By Maggie Peknic
[Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when Covid-19 attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop the quarantine boredom, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. Twelve years after the show’s finale, Netflix discovered the Avatar, an Airbender named Aang. Since May 2020, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has been available to stream on Netflix. I believe that Aang can save quarantine.]
Netflix truly saved quarantine this year, producing hit shows like “Tiger King” and “Outer Banks.” But they really hit a home run when they announced that “Avatar: The Last Airbender” would be streaming in late May. Although it was previously available on Amazon Prime, Netflix is arguably the biggest and most prominently used streaming service in the world, so their announcements have a larger cultural impact than their rivals. Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok feeds became flooded with “Avatar: The Last Airbender” material. It was almost impossible to get away from, which made me, someone who never watched the show as a kid, really curious as to what it was about. Although I did see some gatekeepers online, they were immediately shot down when a picture of Uncle Iroh with the saying, “Everyone starts their Avatar journey somewhere. Now there are more friends to share a nice cup of tea with,” went viral.
As if the constant flood of “Avatar” memes weren’t enough to make me want to watch the show, two of my best friends began re-watching the series and wouldn’t stop talking about it. Eventually, they roped me into watching it, and it was one of the best things they ever made me do. I binged the three seasons, with each season better than the last, until I got up to the final four-part finale. My two friends and I watched the season finale together on a projector in one of their backyards, and it was, most arguably, one of the best season finales I’ve seen.
Despite this being one of the best finales and, overall, best shows I’ve ever seen, many people disregard the entire show on the basis that it is a “children’s” television program. What they fail to recognize is that despite being aimed towards children, the show contains deep themes and incredible character arcs, the most notable being Zuko’s. The show delves deep into each of its side characters as well, some of whom could’ve easily been written off as one-trait ponies. For example, Sokka’s character arc takes him from a misogynist to a feminist when he meets Suki, a Kyoshi warrior, who teaches him that women can be strong fighters. After this realization, Sokka apologizes for his sexism and becomes a feminist, a great lesson for kids and adults alike. The show also takes inspiration from various cultures: the Water Tribe is based on Inuit culture, and the Earth Kingdom is based on Chinese culture. In addition to this, the show takes inspiration from multiple nations worldwide, including American politics. For example, the Fire Nation believes that they are the best, and the war was their way of spreading their greatness. This is very similar to Nazi Germany and even our own nation, the United States.
Although it dives into deep issues, the show still provides sarcastic humor and childhood nostalgia, aesthetically pleasing scenes, and a beautiful soundtrack. Needless to say, the show is a hit. The same cannot be said in regard to Netflix’s new live-action “Avatar.” Attempting to ride on the coattails of the original series, Netflix is creating a new live-action version. However, since the original “ALTA” creators, DiMartino and Konietzko, left the project, who knows how it’ll turn out. But we must have hope that it’ll turn out good. In the wise words of Uncle Iroh, “Hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.”