Hi! I was wondering if you could do a post about the parallels between the fire nation royal family and the SWT chief's family. Obviously I have some thoughts but I couldn't really formulate them well. I think it would be interesting to consider the similarities between the two families but also the contrasts
I understand completely why it’s difficult to articulate, because while all four family members have counterparts in the opposite nation, there are as many contrasts as there are comparisons, and subversions of what we might think is a parallel, but isn’t.
Ozai and Hakoda. Ozai rules over his family with an iron fist. He demands respect and longs for total control over everything and everyone in sight. His lust for power consumes him and leaves his family twisted and shattered.
Hakoda is the diametric opposite. Although Water Tribe culture could have led Hakoda to assert authority over his family as the head of his house, he didn’t; instead, he listens to and is proud of Sokka’s ideas, and lets Katara yell at him (quite disrespectfully, I might add) in order to release her pent-up emotions. While Ozai rules through fear, Hakoda commands his warriors through respect. Where Ozai is manipulative, Hakoda is cunning with inventions. And while his family quite easily could have been shattered by Kya’s death, Hakoda’s love for his children and their love for each other kept them united.
Ursa and Kya. These two are the most similar, and occupy virtually the same place in the story and their respective families. They are strong and determined mothers who sacrifice themselves to save their children from harm. After they’re gone, the children who look up to them the most have a difficult time dealing with their loss, and their families suffer greatly. It is important to note that this applies to the A:TLA TV show only, and not the comics. You can’t make the claim that Ursa “sacrificed” for Zuko if she spent all the intervening years in deliberate obliviousness to the suffering around her, living the life she’s always wanted to with the man of her dreams!
Pardon me while I take a moment to let off some steam.
Azula and Sokka.
“But wait a minute, Araeph! Zuko is the older brother, so shouldn’t Zuko and Sokka be paralleled?”
Zuko and Sokka do have similar experiences throughout the show; however, they are not true parallels. Azula is the coldly logical (and yet creatively crafty) one of her family. Sokka is the strategist of the GAang, and the one who can see clearly past Azula’s strategic manipulation (if not her emotional one). Sokka and Azula are also the ones with the most responsibility thrust on their shoulders, as Sokka feels pressure to be the “man of the house”, especially with his father away at war. Meanwhile, Azula faces so much stress for being the only child Ozai considers competent and the heir apparent to the Fire Nation that she develops an insidious strain of perfectionism that eventually tilts her world upside down. However, while Azula’s response to her father’s abuse is to regiment her firebending so that not even a hair gets out of place, Sokka absorbs his father’s ideas and praise like a sponge and gets the chance to stretch his creativity on pursuits other than warfare. As the privileged firstborn son, Sokka could have refused to listen to Katara and Suki or used his position in the tribe to try to gain more power, but he didn’t. He made a conscious choice to become a better person throughout the series, while Azula, despite her exceptional skills, never grew in such a way.
Zuko and Katara. Katara is the person who wields her emotions like a weapon, determined not to let anything stand in her way. Zuko is the same: he goes where his emotions tell him to, regardless of whether it’s the wisest course or whether it affects his personal safety. Both of them are very practical when the need arises but can be blown off course by an event that evokes their childhood trauma or their current state of cultural oppression (Katara) or abuse (Zuko). They are capable of enormous acts of kindness, but they also take their anger out on safe targets—not people with less power, but people who will see them at their worst and accept it (Sokka, Hakoda, Iroh, each other). Katara is the mighty bender of the SWT family, but her fighting style mirrors Zuko’s much more than it does Azula’s. Zuko’s bending is characterized by drive and determination, and one look at Katara trying to freeze the firebenders in Episode 2 alongside Zuko’s duel with Zhao in Episode 3 shows just how similar these two are. But since both of them began their journeys on opposite sides of the war, their challenges are different: Katara has to fight for the rights that she deserves, while Zuko needs to learn that he doesn’t have the right to be spoiled and have everyone bow to him just because of his lineage. Still, they’re alike in one more important way: they successfully learn to see the “enemy” as an ally, even a friend, and despite their childhood experiences or conditioning, they are both willing to embrace an element of change.