“Do you have any idea what my home life was like? Growing up with six sisters who looked *exactly* like me? It was like I didn’t even have my own name. I joined the circus because I was scared of spending the rest of my life as part of a matched set. At least I’m different now. Circus freak is a compliment!”
I loved Ty Lee with her chi-blocking fighting style!
Azula is one of the most fascinating and complex villains in children’s media, or indeed in any media. She is both abuser and victim, both deeply cruel and deeply afraid. Often, discussion of her breaks into two camps, either she was born the way she is, or that she was abused, and she was made into the character we see onscreen by that abuse. Either she is a “psychopath” (an outdated term that has been widely misunderstood and keeps shifting in meaning), and she was born the way she is, and she either wasn’t abused, or abuse didn’t affect her, or she was abused, and how she was raised made her into who she is. I don’t think either of those positions are correct. There is no code that says that predators don’t abuse other predators, and there is nothing in the world that makes abuse magically not damaging. I have spent a great deal of time figuring out what makes this character tick, and what made her stop ticking at the end. So how did nurture and nature come together to make Azula? Bear with me, it’s a bit of a story.
tumblr in general – outside of the other addicts i know – has kind of a bizarre perception of substance abuse in general
everyone needs to realize that YOU KNOW ADDICTS. there’s a 99.99% chance that everyone on this website knows an addict. and i’m not talking about abusers. not every addict is an abusive parent. that is a myth. i’m talking about your nicest friend, your cousin, your friend’s mom who is always so friendly, i’m talking about your younger siblings and your friend’s friends, your teachers and coworkers. good decent people who are addicts behind closed doors
there needs to be a lot more discussion about addiction on this website in general. the way it disproportionately affects mentally ppl, abuse victims, LGBT people, homeless people… addiction is common. addiction isn’t just the meth addict you saw on television last week
and u know what? the meth addict you saw on television last week isn’t some circus freak for tlc to profit off of. they are a real, living human being and still deserve love & respect
at the end of the day outside of “abusive parents who are addicts” there’s little to no discussion about addiction on this website and it’s frustrating and tiring for me bc there’s so much mischaracterization of the experiences of addicts
addicts can be shy, we can be soft and sweet, we can be anxious, we can be friendly, we can be responsible and hard working
we all need to work harder to dismantle the myths of addiction & build up addicts and create a world where addicts are given respect & patience instead of disdain and outright mockery when we choose to be open & honest about our addiction
bc the way things are? a lot of the addicts i know – myself included (all of whom are marginalized ppl, btw) – still have trouble opening up and talking honestly about our struggles because it can be so incredibly alienating and scary. even in the supportive & understanding environment that tumblr has created most addicts i know are still largely silent about issues that literally affect us day to day
“Why’d I let you free? You’re my favourite act.” “You okay in there? That collar looks awfully tight.” “Hold on, I will come back for you tonight. I won’t let them use you like this.” “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to the cage soon.” “You have nothing to worry about, my dear, everyone will love you tonight.” “First performances are very exciting, I know, but that doesn’t give you the right to misbehave like this.” “You’re just nervous because you’re new, they all are in the first few weeks.” “What are you doing in a cage… this is inhumane.” “Haha! Look at that one. What’s wrong with you, then? Can you talk?” “If you keep talking back at me like that, I’m going to give you a muzzle.” “Stop complaining, kid, I picked you off the streets because you look funny. You could’ve gotten killed out there for it. You should be grateful.” “You need to stay here. Outside this circus, you’re just a freak.” “I’m giving you a dry place to sleep. That’s better than what you had before. I’d be grateful if I were you.” “Put on a bit of a happy face. If you look like that, people aren’t going to like you, are they?” “I love your act… I come here all the time to see you and I was wondering if you were ever free outside of this circus… Maybe you’d like to meet up with me sometimes?” “In here you can be proud of what you are.” “So, what trick shall I teach you today?”
Can we talk about how Mai being abused made her how she is? Calling an abuse victim abusive for acting a certain way because of their abuse is victim blaming. Mai isn't a bad person her parents are.
Thank you for sending me this ask, anon, because it’s something I want to talk about.
