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Avatar: The Last Airbender – Bringing Balance to Character and Plot

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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Developing characters for a story can be challenging. Determining a character’s clothing choices, likes and dislikes, vernacular, and appearance and age is difficult enough, but there are still steps beyond these crucial details. 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. 

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, 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/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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 means he can move and control air through his movements. Waterbenders, Earthbenders, and Firebenders can each move their respective elements as well). 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 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 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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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. 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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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. This pushes him to take more initiative, which helps push the plot forward – and the cycle continues.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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. Zuko 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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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 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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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.

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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender/Nickelodeon

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.


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What to Watch

9 TV Shows to Watch After Thanksgiving Dinner

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9 TV Shows to Watch After Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time for reconnecting with friends and family and indulging in some delicious meals. 

But after all the turkey, sides, and pie is cleared off the plate, the only acceptable activity is binge-watching some feel-good TV shows. 

Here are some post-Thanksgiving dinner show suggestions:

 

Virgin River

You’ll be just as surprised as Mel to fall in love with the picturesque town of Virgin River. Come for the views, stay for Jack. 

 

Hart of Dixie

Dr. Zoe Hart arrives in Alabama looking for a fresh start and learns that the Southern way of living might actually be what’s best for her. 

 

Gilmore Girls

An unbreakable mother and daughter bond, a charming town that would make any Lifetime movie jealous… plus, an unspoken love for coffee? Say no more.

 

Selena + Chef

You might know her as a Disney Channel actress and pop star, but now, she’s adding chef to her resume. And since Thanksgiving is all about food, this is one show you don’t want to pass up. 

 

The Cleaning Lady

You might think it’s odd that a mafia crime drama made the list, but at its core, the series is about family and how far two dedicated and loving moms would go for their family. It’s a thrill from beginning to end! 

 

Walker

The modern-day update to the Chuck Norris classic hones in on family above everything, with a side of roundhouse kicks. 

 

A Million Little Things

A group from Boston bond under the unlikeliest of circumstances and get a much-needed wake-up call following the death of a close friend. 

 

La Brea

Though it falls into the “sci-fi mystery” category, La Brea hinges on a family determined to find their way back to each other despite all the obstacles standing in their way and all the sacrifices needed to be made.

 

Dream Home Makeover

If there’s ever a time to get inspired for a home makeover, it’s after the holidays (and during Black Friday when everything is on sale!) And the McGee family is the cherry on top! 

 

This Is Us

This is… a no-brainer. No show captures the essence of what it means to be a complicated, loving, flawed, and fulfilled family more than this NBC drama.

 

Angel the Series: Why The Series is The King of Found Family Shows

27 TV Characters Who Would Cook a Mean Thanksgiving Dinner


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Dead to Me

When Is ‘Dead to Me’ Season 3 Coming Out?

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When Is 'Dead to Me' Season 3 Coming Out?

There’s been a lot of buzz about the upcoming third season of Dead to Me, which will, unfortunately, also be the final season of the Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini-led comedy drama.

When Will Dead to Me Season 3 Premiere?

Well, the wait is thankfully almost over because the series is set to hit Netflix on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. 

And that means, you’ll have the whole entire weekend to binge watch all 10 episodes to see how Jen Harding and Judy Hale’s adventures come to an end. 

It’s been a bit since new episodes aired, however, with Dead to Me Season 2 dropping on the streaming giant in May 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic along with Applegate’s MS (multiple sclerosis diagnosis) delayed the upcoming season significantly, so it’s understandable if you don’t actually remember where things left off. 

How Did Dead to Me Season 2 End? Let’s Recap! 

For starters, a dog digs up Steve Wood’s body with his brother, Ben, getting the dreaded call. Judy and Jen find the money that Steve was laundering for the Greek mafia behind the frames of Judy’s art paintings, which allows them to buy out the house and get a new car for Charlie with a shiny new bow on top. Unfortunately, on their way home, they get into an accident with another vehicle… and it’s revealed that the driver that hit them is Ben, who has an empty bottle of liquor by his side. He’s a little banged up, but he drives away.  This is honestly messy, so I’m glad we’re on the cusp of the new season. And on top of all of that, Charlie finds the letter that Jen wrote (and Judy didn’t destroy), which probably includes way too much information about what’s going on. 

Dead to Me Season 3 Trailer

Applegate on Filming the Final Season

Applegate, who recently received her much-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, told Variety that while filming the new season of the Emmy-award winning drama amid her MS diagnosis was challenging (she had to use a wheelchair to get to set because walking was difficult and painful), she remained dedicated to finishing out the story for fans, which we truly admire and are grateful for.

When the creative forces behind the show asked if she wanted to pull the plug since they felt like they were “torturing her,” she replied, “But I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no: We have to finish this story. It’s too important to our hearts; too important to our souls. And we have to give this gift, not only to ourselves — there are people that love these characters, and we’ve got to let them have their closure too.’ So, if that meant me having to take a break in the middle of the day so I could go sleep — or me just leaving because I couldn’t do anymore — then that’s what we had to do.”

And knowing how much dedication went into it will make watching this season so more rewarding and gratifying.

 


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Editorials

7 Adan Canto Movies and TV Shows to Watch

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Adan Canto Movies and TV Shows to Watch

You’re probably here, looking for Adan Canto movies and TV shows, because of The Cleaning Lady. And if that’s the case, welcome! 

And if that isn’t the case, well, what are you waiting for? Go watch The Cleaning Lady! Canto is exceptional in the crime series as Arman Morales opposite Elodie Yung’s Thony De La Rosa. 

However, if you’re all caught up with the FOX drama and looking for more Canto to grace your TV screen, check out some of his other projects below!

 

Designated Survivor – Netflix

Canto starred in the ABC-turned-Netflix drama as the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States and Vice President-elect of the United States, played by Kiefer Sutherland.

 

 

Agent Game – Netflix

In this indie spy thriller, Canto is a member of a team of operatives tasked to bring in a CIA officer on a mission to detain and relocate foreign nationals for interrogation. The film also starred Mel Gibson, Katie Cassidy, and Jason Isaacs.

 

2 Hearts – Netflix

Based on a true inspirational movie, Canto plays Jorge, a Cuban exile who overcomes a hardship in life while falling in love with a flight attendant, Leslie, played by Radha Mitchell.  

 

Bruised – Netflix

Halle Berry stars as Justice, a disgraced MMA fighter looking to find redemption and courage to face her demons.  Canto stars as Justice’s boyfriend and manager, Desi.

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Disney+

Canto thrilled as the Brazilian mutant Robert Da Costa aka Sunspot.

 

The Following – The CW

Canto starred as Paul Torres,  also known as Billy Thomas, was one of Joe’s Followers, who found himself in a complex love triangle.

 

Blood & Oil – Apple TV

In the short-lived series, Canto starred as AJ Mendendez, a role he took over from Yan Gellman, who appeared in the pilot. AJ was a geologist working with oil tycoon Happ Briggs and developed a romantic relationship with his daughter, Carla. The star-studded series, that was prematurely canceled, also starred Don Johnson, Chace Crawford, and Rebecca Rittenhouse.


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