Character creation (as in the literal development of a character) can be challenging. A series should always try to balance the intrigue and personality of a character against the story that the series is trying to tell, and both pieces should naturally bring the best out of each other. A lead character should drive the plot forward, and the plot should bring out challenges specific to the lead character. The better a series can apply this rule to each of its characters, the stronger position the character and the series will be in.
Characters are not just defined by plot, though; they’re made to feel alive by clothing choices, their likes and dislikes, their vernacular, and their appearance and age. Part of Breaking Bad’s depiction of Walter White/Heisenberg relied on the visual differences (such as the pork pie hat) and vocal differences (anyone who watched the show knows the “Heisenberg” voice) between the two facets of Walt’s personality, providing a good example of the importance of the details in character creation.
There is nothing like the true synergy of a character’s personality influencing the plot as the plot perfectly challenges the personality behind the character, almost creating a perpetual motion within the story. Yin and yang – perfectly balanced – and few shows do this as well as Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has some of the most meticulously crafted personalities in all of television. Not only is each character’s personality designed around their storylines, but also around their connection to an element of Water, Earth, Fire, or Wind, and in some cases, specifically designed around their lack of connection to one of the elements.
Let’s dive into some of these characters to learn just how effectively they were developed for this story.
Aang, the protagonist of the series, is the titular “Last Airbender.” He has the ability to “bend” air (which basically means he can move and control air through his movements. Waterbenders, Earthbenders, and Firebenders can also each move their respective elements). Aang’s personality is light and fun – he’s adventurous and seeks out joy wherever he goes. On a base level, these traits line up with the concept of air quite well. Aang’s personality is, well, breezy. He just wants to be free to live as he pleases, and he hopes for the same for others.
But the show takes Aang a step further than that and makes him a pacifist, which makes sense when associated with the element of air since air is the least tangible element. Air on its own cannot hurt you – if it were to harm you in some way it’d most likely be through an object that has been affected by air, and not the air itself. To double down on Aang’s pacifist ways, Aang is a child in the series: only 12-years-old. Children have a much more idyllic view of the world, and Aang’s lack of experience and exposure to the outside world keeps him in a place of innocence and in a mindset that tells him that violence is never the answer.
This is where the perfect synergy of character to plot starts to perpetuate. Aang’s personality is perfectly suited to the element he’s associated with, but the plot challenges that personality in the most vigorous way possible. Aang is alive during a war, as the Fire Nation has attacked and is trying to spread its influence, and Aang is the “Avatar” designed to bring balance to the world. The responsibility of peace is placed on Aang’s shoulders. Aang is a good person at heart, so of course, he agrees to help the world and stop the Fire Nation, but what he has to do to help is in direct contrast to his principles and personality. The closer Aang gets to fighting the Fire Nation, the stronger his internal conflict to remain a pacifist becomes, creating a perfect synergy between plot and character.
Once again, Aang’s age doubles down on this synergy. He’s just a kid; he doesn’t want the world’s responsibility, and quite frankly it shouldn’t have to fall on him. He gets easily distracted along his journey and sometimes avoids fights and training to try to have some fun. Aang is the perfect protagonist because he has to grow and mature to fulfill his role in the war, providing satisfying character growth, but also because his childlike nature and pacifist ideals place value on peace. Combined, this allows for a deep exploration of the association between peace, violence, and responsibility.
We find similar development techniques behind the other major characters in the series. Katara the Waterbender is kind and caring and acts very motherly towards the group. Water’s ability to nurture and heal fits along with this characterization nicely, but it also fits with Katara’s tendency to be stubborn and single-minded. While she’s willing to flow and adapt, sometimes Katara’s personal ideals blind her from other perspectives and she forces her will onto others, like a strong current in the ocean sweeping innocent swimmers away.
Of course, the overarching plot once again perfectly challenges all of Katara’s strongest traits. As Aang and Sokka grow more and more independent on their world-spanning journey (with Aang eventually surpassing Katara’s ability to Waterbend), her motherly instincts and position as the “mature” one become less of a boon and more of a source of conflict, forcing her to reevaluate exactly what it means to be nurturing and caring. Her strict moral code is also challenged by the complexities of war, and as she learns more about the complicated lives and difficult decisions other people have to make, her vision of what’s always “right” is challenged. Yet through all of this, part of what makes the entire team successful is Katara’s singular vision and ability to keep a focus on their goal, helping to continually push them, and the plot, forward.