There are abusers who were themselves abused, and who abuse out of a misguided attempt to cope with their own abuse. Such abusers absolutely exist, and Avatar: the Last Airbender has a few of these, most prominently Azula. However, this is not Mai, and I have already written a lot about how Mai’s behavior is not abusive.
But here’s the thing, Zuko, during his time in the Fire Nation before leaving to teach Aang, is not happy, and for that matter, Mai isn’t happy either. This is only to be expected. Not only are Mai and Zuko both trying to deal with the abuse their parents heaped, and continue to heap on them, but they are both in a current abusive relationship at the time, with Azula. Both of them are under tremendous stress from this past and continuing abuse, and neither was magically able to be happy in spite of currently being abused because they had someone who loved them.
This is held up by anti-Maiko shippers as proof that Mai is wrong for Zuko, and even abusive. Obviously she’s the wrong girl, because if she was the right girl, Zuko would be happy and cured of all his woes, even though all of the troubles he had before are still going on, and out of Mai’s control. This is both rank sexism, and a wild misunderstanding of what love is like.
In fact, abusers like Azula are corrosive to all the other relationships their victims have, especially the relationships between their victims. It’s incredibly difficult to sustain a relationship in the face of an Azula. This is why Mai and Ty Lee’s friendship, and also Mai and Zuko’s romance are so remarkable.
And both Mai and Zuko act in tremendously unhealthy ways throughout their time together before Zuko leaves to teach Aang. This behavior isn’t abuse, but there are lots of unhealthy behaviors that aren’t abuse. Both of them are still being abused. They don’t have the safety to step back and say “is this coping mechanism doing me good? Is it good for the people around me? does it work?” They are both still living in that state of fear and crisis that abuse brings. Holding Mai responsible for this is the very height of victim blaming.
I always want to see more acrobatic stuff with Raz. :)
It took awhile but here! Seriously, I love that there’s a plausible reason for Raz being so good at the platformer puzzles in Psychonauts. I wonder if he visits his family at the circus sometimes to perform super fancy stunts with some psychic abilities added in for extra showy-ness :’D My sister is also struggling through the Meat Circus level currently, and I couldn’t help drawing something for it Ovo;;; wish her luck
Also, kind of unrelated, I bet the Aquatos have circus animals. Like elephants. Or a tiger Raz has become really close with because one day he found out he could talk to her :’)
Ty Lee and Mai: The Beach, Emotional Honesty, Vulnerability, and Deception in the face of Abuse
The Avatar: the Last Airbender Book Three episode, “The Beach” is fascinating on a number of levels for what it tells us about Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, as well as their relationships to each other, and what’s most interesting of all is that this episode exposes truths about these characters by having two of them lie.
After the four Fire Nation teens leave the beach party, they find themselves together on the beach. Zuko, who has recently broken up with Mai, and publicly insulted her for her lack of willingness to show emotion, insults and mocks Ty Lee. Mai snaps at Zuko to leave Ty Lee alone, and in response, Zuko further insults Ty Lee and calls her a circus freak.
Ty Lee responds with anger, telling them about her childhood, lost and ignored among a group of identical sisters, and shouts that “circus freak” is a complement. Mai posits that Ty Lee has so many boyfriends because she didn’t get enough attention growing up, and Ty Lee rounds on her, cuttingly telling her that even though she was an only child until her parents had Tom Tom, but even so, her aura is a dingy gray, an asking her what her excuse is.
After some back and forth with and Zuko, in which he accuses her of being apathetic and unwilling to stand up for herself when insulted, Mai says that she’s sorry she can’t be as high strung and crazy as the rest of them, an says she won’t give a teary confession about her sad childhood, which wasn’t so bad really, as long as she “behaved,
and sat still,and didn’t speak unless spoken to.”
Azula tells her she had a controlling mother and shut down because of it.
The scene continues with Zuko confronting the fact that his anger is self directed, and Azula quietly insisting that she doesn’t care that her mother thought she was a monster, but the part of this conversation I want to focus on are Mai and Ty Lee’s confessions. It’s deep stuff, giving us all kinds of great insights into why Mai and Ty Lee are the way they are.
Except none of it is true.
