I found it interesting how even though the title of the Fire Lord became secular over the years, subsequently pushing down all religious authority for the sake of imperialism, the Royal Bloodline’s sense of divine given power had not disappeared. 

Take for instance Ozai’s phrase in the final battle: Providence has delivered you to me.” Or Azula’s line when she conquered Ba Sing Se: “But true power, the divine right to rule, is something you’re born with.” I have no doubt that they truly believe they have spiritual authority over every act they commit; that the sacred forces of the Fire Nation willed it to be. 

Which really makes me wonder, what does Fire Nation religion look like in post-theocracy, now secular imperialism? Now that the Fire Lord forced the sages to submit to his authority, how does that affect the way religion is viewed? How are spiritual forces now treated in the mainstream? Are they degraded to the point where imperialism is its own religion? That patriotism is a form of worship? That the Fire Lord is treated as a sort of god? 

anonymous asked:

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.

PSA to please remember that Azula is a mentally unstable teenage girl who survived an entire life time of severe physiological abuse while her brother was burnt and banished. That she was once a normal child and that most likely changed once she started bending. Please remember that her two best friends, even though they were turning to the right side, betrayed her. Please remember that the only parent that ever actually loved her had to run in order to save her children’s lives. That Azula suffers from psychosis and most likely PTSD as seen in Sozin’s Comet and The Search. Remember that Azula is not evil and was, at least in my opinion, never genuinely abusive to her friends as she never knew any different way of treating people. Please remember that Azula is one of the best written antagonists in the history of television and needs a Zuko style redemption arc.

Family Grammar: ATLA ficlet

It really began in the days when the love laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much. - Arundhati Roy

Azula is better than Zuko.

In everything that matters, she is better; quicker; years ahead of her older sibling. Born lucky, her father says, but what he really means is born strong. She can feel his quiet approval as she masters form after form, effortlessly taming lightning while her brother is still struggling with the basics. She reads at three, recites the names of every the Fire Lord and their many deeds at four. Geography, algebra, strategy and tactics, she picks it up as other children pick up pebbles on the beach, because Azula isn’t just strong, she is clever too.

Clever enough to know that her father loves not her, but her strenght, and that her mother fears it.

Clever enough to know that she is the perfect Fire Nation princess, beauty and brains and brawn all wrapped up into one, and that it isn’t enough.

Azula’s mother scolds her for tormenting animals and would never raise her hand against either of her children, or anyone. Azula’s mother murders a man (a hateful man; it is murder still) to save Zuko’s life. Then she flees in the dead of the night and leaves Azula with the bitter knowledge of what lenghts a mother will go to to save a beloved child, and with no one to save her.

Is it so strange then that it should feel like justice when Ozai puts his mark of fire on Zuko’s face and sends him away in disgrace? (It doesn’t matter that Uncle Iroh goes with him, that he too chooses Zuko, becaues they’re the same those two, weak, and she doesn’t need either of them. She is born lucky and strong and clever and in time they will all see that these are the only things that matters.)

Eight years later Azula is stronger than ever and Zuko chooses the Avatar and Mai chooses Zuko and Ty Lee chooses Mai. Ozai chooses himself.

Once he has accepted the reality of Ozai’s evil, Zuko’s need to find his mother becomes all the more urgent. Still too young and too long in the shadow of his heritage to refuse its importance, he’s desperate to find something good there; a glimmer of light, something to cling to and be guided by.

What he finds is a woman who wears a different name and a different face and doesn’t remember being his mother. Somehow her willful forgetting hurts more than her leaving.

In the end Ursa is not a goddess, not even a holy priestess; just human. But though still young, Zuko is no longer a boy, and so he can forgive her for that – and himself, eventually, for ever expecting otherwise.

Azula is just human too, but that takes longer to accept.

Zuko holds Izumi and wonders at the ambition and hatred and fear that would have a man scar his own child, wonders at the terrible love that would have a quiet and gentle woman committ murder.

How much love is enough love? How much is too much?


Maybe he did love his children, once. Maybe he did hesitate just for a moment before agreeing to kill his son, before burning him. Maybe he thought by doing so he would eradicate all that was soft and weak and gentle within himself, pin it all on Zuko, and make himself perfect, and strong, and fearless.

Maybe, at times, far away from everything on Ember Island, he and Ursa found joy in their children and at least contentment with each other. Maye for a while, there was happiness, and a different future still possible.

Ursa was not the only one forced by Azulon into a loveless marriage.

Maybe Ozai, too, could have been better. Maybe that only makes what he did all the worse.

He is bright, is Zuko in the light. ”A new era of peace and love,” he promises, and they all believe him because he glows like dawn, and the shadows have been banished to the dark where they belong; Azula to her ward, and Ozai to his prison.

The long night has ended; morning is come. ”We’ll rebuild it together.”

Of course it’s Azula who is the first to realize that heritage is not so easy to renounce. All the speeches and good intentions in the world is not enough to leave behind the burdens you never knew you picked up.

Sneering above Zuko in the crypt of the first Fire Lord’s most trusted adviser, her voice is trimuphant: ”My destiny you see, is to make you into the Fire Lord I tried to be – one who is strong, who rules through fear. Can’t you see it’s already working?”

And Zuko does see. In the years to come, as he takes step after step away from his father’s tainted legacy, unlearning, he begins to feel thankful to his sister for accidentally holding up a mirror to his face before he had time to become enarmoured of his father’s likeness in it.

He eventually remembers that Azula doesn’t do anything by accident, and that’s when he sets out to find her.

How do you measure love? To whom do you owe it?

Children in the courtyard, and laughter. The war is not yet ten years away. ”I was thinking of staffing the eastern towers once more,” Zuko says. ”The tiger seals are getting brazen.”

Azula’s smile is not quite bitter. ”You need someone to oversee it.”

Not perfect, not right, but the world’s been broken and broken again, and they all live with the scars. Zuko is about to say something, explain, but Izumi runs shrieking up the garden path and grabs Azula’s leg, hiding behind it, delight in her squeals, no fear. Azula sighs: ”All right.”