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Why we keep returning to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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It has been 16 years following the release of Avatar: The Last Airbender, since then it has spawned spin-off shows, a host of comics, and an unmentionable live-action remake.

It was added to Netflix back in May of last year and has introduced a new generation to the show, while also bringing old viewers back into the comforting world.

Image Credit The Ringer

There are a billion reasons why this children’s cartoon has stood the test of time better than other shows of its era. For one, it uses incredible storytelling that never talks down to the viewers and it doesn’t settle for cheap endings.

It has such a respect for its young audience and has never assumed that they could not understand genuinely dark concepts like genocide and imperialism.

Creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko also demonstrated how to do representation right. In a time when many struggled to be seen onscreen, Avatar created characters of all genders, races, and disabilities.

For god’s sake, the most powerful earth bender in the show is a visually impaired girl!

But what I keep coming back to is the flawed characters that can mess up and grow. As we get older, we can develop a fear of failure, whether it be in our careers, degrees, or relationships. The idea of disappointing the people around us can be debilitating.

But in Avatar, we see our heroes mess up. There is no safety net. They are not coddled, they learn from their mistakes.

Image credit: Film School Rejects

The characters in Avatar are taken on expertly crafted arcs that see them fail and continue to try and be the best that they can be. It teaches us that trying is half the battle, if we try and fail, we will be further along than if we did nothing.

It is a show that has taught us to forgive our enemies, to show kindness to the mistreated and to never compromise on our values. Plus, it has some sick fight scenes.

It is simple to say that Uncle Iroh’s soothing voice is what brings us back, but this fails to take into account how truly revolutionary this show was. Many say this is a perfect example of television, they’re not far off.

Not every lesson has to be placed in some critically acclaimed indie darling. Sometimes all we need is a group of kids trying to save the world.

Featured Image Credit: Nickelodeon

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