Well, not quite. Ty Lee probably did feel squashed and ignored in her family, treated as if she had no real individual identity, and I have already written about how neglectful Mai’s parents are shown to be of Tom Tom and how that meshes with Mai’s statements in “The Beach” [Link] [Link]. But as I also recently wrote about, we are actually shown in other episodes that the origin of Mai and Ty Lee’s outer shells is the abuse Azula puts them through [Link].
So what do we learn here about Mai and Ty Lee? Quite a bit. The first thing we learn is that Mai and Ty Lee are willing and able, and probably actually fairly practiced at, pretending vulnerability for Azula’s benefit without actually giving it. This shows that both girls know that they can’t just wall themselves off, Azula will try to pry them open. She wants their vulnerability. It allows her to control them, and she only feels safe when she feels she knows all of their secrets and can control them absolutely. In fact, the situations Mai and Ty Lee describe with her family probably was part of what drew Azula to them. Their desperate need for attention gave her a way in.
But both girls also know that they absolutely cannot under any circumstances actually be emotionally honest with Azula and show her their real vulnerabilities or she will use them against them, so shows of vulnerability. It’s also probable neither girl could accuse Azula directly without risking her wrath.
The other thing it tells us is that neither girl called the other one on what they were doing. They both must have known what the other was doing, and they each tacitly agreed to keep the other’s secret from Azula. Even when both girls were insulting each other and redirecting attention, especially Azula’s attention, away from themselves and onto each other, they kept up each other’s pretense and protected each other’s real vulnerabilities. This, combined with the covert looks they share throughout the series behind Azula’s back helps show the strength of their bond, in spite of Azula’s corrosive influence, and her demonstrated willingness to use the girls to hurt each other. This puts into beautiful context Ty Lee’s willingness to stand up to Azula for Mai at the Boiling Rock.
This conversation sets up the Boiling Rock in another important way. It shows that Mai and Ty Lee have secrets they keep from Azula and her control over them is less total than she thinks it is. It is the same skill at hiding their true thoughts and feelings that they display here and also the same courage and sense of self that allows them to lie to their abuser that will eventually enable them to stand up to that same abuser.
The last thing we learn is that Azula’s other victim, Zuko, isn’t in on their secret. He plainly has no idea what’s going on underneath their act, and his display of emotional vulnerability was absolutely genuine. This makes him dangerous to both girls, because he could share anything they say to him with his sister without realizing he shouldn’t. Yet after this, Mai makes an effort to be more demonstrative with Zuko, which is a gesture of profound trust and true vulnerability.
it’s about someone having a hold over you. this is a recurring theme throughout a number of songs on our album. Our favorite line from the song is “I can hear your dog whistle from my bedroom”
This song is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about the idea of not knowing what’s next. Accepting the fact that your life won’t be as comfortable as everyone makes it out to be when you’re younger. It’s about finding out life is a longer road than you had expected. Favorite line: “Let me be a raft on a blue sea I’ll blend right in”
Looking Like You Just Woke Up:
This was the quickest song we wrote. It happens to also be the shortest on the record. Same idea as from Flashlight - just someone having a hold on you. (One of our good friends fell in love with this girl that still had a boyfriend and so in order to make time with the girl, he hung out a lot with the boyfriend and her. He slowly found out that the girl he thought he loved was kind of a bitch and he found that maybe the one he really loved was her boyfriend. They have somewhat of a romantic relationship now. And they are living together.) The vibe of this song comes from that situation. Favorite Line: “It probably won’t get easier, just easier to hide”
This song is actually about buying drugs in Pennsylvania. The line was originally “I bought weed. A big bag in Pennsylvania. I’m gonna light it up when I get home to Jersey” We changed it because none of us have bought drugs or smoked ganja. ever. Favorite Line: “They’re gonna ruin my whole summer. Stop taking pictures with your phone. Stop taking pictures with your phone.”
we met a kid at a punk rock festival we played in Rhode Island. He didn’t do much talking and we called him the Zombie Kid because he was passed out in a pile of sticks. The next day when he came out of his coma, he was asking us about directions on the best way to get passed NYC on a bike. His summer plan was to ride from his home in Vermont to Florida. All that he had with him was a backpack full of drugs. No joke. Drugs. Then we shook hands and he went on his way. On that same tour - two months later - one of our last shows were in New York City, and guess who we fucking see? Zombie Kid. Backpack empty. We asked him what happened and he said he made it down to South Carolina and had to turn around and come back. favorite line-“She says you gotta promise not to break not matter how far you are bent, she says you gotta shift my position and try to get comfortable again”
It’s about the same deal. Someone having a hold over you, so much so that you’d be willing to put yourself in danger, to change yourself in order to make them like you. But the song is all over the place and that’s just a small part of it. Favorite Line: “And it’s an aerial view from your house to my room”
I put myself in someone else’s body and I wrote this song about my life.
