Game, Film, Food, htclig. Long ago, The four channels lived togetherin harmony. But then everything changed when the YouTubealgorithm attacked. Only Matpat, master of all four theories,could bring balance to the channels. But when YouTube needed him most, he vanished. But I believe that Matpat can save the world. Hello Internet! Welcome to Film Theory, the show that's hereto reveal your secret power: subscription bending. Try it out.
Click the button below the video to transformit. Now, I don't often call a lot of things perfect. Almost anything can be improved upon in oneway or another. But up there with Chrono Trigger, the Lordof the Rings, and the sweet, delicious burn of Diet Coke, is Avatar: The Last Airbender. If ever there was a perfect animated series,it might just be Avatar. In case you need a bit of a refresher. In the world of Avatar, people live in oneof four nations, each built around one of the four traditional elements.
You have the water tribes at the North andSouth Poles, the vast earth kingdom that covers most of the world's landmass, the industriousand aggressive fire nation, and the elusive flighty air nomad monks. Some people are born with the ability to bendone of these four elements, but only one person can master all four of them. That one person is known as the Avatar andis tasked with keeping the world in balance as the very first avatar Wan explains: Each avatar is born into a cycle, water toearth to fire to air, so that when the previous avatar dies, a new one is born in the nextnation.
And over the course of the various seasons,we watch as this exact cycle plays out. Avatar Kyoshi from the Earth Kingdom givesway to Roku from the Fire Nation, who then dies and opens the door to Aang from the AirNomads and finally Avatar Korra from the Water Tribe. It's a great set up that allows for storiesand characters outside of the original series to be explored, expanding the world even further. I mean, that's basically what happened withthe sequel series, The Legend of Korra, and it appears to be Nickelodeon's strategy withthe franchise moving forward. There have been multiple novels and comicbooks dedicated to other avatars and supporting characters. They've even established an entire productionstudio devoted to more Avatar content.
Rumor has it that a bunch of this new stuffis going to focus on different avatars too. Sure you have the OGs Aang and Korra as wellas the fan favorite Kyoshi, but also the next avatar that we haven't even met yet. There's even a live action Netflix serieson the way. Here's hoping it goes better than the lastone. Anyway, in my excitement for new Avatar content,I decided to go rewatch the series and catch up on a bunch of the spinoff stories thatthey've released over the years. And you know what, theorists? The more and more I look, the more and moreI realize that having an avatar sucks.
This world is so much worse because of theavatar cycle. When you really break down what each avatardoes during their life and how it compares to what each avatar is supposed to be doing. You realize that each and every one of themhas largely failed, enough so that you kind of got to ask, is it even worth having anavatar at all? Hop aboard your flying bison and pour outsome cactus juice, loyal theorist. I'm about to bend your ear over this broken,ancient tradition. Let's start by setting our ground rules, shallwe? Remember, the whole thing about the Avataris that their main goal is to keep the world.
In balance, both physically and spiritually. What exactly that means could be up for debate. But the way I see it, an Avatar's duties largelybreak down into four main tasks: 1) helping keep international peace between the fournations 2) helping keep internal peace within eachof those nations. 3) Protecting innocent people and bringingjustice to the unjust. And 4) bridging the gap between the humanworld and the spirit world. So let's just start at the beginning of ourlist. One of the main parts of an avatar's dutyis to help keep international peace between.
The four nations. And admittedly, some of them are good at it. For instance, we see that Ang has helped toset up an international government to help the four nations stay at peace with each other. But literally, from the opening seconds ofthe show, we know that at least one avatar had a major oopsie in this field. The whole premise of the entire franchise starts with a giant international war, and it allhappened because of the failure of the avatars. On one hand, we could blame Aang who ran awayfrom his duties, which in turn opened up a.
Power vacuum that allowed the 100 year warto begin. But he was also literally 12 years old atthe time, so it’s kind of hard to fault him for that one. Instead, the true failure falls to Aang'spredecessor, Avatar Roku. Roku was childhood friends with Fire LordSozin, the Fire Lord who started the war. And what's worse, Roku knew that Sozin wantedto conquer these other nations. So what did Roku do to stop it? He basically gave Sozin a slap on the wristand a stern talking to, by his own admission, Roku's indecisiveness, and let's be honest,favoritism to his friend and home nation,.
Was a huge weakness which ultimately led totons of unnecessary death. Instead, his actions led to Sozin's betrayal,his own death, and a war that lasted generations. His failure led to the complete annihilationof the Air Nation, as well as all the loss of life that comes with a war of conquest. It’s not exactly going to be making WatchMojo'stop ten list of moments that brought balance to the world. And here's the thing. We don't have to look at Roku or Aang to seethe avatar's failures here. In the prequel novels, we learned that AvatarSzeto the Fire Nation Avatar before Roku was.
