Guess what?! I’ve now seen all three seasons of Nick’s Avatar, plus the awful live action movie that no one should see, thus making me an Avatar expert. Didn’t expect that, did ya Gus?! This means that I can try something inspired by a few commenters from my DBZ plothole articles and write a full counter argument, but because I’m a writer/editor, I figured it’d be more fun to just write a whole new article. So here we go, time to throw some Word Bending at y’all and give my counter argument to Gus’ Top Ten Avatar Misconceptions.
Note: This article has been marked as Gus-bait and as such, will result (understandably) with sharp counter-counter responses in the comments. This means that usually the full story will take place down there as well, so be careful to read everything.
Okay, now are we ready to start?
10. You watch Avatar? Isn’t that show for kids? (AKA: Avatar is for children):
We start with a legit criticism from both sides here by saying that Avatar, a show on Nickelodeon, is a childish show for younger audiences. If you’ve watched and enjoyed the series and you happen to be over ten-years-old, there is nothing wrong with that. However, any show that adds musical cues for pratfall humor is aimed intensely at children. Furthermore, a lack of blood does bring things down slightly in terms of seriousness. I know that no character will be exploded, decapitated, or bleed profusely. The biggest indicator of the kid-targeted-audience is the decision to resolve the plot without a single person dying on either side. Amazingly, there is no negative consequence for anyone, making the ending very child-friendly. But remember, Doug, Rugrats, and Hey Arnold were all made for children, too, and still remain awesome shows to this day. No shame there, but yeah, Avatar is a show for kids.
9. But I hate anime. (AKA: Avatar is an anime):
To field this question I’m going to ask a question:. If you have dough and you put tomato sauce and cheese and pepperoni on it, what the heck do you call that thing? Avatar, while being made in the United States by US citizens, is still an anime in terms of everything else. It is the perfect mixing of the Japanese anime style with American cartoon sensibility, meaning we get serialized stories about martial arts and mystical hoo-ha without a lack of art or voice acting quality. The elements of an anime are still overpoweringly present here: Young protagonists in an adult world (also an indicator of #10), martial arts, a world that is somehow small enough to travel around instantly when convenient for the plot, one-dimensionally evil villains (seriously, why did the Fire Lord want power? Or Azula?), and of course a Super Saiyan transformation. If you can argue to me that the final battle between Aang and Fire Lord Ozai DIDN’T look like it was from DBZ, I owe you a coke.
8. But… still… doesn’t Aang look like Naruto? (AKA: Aang and Naruto are the same character):
I’m in a similar boat here in that I haven’t watched any significant amount of Naruto. I have seen a few episodes, and I have friends that are completely up-to-date with the series, but I’m no Naruto expert. Still, here are the connections: Aang and Naruto both wear orange and blue as the predominant colors on their outfits, Aang and Naruto are both inhabited by mystical spirits that they must learn to control, Aang and Naruto are silly, childish, and generally simple-minded, Aang and Naruto can both do crazy physics-defying maneuvers. So are they the same person? No. Are they the same archetype? Yes. Joseph Campbell argued way before our time that every hero ever is the same character, and in this case, Aang and Naruto share many, many similarities outside of simple coincidence. Take note, I essentially described Goku/Gohan from DBZ as well (more fuel for #9).
7. So, is it just another manly action show for men? (AKA: Avatar is another “guy” show):
Avatar does a great job of giving us more characters than just the standard “dudes that punch hard,” and does an even better job of giving weaker characters (the Krillins of the show) the chance to show they don’t really suck. But the final, most important battle is fought and won between Aang, a boy, and Fire Lord Ozai, a man, throwing pew-pew energy blasts at each other. While Zuko fights with his sister Azula, a female, Azula is portrayed as banana-pants crazy at this point. Katara steps in and fights Azula in Zuko’s place, but the only reason she had to was because she was standing right behind Zuko during an Agni-Kai, a very STUPID place to be standing considering that Azula can fire LIGHTNING and doesn’t care who she injures. Because of Katara’s utter stupidity, Zuko has to leap in the way and save her. The main argument I got from Gus was, and I quote: “How many guys can say they were in a college lounge, the only dude in the room, watching Dragon Ball Z with five girls?” My counter is, “I’ve watched DBZ with girls, and my wife usually left the room when I watched Avatar.” Therefore, it’s totally case-sensitive, but is Avatar aimed at boys? Absolutely. Aang deals with the death of his MALE caretakers, Sokka constantly looks to find his FATHER, Zuko tries desperately to please his FATHER and is given wisdom from his UNCLE. The predominant drives of the story are guy-based in nature. Even Toph, one of the strongest females of the show, openly acts like a boy character. Case closed.
6. So what, do the characters know magic? (AKA: Bending is magic):
You’ll hear over and over again that bending the elements in Avatar is based off real Kung Fu styles. Katara even says in the first episode that bending isn’t magic. To the characters in Avatar, sure, bending isn’t magic. We live in the real world here where a person really can perform Tai Chi, but he’ll never make the water around him move like an octopus just because of his stance. This is where the otherworldly “magical” element takes over. And once more, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can’t use the “Kung Fu” excuse here since, well, I don’t remember a Kung-Fu move that involves moving your face and having rocks shoot precisely where you want them to. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out King Bumi’s escape late in the series. Kung Fu or not, that looked like magic to me, even in the realm of the series.
