RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

The Trek BBS title image

The Trek BBS statistics

Threads: 141,389
Posts: 5,505,251
Members: 25,128
Currently online: 505
Newest member: krash661

TrekToday headlines

Star Trek Opera
By: T'Bonz on Dec 19

New Abrams Project
By: T'Bonz on Dec 18

IDW Publishing March 2015 Comics
By: T'Bonz on Dec 17

Paramount Star Trek 3 Expectations
By: T'Bonz on Dec 17

Star Trek #39 Sneak Peek
By: T'Bonz on Dec 16

Star Trek 3 Potential Director Shortlist
By: T'Bonz on Dec 16

Official Starships Collection Update
By: T'Bonz on Dec 15

Retro Review: Prodigal Daughter
By: Michelle on Dec 13

Sindicate Lager To Debut In The US Next Week
By: T'Bonz on Dec 12

Rumor Mill: Saldana Gives Birth
By: T'Bonz on Dec 12


Welcome! The Trek BBS is the number one place to chat about Star Trek with like-minded fans. Please login to see our full range of forums as well as the ability to send and receive private messages, track your favourite topics and of course join in the discussions.

If you are a new visitor, join us for free. If you are an existing member please login below. Note: for members who joined under our old messageboard system, please login with your display name not your login name.


Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old October 19 2013, 12:18 AM   #1
Agent Richard07
Retired
 
Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

I decided to rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show I haven't seen since it ended 5 years ago. I finished the entire series and the M. Night Shyamalan movie over the last week.

I caught the show by accident when it first started in 2005 and although I enjoyed what I saw back then, I'm glad that I got to see it from a different perspective. It's no longer just a cartoon I caught and happened to like, it's an epic story and a phenomenon, and over the last week, I got to catch all sorts of things I missed the first time that either meant something or would become important later on. Watching the first few episodes, I found it to be rather kid-friendly, sometimes a little too much so, but it quickly got better and found its footing. It's very well written with with a lot of heart, good edge-of-your-seat drama and some wacky yet very clever laugh-out-loud humor that even an adult can appreciate. Then there's the animation. Rather than use computer generated tweened characters, they put a lot of care into crafting each scene and character expression so that everything and everyone comes alive and feels real, often with more nuance than filmed footage. In fact, I can't imagine how this show could be done in live-action while maintaining its tone and visual qualities. I also like how pretty much episode ends on a rather quaint and satisfying note. This is also the only show I could think of where every episode was important and advanced the story. No filler in 61 episodes as far as I could see.

Now for a few detailed observations for those who've seen the show…

BOOK ONE: WATER
  • Fun Fact: Azula is the firebender in the opening credits. I never new that.

  • I noticed that the four nations, as listed in the show's order, seem to follow how our civilization has progressed. Water is first and it's organized as a tribe, the most primitive form of civilization among the four. Then we move on to Earth which takes the form of a kingdom, something a little more advanced. Moving forward, we have Fire which exists as a moderd-day nation or at least something closer to it than the rest. And finally, we have Air which takes us beyond nationhood to something more enlightened… a nomadic people with little need for the social structures that came before.

  • It was nice watching Aang and Katara interact knowing that they'll end up together. Sokka even jokes about him being her boyfriend in the second episode.

  • Each animal is indeed a combination of two animals, but they started adding "normal" animals in later seasons.

  • Why is Roku the first one in the line of avatars at the temple? I'd think that he'd be positioned in such a way that they could add more statues pretty easily when the time came. I wonder if after every avatar, they have to move everything back a space so that the latest one is now first and center. I also wonder if Wan is there at the end.

  • That lock at the Air Temple looked ingenious. I imagine that it can't be opened unless air is funnelled in with just the right force, making it difficult and time consuming for anyone to build a contraption to open it.

