Thanks for the deffense for Aang, blaming a 12 years old for the genocide of all his people or his unwilligness to murder was a unpleasing thing to read.
Right? These arguments are brought up almost every time someone wants to bash Aang or take him down a peg (they’re the sort of stuff that get echoed throughout the fandom). I think the idea that he is held on some pedestal is actually false though - he’s pretty controversial.
Of course, in terms of how they view his age or his responsibility w/ the AN Genocide, the fandom is kind of reflective of how ATLA itself deals with the issue. The fact that Aang is a child soldier is important in the show, it’s actually one of the most important facet of his character - he was even visually designed in a way that emphasized his kiddish qualities (really big eyes and head: Aang’s proportions were inspired by a 6 year old boy, so half the age he’s supposed to be).
But it matters most in that everyone around him tends to disregard it. The monks in charge of his education decided to terminate his childhood approximately four years before most other Avatars’ ended (with arguably good reasons), and his friends decided that, as the Avatar, he could no longer have fun with them (”But I’m still the same. Nothing’s changed.”). When he gets out of the iceberg, people blame him for the war as a matter of fact (”You turned your back on the world” or“Have you forgotten that you vanished, allowing the Fire Nation to wreck havoc on the world?” - they don’t care for an explanation, they aren’t trying to be fair), and even when they don’t blame him they still expect him to make things right (to defeat an empire and end a 100 years war like that’s a monumental task and he had approximately 0 training in Avatar stuff and 0 experience in war stuff and he just lost everything - his entire support system is gone: his culture, his home, everyone he ever knew and loved except for Appa). But yeah, to the rest of the world, his age doesn’t matter.
(“I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” “What happened?” “I must have taken down a dozen Fire Navy ships out there but there’s just too many of them. I can’t fight them all!” “But you have to. You’re the Avatar.” “I’m just one kid…”)
He’s just one kid, but truth is, the world is now so fucked up that nobody can properly get that. It’s been a hundred years since Aang’s time (since peace). The old people today grew up during the war (apart from a few exceptions, it’s all they’ve ever known): they, as a generation, probably had to grow up fast too, so I guess there was some idea of childhood innocence lost along the way, from them to their children to their grandchildren (etc.). Aang is a child forced to become a soldier surrounded by other adult kids and adolescent combatants: the difference between them and him is that they were born in this violent environment. Sokka, Suki, Jet, Zuko, Azula, etc. were all trained or trained themselves for war and responsibilities from when they were little. Kids fought this war, kids lost and kids won this war. This is how low the world has fallen. Nobody is no longer willing to be surprised at how terrible this is.
More than that: as the Avatar, Aang is kinda dehumanized by the people around him. General Fong thinks it’s okay to experiment on him, physically assault him or emotionally torture him if it means he can turn him into an efficient weapon in his war (he watches him cry and beg for mercy, watches the kid turn into a monster and all he can think is “it worked!” - that’s a good thing, that’s what was supposed to happen). People all over the world send him to fight their battles without remorse, without question (Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, White Lotus). A whole city wants him to die a horrific death for a crime he committed in another life. He’s twelve, and he’s asked to let go of fear, guilt, shame, grief, to let go of all his personal attachments for the sake of the world (and he does - even if for just a moment).
Zuko couldn’t bring himself to end Zhao even after all he did to him, he couldn’t watch him be swallowed by the Ocean Spirit without extending a hand, trying to save him. But he watched a kid he knew die, shot with lighting, and showed no emotions (a kid he fought beside, who saved his life twice, who wanted to be his friend - a kid he helped to kill): for him this was only the fall of his nation’s greatest threat. He came to understand the atrocities done by the Fire Nation, to others and to himself, and he confronted Fire Lord Ozai: “My father who challenged me, a thirteen year old boy, to an Agni Kai! How can you possibly justify a duel with a child?” and “It was cruel, and it was wrong!” - but he still had no qualms about sending another kid, even younger than he was back then, to the very thing he thought was so cruel and so wrong. He had no qualms making fun of his unwillingness to kill.
(Why didn’t Zuko do it? He knew the atrocities his father was about to commit, and he had the opportunity - a golden opportunity that would never present itself again. Destiny, really? Is your idea of what “destiny” should be worth risking the world for? I still think the truth was that he couldn’t bring himself to kill someone who meant so much to him for so long.)
i feel like we don’t talk about vanitas enough and the fact that he was taught from an early age that he was worthless if he were not negative, because without negativity there would be no unversed, and without the unversed there would probably be no chance of making the x-blade he was taught that his only purpose was to forge the x-blade and that if he could not be was a failure he was abandoned by Xehanort for weeks at a time and probably treated like shit all the time he had to live constantly with the fact that he was not a whole person, but simply Ventus’ darkness that had been cast away he had to live with the fact that he was not wanted by anyone at all and that he could never truly have friends because of the destruction he brought with him i don’t think we talk about vanitas enough