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Avatar the Last AirBender: What we can take from a childhood favorite

A review of the show from an adult’s point of view

Brianna Lelieur | Entertainment Editor

Two months into a self quarantine, it seemed like there was nothing more to watch on television. People had rewatched the same old favorite movies and shows, and binged the new ones. Yet, with so much time, it seemed like everyone had seen everything. Furthering that, tensions were definitely beginning to rise with the current state of the world; people were certainly emitting strong emotions and needed something to brighten their day again. 

Thankfully, the world got a little brighter on May 15, when the children’s show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was released on Netflix. After its release, the show exploded in popularity, especially among adult viewers. The show now has an even larger cult following than before; it has inspired thousands of fan creative art projects, merchandise, clothing, music and even food — all within the span of a few weeks since its release date.
Why the huge surge in popularity among adult viewers for a children’s show? Well, as a child who grew up loving “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” I of course admire it for the nostalgia; besides, who doesn’t love a show with characters that can manipulate the environment around them, a story of true friendship and stellar fight scenes? Although, after watching it as an adult, I’ve come to truly appreciate the show not only as a childhood favorite, but also for its writing of the story and characters, its research into the various cultures it’s inspired by, the music that supports the show and the subject matter it touches on. 

During my rewatch, here are a few of the things I took from the show. The first is learning to maintain balance and peace within yourself, as this is an essential theme of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” When one aspect of life is out of balance, it entirely falls apart. It’s a genuine human struggle to manage balance, whether physically, mentally or in the everyday world. 

Furthering the topic of internal balance, the show weaves elements of spirituality, introspectiveness and meditation. The main protagonist, Aang, is someone with immense special abilities; he can tap into another aspect of the world that not many others can in the show’s universe. He is the bridge between humans and spirits. Meditation is key for him as it allows him to search within his own soul to discover more about his past life and maintain his state of mind. Every time Aang is faced with a dilemma, at most points he meditates on what he is to do and to help him find peace. 

Meditation was something I took from the show because, with so much going on in the world, it can be overwhelming and easy to lose focus of what is important to you. I wanted to find a way to start clearing my mind the way Aang practices, whether I’m dwelling on the past or the chaotic world.

There was a quote that resonated with Aang through his journeys from his mentor and great airbender, Monk Gyasto: “we cannot concern ourselves with what was, we must act on what is.” 

Despite everything that happened to Aang, he ensured to never dwell on what was or let it haunt him. He makes it clear that with the right self motivation, meditation and support, you can make it through just about everything. 

I learned a few interesting facts about the origins of the various bending styles within the show. Each fighting style comes from a different form of real life martial arts. For example, water bending is derived from Tai Chi; earth bending, Hung Gar; fire bending, Northern Shaolin; and air bending, Ba Gua Zhang. Each embodies a very different fighting style, technique, and rule set. For Northern Shaolin, one of the oldest forms of martial arts fighting, it is known to be immensely aggressive and is about long, strong movements that are meant to jab straight through your opponent. Within the Hung Gar fighting style, you are always meant to have a strong fighting stance and be connected to the ground below you for full force in your moves. 

This show has become very popular once more because it came again in a notoriously chaotic time, and people needed something lighthearted to help them get through it. This brings us to simpler times and helps us feel relaxed with sunset backgrounds and calming music. The characters make you wish you knew them in real life, and now, everyone wishes they had an Uncle Iroh. 

Watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as an adult again is both an escape and an actual learning experience. It reminds us of our basic morals that often get lost in translation. Whether it’s learning to ask for help when you need it, spending time with friends and family or simply to appreciate life, make sure to live it up. As Uncle Iroh once said, “life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.” 

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