Born into a time of great strife for the nation. And instead of working internationally, likemost other avatars, Szeto decided to focus on the domestic politics, becoming a bureaucratwithin the fire nation to help his people. Though he helped shepherd the Fire Nationback to prosperity. He did this at the expense of all the othernations. This eventually led to an event known as thePlatinum Affair shortly after his death, which saw the fire nation and water tribes secretlybacking a challenger to the Earth Kingdom throne. When this was discovered it led to all threenations becoming incredibly isolationist. Because of this, Szeto’s immediate successor,the air nomad Avatar Yangchen, would look.
Back on Szeto's legacy as messy. So as you can already start to see, havingone person solely responsible for policing the entire bending world is like an impossibletask. Time is going to be the avatar’s most limitedresource and the decisions that they make on how to spend that time inevitably meansthat they're going to have to sacrifice one major part of their duty. Obviously, for Szeto, focusing all of hisattention on bringing prosperity to the fire nation meant that he let conflicts arise withinother kingdoms with the Platinum Affair. We see a similar situation arise in the AvatarKyoshi books.
The Avatar before her, had a singular focuson dealing with the spiritual duties of the role. This meant that he neglected his responsibilitiesas a politician. His neglect of the physical world allowedthe Earth kingdom to become destabilized by infighting and Kyoshi was basically forcedto spend her entire life cleaning up that mess. But don't feel too bad for her. She caused even more problems than she solved. Case in point, Chin the Conqueror. Now, this guy was a warlord standing up againsta corrupted king. That said, Chin was far from a hero, as Kyoshiherself says.
This seems like the exact sort of situationwhere an avatar should stand up and help make peace. Right? A rebellion is threatening to destabilizean entire kingdom and both sides are led by awful people. The keeper of peace and balance should probablybe looking into solving this issue. Even Kyoshi herself says. There's that word balance. So what did Kyoshi do to stop Chin? Nothing.
Literally nothing. Chin was able to conquer almost the entirecontinent. Kyoshi only decided to step in when he showedup at her doorstep to take over the peninsula that she called home. Yeah, sure, Kyoshi. Looks like you were getting right to that. So now that Chin is literally right in frontof her, you would think that this is a good opportunity to try and stop his conquest andrestore balance to the Earth Kingdom. Nope!.
Kyoshi uses her power to disconnect the peninsulafrom the mainland and then proceeds to yeet it out into the middle of the ocean. Seriously, in what's arguably the most impressivedisplay for an avatar is powers that we see throughout the entire franchise. All Kyoshi does is pull a giant: “ight,Imma head out”. Chin's conquest was only stopped because hewas too stubborn to get out of Kyoshi his way, falling to his death as Kyoshi Islandwas being formed. Really Kyoshi? Sure looks like you got some massive revisionisthistory going on there because you didn't.
Do a gosh darn thing in the months leadingup to him coming to your peninsula. And that philosophy runs deep in the villagethat Kyoshi leaves behind. Towards the beginning of the Last Airbender,Team Avatar lands on Kyoshi Island, where the guiding wisdom of all the Kyoshi stansis. “Yeah, it's not my problem”. Heck, even the Earth Kingdom Capitals catchphrase“There is no war in Ba Sing Se”, follows the same attitude. Ignore the problem. Deny.
Close your eyes and it just goes away. Admittedly, things seem to go much betterunder Roku's tenure. And after Aang ends the hundred year war, things again seem to gosmoothly. But under Korra their civil conflict aftercivil conflict. She was Avatar during the water tribe civilwar. Under her watch, the Red Lotus assassinatesthe Earth Queen and in the aftermath Korra's inaction due to injury and PTSD lets Kuviraseize control of a great deal of the Earth Kingdom. Not a great track record in a long sequenceof avatars dropping the ball. So now let's move on to our next criteriaprotecting the innocent and bringing justice.
To the unjust. This one's a bit harder to judge because wedon't see a lot of the day to day lives of each avatar. And while yeah, we do see some heroic momentslike Aang Fighting Yakone and Korra chasing down bender criminals in the streets of RepublicCity. There's a rotten core here that starts topeek through the deeper we get into the franchise. Most of The Legend of Korra’s plot revolvesaround the idea of justice and what it takes to defend everyone. Korra’s first major adversary Amon is theleader of a group called the Equalists, who.
