your favorite character?” I hear that question come up a lot over Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show
particularly near and dear to me. Iroh and Toph get tossed around a lot. Zuko
is very popular. Sokka has his fans. But something I’ve noticed? Aang very
rarely gets the pick. When he comes up, it’s usually in that “Oh, and also…”
kind of way. Which is strange, I think, considering he’s the main character,
the titular airbender, of the entire show.
really thought much about it until a couple weeks ago when I finished my annual
re-watch of the series and found myself, for the first time, specifically focused
on Aang’s arc. Somehow, I never really paid that much attention to him before.
I mean sure, he’s front and center in most episodes, fighting or practicing or
learning big spiritual secrets, and yet, he always feels a little overshadowed.
Katara takes care of the group. Sokka makes the plans. Zuko has the big, heroic
Joseph Campbell journey. Aang…goofs around. He listens and follows and plays
with Momo. And yes, at the end his story gets bigger and louder, but even then
I feel like a lot of it dodges the spotlight. And here’s why:
Avatar casts the least
traditionally-masculine hero you could possibly write as the star of a fantasy
war story. Because of that, we don’t see Aang naturally for everything he is,
so we look elsewhere.
what I mean, I want to talk about some of the show’s other characters, and I
want to start with Zuko. Zuko is the hero we’re looking for. He’s tall and hot and
complicated. He perseveres in the face of constant setbacks. He uses two swords
and shoots fire out of his hands. He trains with a wise old man on ship decks
and mountaintops. Occasionally he yells at the sky. He’s got the whole
180-degree moral turn beat for beat, right down to the scars and the sins-of-the-father
confrontation scene. And if you were going into battle,
some epic affair with battalions of armor-clad infantry, Zuko is the man you’d
want leading the charge, Aragorn style. We love Zuko. Because Zuko does what he’s
supposed to do.
look at Katara. Katara doesn’t do what she’s supposed to do. She doesn’t care
about your traditionally gender dynamics because she’s too busy fighting
pirates and firebenders, planning military operations with the highest ranking
generals in the Earth Kingdom, and dismantling the entire patriarchal structure
of the Northern Water Tribe. Somewhere in her spare time she also manages to
become one of the greatest waterbenders in the world, train the Avatar, defeat
the princess of the Fire Nation in the middle of Sozin’s Comet and take care of
the entire rest of the cast for an entire year living in tents and caves. Katara
is a badass, and we love that.
about Aang? When we meet Aang, he is twelve years old. He is small and his
voice hasn’t changed yet. His hobbies include dancing, baking and braiding
necklaces with pink flowers. He loves animals. He doesn’t eat meat. He despises
violence and spends nine tenths of every fight ducking and dodging. His only
“weapon” is a blunt staff, used more for recreation than combat. Through the
show, Aang receives most of his training from two young women – Katara and Toph
– whom he gives absolute respect, even to the point of reverence. When he
questions their instruction, it comes from a place of discomfort or anxiety,
never superiority. He defers to women, young women, in matters of strategy and
combat. Then he makes a joke at his own expense and goes off to feed his pet lemur.
there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this, and it’s the one that
shielded Aang from the heroic limelight in my eyes for ten years. The reasoning
goes like this: Aang is a child. He has no presumptuous authority complex, no
masculinity anxiety, no self-consciousness about his preferred pastimes,
because he’s twelve. He’s still the hero, but he’s the prepubescent hero, the
hero who can’t lead the charge himself because he’s just not old enough. The
problem is, that reasoning just doesn’t hold up when you look at him in the
context of the rest of the show.
look at Azula. Aside from the Avatar himself, Zuko’s sister is arguably the
strongest bender in the entire show. We could debate Toph and Ozai all day, but
when you look at all Azula does, the evidence is pretty damning. Let’s make a
list, shall we?
completely mastered lightning, the highest level firebending technique, in her
spare time on a boat, under the instruction of two old women who can’t even
the drill assault on Ba Sing Sae, one of the most important Fire Nation
operations of the entire war, and almost succeeded in conquering the whole Earth
bested the Kyoshi Warriors, one of the strongest non-bender fighting groups in
the entire world, successfully infiltrated the Earth Kingdom in disguise,
befriended its monarch, learned of the enemy’s most secret operation,
emotionally manipulated her older brother, overthrew the captain of the secret
police and did conquer the Earth
Kingdom, something three Fire Lords, numerous technological monstrosities, and
countless generals, including her uncle, failed to do in a century.
did this all when she was fourteen.
part is easy to forget. Azula seems so much her brother’s peer, we forget she’s
the same age as Katara. And that means that when we first meet Azula, she’s
only a year older than Aang is at the end of the series. So to dismiss Aang’s
autonomy, maturity or capability because of his age is ridiculous,
understanding that he and Azula could have been in the same preschool class.