  • I brought up some stuff in the past about about seven elements instead of four, the other three being sound, light and thought. This was based on the chakra system instead of the classic four. Looks like some qualities that should be associated with those other three got assigned to one of the existing four. Lightning, an aspect of sound (so says one source) got put with firebending and the sonic vibrations that Toph would use in Book Two, something that looks like an aspect of sound, got put with earthbending. I wonder what the manipulation of thought would go with.

  • Gyatso was Aang's air bending teacher and Tenzin was Korra's. Both are derived from the Dalai Lama's name which is Tenzin Gyatso.

  • The Fire Nation is truly cruel and oppressive, moreso than I remember and I found myself involved enough to genuinely not like them. For the first time, I can see why people thought that this war was a bigger deal than Amon's movement from The Legend of Korra's first season.

  • Iroh is a bit of an enigma. He seems like a wise and spirited man, yet he allies himself with the Fire Nation's regime. When I first saw the show, I only noticed his "good" nature in later seasons because he and Zuko were on their own, ostracized from their nation but a lot of that goodness can be seen in Book One. He's not easy to figure out. Maybe he, like a lot of people, is complex. He's a product of his environment but his wisdom still manages to find ways to come out whenever and wherever it can and probably did so with more frequency as he got older.

  • The world that was created for this show is vast and impressive with its great lands and cities. The show does well at capturing not only the imagination, but the peace and tranquility of a primitive land. This is a world I'd love to live in.

  • I recognized the distinctive voices of George Takei, Rene Auberjonois and James Hong.

  • They established a lot of things early on. We got to see the Kyoshi Warriors, the cabbage merchant, some mention of Ba Sing Se, the world map with the great wall and the Serpent's Pass, and some foreshadowing of Sozin's Comet. These are all things I either missed or couldn't appreciate the first time. Clearly a lot of planning went into crafting this saga.

  • I always thought that bending would create jealousy and resentment among those who didn't have the ability but surprisingly, that wasn't the case. Early on whenever the issue came up, the characters would almost make it seem like bending was an aberration or an odd little curse.

  • Aang and Katara learned waterbending together and there wasn't a whole lot of that going on. I didn't notice that the first time around.

  • There was some talk in the Korra thread about there being no caucasians in this world. Well, it looked like there were at least two… A redneck type with a southern accent in episode 11 and someone else in episode 12.

  • The avatar gets the best training that the world has to offer from the best teachers and masters, but now he has to rely on a tribe girl, a blind runaway and a former enemy. I didn't appreciate that situation the first time around.

  • I noticed that benders have different power levels and can hone their bending to do all sorts of specific things. It's not just a matter of bending or not bending. There's variety. I also see that the avatar can have a great deal of power to bend a massive amount of any element, but doesn't necessarily know how to use an element in a creative way. For example, the avatar might be able to create a massive rock slide but may not have learned to turn metal into armor. Makes me think that the avatar, although powerful, may not necessarily be the most skilled bender around if he or she hasn't learned a specific trick or skill.

  • I liked the firebending episode. It provided a great lesson on having power but not the training or wisdom on how to use it. It was a worthwhile sojourn from the "water" theme.

  • I've always wondered how animals perceive people and what they think. Then to my surprise, we get a scene with Katara talking to Momo and we see and hear what Momo sees and hears as an animal that doesn't understand english and just hears mumbling. That was pretty neat.

  • I didn't like the Northern Water Tribe's sexist attitudes and wonder how previous avatars learned water bending with traditions like that. I wish they could have gone into how the rule against women bending came about.

