Updated: Jul 28, 2019
Table of Contents-
2 - Symbolism
3 - Writing
4 - TBD
5 - TBD
6 - TBD
< Intro >
Many great stories defy the 'forgetful effect' of time due to the emotional crater they leave in our hearts, or their ability to realistically capture the essence of what it means to be alive and human. You already know some of most popular ones: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, just to name a few.
However, if you are reading this post, I assume you will agree with the following:
When it comes to the "Big Four" namely: LOTR, HP, Star Wars, and Marvel. That you are the one person who sits in the back of the class, raises their hand while the teacher is lecturing, and finally blurts out, "what about Avatar The Last Airbender?"
I applaud your bravery you beautiful soul.
Sadly, because of the greed of a few, the Avatar franchise has been reduced to a pile of smoldering ash. Therefore I have two goals for this post:
First, my hope for this article is for those have not seen the series, or even those who have, that this post will help try to put into words that which can not really be written. The sheer epicness of the show. Second, is to rekindle the smoldering ash into a flaming bonfire so we can have the movie that all fans deserve.
We are calling on you! Fans of the Avatar series to help spread the word about this blog and the website it is on, TheLastSnag.com. A massive project which two die-hard fans are grabbing the mantle and placing it upon their shoulders for you.
So your call to action, that 1% that you can do to help make a difference, share the word! Share the website and the blog with family, friends, all over social media! Get others talking about it! Help revive the Avatar series! even strangers on social media. Talk about why you love avatar and why the fan base deserves a better movie. Not just a film version that is a pay and subscribe first before you can view like what Netflix is doing, but an actual film that goes out to everyone!
You guys are awesome! Now let's get to the article!
< Main Article >
The thesis for this article is to present my opinion and arguments for why Avatar The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra should be considered the "5th greatest stories of all time." Two incredible works of art that should ascend to the rank of "timeless epics" never to be forgotten and constantly revisited by generations to come.
To do this, I will be analyzing different aspects of the show in comparison to some of the other great works, or just analyzing the show itself.
Most, if not all, of the pictures will try to compliment the aspect or opinion I am trying to make so be sure to look at, read, and think about what their subtexts mean. You should walk away from this article an ATLA scholar with deep insights and ideas. Enjoy!
- The use of symbolism and intentional writing -
First, lets get one thing straight. This is not just a kids show!
If you thought this was for kids just because the medium (format) was an animated cartoon, you are dead wrong. This first example of symbolism will be an easter egg that perhaps you missed as it was clearly meant for adults, and you will see why. It will show you the amount of attention to detail and intentional purpose behind the shows use of symbolism.
Theme - The Savior of The World
While the show is heavily influenced and deals with eastern philosophy and religion, there are still bits of western Christianity or typical literary themes snuk in throughout the series. In this case the theme of a Christ-like savior of the world being thrust upon a 12 year old boy. Why does this matter though and how could this be true if the show is meant to be heavy with eastern influence? Because of the following picture.
What 8-16 year old would know this statue let alone the symbolism and significance behind Michelangelo's "Pieta?" How is this is not an easter egg for adults? The original on the left depicts Mary, the mother of Christ, holding her son who has just been killed and taken down from the cross in her arms, the arms of a mother.
Not only is the moment from the show's season 2 finale symmetrically perfect in reverse, the exact same situation as well as character's roles and their personalities are identical as well. In terms of personality, through out the show Katara is seen as a "motherly figure" with her dialogue and personality as she is always taking care of the group. Aang, is the literal savior of the world being the avatar and is tasked with defeating evil by summer's end, in this case the fire-lord. (spoiler warning).
In this moment, Aang the savior of the world, like Christ, has given up all his selfish desires to tap into the "avatar state" which grants him God-like abilities in order to save those he loves. In the process he is killed. No resurrections nothing, just straight up killed like Christ. Now you are thinking well there's a season 3 and I know he's alive in it so what happens? Watch the show! ;)
Anyways, so now the part where the two are no longer separated but become the exact same moment. The symbolism behind both moments is a mother holding her dead son in her arms. The one who has just given up everything including their life to save others. Hold on, I'm not done. This is just one second frozen in time from the show.
Theme - Good Versus Evil
The show also shares symbolic elements with other great works of art like Star Wars. In Star Wars you have the Jedi vs. the Sith as one of many approaches to show the struggle between good versus evil. Same goes for avatar, the theme of good versus evil is seen in multiple aspects, but is perhaps viewed best with the perspective of the Fire nation vs. the rest of world , The fire-lord vs. the avatar, or the inner struggle of good versus evil that we all suffer depicted in Zuko and Azula.
The show loves to remind us of this theme with a single word that is repeated all over it's three seasons: balance. Balance between the four nations, balance between the avatar (good) and fire-lord (evil), but most importantly, balance within ourselves.
Theme - Rejecting Your Old Life To Become Someone New
However, there are other symbolic parallels as well. Just like Vader, Luke get's his hand cut off making the father and son even more connected. In avatar you have the complete reversal of that moment. Zuko decides to cut his connection with his father in a number of ways. First, he rejects his throne and royal heritage by cutting his royal ponytail. I literal symbol of him cutting ties with this roots.
Second, is when Ozai attacks Zuko during and eclipse in the episode "the day of black sun." What's unique about this event is its multi-layered symbolism of Zuko's rejection.
You also have the moment where Iroh is taking back Ba Sing Sei from his own nation and pauses at burning his nation's flag before burning it, thus cutting himself off from his native land as well. You have Zuko's scar, Mask, and Double bladed swords that allude to his dual personalities and loyalties throughout the series. for further explanation, see the weight of cinema's avatar series video part 2 - "Visual Story Telling" at the following link, Here. There are a lot more symbols that I could talk about but it would be a novel if i did so. Plus it would take the fun away from you trying to find and read them all yourselves. Suffice it to say, as the video above states, avatar's story is told not just in writing, but highly visual and symbolic to those paying attention.
The Writing -
Do I dare say it? Yes, I believe the quality of writing for which the medium the show took was equivalent to that of the writing for Lord Of The Rings. Both have incredible character development. Both have fantastic world development where the world itself has a character arc. Both have loads of symbolism and emotionally moving moments. Both have a purpose and a question(s) they are asking the audience to think about. Both capture the essence of reality in their respective works, meaning the joys, sadness, surprise, and other aspects that life gives on a day to day bases. Ultimately both have a message they want to get across to their audiences.
This blog is still being written but I have posted it for you to already provide feedback that might help me see angles i hadn't before and better develop the article.
Since it is unfinished here are some pictures in the mean time to make up for your lack of reading. enjoy!