balanced comedic relief
While the show juggles serious and dark themes, it perfectly balances them with comedic relief, and that humor can be nice during these uncertain times. There is a good mix of puns and silly humor to lighten up the show, and that makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. Sokka is an especially funny character, and his goofy nature keeps the show fun.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has so many extraordinary elements to it, and this article has only scratched the surface to the huge, wide world that the show has to offer. Being in quarantine can be difficult, but it could be the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a show that offers emotional depth and empowering characters. Each episode is bound to take you on a journey through its thoughtful plotlines and deep messages that encourage audiences to self-reflect. The show evokes feelings in an unexpected way, so much so that you may even find yourself getting emotional about a flying bison. Avatar is a masterpiece, and it is definitely a show worth watching right now.