  • We now know that the physical world isn't made up of four elements, but I do like something I heard about a modern day interpretation of the classic elements. Instead of earth, water, fire and air, we have solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Four states of matter.
THE LAST AIRBENDER

Saw the live action movie for the second time right after completing Book One and oh boy! It was worse than I remember. I liked this movie a little better the first time I saw it, because I was excited to see a live-action Avatar, but now I see it for what it is. The world and cinematography looked spectacular, as did the special effects, and despite the racebending, it was well cast with some great actors. So where did it fall apart? Poor story structure that glossed over a lot, too much exposition, a lack of heart and above all, Shyamalan couldn't elicit any sort of performance from his cast. Everyone was reduced to reciting wooden dialogue through no fault of their own. The whole thing felt like an amateur fan movie on YouTube. It was a struggle to finish it. I did like a few bits though… I liked that princess Yue's hair turned black again when she gave up the water spirit to save the fish and I liked that Ong defeated the Fire Nation without having to turn into Water Godzilla. The movie also mentioned that avatars can't have families. The show didn't go with that but it might have been interesting if it did.

BOOK TWO: EARTH
  • The world-building continues to be great and Ba Sing Se was an awsome sight.

  • Despite being a kids show where kids are the main protagonists and often take on adult roles, this is the season where that is most apparent. It feels this way because the new antagonists are no longer adults, but Azula and her friends.

  • I liked that little history lesson on Omashu and the first earthbenders. That's how you do exposition.

  • I'm impressed with how they make the bending come alive like a real martial art. Standing on the shore, moving and easing the arms to-and-fro with the tides, etc.

  • As much as I disliked Shyamalan's movie, I was and still am a little curious about how Book Two would have turned out. I'm especially curious about what his version of Toph would have been like.

  • I wonder what would happen if the Fire Nation's royal family had an heir that wasn't a bender.

  • Avatar Kyoshi is fleshed out pretty well. She impressed me in her brief appearances and looked great for someone who lived to be 230.

  • The Kyoshi warriors do well without bending and so does Azula's friend Ty Lee with her chi blocking technique.

  • I like how the show portrays the spirits. Being spirits, I guess they can take on whatever form pleases them… an owl, a giant centipede with many faces, etc. It's a nice creative way to do it.

  • "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" and "Appa's Lost Day"s were among the most powerful and moving episodes of television I've ever seen. A great accomplishment for a kid's cartoon.

  • It only occurred to me now that Toph is the only one who has a last name.
BOOK THREE: FIRE
  • I used to like Azula with her forceful personality and self-assuredness but on this second viewing, I mostly saw a cruel girl. The excellent writing however, made her more than that. She has an angry demeanor that makes others around her uncomfortable and that really comes through. She's not just a two-dimensional mustache-twirling villain. I also liked her blue-colored "cold fire" in "Sozin's Comet", not just for the contrast with Zuko's yellow fire but because it probably represented her descent into an even colder more sociopathic state.

  • "The Beach" was another good episode. I liked getting some insight into the fire entourage and what shaped them into who they are. Then they ended the episode with style the way only Avatar can. That was a nice touch.

  • We finally got some background on what caused the Fire Nation to get out of control. It's an attitude of "we're better, you're less and you can benefit from our rightful guidance". It's an attitude we've seen many times already in our history and one I see in many individuals.

  • The epsiode where Aang went to school reminded me of Nazi Germany.

  • Like Kyoshi, Avatar Roku was fleshed out pretty well. I got a great sense of this man and his life in just 20 minutes. I wonder if his life and his look were inspired by Moses from The Ten Commandments. Even the way he dealt with the erupting volcano reminded me of the parting of the sea.

  • The first time I saw how Aang dealt with Ozai, I wasn't overly impressed but now I apprecite that outcome a lot more because the real lesson came before the confrontation. Aang struggled with the notion that he'd have to kill the Fire Lord but with a clear mind came more options that he couldn't see before.

  • I wonder if Mai will end up being Zuko's wife and mother to the Fire Lord on Korra. We may find out soon enough.
I loved this show and haven't been this moved by an ending since Babylon 5. I've been impressed by other endings, but not moved. I now consider Avatar: The Last Airbender to be one of my favorite shows.

