You know, I feel like A:tLA really found a way to resonate with the struggles that a lot of kids face.

Aang is the struggle of the “gifted child”. He’s told from a young age that he’s going to do incredible things that puts him under a lot of pressure until he finally pulls off the ultimate procrastination trying to avoid the stress. He shows a lot of talent in what he’s good at, but when he tries learning something he’s not immediately good at he is easily discouraged. He’s also almost paralyzed by the fear of failing. (To be fair, the stakes are very high in his case).

Katara is the child with all of the talent she could ever need, but none of the opportunity. She has a real natural talent for waterbending, but no place at home where she can get training to develop the talent. It reminds me of kids from my school who were extremely talented in theatre, but couldn’t afford to participate after they instated the $200 “pay to participate” rules on extracurriculars.

Toph is the child with plenty of talent, but physical limitations that she has to go beyond. She has to prove that she is twice as good to get the same respect (and boy does she ever)! And she has to balance making sure that no one treats her disability as her defining characteristic, while still making sure it’s accounted for. Her parents would have let her blindness rule her life and she had to fight just to get the chance to show her talents.

Sokka is like the kid with lots of talent, but in an area that’s not very valued. At least not when compared to the benders. Like the kid who draws incredible comics in their notebooks, but is looked down on because they just can’t get an A on their report cards. Or the kid who is a talented pianist that everyone asks about getting prepared for a “real career” while the kids on the football team are being told to watch for recruiters.

That’s just the Gaang, but you could keep doing this with so many characters (I mean, everything about Zuko!), but I’m just really grateful that even in this fantastic setting there were a lot of things people could identify with.

Crowd silencing quotes from cartoons
  • Avatar the Last Airbender:"You might have everyone else here buying your ... transformation, but you and I both know you've struggled with doing the right thing in the past. So let me tell you something, right now. You make one step backward, one slip-up, give me one reason to think you might hurt Aang, and you won't have to worry about your destiny anymore. Because I'll make sure your destiny ends right then and there. Permanently."
  • Over the Garden Wall:"At least wait until the storm dies down a bit. You'll be no good to your brother dead." "I was never any good to him alive, either."
  • Gravity Falls:"You really aren't gonna thank me, are you? Fine. On one condition: you stay away from the kids; I don't want them in danger. 'Cause as far as I'm concerned, they're the only family I have left."
  • Adventure Time:"... if I do things... if I do things that hurt anyone, please, please forgive me! Just... watch over me until I can find my way out of this labyrinth in my brain and regain my sanity! And then maybe Betty, my princess... maybe you will love me again... please love me again, Betty!!"
  • Steven Universe:"What do you know about my Mom?! I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO KNOW MY MOM! But I do know, she saw beauty in everything! Even in stuff like this, and even in jerks like you!"
  • Legend of Korra:"Don't pretend you know what it felt like! The Avatar is adored by millions! I was cast aside by my own parents like I meant nothing to them. How could I just stand by and watch the same thing happen to my nation, when it needed someone to guide it?"
  • Lilo and Stitch:"But if you want to leave, you can. I'll remember you, though. I remember everyone that leaves."
  • Rick and Morty:"That - out there - that's my grave. On one of our adventures, Rick and I basically destroyed the whole world. So we bailed on that reality and we came to this one, because in this one, the world wasn't destroyed, and in this one, we were dead. So we came here and we buried ourselves and we took their place. And every morning, Summer, I eat breakfast twenty yards away from my own rotting corpse. I'm a version of your brother you can trust when he says 'don't run'. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch T.V.?"
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:"There's no such thing as 'perfect'. You're beautiful as you are, Courage. With all your imperfections, you can do anything."