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The Unproblematic Characters That Give 'Avatar The Last Airbender' Its Honour

For those of you who have watched Avatar The Last Airbender (ATLA), (if you haven't, you're missing out), I think it's safe to say that the show would not be what it is; the good guys could not possibly win; the dialogue could not be as witty, the energy could not be as encapsulating; if it had not been for its female characters such as Katara, Toph, Suki, Azula, Ty Lee, Mai, Yue, Kyoshi, or even Gran Gran, and many more. One of my favourite things about the show, which even 5 year old me looked up to, was how each of these women were so powerful through a perfect, unproblematic balance between their brute strength and bending powers, and their empathetic, caring natures. Each of these women were role models to me in different ways without needing men to save them, without having to play the damsel in distress, without their storylines and accomplishments revolving around men - which brings me to what I appreciate perhaps equally - the male characters in the show. While ATLA was the first show in which I loved each and every female character, it is also, until today, the only show in which I love and appreciate every male character. While growing up, there weren't many shows or movies, animated or otherwise, that displayed men without traits of toxic masculinity or a hero complex. While this has been improving (and please feel free to share show or movie recommendations with non-toxic male characters - one can only take so much of them in person), ATLA's leading male characters Aang, Sokka and Zuko epitomise the otherwise glorified growth of males from boyhood into manhood through the shedding of toxic traits through non-toxic character development (I can't find a better word for toxic here, sorry). Yes, Sokka at one point thought boys were better than girls, and yes, Zuko's go-to way of dealing with things was to get angry and fight fire with fire (literally), but what the show does is it depicts how to skillfully deal with emotions in a healthy way, and how to increase self-accountability and self-awareness with open-mindedness. I've always wished there were more Aangs and Sokkas, and more Toph's and Suki's in the world to make it a better place. Overall, the reason why I love ATLA is, yes, partially for nostalgic reasons, but really because there isn't a single character whose development I don't appreciate. That, and the fact that I've always found the magical nature of the four elements appealing. I could go on about the show forever, but if anyone else has thoughts on the gender roles/toxic masculinity in ATLA or animated shows/children's cartoons in the media please feel free to share your thoughts! Never underestimate the power of media and education one receives while growing up! - Ashal P.S. Here's a meme we can all relate to:

(This is what you're missing out on if you haven't watched the show!!)

P.P.S. I used the word honour in the title for a reason, if you know, you know.

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I love the last Airbender and this really spoke to me. I remember looking at Zuko's arc and honestly relating to it. The amount of expectations he has on him, and his constant quest to prove himself stuck with me. I watched it during O Levels at a time where the pressure of doing well in school put these heavy expectations on me, often putting me at odds with my father. Although this is nothing compared to the dilemma Zuko is put in, I still could relate to his anger and constant drive to prove himself. I could understand he was a product of his times. In all boys school in O Levels, masculinity was a very important but hidden…


Hi Ashal! I have watched ATLA and i think its safe to say its one of my favourite shows. In fact, I watched it again in quarantine and was not bored at all. You pointed out that this is the only show without non-toxic male characters but to me it rather shows the journey of a male leaving behind such traits and becoming a better person. At the beginning of the show Zuko was toxic to a certain extent but the wisdom of his uncle Iroh pulled him out. Zuko was obsessed with the idea of restoring his 'honour' by capturing the avatar, to the extent that he even betrayed his uncle who had been by his side from the…


Hasham Nasir
Hasham Nasir
Oct 27, 2020

Wowww. What a beautiful post, ashal. I haven't watched this show but I am definitely going to check this out after going through your post. I also really like your idea to 'share shows or movie recommendations with non-toxic male characters'. I am having a lot of trouble coming up with names for shows and TV programs with no toxic male characters... but i am going to think some more.

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