The current graphic novel trilogy called The Search will be released as an oversized harcover book on Feb 5, 2014 just like The Promise was. I read that it was pitched as a TV movie but Nickelodeon declined. What a shame, but at least it continues the story of Zuko's search for his mother. I hear that Azula joins Team Avatar. I also look forward to the next trilogy called The Rift. It deals with the beginnings of Republic City.
Agent Richard07 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 02:04 AM   #2
Mr Light
Admiral
 
Location: Pennsylvania
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

My vote for best animated series ever.
__________________

Mr Light is online now   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 02:06 AM   #3
RoJoHen
Awesome
 
RoJoHen's Avatar
 
Location: QC, IL, USA
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

This is absolutely one of my favorite shows of all time. I actually just finished rewatching it last week for the fourth or fifth time all the way through. I learn more every time I watch it. I think one of my favorites about it are the subtle ways in which the characters get better at their bending without really talking about it. It's not like Katara suddenly learns a new move and goes, "Hey, look what I can do!" There is a natural progression of their powers. In the early episodes she can barely make waves. By the end of the show she's skating around on ice and fighting people off with her water tentacles.
__________________
I am the Quintessential Admiral.
RoJoHen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 02:35 AM   #4
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Scaredface wrote: View Post
I noticed that the four nations, as listed in the show's order, seem to follow how our civilization has progressed. Water is first and it's organized as a tribe, the most primitive form of civilization among the four. Then we move on to Earth which takes the form of a kingdom, something a little more advanced. Moving forward, we have Fire which exists as a moderd-day nation or at least something closer to it than the rest. And finally, we have Air which takes us beyond nationhood to something more enlightened… a nomadic people with little need for the social structures that came before.
Err, what? Nomadism is probably the most ancient of the four. And it's invalid to assume there's some kind of single "upward" progression in the development of civilizations. Different forms of societal organization are simply more suited for different environments and conditions. There are cases in history where groups which had lived in settled agrarian societies adopted a more tribal existence when their circumstances changed, either because they migrated to a new environment or had the definition imposed on them by civilizations. For instance, Native Americans were traditionally organized in bands and villages rather than tribes, but colonial and United States policy toward them was based on a false belief that they were descended from the lost tribes of Israel, and so the laws and policies pertaining to them were based on a definition of them as a tribal people, forcing them to adopt that model in order to get treaties or benefits from the US.

Also, nomenclature aside, the Fire Nation is just as much a monarchy as the Earth Kingdom. The latter is ruled by the Earth King, the former by the Fire Lord. Strictly speaking, "nation" doesn't refer to a system of government, but to a group identity based on common origins, kinship, or culture. It comes from the Latin word for "birth," and in its original use was essentially synonymous with "race." The populations in the Avatar world are called the Four Nations collectively.


The Fire Nation is truly cruel and oppressive, moreso than I remember and I found myself involved enough to genuinely not like them. For the first time, I can see why people thought that this war was a bigger deal than Amon's movement from The Legend of Korra's first season.
Well, there's also the fact that the war lasted a hundred years and resulted in the genocide of nearly the entire Air Nomad nation and nearly all the waterbenders in the Southern Water Tribe.


Iroh is a bit of an enigma. He seems like a wise and spirited man, yet he allies himself with the Fire Nation's regime.
That's his family, not just his regime. He stayed with them out of his responsibility to his family, especially Zuko. And to his people whom he loved. The abuses committed by others in the royal family doesn't mean that the people of the Fire Nation weren't worth protecting. I imagine Iroh did his best to be a moderating influence on the family's excesses.


There was some talk in the Korra thread about there being no caucasians in this world. Well, it looked like there were at least two… A redneck type with a southern accent in episode 11 and someone else in episode 12.
One can't read too much into the accents, given that most of the characters have American accents. But it would help to be more specific about whom you're referring to. Episode 11 was the much-reviled "The Great Divide," and I can't think of any "redneck" characters there. The closest thing would be the Zhang tribe and their rather rustic ways, but they were tan-skinned, plus they were named Zhang. And I don't know of anyone in episode 12, "The Storm," who'd fit the bill.