5. Whatever nation you are born in, that’s the element you can bend? (AKA: Avatar is incredibly simple to understand):
There’s not a whole lot to say here, so I’ve got to make this a little bit more of a critique of the series than just a straight argument. Leading into the “aimed at children” mindset of global simplification, all the Firebenders come from the Fire Nation, the Air Nomads can Airbend because they were born into it, etc. The series never really explored the possibility of why anyone could bend their respective element. You don’t just learn bending by having parents that can bend, or vice versa. Characters mention how all bending can be traced back to the original benders learning from the bending animal guides such as dragons, badgermoles, and flying bison (side question, are there non-flying bison? Do they call birds “flying birds?”). Therefore, can’t anyone really just pick up bending by studying the Kung Fu associated with the bending type and studying the animals for the proper inspiration? Bending has an origin, and it seems silly to think that there isn’t more to the story than “People born in the Earth Kingdom have a better chance of being Earth Benders.” Oh well.
4. What about duo benders for inter-racial families? (AKA: Avatar doesn’t deal with race on an adult level):
Remember, Avatar is still primarily a kid’s show, and while there isn’t much to say here either in terms of why something’s wrong with thinking there can be benders of two separate elements if you have a mother who’s a Fire Bender and a father who’s an Earth Bender, but that is a question the series never explicitly addressed during the series, and as I’ve said before, “If it isn’t in the writing, it didn’t happen.” There would be inter-racial families in the world of the Avatar. There just would be. We don’t deal with these couples because the show is aimed at kids and talking about race in a marital sense is too complicated a topic to deal with. This continues my question about the origin of bending. I want to know why a Fire Nation child couldn’t study from the dragons, then study from the bagermoles and learn Earth Bending as well. Just saying that the Avatar is the only one capable of learning all bending styles is way too simplistic for me.
3. How come there is no Book 4: Air? (AKA: What are you, stupid?):
Yeah, there’s pretty much nothing there. That’s just a stupid thing to assume.
2. Why is there no Heart Nation so they can form Captain Planet? (AKA: There are more than four styles of bending):
As silly as the joke is that there is a Heart Bending style, there is definitely a fifth style of bending: Soul Bending. This is the deus ex machina that allows Aang to resolve the plot without bloodshed. In the final battle against Fire Lord Ozai, Aang bends what appears to be his soul or at the very least some sort of radical energy. This was learned from the deus ex animal during the finale episodes because this is A: A kid’s show, and B: How anime-style works. I don’t even need to go on any more; Soul Bending, or Heart Bending if you want to refer to it like that, is absolutely real, Captain Planet or not.
1. Avatar? Isn’t that the movie on the planet with the Blue People? (AKA: James Cameron made a more successful entity than Nick’s Avatar):
Yes, this is going to cause the most flaming hate-filled comments of anything I say, but when it comes right down to it, James Cameron beat Nick’s Avatar in terms of a name for a MOVIE. Take note there that I said MOVIE, not TV SHOW. I don’t care which came first, both use the word “Avatar” in perfectly decent ways. Nick’s Avatar uses it to represent a vessel for a godly character to inhabit whereas Cameron’s Avatar uses it in the computer sense of a representation of your virtual self, much like the Xbox 360 has Avatars for gamers to use in games and on the dashboard. While the two intellectual properties don’t have anything to do with one another, it’s not fair for us Nick Avatar fans to be angry when something else comes along and finds success with a similar name.
Oh I’m not done yet. Animated Avatar fans, here’s a question you’ve got to humble yourself with right now: Which Avatar franchise is more well-known in the world right now? I don’t care what you believe, I can ask any single one of my relatives, be they my mom, my grandma, or an obscure uncle, and I have something close to a 100% chance that they know what Cameron’s Avatar is and just as close of a chance that they’ve seen it. Try the experiment right now. Go ask ten people at random if they’ve seen Avatar and then ask them to clarify which one they’re talking about. You know the results. Even more bottom line: Cameron’s Avatar beat The Last Airbender into the ground in the field of movies because, not gonna lie, The Last Airbender was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. And don’t use the “But Nick’s Avatar was first” defense. Cameron had been planning his movie for years, way before Nick had an animated show of the same name, so your argument doesn’t hold up.
Besides, why do you care so much anyway? The majority of people that have seen Nick’s Avatar all the way through love it. A hefty portion of people who have seen Cameron’s Avatar think it’s overrated, myself included. Take pride in your fandom. Take pride that your thing is also quieter than the louder thing. Cult status is much cooler than mainstream, so stop trying to compete in a world you don’t want your franchise to go.
Phew, alright, I’m done now. But don’t worry, I think I’ve got at least one more Avatar-related article in me. The good Avatar, not the crappy Cameron movie I hated so much. Be on the lookout for that in the next month. As for now, I’m tired, so I’m gonna go rest for a hundred years or something. Pranger out.