In this current rewatch of Avatar the Last Airbender (I tried a couple years ago when it was on Amazon Prime. I got to the final 4 episode conclusion, went on vacation, came back, and found it had left prime. Just my luck) I had a thought that feels like it should be so obvious to everyone, and that the show pushed it so hard, yet everyone missed it. If Aang had not gone missing for 100 years Katara would have been the next Avatar.
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I’m not a lore person. I care more about the current story being told than the epic war that happened hundreds of years ago that led to the incredibly minor quirk characters have. I mean Edgar Write and Simon Pegg made fun of that in The World’s End. However, it’s hard to overlook the importance of Aang being frozen away for a century had on the impact of that world. One of the biggest being no Avatar existed, meaning the cycle was paused too. For as interesting as Korra is as a character and series it is never reflected that if things hadn’t happened the way they did she never would have been Avatar. If things happened the way they should have maybe it would have been Katara (also I like that Nickelodeon wants to promote Korra as a big symbol of LGBTQ representation but didn’t care enough about her or her series to let it finish up on their network or let the creators do more than have her hold hands with Asami. Seems very convenient to me).
There are some big gaps in the knowledge of how long it takes an Avatar to be picked or how long Aang would have survived if he didn’t get frozen, but 100 years seems like a reasonable enough time considering how long the other characters lived in Legend of Korra. So assuming it’s possible in the lore (I’m only doing this for people who care about that) it seems like a right choice that she would be picked.
Right away, if that was true, if she was in fact connected to the Avatar line it would make her finding Aang way less convenient. Now, her finding him with Sokka is not really a problem. That is just setup. It’s like arguing how it’s convenient Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider to get powers. It might be too easy, but it’s set up for more. However, having her being subconsciously connected to that power feels right. She was driven to that spot to to find him and free him.
Additionally she has a hero’s backstory (so does Sokka, but he isn’t a bender so just ignore him). Having a mother killed by the bad guys, an absent father, and lots of responsibility to help raise her only family left sounds like a hero’s story. Included in that are all her many victories in battle. Fight Zuko, saving and healing Aang, facing Azula to help end the incredibly barbaric ag nee kai tradition, and even facing a dark version of herself multiple times are all path/elements of being a hero.
But most importantly she is also the heart of the team. Out of the eventual five members of Team Avatar she, just like Aang, helps bring balance. Instead of bringing the nation and spirit world to balance she bring the party to balance. She is the emphatic one. She understands and gives second chances to people who don’t always deserve them. She fails at this many times, but she ends up bringing a team together to really help save the world. This is shown all the way back in season one when she frees the prison barge of earth bender. She can inspire hope. It certainly helps that Aang is around to be a symbol of that, but him existing doesn’t help the world if someone doesn’t push him. She does that.
Finally, she is also the narrator. It doesn’t help that there is a second narrator who explains what happened in previous episodes, but she gives the big explanation of the world. She literally gives the setup. If the series were in fact three novels (they’d probably be generic 3rd person) she might even be the POV character if it were a first person series.
In this rewatch I notice something I think people miss with Katara, she’s a great role model as a strong character. Korra was made to really push that strong independent woman character and is fine, but Katara feels more genuine. At every turn she stands up to sexism (can you imagine a kids show using that word now), anger, hatred, love, and everything else but still comes out on top without the fact she is a woman ever commented on as a major factor. She is a hero all her own and feels like she really could have been a great Avatar if given the chance.
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