I didn't like the Northern Water Tribe's sexist attitudes and wonder how previous avatars learned water bending with traditions like that. I wish they could have gone into how the rule against women bending came about.
Well, the previous female Avatar, Kyoshi, lived centuries before we visited the NWT, so maybe the rule only came about in recent generations. Or maybe they made an exception for the Avatar.
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 11/16/14 including annotations for "The Caress of a Butterfly's Wing" and overview for DTI: The Collectors

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 03:14 AM   #5
RoJoHen
Awesome
 
RoJoHen's Avatar
 
Location: QC, IL, USA
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Christopher wrote: View Post
I didn't like the Northern Water Tribe's sexist attitudes and wonder how previous avatars learned water bending with traditions like that. I wish they could have gone into how the rule against women bending came about.
Well, the previous female Avatar, Kyoshi, lived centuries before we visited the NWT, so maybe the rule only came about in recent generations. Or maybe they made an exception for the Avatar.
Or maybe previous Avatars didn't train in the North Pole. Maybe Kyoshi trained in the swamp!
__________________
I am the Quintessential Admiral.
RoJoHen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 03:18 AM   #6
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Hmm, yeah... the reason Aang and Katara had to train in the North was because there were no other waterbenders left in the South. But that wouldn't have been the case in earlier Avatars' lifetimes.

Indeed, after having seen The Legend of Korra: "Beginnings" earlier tonight, I'd imagine that the South Pole would be more closely connected with the Avatar than the North, given that
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 11/16/14 including annotations for "The Caress of a Butterfly's Wing" and overview for DTI: The Collectors

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 03:19 AM   #7
RoJoHen
Awesome
 
RoJoHen's Avatar
 
Location: QC, IL, USA
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Craaaaaaaaap! I forgot to watch the new episode tonight!
__________________
I am the Quintessential Admiral.
RoJoHen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 03:29 AM   #8
Kelthaz
Rear Admiral
 
Kelthaz's Avatar
 
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Brilliant show that somewhat jumped the shark in the third season. It remained a quality show, but the writing started to get sloppy starting with Fire and that continued into The Legend of Korra.
__________________
"Who are you?! And how did you get in here?!"

"I'm the locksmith. And... I'm the locksmith."
Kelthaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 04:02 AM   #9
Agent Richard07
Retired
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

^ The Legend of Korra does seem a little more shaky in comparison but I had no issues with Avatar's Book Three.

Mr Light wrote: View Post
My vote for best animated series ever.
Having just come off the show it is hard to find good contenders.

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
This is absolutely one of my favorite shows of all time. I actually just finished rewatching it last week for the fourth or fifth time all the way through.
Your post in the Korra thread was one of the reasons I decided to check it out again. That and I really needed to freshen up on everything.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Nomadism is probably the most ancient of the four. And it's invalid to assume there's some kind of single "upward" progression in the development of civilizations. Different forms of societal organization are simply more suited for different environments and conditions. There are cases in history where groups which had lived in settled agrarian societies adopted a more tribal existence when their circumstances changed, either because they migrated to a new environment or had the definition imposed on them by civilizations.
Given that we have four elements that exist in progression, I found myself doing that with the nations themselves. As for nomadism being the most ancient, you can argue that, but my thinking was that someday we'll move beyond the excesses of our modern world with its nation states and onto something with more simplicity and mobility. That's why I put that ahead of the nationhood we see with Earth and Fire. The Air Nomads have always struck me as more enlightened, not more primitive.

That takes me to another issue… I'm surprised that they have territory. Given that they're nomads, I'd think that having temples among the other nations' territories would be sufficient and in fitting with their enlightened nomadic nature.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Also, nomenclature aside, the Fire Nation is just as much a monarchy as the Earth Kingdom.
The Earth Kingdom seems more like early Europe while the Fire Nation seems more like the later British Empire. Similar, but one does feel a little more "advanced" than the other. You can see it if you squint. Although I suppose you could argue that the empire-minded fervor of the Fire Nation is what makes them seem that way.

