Everyone in balance by the Avatar, the only

Everyone
has a favorite story whether it’s presented as a show that’s live action or a
cartoon, an anime, or even a book, but no other story could surpass the
greatest show in existence “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” In this show there are
people who can manipulate at their will what they consider to be the four
elements: fire, air, water and earth. The world is divided into four nations respectively
to their bending abilities and are kept in balance by the Avatar, the only one
able to bend all four elements and the bridge between humanity and the spirit
world. The creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino created a
fantastic world that starts small but builds up as the story goes on with
complex characters, which are taken the time to present and develop, to go
along with it. Aang, as the avatar and main character, is an outsider to a
hundred-year-old war that may make him lose a part of himself, but ultimately
realizes there is always a different way. As an outsider to the conflict of the
present, Aang finds himself confused and ashamed of what the world has come to,
even blames himself for it, but is able to move forward and fight for the
freedom and equality of everyone including the Fire Nation making him the best
character in the show and a role model everyone can look up to no matter the
age. For the remaining part of the essay I will refer to the show solely as
Avatar.

 

Nickelodeon
aired Avatar on February 1, 2005 with an intro of two other main characters,
Sokka and Katara, having a discussion while out fishing that ultimately leads
to uncontrolled water bending releasing the avatar from a hundred-year-old
slumber. Aang wakes up believing no time has passed since he was last awake,
but soon realizes he’s been gone for a very long time. Initially he told his
new friends a storm was the cause of his slumber, but in episode 12 of season
one we are told by Aang himself that the real reason he was caught in the storm
was because he was escaping his destiny as the avatar. We are also presented
with Aang’s guilt for the annihilation of the air nomads, the people of the Air
Nation, if he hadn’t left he thought his people would’ve lived. Although being the
Avatar seems like an interesting role Aang was afraid of how life would change
because of something he didn’t ask to be.

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Throughout
the show we see the characters go through their internal and external struggles.
Aang was good at ignoring his feelings of guilt for the air nomad’s demise, but
sooner or later he had to face it. In season 2, episode 19: The Guru, Aang
faces those feelings when he visits a guru that would help him open his
chakras, the spiritual centers in the human body, to master the avatar state,
the most powerful ability they can achieve. Another example of this is shown in
season 2, espidoe 9: Bitter Work, where Aang finds earth bending to be more
challenging because of his nature and affinity to air and what it represented. Through
hard work and a little push, he analyzed his situations, forgave himself and
overcame his dilemmas. An extremely important lesson can be taken from this and
it is to never give up and that no matter what someone is always there to help.

Being
an Air Nomad as the name implies the air benders travelled a lot and didn’t
have a specific home, but they trained and spent most of their time at the air
temples located at different parts of the world. Aang was born in the southern
air temple, but after the air nomads downfall the temples became uninhabited by
people until the avatar and his friends, in season 1, episode 17: The Northern
Air Temple, arrived at the northern air temple and found people living there
and altering it with technology to make it more habitable for them. Realizing
that these people weren’t air nomads Aang felt insulted and angry that the people
he found weren’t air benders populating the temple, but outsiders making it
their home while destroying part of the Air Nomad’s legacy. His sense of “home”
and “identity” were being invaded by strangers ignorant to his culture and way
of living. He soon realized that was not the case, their home was destroyed so
they made the temple their new home just like Aang found a new home in his
friends.

The
state at which they find themselves in the show is that of segregation, hate,
and misunderstanding which can all be traced back to the war. The world wasn’t
always like that, according to Aang there was peace before he froze in time. The
four nations still lived together in harmony. In season 2, episode 9: Bitter
Work, Iroh teaches Zuko and the audience a little bit of every nation and how
despite their differences they can all complement each other. Wisdom can be
gained by learning about one another, and it is because of that that the avatar
is so powerful. It could make anyone powerful, Iroh explains, by studying the
water benders Iroh created a new technique. This might seem like it just
applies to the story, but by learning about every culture we diversify our
sense of thought and learn to appreciate things better. It can also help
develop answers to solve world problems.

People
had expectations of Aang that didn’t necessarily make him feel comfortable. He
was constantly pressure throughout the series to do things in other ways, but
in the end, he was the only who could decide how he would act and how he would
save the world; he forged his own path. For example, in season 3, episode 16:
The Avatar and the Fire lord, Aang is shown the history of his past lifetime
and how the war came to be. Avatar Roku, the avatar before Aang, was born fire
nation and his best friend Sozin, Zuko’s great grandfather, was the crowned
prince of the fire nation at the time. They were both as happy as they could
be, but as they grew up their opinions diverged because Sozin wanted to expand
the empire while avatar Roku wanted peace. In the end, Sozin betrayed Roku and
started the war starting with the annihilating of the air nomads. The entire
story made Aang’s friends feel more disgust towards the fire nation, but Aang
as an outsider who didn’t grow up in the war was able to see through it and
find the real message. He learned anyone is capable of redemption and should be
given a chance. Only the people who truly wish to change for the better will
achieve it.

 By now it is clear that Aang isn’t the usual muscular,
macho-like male protagonist we sometimes see in other shows. According to Issac
Yuen from Ekostories, he is open-minded, goofy, peaceful,
spiritual, forgiving, understanding, and believes the best in people –
qualities not generally associated with male heroic protagonists in modern
Western narratives. For example, in Marvel, Captain America is brave, agile and
quick thinking just like Aang, but he doesn’t have Aang’s wisdom or patience.
Aang’s style of fighting consists of evading and only using force when
necessary because he believes all life is precious. In no way does this make
Aang weak, on contrary, it makes him much more interesting, believable and a
much better role model.

The reason for Aang’s behavior can be traced
back to his upbringing with the monks at the air temple. The creators took elements
from Buddhism and a little Hinduism, and applied it to the Air Nomads way of
life. In Hinduism, terms such as avatar and reincarnation are used to describe a
spirit or god reincarnated into a person or other form to solve a crisis which
basically describes the Avatar in the show. Buddhism in the show is represented
in the teachings we learn from Aang, which he learned from the monks, and the Air
Nomad’s clothing. The preciousness of life is an important teaching presented
in Avatar in the season finale when Aang faces the dilemma discussed earlier about
how he would deal with the Fire lord. Thanks to the teachings of Eastern
philosophy and religion Aang was able demonstrate mercy and in doing so
providing a great example for kids and adults to follow.

From
Zuko’s redemption to the cabbage man’s bad luck to Aang’s maturity, Avatar demonstrates
that it is not just a kid show but a story about growing up, overcoming
obstacles, love, dreaming and freedom.  The
Air Nomads sought freedom by detaching themselves from the world, but Aang as
the avatar had a duty to the world meaning he had to give up a certain freedom
he was brought up in to fulfill his responsibilities. This is like growing up, as
kids we were able to do almost everything we pleased and could dream of being
anything, but as we grow up part of that freedom is restricted because of the
responsibilities we acquire. Only by being true to ourselves and understanding
our duties can we find our freedom again just like Aang did by figuring out how
to defeat the Fire Lord without losing his own self. The creators were clever
in using eastern religion and philosophy in the show and portraying a lot of
its teachings through Aang because it prevented it from seeming like they were
trying to force foreign ideals to kids and made the protagonist more valuable
with a stronger basis from which to act on. Aang makes a great role model for
every kid not just boys but girls as well and people of all ages because his
ability to think of different ways to tackle a problem but most importantly
because he truly believes in people and the good they are capable of which is
something we all need to see within ourselves and in each other. 

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