Sokka is the only lead character without an element bending ability, and – shocker – his character is created around this idea. Sokka is a teenager who always looked up to his father, who was a great warrior. When Sokka’s father left to fight in the war, he attempted to assume the mantle as the defender of his small tribe. Sokka is desperate to prove his worth as a leader and warrior, constantly taking on bigger battles than he can handle. This character motivation spirals perfectly with his lack of bending ability, as Sokka is consistently an underdog amongst the several other characters who can control elements. Compared to his companions (and many enemies) he isn’t as well equipped to participate in a battle of the elements, which often sidelines him in battle. This only creates a further complex within him to prove his abilities and establish his place in the war. Once again, this synergy creates a perpetual motion, as the further into the plot we get, the stronger all the characters become, and the stronger Sokka’s internal conflicts manifest, forcing him to grow, which pushes him to take more initiative, which helps push the plot forward – and the cycle continues.
Zuko, the dishonorably banished teenage son of the Fire Lord (the man who leads the Fire Nation and commands the war), is a young teen burdened with insecurity and anger. His goal is to capture Aang the Avatar to regain his honor and return to his home nation. He was an emotional child and didn’t receive the emotional support he needed from his father, who constantly put him down and propped his sister up as better than him. This results in an adolescent unable to properly express his rage, which matches the element of fire perfectly. The fact that he was banished from his home country makes Zuko an “outsider” to the Fire Nation, and his position as an outsider meshes with his position in the narrative.
Zuko’s hunt for Aang pushes Zuko further and further away from his home nation, causing him to see more and more of the damage that his nation has done to the world. The more Zuko sees the flaws in the Fire Nation, the more complicated his journey for acceptance becomes. If he doesn’t belong in the Fire Nation, where does he belong? Will he be accepted by those he has fought against, or should he rejoin the Fire Nation once he gets the chance? These questions are brought up in the narrative naturally by Zuko’s specific personality while allowing the show to explore acceptance and what makes a person truly honorable — be it honor to their nation, their friends, or themselves. Every facet of Zuko’s character is meticulously designed to open the story up to these themes. Imagine instead if he had never been banished and was solely on a quest to please his father – the plot remains exactly the same, but the story of banishment and what it means to belong and exhibit honor completely disappears.
And then there is Toph, the Earthbender, a blind child who was holed up by her parents as a precious gem for her entire life. The thing about Earth, though, is unlike Air, Water, and Fire, it doesn’t move, it doesn’t change – you can’t reshape a mountain in whatever image you’d like. Toph as a character is designed and implemented with this in mind – they could have introduced her in any number of ways, but the decision to show her refusal to be molded by her parents represents the element of Earth more strongly than most plot lines would. All of the characters I’ve mentioned above change and develop, but Toph is mostly a static character, matching her element and providing the series with a “rock.” The further they get into the complications of war, the stronger Toph’s resolution becomes.
Static characters can be boring when done poorly, but when implemented for a purpose they can improve a series by reflecting how other characters are changing. In such a complicated world, there’s a freshness to Toph’s solid outlook on everything. Her principles nor personality ever shift to fit the world around her. She helps provide Aang a foil, or should I say a balance, between what the world wants him to be and what he wants to be. It’s not a coincidence that Aang ends the war in his own non-violent way immediately after using a technique taught to him by Toph, further emphasizing his unwillingness to sacrifice his principles to save the world, just as Toph refuses to change to fit the world around her.
This is incredibly specific character work, and I cannot imagine the work it took to develop these characters behind the scenes. Each one is so perfectly suited to explore different themes within the story on so many levels that it’s almost hard to keep track of all the ways their personalities reflect the stories and elements within the series. Each character creates and perpetuates their own conflicts and plots while working together to make a seamless world, resulting in organic growth and development for the personalities and the story, which is why there is hardly a slow spot throughout the entire run of Avatar: The Last Airbender (except for “The Great Divide,” but let’s just fly past that one).
Not every television character needs to be designed so meticulously to be great. Some shows are less character-driven or have simpler universes to explore. A comedy, for example, may require a greater emphasis on how characters interact with each other than how they interact with the world around them. There is also always an aspect of character adaptation when it comes to a television series as writers often find disposable or new facets of their characters as a series progresses.
But for a series that relies so heavily on world-building, mythology, and thematic resonance, the better crafted your characters are at the start, the better the foundation to explore that world will be.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a peak example of this, as there are few shows whose characters are as accessible, deep, and intrinsically tied to plot. The Avatar is designed to bring balance to the world, and the series itself represents that methodology by bringing perfect balance to its character and plot. This is a huge part of why Avatar: The Last Airbender is such a phenomenal series that’s still being watched and discussed 15 years after its release.
Halloween Costumes for 2020 Inspired by TV Shows and Pop Culture
Halloween is going to look a bit different than in year’s prior, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun dressing up!
2020 has been a year of pretty grim news, but the light amidst it all has been the TV shows and movies that have kept us entertained and captivated.
