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Katara in Avatar the Last Airbender: Know When You Have a Good Thing

When Avatar the Last Airbender blew up again after it was re-released on Netflix, one of the most disconcerting things I’ve seen in a while happened. On Tik Tok, people left and right were absolutely ripping on Katara.

Most of the complaints were about how she talked about her deceased mom too much, or the one time she went off about it in season three’s “The Southern Raiders” episode. I just found it very ironic because people are always complaining about how they want female characters to have depth and faults because they’re human too and they shouldn’t have to be perfect… and then when a female character isn’t perfect, they’re mad hard on her.

I heard nothing about how Aang got mad at Toph for not being able to save Appa while she was keeping a whole library above-ground and saving all their lives, and after she had told them she could see very well on sand. I heard nothing about how Toph is low-key kind of selfish when she first joins the gang. I heard nothing about Sokka (who’s my favorite character—so I’m not biased) being a total goon half the time. I heard nothing about how Zuko had a different emotional crisis every other episode—enter, screaming and crying at the sky: “Why am I so bad at being good?!!”

Katara was given an arc that was built up from the first season: to get over her anger about her mother’s death and forgive her killers. After “The Southern Raiders, Katara doesn’t mention her mother again, so her arc is completed. This is just like how everyone else’s arc is completed nearing the final episodes and the end of the series. I just wonder how much of a coincidence it is that one of the most feminine characters is trashed on social media.

Is it a part of something much greater? It seems to me that there’s an underlying problem. This generation, whether that’s younger Millennials, Gen Z, or whatever you want to call it (I think labelling generations is dumb), prides itself on being accepting, wanting “strong female characters”, and seeking equal treatment. But then when they get it, they come after it, and they come after it hard.

It’s just like when Gal Gadot, a wonderful actress who does an amazing job as Wonder Woman, was announced as Cleopatra. People pounced on her, claiming that she was racist because Cleopatra is supposed to be black. Eventually, people came forward with the facts: Cleopatra was Greek (her whole family, the Ptolemies, was Greek for the 300 years they ruled Egypt). Eventually, people came back defending Katara too. I’ve seen more posts since the initial Katara hate-fest, going through Katara’s strengths and nuances as a character that finally say that “Yes, she’s not wonderful 100% of the time, but no one is.”

There’s a reason why women aren’t always represented realistically, and it’s because when they are, this happens. There’s things to complain about in the media for sure, but when you’ve actually got something good, try not to waste it…or ruin more opportunities for realistic representations to happen again. 

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