I really love the idea of Ehasz exploring Aang's dark side in Book 4 I sent your links to the book 4 idea to someone and he said that it's OOC for Aang to have a dark side and that it wouldn't make sense for his character since he was never shown to be a dark person in the first three books, your thoughts?
“In order to bend another’s energy, an Avatar’s own energy must be pure and unbendable. If not, the enemy’s corrupted energy can take over the Avatar’s energy and kill him. Ozai’s bad, red energy nearly overtakes Aang’s good, white energy, but Aang, being a pure, uncorrupted being, was able to overcome it and take Ozai’s bending away.”
That is interesting that your friend said that. This is actually a very great topic and another problem I had with Book 3′s writing. When I first read the Book 4 stuff on Aang’s inner darkness, I thought it it was great because it sounded far more Eastern, like the show used to be in Books 1 and 2. Everyone has a dark side. It’s part of being human to experience darkness. Aang having a dark side would not mean that he has some kind of “evil” side, like he’s a rapist or a murderer. Obviously Aang’s pure spirit allowed him to take Ozai’s bending without being corrupted. So, that isn’t what his darkness meant. It’s more akin to Carl Jung’s concept of the Shadow Self: :
“Shadow is understood by Jung to be your “dark side,” that part of yourself that you hide away—afraid to expose it to the light of day. Shadow is anything that you cannot hold as “I” in your self-definition—your less-than-noble qualities, including fear, rage, uncontrolled sexing, envy, greed, egoic pettiness, violence, frustration, depression, and more. It is in this context that Jung wrote “the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
“As a consequence for choosing not to take Ozai’s life - a darkness would start to bloom within Aang, stemming from the guilt of taking away the his bending; which broke the former Fire Lord’s will to live. Energybending is a dangerous art and has the power to corrupt the user. Aang needed to go on a journey to rediscover himself, this leads him to split up from the rest of Team Avatar and head towards the Air Temples again. Getting jealous over how close Zuko and Katara had become would partly contribute to this growing darkness.”
Aang’s darkness could range from guilt, shame, depression, anger, and jealousy. It doesn’t necessarily mean cruel or evil. And Aang is certainly not perfect. He was capable of feeling rage and he nearly killed the sandbenders when Appa was stolen. This didn’t make him a “dark” character. But it did mean that he was human and has a shadow side. He also has jealousy toward Katara. A flaw that could have been explored to make him more interesting.
“The dark and light within Aang alluded to him carrying the spirit of the planet within him, which was becoming unbalanced due to the stress he was suffering from energybending. Bryke later took this dark-light concept and used them to form Raava and Vaatu for Legend of Korra. Except in Korra, the Avatar carried only the spirit of light and not both though the spirit of the planet.”
In Eastern philosophy, dark and light are not viewed the same way as they generally are in the West. They are not simple good and evil, where Light has to vanquish Darkness. They are two forces that need to be kept in balance, neither being right or wrong:
The ancients taught that the Universe is in perfect balance and, as such, we live in a world of duality. Everything you see in the world has its opposite: light/dark, up/down, male/female, hot/cold. The mental image that you present to the world (EGO) also has its opposite (SHADOW). The shadow is at the root of feelings of guilt, shame and self- hatred. To truly experience happiness it is key that you accept ALL parts of yourself – warts and all. Making peace with the shadow side of life can be very difficult. For most of us, we have been given a vision of life and the Universe, where the power of the Light is considered Divine and the power of Darkness is considered something else. This creates a duality within us, which refuses to acknowledge the shadow in ourselves, and judges and reacts to the shadow in other people.
The shadow has a reason for existing; the shadow within us and within others has a definite purpose and power; it is part of hukam—the divine order of the Universe. It is the challenge through which we grow. It is the pain which brings us to even deeper levels of healing. The shadow forces us to face what we do not want to face, and make peace with what we do not want to acknowledge. The point of a spiritual practice is not to get rid of the shadow. In fact, it’s not even possible to get rid of it. Instead, the point of spiritual practice is to become aware of the shadow, to bring it out into the light, so that it does not take over your life.
In that state of humility, we can heal our own fractured sense of self. Rather than dividing ourselves into our “good parts” and “bad parts,” we can embrace all aspects as given to us by the Creator, and know that they all have a purpose. This restores us to a holistic vision of life, and it is in this holistic vision that ultimately we find peace, ease and happiness. To completely experience Self-Love we must learn to experience our Shadow Selves, and voyage into the dark, murky waters of the unknown courageously. Otherwise, every time we condemn other people for their shadow traits, we’re in essence condemning our hypocritical selves in the process. A whole and balanced self is a reconciliation of all parts, an inner unification. It is not an indulgence of the darker parts of our natures, but an acceptance and direct experience of them in the light of mindful awareness and deep honesty.
In Book 3 the underlying philosophy behind much of the writing became so much more simplistic and dumbed down. What I liked about Zuko was that his “dark” side was not an “evil” side. It’s interesting that your friend said Aang was not a dark character in the show. I agree with that. But neither was Zuko. He was not a dark character in the first 2 Books, but they wrote him as a dark character in Book 3. When he was going through his awakening, the aspects he had to confront were not his “evil” side. They were his shadow self. His shame, his self-loathing, his anger, his lack of self-worth. All the pain that his scar represents. All tied in to his Blue Spirit persona. Not evil, as we commonly think of the word. He was simply very human. In Book 3, they reduced all of his inner conflict to some vague and innate good vs. evil in him. Him betraying his uncle, hiring an assassin; all of this was explained by his inner good and evil. And it was written as something unique to him being descended from a “good” Avatar and an “evil” Firelord, instead of something that is part of the human condition. And instead of being able to achieve balance, it would always be at war within him. Very defeatist. Not a very good message to send, IMO.
Aang on the other hand was scrubbed clean of all of his flaws and darkness and had no inner stuggle. In Books 1 and 2, Zuko and Aang were parallel. Both were human. So, Zuko of course had a light side. And Aang had a dark side. In Book 3, Aang was the “good” one and Zuko the “bad” one. I actually somewhat agree with your friend that Aang didn’t have a dark side by the end of the show. He wasn’t allowed to have one. He was the perfect paragon of virtue, and he is always above everyone else. Aang was the “angel” while Zuko was “the devil” on Katara’s shoulder. That’s why he was so preachy and everyone is always telling him he’s so wise and moral. Sokka does it, and then at the end, Zuko tells him he was right about what Katara needed.
Aang: It’s been such an amazing experience to meet my past lives.
Yangchen: And what did you learn by meeting them?
Aang: Well … I realized that no Avatar is perfect. They all struggled and made mistakes. Like me.
Yangchen: Very wise.
Aang: But it made me wonder - why is the Avatar Spirit a human in every life? Wouldn’t it be better if the Avatar was an all powerful spirit that never died?
Yangchen: I don’t think so. The Avatar must be compassionate towards all people … and the only way to do that is to live with them. The Avatar must experience sadness … Anger .. Joy … and happiness. By feeling all these emotions, it helps you understand how precious human life is … so you will do anything to protect it. If you were an all powerful spirit living on the top of some mountain, you wouldn’t have much in common with an ordinary person. So the Avatar continues to take human rebirth. And with each life, learns what it means to be human.
The thing is, writing the darkness out of his character actually makes him a much worse Avatar. If he cannot have a shadow side, he cannot fully be human and empathize with others. And that is the main purpose of an Avatar. To experience the human condition, so that he can be the bridge between the Divine and humanity. If he has no dark side, he is above everyone else and he cannot truly empathize with them or learn to love unconditionally.