Christopher wrote: View Post
[Iroh] stayed with them out of his responsibility to his family, especially Zuko. And to his people whom he loved. The abuses committed by others in the royal family doesn't mean that the people of the Fire Nation weren't worth protecting. I imagine Iroh did his best to be a moderating influence on the family's excesses.
A good way of putting it. I was going to say that Iroh was more of an observer who was there to support Zuko but I decided to leave that out of my initial post.

Christopher wrote: View Post
One can't read too much into the accents, given that most of the characters have American accents. But it would help to be more specific about whom you're referring to. Episode 11 was the much-reviled "The Great Divide," and I can't think of any "redneck" characters there. The closest thing would be the Zhang tribe and their rather rustic ways, but they were tan-skinned, plus they were named Zhang. And I don't know of anyone in episode 12, "The Storm," who'd fit the bill.
The Great Divide: The Canyon Guide
The Storm: The Fisherman (I think)

I didn't know that "The Great Divide" wasn't well liked. My only problem was that a century seemed too recent for a feud like the one we saw.

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
Or maybe previous Avatars didn't train in the North Pole. Maybe Kyoshi trained in the swamp!
I briefly thought of that too.
Agent Richard07 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 05:07 AM   #10
RoJoHen
Awesome
 
RoJoHen's Avatar
 
Location: QC, IL, USA
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Scaredface wrote: View Post

I didn't know that "The Great Divide" wasn't well liked. My only problem was that a century seemed too recent for a feud like the one we saw.
In Season 3's "The Ember Island Players," when Team Avatar goes to see the play, the actors are flying on Appa, and Aang says something like, "Look, everybody, it's the biggest canyon in the world!" Sokka's reply is, "Nah, let's just keep flying!"

Even the writers acknowledged that "The Great Divide" was kind of a crap episode.
__________________
I am the Quintessential Admiral.
RoJoHen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 05:37 AM   #11
Mr Light
Admiral
 
Location: Pennsylvania
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

I don't think it was a bad episode. It wasn't a great episode, but it wasn't terrible. It was nice to see Aang trying to play peacemaker between two warring tribes. And it's always nice to hear Rene Auber... Auber... ODO!
__________________

Mr Light is online now   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 06:32 AM   #12
Agent Richard07
Retired
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
In Season 3's "The Ember Island Players," when Team Avatar goes to see the play, the actors are flying on Appa, and Aang says something like, "Look, everybody, it's the biggest canyon in the world!" Sokka's reply is, "Nah, let's just keep flying!"

Even the writers acknowledged that "The Great Divide" was kind of a crap episode.
Interesting catch.
Agent Richard07 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 10:19 AM   #13
RoJoHen
Awesome
 
RoJoHen's Avatar
 
Location: QC, IL, USA
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Mr Light wrote: View Post
I don't think it was a bad episode. It wasn't a great episode, but it wasn't terrible. It was nice to see Aang trying to play peacemaker between two warring tribes. And it's always nice to hear Rene Auber... Auber... ODO!
It really isn't that bad, but in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty forgettable.
__________________
I am the Quintessential Admiral.
RoJoHen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 03:40 PM   #14
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

Scaredface wrote: View Post
Given that we have four elements that exist in progression, I found myself doing that with the nations themselves. As for nomadism being the most ancient, you can argue that, but my thinking was that someday we'll move beyond the excesses of our modern world with its nation states and onto something with more simplicity and mobility. That's why I put that ahead of the nationhood we see with Earth and Fire. The Air Nomads have always struck me as more enlightened, not more primitive.
"Primitive" is a loaded and condescending term, one best avoided in an anthropological discussion. There's no simplistic upward ladder in cultural development any more than there is in biological evolution. There's just adaptation to the demands of one's circumstances.

