Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender Nostalgia

Last week I wrote about Twilight nostalgia. Keeping up with the nostalgia theme, I recently bought all of the Avatar: The Last Airbender seasons and marathoned, and now the nostalgia is stronger than ever.
Besides Magic Tree House, Avatar was really my first fangirl experience and was my first fandom experience. My cousins loved the show, I loved the show, I connected with people who loved the show, and I cosplayed. Oh, did I cosplay.

All hand sewn of course *tosses hair* but it's not like that's a big deal or anything.
So, last week I took you on a journey to the land of 2008 in my Twilight post, today I want to start earlier than that. I'm taking you to the magical land of 2006, and explaining why Avatar is the best cartoon show the world is ever going to experience.
This show connects to so many people of all different ages. I started watching when I was eight, at the same time my fourteen year old cousin and thirty-some old aunt starting watching it. And none of them were watching for the "my younger children want to watch this so I will too" excuse. Everyone was genuinely excited about the show. Even as an eighteen year old I still obsessively fangirl over it, going so far as to take a Tai-Chi class, the martial arts form that waterbending is based on.
World Building/ Representation
I've made the argument before that books sometimes fail to build appropriate worlds for their stories, and this can be extended to television too. But that does not apply to Avatar in any way shape or form. This show has such a vast world filled with details and nuances and cultures. Oh my gosh, the culture. It is so diverse. Every nation is based off of an Asian culture or country. Water Tribe, Inuit natives. Earth Kingdom, China with Korean and Japanese influences. Fire Nation, Japan with South Asian and Southeast Asian influences. Air Nomads, Tibetan monks.
It was unique and beautiful and representative in a way no other show has been. Even though I'm Hispanic and not a native Inuit, it was the first time I saw people on a show with my skin color, and I suddenly wanted to be them. I am Katara by the way, and if any of you people try to convince me otherwise I can waterbend the heck out of you.
Speaking of waterbending, the bending powers that exist in this world are the coolest. I want to be a bender. I wanted to be a bender so bad I would attach blue pieces of fabric to my wrist and whip my siblings with them. Every fountain, faucet, or wave on the beach I controlled. Not weird things like pipes, or I don't know, gravitational pull.
Me source
Besides waterbending, the other bending forms are all based off different martial arts forms, so it filled the series with epic fighting sequences and heart pounding gloriousness.
Real Problems
Avatar is not afraid to delve into mature themes, despite it's younger audiences, because it does so in such an appropriate way. There is violence, war, complex characters affected by that war and violence. Anybody remember Jet, the "good guy" who wanted to destroy an entire village of people to get rid of the Fire Nation in his valley? 
Yaaas Katara, yaaaas. source
Besides Jet, there is the fact that the entire flipping Fire Nation does completely horrible things, but their reasoning is explained, and suddenly we understand. I understood. As a fifth grader I understood that people do awful things with the best of intentions, or at least, thought they were the best.
But even amdist all the chaos, there were good people. There was an entire season that took place in the Fire Nation, and we got to see from the inside that not all these people are awful, and some were just like you and me.
*Minor spoiler warning below! If you haven't seen Avatar, I suggest getting on that before scrolling forward.

We can't forget the fact that Aang was torn up about the fact that he had to murder the Fire Lord. The premise of the show is that Aang must defeat the Fire Lord before Sozin's Comet arrives, a comet that will give firebenders immense power, and enough power to the Fire Lord to win a hundred year long war. Defeat, we forget, is just a nice word for kill. A lot of the time, taking down the bad guy in shows is seen as something glorious. A, "Yay, he's dead! Let's celebrate!" Some may even go as far to show a motionless shadow, or a grand explosion, because the bad guy is no more! But that's not how death is. Death is real, and life is real. And when you are the one responsible for taking away someone's life, there are going to be some real moral consequences.
So yes, Aang didn't want to kill the Fire Lord, because yes, it is murder, and the show wasn't going to shy away from that.

*Spoiler over. Please proceed.
The Fandom
I love the Avatar fandom. They cosplay like no one else, they ship like no one else, and they love like no one else. The shipping was one of my favorite parts of Avatar. Kaatang vs Zutara anyone? 
The creators had so much fun with the fandom, they even teased us about our shipping.
Remember this short? source
When we found out we were getting Korra, we exploded. Korra Nation appeared, and if the website was shared a certain number of times, the premiere got to release online early. We. Freaked. Out. There was no doubt in any of our minds that we were getting that episode. And we did.
Avatar is and forever will be the best show on the planet. I love it with all my heart and will love it with all my heart. I miss it a great a deal, so much to the point it aches. If you were ever a fan of Avatar feel free to miss it with me and discuss.

1 comment:

  1. YES! I miss it so much too! These days I'm finding myself wandering back to Avatar videos on youtube to make up for the lost time (I was too young when it premiered to understand that there were seasons, so I stopped watching after book 2, thinking it had finished). The worst mistake I could have ever made was clicking on the 'Brave Soldier Boy' song from the episode Tales from Ba Sing Se, where Iroh pays a tribute to his dead son who had to die for the Fire Nation's useless war. Also, the fact that the poor old guy who voiced Uncle Iroh also died after that episode recording, and the song and episode was dedicated to him- arrgghh.

    Sometimes I wish I never watched this show in the first place when it first aired. I've never been this emotionally invested in a tv show ever. It's also a huge part of my childhood because I used to watch it to escape a lot of stuff going on around me. Really sucks that M. Night Shyamalan had to ruin any possible chances of a good movie adaptation.