Are all about leveling the playing field betweenbenders and non benders by taking away the ability to bend. Sound insane? It is. But the movement is shown to resonate witha lot of Republic City's citizens. Life in the world of Avatar can be incrediblyhard for non benders, even in the new supposedly harmonious society that Aang created. If you're a bender, you have easy access tojobs. Power plants use fire benders to operate.
Trains are powered by earth benders and policemenare almost exclusively metal benders. Benders also have a much easier time committingacts of violence, as we're frequently shown groups of violent benders like the triplethreat triad, the Red Lotus. Heck, even the Republic City Police who treatthe use of force like it's second nature. Non benders are overlooked. They're ignored. They're frequently threatened. In one particular scene, Republic City's metalbending police force herd a group of non benders like cattle using force to break up a nonviolentprotest.
These people are targeted because the policeforce has turned off the power to their homes and they're peacefully resisting being profiledas members of Amon's uprising just because they aren't benders. A woman in the crowd makes a desperate pleafor Korra’s help, saying: And Korra does help. Kinda. Unfortunately for the common people, Korraconsiders the issue resolved after she outs Amon as a bender and a fraud, effectivelyderailing a movement that began and grew thanks to a genuine concern from a huge portion ofRepublic City's non bending population.
So that one doesn't look all that great forKorra. But when you think about it, this is Aang’scity. He created the system that Korra inherited. In fact, this goes well beyond just Korraand Aang. The imbalance between benders and non bendersis a failure of every avatar before them who popped up or exploited the same system. Which brings us back to Kyoshi, who honestlymight have been the worst of the bunch. See,Kyoshi had herself a rough childhood. She was an orphan, working as a servant untilit was discovered that she was the avatar.
She later joined a criminal gang that wasfounded by her parents. And it's not like they suddenly stopped doingcrimes after the Avatar joined. Nope. They decided to involve Kyoshi in the crimes. And that's not all, Kyoshi youthful angerheavily informed her way of thinking. Even after learning that she was the avatar,her thoughts were more centered on revenge than duty. The Rise of Kyoshi states that quote: “Herhunger to learn all four elements had nothing to do with becoming a fully realized avatar.
Fire, air and water were simply more weaponsshe could bring to bear on a single target.” end quote. And much later in her life, she was so unbotheredby taking a life that she didn't see a difference between accidents and intentional killings. As for protecting the innocent. Here again, we have some problems. In Shadow of Kyoshi, Kyoshi threatens to crusha mother and her adult son to death with a boulder while trying to squeeze a false confessionout of them for something they didn't do. But her single worst decision is revealedin the canonical flash game Escape From the.
Spirit World. It's here that Kyoshi confesses to Aang herbiggest failure. See, one of the Earth Kings during Kyoshi'slife was incredibly unpopular. His leadership was seen as ineffective andcorrupt, and it eventually led to a peasant uprising against him. During the riots, the King ordered Kyoshito put the uprising down, and to her credit, she refused. Instead, she encouraged the king to listento the grievances of the people and find compromise. Seems pretty good so far, right?.
But here's the thing, Kyoshi admits that shedidn't like the people standing up against the kingdom. In fact, throughout the whole story, Kyoshiseems less concerned about the human rights abuses committed by the king and more concernedthat the peasants are destroying historical artifacts and upsetting the stability of themonarchy. So in exchange for the king listening to hispeople and ending the riots, Kyoshi agrees to train an elite group of earth benders forhim. They would be, quote, “silent, precise andfeared by all”. It was a force that would eventually be knownas the Dai Li.
Yup. You remember those creepy secret police fromthe animated series? the ones with the rock gloves whose loyaltycould be bought and sold, and who sided with Azula and the fire nation during the invasionof Ba Sing Se? They were Kyoshi's idea. She even admits that she regrets not foreseeingthe long term consequences of giving future Earth Kingdom monarchs access to an elitesecret police force. But here's the thing, that move didn't makesense even in her time period. This king, the one that was ready to crushhis own people,.
He shouldn't have had access to that secretpolice force either. Imagine what he would have had them do tothe peasants if they were around to begin with. Then again, when you're as powerful as Kyoshiand you treat your powers like a big ol’ hammer, I guess everything looks like a nail. So again, for a lot of the avatars, protectingthe innocent and bringing justice to the unjust is just a bust. So that's three for three where a ton of avatarsfail. But what about our fourth criteria here? Bridging the gap and keeping the peace betweenthe human and spirit worlds.
This is basically THE thing that avatars aresupposed to be good at. Surely there isn't a legacy of failure here,too. Well, you would think, and then you wouldbe wrong. We hear in the prequel novel dedicated toAvatar Yangchen, that when humans and spirits came into conflict, she would strike bargainsthat would get the spirits to leave humans alone so long as they took care of the physicalworld. And of course, humans did not live up to theirend of the deal. As a result, spirits wound up committing alot of violence against humans who broke their oaths. This, in turn, created a huge mess for thenext avatar, Kuruk, to clean up.