The voicemail in the breakdown is from one of our friend’s dads to our friend about some dumb shit about a girl. He saved it and we added it later on to our song. Months later, the girl’s mom cornered me in the grocery store and asked me if we could take that voicemail out of the song. But we’re punk rock so we left it.
Favorite Line- “There’s comfort in the bottom of a swimming pool”
The Boredom Is The Reason I Started Swimming:
I got stranded in Germany one time and I missed Thanksgiving. Side note: On Thanksgiving, I ate a hot dog with some weird potato shit on it in Amsterdam but it was still mad good. As I was walking around Berlin, I found this circus of freaks - it was more or less a sideshow act but it was free so I went in. I met a dude who was a gangster drug dealer, he let me stay at his house and was actually super nice. He cooked me food and went to Amsterdam with me. But while I was staying in his house he explained to me the rules of the streets in Berlin. Everybody pays, everybody’s head is in the noose, everyone is part of the program.
There’s so much in this song. Take it for what it’s worth. Favorite line: Please take me off speaker phone, this is a private conversation.
Legit Tattoo Gun:
This song was originally called “MJ” because when we put it out we gave it two different names on two different websites. If you know this song as “MJ,” you’re way more punk rock. At one point, I was making out with a woman who was making out with a lot of other people. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. Favorite Line: “I am not a dirty god, I don’t have a dirty body”
This is about a friend of mine that asked me to be there with her when she came out to her mother. Favorite Line: Curly hair don’t look good cut short.
Yeah I really just laugh at when people compare Aang temporarily losing Appa to Katara's mother being murdered and her experiencing it and living through it, you explained it best in your previous meta, and what shocks me even more is that people don't see the connection in Zuko and Katara both losing their mothers, like yeah Zuko's mom was alive in the end but Zuko didn't know that did he? His mom was probably dead for all he knew, and that's one of many things Zuko and Katara have in common.
right, I guess Zuko and Katara do have a thing or two in common …
Katara: The Fire Nation took my mother away from me.
Zuko: I’m sorry. That’s something we have in common.
sit. Why don’t you enjoy a cup of calming jasmine tea? Zuko: I don’t need any calming tea!
okay, you both need to calm down. Katara: Both? I’m completely calm!
know it’s meant to be this way. The world needs you now. You give people hope.
Iroh: Things will never return
to normal. But the important thing is, the Avatar gives Zuko hope.
Zuko: Not that you would
understand. You’re like my sister. Everything always…came easy to her. She’s
a firebending prodigy – and everyone adores her.
you PLEASE shut your air hole! Believe it or not, your infinite wisdom gets a
little old sometimes. Why don’t we just throw the scroll away since you’re so
can’t sacrifice an entire division like that! Those soldiers love and defend
our nation! How can you betray them?
Katara: No. I will never, ever
turn my back on people who need me!
Aang: I… I was just showing
Katara a few moves.
Master Pakku: You have
disrespected me, my teachings, and my entire culture.
won’t fight you. Fire Lord Ozai: You will learn respect, and suffering will be your
Zuko: You rise with the moon.
Zuko: I rise
with the sun.
Iroh: Prince Zuko, have you forgotten what happened last time you
dueled a master? Zuko: I will never forget.
Sokka: Are you crazy, Katara?
You’re not gonna win this fight!
Katara: I know! I don’t care!
Katara: Why don’t you try
blocking my chi now circus freak!!
Zuko: ‘I’m so pretty, look at
me. I can walk on my hands, whoo!’ Circus freak!
Zuko: She’s not my girlfriend!
Katara: I’m not his girlfriend!
Katara: Here’s your chance, earthbenders! Take it! Your fate is in your own hands!
Zuko: A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided. But with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path, and begin a new era of love and peace.