lizzieladie: (books)
lizzieladie ([personal profile] lizzieladie) wrote2010-08-07 12:48 am
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Avatar (of the Last Airbender Variety)

So a couple of weeks ago, I hurt my back, and spent a week lying on the floor watching Avatar, which is currently running neck and neck with The Middleman and this video of baby sloths in the "cutest thing Liz has seen this year competition." My thoughts on the show lie behind

First, the squee:
1. Everything was unbelievably adorable! Appa! Aang! Momo!
2. And badass! Katara! Aang! Sokka! Toph! Zuko! Iroh!
3. Oh Zuko. Your arc was so unbelievably awesome and all of your lines were delivered so painfully.
4. Every time an episode is set on Ember Island you know it's going to be like crack!fic.
5. Dude, I wish I could go to Uncle Iroh's tea shop.
6. Mai is the most hilariously perfect girlfriend for Zuko ever. "I don't hate you too." I'm not sure Zuko could handle being around someone who was either too happy (because there would be too much contrast) or too energetic (because of his all-consuming mission to regain his honor), but Mai is both sullen and laconic and it's a perfect fit.
7. There was a giant library under a desert with an owl in it. An owl who totally called Sokka on his bs.
8. Submarines! Zeppelins! Vegetarians! Tea! Pai Sho!

I could go on in this vein for a while. So let's move on to actual comprehensible thoughts.

1. I loved the solution to the series. I was thrilled that intentionally killing the firelord was a serious moral problem for vegetarian-clearly-modeled-on-a-Buddhist-monk Aang. He respects life, and I would have been okay with the show eventually having him take the Roku "sometimes the Avatar must sacrifice his own spiritual well-being to save the world" approach, because they were clear that his spiritual well-being would have been at stake if he had killed Ozai, that there is a moral cost to taking life, even when taking that life is necessary for the greater good. The solution that Aang used in the end did have a bit of the deus-ex-machina in it, and could possibly have used some more set-up - for example people showing up earlier in the series who had lost the ability to bend - but I thought it reflected the themes of the show nicely. I don't think that it effectively shuts down the fire nation war machine by itself, but killing Ozai would not have really accomplished that either. What's going to restore balance to the world is putting someone in charge of the fire nation who isn't insane.

2. I do have other concerns about the balance of the world in the future though. The show was very clear that the cultures that produce various benders are as important to the balance of the world as people who have particular bending abilities, and the airbenders have been wiped off the face of the earth. The mechanist et al might be able to produce a new culture that lives in the air, but that culture would seem to have much more in common with Earth Kingdom culture than Airbender culture. And Aang might be able to attract people interested in emulating the old Airbender culture to come live in the temples, but the culture would have much less variety than the culture they were emulating. I'm very excited to see how they address this issue in the new show.

3. I loved how Toph and Katara represent very different ways to be a woman on a couple of different levels. First there's the independence vs. community distinction, then there's the butch-femme distinction, and being nice and polite vs. demanding things. I love that even though Katara embodies a lot of the characteristics that are typically associated with femininity equaling weakness, she was kickass and strong and demanded to be taught waterbending.

4. My one quibble with the waterbending patriarchy arc was that the patriarchy made zero sense in this instance (usually they have some biology to go along with their tradition arguments). There's a war on, and Katara would be at her maximum usefulness if she had mastered both waterbending and healing. Also, it's a flipping war, in which people get injured, and the northern water tribe had better at least be putting some of those women who have mastered healing on their boats during battles. I have no explanation whatsoever for why they couldn't have women and men both learn both skills and then double their effectiveness in battle. I can't decide if it's stupid writing, or some kind of ninja commentary on how stupid gendered distinctions in everything in our world actually are. I think the stupid might come in in that gendered distinctions often fall by the wayside in our world in war situations (see World War II), but they don't seem to have for the water tribe here.

5. On the one hand, I love that most of the villains were written with an eye to making them not totally evil. Zuko and Iroh's character arcs were made of awesome. I love the foreshadowing of Ty Lee leaving Azula in how Azula had to manipulate her into leaving the circus in the first place. But on the other hand, because they did redeem everyone that they could, the villains who were left standing at the end of the day were crazy-Voldemort-level evil, and I'm not sure that the story was stronger for it in the end. It would have much more complex if at least one person who was constitutionally capable of choosing good had chosen evil instead, either for the power or because they really believed Fire Nation propaganda, or some confusing combination of the two. It would have been especially awesome if they had made Ozai, Azula, and Zhao slightly less crazy evil and left everyone else's arcs alone. I also wish that Ozai hadn't taken the turn towards literally killing everyone at the end, because at that point he left the realm of legitimate evil dictator trying get as many of the world's resources for own people as possible/spread his culture to the rest of the world, and entered the realm of crazypants evil dictator with no sense of economics or ecology or anything even remotely resembling the real world. This was probably the biggest weakness in the series.

But on the whole, this was an awesome ride, and I'm excited that I discovered it just in time for the follow-up series. Shame the live action movie was so bad, the costumes could have stunning.