We discover in the Kyoshi novels that AvatarKuruk would end up spending most of his short life fighting the dark spirits empowered byYangchen’s decisions. Finally, let's skip forward to Avatar Korra,who might just have been the avatar to fail the most at this one. At the end of the Legend of Korra Season two,Korra’s subdued by her uncle Unalaq, who’s merged with the Dark Spirit Vaatu. Unalaq is able to rip the Avatar spirit Raavafrom Korra's body, severing her connection to the past avatars forever, thousands ofyears worth of knowledge snuffed out in an instant. Additionally, during this battle, we witnessa world shifting event called the Harmonic.
Convergence. Basically, a portal opens between the spiritand human worlds, allowing people and spirits to pass freely between them. At the end of it, Korra decides to keep theportals to the Spirit World open, a decision that reverses the stance of the very firstavatar and fatefully combines the human and spirit worlds. At first glance it seems brilliant, right? Wouldn’t the peaceful coexistence betweenhumans and spirits create a more meaningful bond between them?.
Well, not necessarily. The unforeseen consequence of these two vastlydifferent worlds colliding is complicated and really doesn't scream balance. First, the overlapping geographies of theworld create huge territory issues. Houses in Republic City are overrun by vinesand entire city blocks are destabilized. It doesn't matter if you're a bender or anon bender, finding your living room destroyed and your building about to collapse, is definitelyon the list of top five worst breakfast time surprises. And second, harmonic convergence gives Zaheer,one of the most dangerous warriors in the world, the power of Airbending, which he promptlyuses to start assassinating world leaders.
And throw the world out of balance. I'm going to chalk that one up as a big oopsiethere Korra. When you stop and look at the totality ofwhat we know about the Avatars, one thing becomes clear time and time again. This is a vicious cycle. Every single one of these avatars dealt withdifficult issues, but their solutions just wound up creating more problems for the immediatesuccessor. Szeto focused too much on his own country. Yangchen has to deal with and break down isolationistpolicies.
Yangchen helps make peace between the fournations, but at the cost of angering the spirits, Well, Kuruk has to spend his life battlingdark spirits and winds up neglecting the real world nations. Kuruk dies early in battle with spirits, leavingan unstable political situation. Kyoshi creates a secret police to try andpaper over the problems of her country. Roku shows favoritism to his home nation,Aang has to deal with the century long war and the death of his entire people. All of them ignore non benders, Korra hasto deal with the fallout and the Equalists. The Avatar cycle is a cycle of violence.
It is a broken system and honestly that makesperfect sense. Ask yourself, why does the avatar have tohave a monopoly on balance in this world? The very concept of the avatar is imbalanced. At the end of the day, the avatars possessthe power of a god, literally god of light, but they're still only humans. Aang was a 12 year old kid faced with solvinga 100 year old war. Kyoshi was a poor orphan. Eventually, she's going to defend her homeso it wasn't ripped away again. Roku was friends with Sozin.
Of course, he's going to be slow to actionand more lenient in his judgment. One person holding that much power, that muchinfluence, it’s a recipe for disaster. I feel like I've heard this somewhere before. In the end, the really successful avatarsor maybe the least unsuccessful avatars are the ones that don't do it alone. Aang saves the world from Fire Lord Ozai becausehe trusts his friends to help get the job done. Sokka, Toph, Suki, Zuko and Katara are alloff playing key parts in stopping the Fire Nation. While Aang has his rad Dragon Ball Z fightagainst Ozai. And those friends are just as essential afterthe war in helping him restore balance too.
His friends helped make and keep the internationalpeace all in ways that Aang wouldn't be able to do on his own. It just goes to show that controlling allthe elements in this world is meaningless if you don't also control the element of friendship. But hey, if you want more Avatar: The LastAirbender content right now, go check out our previous theory talking about the scienceof water bending. Yeah, believe it or not but what you see Kataraand Aang doing in the series isn't that far out of the realm of possibility. Or if you want something a little different,I actually teamed up with Nickelodeon themselves.
And did a video breaking down whether or nota creature as big as Appa could actually fly. It's different, but it was a really fun collabwith the people who made this show happen in the first place. As always, don't forget to subscribe withall that new Avatar content. You know, we're going to have a ton more tocover here on the channel. But until then, my friends remember it's alljust a theory A FILM THEORY! aaaaaand cut.
2 thoughts on “Film Theory: END the Avatar Cycle! (Avatar the Closing Airbender)”
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