As old shows are resurfacing on Netflix, many people are finding new interpretations and meaning within these stories.
Students have filled their alone time in quarantine by watching programs such as “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” or the follow-up series “The Legend of Korra,” which were recently added to Netflix.
“I watched Avatar initially when it first came out... throughout the years, I've always gone back and watched it occasionally,” junior Dalal Azzam said. “Then, right when it was announced that it was going to be on Netflix, I watched it all.”
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a show about a world divided into the four elements. During a destructive war from the Fire Nation, an avatar named Aang, along with help from his friends, restores peace and balance to their world.
ATLA had a run time of three years from 2005-2008 on Nickelodeon, followed by “The Legend of Korra” from 2012-2014. With its appearance on Netflix, those who did not watch the show in earlier years now have the opportunity.
“I actually didn't grow up watching Avatar. I grew up abroad, so it wasn't really as available to me,” senior Anum Imran said. “I started watching it when I got to college, so I watched (ATLA), and then I immediately started watching (LOK) because both of them were out.”
The follow-up series follows in its predecessor’s footsteps in establishing the world’s cyclical avatar as a 17-year-old girl named Korra. As the avatar, Korra is expected to continue to bring balance to the world, but often her age and maturity get in the way of her decision-making.
“It doesn't mean like that we just throw (Korra) away and label her as a villain or something, it just shows the complexities of people,” senior Rawan Abbasi said.
In LOK, Korra is an avatar unlike what audiences have seen in ATLA's Aang. At many points throughout the series, she fails in her mission of becoming a bender in many ways, attributed to the characterization of Korra being led by her emotions.
"I think that that's one of the things I like about the show is that (Korra’s) growing up with very hard expectations, and trying to grow up with that, and make mistakes in front of people, and not let people down," Abbasi said. "Even though it's kind of impossible to do because you're gonna disappoint someone at some time."
While Korra struggles to find herself in her world, she also struggles trying to balance her society full of different ideological standpoints and beliefs, and those that govern who enforces different rules and ideas.
“The entire world has a lot of historical, cultural and political lessons that are timeless, but also relevant to now,” Imran said. “You see instances of revolutions, oppressed people, or perceived oppressed peoples, that were actually stifled because they went too far.”
Imran said that a lot of the overarching themes resemble similar struggles in today's society, but not everything is applicable because of the framework that ATLA and LOK’s world is rooted in.
The villains of the world that ATLA and LOK both exist in are often the ones in positions of leadership and power.
“What I thought was interesting about the villains of the show was that each of them you sort of agree with them to an extent — everyone started with good intentions,” Azzam said. “It's showing the extremism of every topic.”
While both ATLA and LOK are well known for their world-building and character development, they have received some criticism for representation in South Asian culture in the first series.
“I found it really interesting that (in ATLA), the entire world is focused on an Asian-centric and then indigenous culture as well,” Imran said. “A lot of South Asians didn't feel represented in the original series, even though so many aspects of our cultures and religions were in there, but then you do see a lot more of that in (LOK).”
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