It used to be believed by Westerners -- and by urban-dwelling Asians -- that the horse nomads of Central Asia were more "primitive" than agrarian or city-based societies, but in fact they started out as agrarian peoples and later adopted nomadic pastoralism once the introduction of rideable horses gave them a new means to exploit an environment that had previously been unexploitable. Far from being a regression to an earlier state, it was an adaptation made possible by a societal innovation, the breeding of horses into riding animals. Similarly, it used to be believed by Westerners that Native Americans were more "primitive" than Europeans because they didn't use metals to the same extent or in the same ways, but now we understand that they'd simply developed in a different direction, one focused more on mastering organic materials than inorganic ones, and were actually much more advanced than Europeans when it came to agriculture, selective breeding, construction based on organic materials, etc. The natives' longbows actually had greater range and accuracy than the colonists' crude guns.

And of course cultural or philosophical enlightenment is a totally different matter from the sophistication of one's subsistence methods or technology. There's no simple upward progression there either. Technological or material innovation can promote enlightenment, for instance by making education more available or giving more opportunities to women or minorities, or it can work against enlightenment, for instance by increasing the demand for slave labor and exploited factory workers or by facilitating the spread of destructive propaganda.


That takes me to another issue… I'm surprised that they have territory. Given that they're nomads, I'd think that having temples among the other nations' territories would be sufficient and in fitting with their enlightened nomadic nature.
On the other hand, nomads inhabiting other cultures' territory often find themselves under pressure to assimilate. There's a long history of nomadic peoples being subject to oppression and persecution, or otherwise having difficulty maintaining their distinct identities. Ask the Roma. Or ask the Jews why they felt it necessary to have their own homeland.

Besides, nomadism doesn't necessarily mean having no territory at all. Lots of nomadic cultures engage in seasonal migrations between established sites, coming back to them year after year. The Air Nomads' migration among the four Air Temples seems to fit this pattern.


The Earth Kingdom seems more like early Europe while the Fire Nation seems more like the later British Empire. Similar, but one does feel a little more "advanced" than the other. You can see it if you squint.
Actually the Earth Kingdom is based on 19th-century China while the Fire Nation is based on Imperial Japan. Again, there's no simplistic hierarchy of "advancement," just different choices and adaptations. For most of the Common Era, China was the most advanced civilization on Earth. The reason the Industrial Revolution happened was because Europe was strongly motivated to improve its transportation methods in order to gain better access to the wealth of China, and to improve its manufacturing methods in hopes of competing with the wealth of China. When Europe then forced Japan to open its borders, Japan embraced industrialization, enabling it to race ahead of China as well. But they also embraced aggressive cultural imperialism and conquest, which can hardly be considered more enlightened.

So, again, there's no innate "superiority" to any of these cultures. A culture that's "less advanced" in one century may become "more advanced" in the next -- and the pendulum can swing back the other way in a later century. For the past few generations, the United States has been the most technologically advanced society, but now our educational system is under threat from growing cultural conservatism and we're rapidly losing ground to India, China, and other countries.


The Great Divide: The Canyon Guide
The Storm: The Fisherman (I think)
Neither of those characters looks any more "Caucasian" to me than any of the other Earth Kingdom characters in the show.
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 11/16/14 including annotations for "The Caress of a Butterfly's Wing" and overview for DTI: The Collectors

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 19 2013, 04:08 PM   #15
Agent Richard07
Retired
 
Re: Avatar: The Last Airbender - A Review

^ An educational post. I've never been curious enough about history to look into all that. But as far as tribes and similar arrangements being considered primitive, I don't think that's such a derogatory thing to say. On one hand, yes, some peoples do live that way because it's the natural direction for them or because of circumstance or environment but on the other hand, you have to start somewhere and small bands do come before larger nation states.
Agent Richard07 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Tags
the last airbender, the legend of korra, tv reviews

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 04:24 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.