Posted by S.E. Sinkhorn | Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Okay, can we talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender? NOT THE TERRIBAD MOVIE. The animated series from Nickelodeon.
One: If you are a middle grade lit fan, a fantasy fan, a Harry Potter fan, an anime fan, or someone who enjoys a good epic journey story, you should really watch this series. If you haven't already, I mean. Hell, even if you have, watch it again.
Two: SOKKA AND TOPH AND ZUKO ARE THE VERY BEST EVER FOR ALL TIME THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Three: Seriously, if you are having trouble with characterization or writing endearing, heartfelt young characters, watch this show and take notes. The characterization of the Avatar cast is impeccable, from the protagonist to the one-off side characters to the adults.
I watched this show long ago and just recently rewatched it. As I watched, I was reminded of the same feelings I got while reading the Harry Potter novels -- that overwhelming feeling of excitement and joy and love. The feeling that the characters had life breathed into them and weren't merely vehicles for the story. Their humor and emotions are real and powerful. Inner struggles, shades of gray, and overcoming everything from embarrassing pubescent moments to loss to bravery in the face of crippling odds.
I also have to mention that I absolutely love the way this show deals with disabilities. Frankly, that this show deals with disabilities (and more than one disability) is pretty incredible in and of itself, but that they do it with such care is the icing on the cake. The disabled characters are never maliciously singled out or othered due to their disability. In fact, they're treated with the same respect and responsibility as the other characters.
(Mild SPOILER warning!) Toph's storyline in particular illustrates this. Her parents underestimate and shelter her to the point of insult, when really she is just as capable and powerful as any other character. Also, oh man, is she funny and awesome. Of course, that's my perspective as an abled person, so if anyone else wants to weigh in on this issue, please do.
Anyway. Don't take my word for it. Watch for yourself. I'm of the opinion that this show is a prime example of quality writing for the middle-grade market with crossover appeal, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it :)