We’ve put together a list of TV show Halloween costumes that may inspire you — from sleuthing detectives, to the most savvy robbers, to caped crusades.
There’s something for every TV lover on this list!
Don’t delay putting that costume together… you’ll regret it. Did we mention this year’s Halloween falls on a Saturday and a rare/spooky full/blue moon?
Check out our gallery of costumes now:
The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda
Channel the bounty hunter this Halloween, but don't forget your sidekick - baby Yoda! There are plenty of fun "The Child" toys to include in this getup. ShopDisney has your official costume available for purchase here.
Emmys 2020 Predictions: What Shows Will Win?
The 2020 Emmys are upon us, but as with everything this year, they’re looking a bit different as they go virtual.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be less prestigious or eventful — it’s the Emmys after all; it’s the biggest night in television.
Each actor is going to come to your living room from their living room meaning that there’s plenty for producers to work with and the night will surely keep you on your toes.
We decided it would be fun to throw in our predictions into the ring as ever category is highly competitive.
Check out our Emmy predictions below and let us know who you think will win this Sunday evening:
Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Killing Eve (BBC America)
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
Succession (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Dead to Me (Netflix)
The Good Place (NBC)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV) – Predicted Winner
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Outstanding Limited Series
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Mrs. America (Hulu)
Watchmen (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Late Night With Stephen Colbert (CBS) – Predicted Winner
Outstanding Competition Program
The Masked Singer (Fox)
Nailed It! (Netflix)
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1) – Predicted Winner
Top Chef (Bravo)
The Voice (NBC)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish (ABC)
Don Cheadle, Black Monday (Showtime)
Ted Danson, The Good Place (NBC)
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV) – Predicted Winner
Ramy Youssef, Ramy (Hulu)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me (Netflix)
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me (Netflix)
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV) – Predicted Winner
Issa Rae, Insecure (HBO)
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish (ABC)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama
Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix) – Predicted Winner
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)
Steve Carell, The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
Brian Cox, Succession (HBO)
Billy Porter, Pose (FX)
Jeremy Strong, Succession (HBO)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
Olivia Colman, The Crown (Netflix)
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Laura Linney, Ozark (Netflix) – Predicted Winner
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Zendaya, Euphoria (HBO)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Jeremy Irons, Watchmen (HBO)
Hugh Jackman, Bad Education (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Paul Mescal, Normal People (Hulu)
Jeremy Pope, Hollywood (Netflix)
Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True (HBO)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America (Hulu)
Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable (Netflix)
Shira Haas, Unorthodox (Netflix)
Regina King, Watchmen (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Mahershala Ali, Ramy (Hulu)
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Hulu)
Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place (NBC)
Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV) – Predicted Winner
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) – Predicted Winner
D’Arcy Cardin, The Good Place (NBC)
Betty Gilpin, GLOW (Netflix)
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Nicholas Braun, Succession (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Billy Crudup, The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
Kieran Culkin, Succession (HBO)
Mark Duplass, The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Matthew Macfadyen, Succession (HBO)
Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld (HBO)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown (Netflix)
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Julia Garner, Ozark (Netflix) – Predicted Winner
Thandie Newton, Westworld (HBO)
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Sarah Snook, Succession (HBO)
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen (HBO) – Predicted Winner
Jovan Adepo, Watchmen (HBO)
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend (Netflix)
Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen (HBO)
Dylan McDermott, Hollywood (Netflix)
Jim Parsons, Hollywood (Netflix)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America (Hulu) – Predicted Winner
Toni Collette, Unbelievable (Netflix)
Margo Martindale, Mrs. America (Hulu)
Jean Smart, Watchmen (HBO)
Holland Taylor, Hollywood (Netflix)
Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America (Hulu)
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
The Great, “The Great” (Pilot), Matt Shakman
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “Marvelous Radio,” Daniel Palladino
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “It’s Comedy or Cabbage,” Amy Sherman-Palladino – Predicted Winner
Modern Family, “Finale Part II,” Gail Mancuso
Ramy, “Miakhalifa.mov,” Ramy Youssef
Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending,” Andrew Cividino and Daniel Levy
Will & Grace, “We Love Lucy,” James Burrows
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
The Crown, “Aberfan,” Benjamin Caron
The Crown, “Cri de Coeur,” Jessica Hobbs
Homeland, “Prisoners of War,” Leslie Linka Glatter
The Morning Show, “The Interview,” Mimi Leder
Ozark, “Fire Pink,” Alik Sakharov – Predicted Winner
Ozark, “Su Casa Es Mi Casa,” Ben Semanoff
Succession, “Hunting,” Andrij Parekh
Succession, “This Is Not for Tears,” Mark Mylod
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
Little Fires Everywhere, “Find a Way,” Lynn Shelton
Normal People, Episode 5, Lenny Abrahamson
Unorthodox, “Prisoners of War,” Maria Schrader
Watchmen, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice,” Nicole Kassell
Watchmen, “Little Fear of Lightning,” Steph Green
Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being,” Stephen Williams – Predicted Winner
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready,” Michael Schur – Predicted Winner
The Great, “The Great” (Pilot), Tony McNamara
Schitt’s Creek, “Happy Ending,” Daniel Levy
Schitt’s Creek, “The Presidential Suite,” David West Read
What We Do in the Shadows, “Collaboration,” Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil
What We Do in the Shadows, “Ghosts,” Paul Simms
What We Do in the Shadows, “On the Run,” Stefani Robinson
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Better Call Saul, “Bad Choice Road,” Thomas Schnauz
Better Call Saul, “Bagman,” Gordon Smith
The Crown, “Aberfan,” Peter Morgan
The Crown, “Cri de Coeur,” Jessica Hobbs
Ozark, “All In,” Chris Mundy
Ozark, “Boss Fight,” John Shiban
Ozark, “Fire Pink,” Miki Johnson
Succession, “This Is Not for Tears,” Jesse Armstrong – Predicted Winner
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
Mrs. America, “Shirley,” Tanya Barfield
Normal People, Episode 3, Sally Rooney and Alice Birch
Unbelievable, Episode 1, Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, and Ayelet Waldman
Unorthodox, “Part 1,” Anna Winger
Watchmen, “This Extraordinary Being,” Damon Lindelof and Cord – Predicted Winner
One Tree Hill: Why Haley and Lucas Were Friendship Goals
There are plenty of relationships fans can “ship” on One Tree Hill.
You can be #TeamBrucas, #TeamLeyton, or #TeamNaley, and they’re all great in their own way.
But there’s undoubtedly one relationship that trumps them all — Laley, aka Lucas and Haley.
As with all friendships, they’ve had a fair share of ups-and-downs.
They grew apart briefly, but despite the rocky road, they’ve always managed to come back to each other and never lose the love.
On One Tree Hill Season 4 Episode 3, Haley asked Lucas to promise her that “matter what happens, you and I will always be friends.” And he kept that promise.
Significant others came and went, but Lucas and Haley remained best friends throughout the entirety of the series.
Even after Lucas and Peyton drove off into the sunset (Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton exited the show on One Tree Hill Season 6), their friendship lived on off-screen.
When it comes to OTH relationships, Haley and Lucas’s was the purest one.
It was the most enduring relationship in the series, having started in childhood.
When we met them on One Tree Hill Season 1 Episode 1, they already had an established connection that was built on a foundation of trust and memories.
Their dynamic would have allowed the writers to easily cross the line and give in to the played-out friends-to-lovers trope (and maybe that was even the plan at one point), but the best thing about Lucas and Haley is that they never crossed that line.
The fact that they remained best friends and never pursued each other romantically made them far more interesting than if they would have ever considered dating.
In a small town like Tree Hill, it’s almost unheard of for a guy and girl to be “just friends.”
But Haley and Lucas proved that members of the opposite sex could love each other platonically.
These are some of our favorite things about them:
They Were Protective Over Each Other
We first begin to understand Lucas and Haley’s relationship on One Tree Hill Season 1 Episode 1.
They’re the outcasts that always stuck together and had each other’s backs.
When Nathan starts cozying up to Haley after she offers to tutor him, Lucas gets protective and warns her against getting involved with his half-brother because he believes he’s only getting close to her to get back at him.
While Lucas isn’t entirely wrong, he also trusts Haley to make the right decision, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
In turn, Haley’s decision to tutor is fueled by wanting to protect Lucas. She offers Nathan her math tutoring services on the condition that stop bullying Lucas and leave him alone.
They Cheer Each Other Up
Though it would be easy for Lucas to point out that he warned Haley about Nathan’s self-serving intentions, he never does. Instead, he’s there for his best friend.
On One Tree Hill Season 1 Episode 7, when Haley believes that Nathan’s been making fun of their relationship, she confesses that he showed her his true colors and she fell for it because she’s “stupid,” but Luke assures her that she’s far from it.
Instead of saying, “I told you so,” he’s supportive and lends her a shoulder to cry on.
On One Tree Hill Season 1 Episode 18, famously known as the “Boy Toy Episode,” Haley taps into her savings from the cafe so that she can buy Lucas during the auction to spend time with him.
At the end of a fun-filled night, Lucas assures Haley that “If Nathan doesn’t see how special you really are, then he’s an idiot cause I think you’re amazing.”
He may not be fully supportive of the relationship, but he always wanted her to follow her heart and be happy.
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