then accept Aang for what he truly is: the hero of the story, the leader of the
charge, who repeatedly displays restraint and meekness, not because of his age,
not because of his upbringing, not because of some character flaw, but because
he chooses too. We clamor for strong female characters, and for excellent
reason. But nobody every calls for more weak
male characters. Not weak in a negative sense, but weak in a sense that he
listens when heroes talk. He negotiates when heroes fight. And when heroes are
sharpening their blades, planning their strategies and stringing along their
hetero love interests, Aang is making jewelry, feeding Appa, and wearing that
flower crown he got from a travelling band of hippies. If all Aang’s hobbies
and habits were transposed onto Toph or Katara, we’d see it as a weakening of
their characters. But with Aang it’s cute, because he’s a child. Only it isn’t,
because he’s not.
his relationship with Katara, a landmark piece of any traditional protagonist’s
identity, Aang defies expectations. From the moment he wakes up in episode one,
he is infatuated with the young woman who would become his oldest teacher and
closest friend. Throughout season one we see many examples of his puppy love
expressing itself, usually to no avail. But there’s one episode in particular
that I always thought a little odd, and that’s Jet.
In Jet, Katara has an infatuation of her
own. The titular vigilante outlaw sweeps her off her feet, literally, with his
stunning hair, his masterful swordsmanship and his apparent selflessness. You’d
think this would elicit some kind of jealousy from Aang. There’s no way he’s
ignorant of what’s happening, as Sokka sarcastically refers to Jet as Katara’s
boyfriend directly in Aang’s presence, and she doesn’t even dispute it. But
even then, we never see any kind of rivalry manifest in Aang. Rather, he seems
in full support of it. He repeatedly praises Jet, impressed by his leadership
and carefree attitude. Despite his overwhelming affection for Katara, he
evaluates both her and Jet on their own merits as people. There is no sense of
ownership or macho competition.
this with Zuko’s reaction to a similar scenario in season three’s The Beach. Zuko goes to a party with his
girlfriend, and at that party he sees her talking to another guy. His reaction?
Throwing the challenger into the wall, shattering a vase, yelling at Mai, and
storming out. This may seem a little extreme, but it’s also what we’d expect to
an extent. Zuko is being challenged. He feels threatened in his station as a
man, and he responds physically, asserting his strength and dominance as best
go on and on. I could talk about how the first time Aang trains with a
dedicated waterbending master, he tries to quit because of sexist double
standards, only changing his mind after Katara’s urging. I could talk about how
Aang is cast as a woman in the Fire Nation’s propaganda theatre piece bashing
him and his friends. Because in a patriarchal society, the worst thing a man
can be is feminine. I could talk about the only times Aang causes any kind of
real destruction in the Avatar state, it’s not even him, since he doesn’t gain
control of the skill until the show’s closing moments. Every time he is powerless
in his own power and guilt-ridden right after, until the very end when he finally
gains control, and what does he do with all that potential? He raises the
rivers, and puts the fires out.
isn’t what he’s supposed to be. He rejects every masculine expectation placed
on his role, and in doing so he dodges center stage of his own show. It’s
shocking to think about how many times I just forgot about Aang. Even at the
end, when his voice has dropped and his abs have filled in, we miss it. Zuko’s
coronation comes and we cheer with the crowd, psyched to see our hero crowned.
Then the Fire Lord shakes his head, gestures behind him and declares “the real
hero is the Avatar.” It’s like he’s talking to us. “Don’t you get it?” he asks.
“Did you miss it? This is his story. But you forgot that. Because he was small.
And silly. And he hated fighting. And he loved to dance. Look at him,” Zuko
seems to say. “He’s your hero. Avatar Aang, defier of gender norms, champion of
self-identity, feminist icon.”
Guess what I found in the zuko x katara tags? Yup more bullshit. Time to backup my Ship…
Okay so this blog is clearly about negativity and why you should not ship this couple( and manny others). So what is there to expect? Noting really but hate and ignorance.I can’t speak for the others,(due to a lack of knowledge) but I can for Zutara.
I also wanted to counter this post, because if they have the right to bash at it, and speak their mind, then I have the very same right to defend it.
So here we go….
1. They’re both underage?
Come on you need a better explanation, if you think about it half of the fandom ships Katara with a 12 year old pubescent monk.( think about that for a moment).
Also for Kataras age she is very mature, she had to stop being a child the day her mother was killed. So yes they might be young, katara at 14 and zuko at 17, but their maturity level extends beyond their years.
2. Teaches girls to go to abusive bad boys?
Well no, not really. Zuko was not abusive, they were simply enemies at war. Zuko might have gotten katara a few times, but he has also gotten his ass owned by the water bending master.
And to think that Zuko would be abusive,Just intrigues me.
Zuko was scared by this own father because he did not fight back; he only wanted his fathers forgiveness, does this not say a lot about his morals? He was also raised by His uncle Iroh after his banishment, he is a kind hearted man with much wisdom.
Also katara can handle herself, she will fight you ,and most likely demolish you if you threaten her, her friends and the ones she cares for.So being in an abusive relationship?? That would be a no go for Katara. Zuko would end up in the infirmary if he dared to lay a hand on katara in such a manor.( if he were to be that type of person)
3. Fetishes wealth and Aristocracy?
Well Zuko is a prince and of the royal family ,Wealth tends to be entitled with such titles. Zuko has also experience life at the bottom of the chain, he understands what it is like to have very little wealth.
As for Katara?? She is a water tribesmen, her community was all about sticking to one another in times of hardship(this also involving wealth). So growing up, I can imagine katara to be the type who does not overly praise wealth. She is thankful, but not greedy.
4. Zuko is a pyromaniac??
Well he is a fire bender, and they tend to use fire A lot. He also learns to control his fire in a relaxed mind set so… I don’t know what else to say( maybe this blog is meant to troll ,eh)
5. Zuko is rich and privileged and thus potentially abusive??
Restating are we?? I already voiced my thoughts on numbers 1&3.
6. Katara nags to much??
Want to try again?? Becuse that was a fail!
Kataras nagging is one of the very things that make her katara, it’s just part of her personality. She is also considered the mother and care taker of the group, she looks out for everyone, so I can see what she would nag so much; Have you seen the team avatar?? They are a bunch of crazy ass children haha( still love them anyways ).
7. They’re both survivors of trauma and thus codependent?
For the longest time katara only had her village, her brother and her grangran for support. But she truly felt lost with having this experience ; of loosing her mother.
She had to be her own strength for a long time , especially when her father left to fight in the war.
Suddenly there was someone she could relate to, a person who had also lost his mother because of the war ; the fire nation prince.
They can draw strength from one another, it would be a balanced" give and take" type of relationship. Zuko has seen her at her worst, but also at her best; the same would be implied for Katara.
So I don’t know where you got your facts about Zutara being such a horrid ship, then again you are entitled to believe in what you want. But that means I am also entitled to voice my thoughts.
hi guys! for a long time i’ve wanted to draw katara in her fancy earth kingdom garb, and i’ve finally decided to do it–drawing reference from one of my favorite costumes in the legend of zhen huan. this is one of the first times i’ve drawn clothing and liked the outcome, so that’s fun. i also tried to draw katara as young as she was on the show (instead of aging her to an adult, like i normally do when i draw avatar characters).
(anyway, if you liked this piece, consider commissioning me for something similar!)
It’s been recentlysuggested that Bryke might have directed the A:TLA animators to de-age Katara when she is in romantic scenes with Aαng. Such a thought had never occurred to me, but I decided to do some research and share my findings!
Below are screenshots of Katara in all the episodes where she kisses Aαng, both during the kissing scene and outside of it. The contrast was … fairly obvious. Also faintly nauseating.
The Cave of Two Lovers
Katara, waterbending practice
Nightmares and Daydreams
action scene dream
kissing scene dream
Aαng kissing scene dream height
Katara, height relative to
Aαng’s in the real world
The Day of Black Sun
Katara, talking to her father
The Ember Island Players
Katara, shocked in
Katara, smiling in Aαng kissing scene
I’ve heard over and over that the age difference is only two
years, that it’s not important, that there isn’t a maturity gap. Well, these
stills prove that this isn’t the case. The fact that the creators (and Aαng, when he
daydreams) tweak Katara’s physical appearance in the kissing scenes is a tacit
admission that the maturity gap exists and it matters. They know, deep down,
that this pairing is inappropriate, that Aαng is too young for Katara in more ways
than one. But even worse, both the creators and Aαng think it’s OK to literally
change who Katara is for the sake of a guy—Katara, who fought time and again to
be treated like an equal.
I talked to a few of the animators and I know zephyrita (she worked as a color stylist). They all have said that artists were told to make Katara look younger and innocent (larger eyes and rounder face) whenever she had romantic moments with Aang so it would look more “natural”. Using Katara’s regular character models for those scenes was awkward because it felt more like a mother acting very inappropriately with her son.
So to all the people who were offended by the idea of Katara in red clothing because you think
it’s changing her to suit Zuko … what do you think of the canon alteration of her actual body explicitly to cater to Aαng?
korra has gorgeous brown skin. katara has gorgeous brown skin. everyone in the water tribe has gorgeous brown skin. they are all beautiful and dark-skinned so there’s no need to whiten them or make them paler to make them look more attractive :))))