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Netflix’s Last Airbender Can Improve Aang By Making Him More Like Korra

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender could use the titular character’s successor, Avatar Korra, to improve upon Aang’s character. Aang is the lighthearted, kind, naive protagonist of Nickelodeon’s original animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Upon the release of the show’s sequel, The Legend of Korra, it became clear that Korra—both the character and the show—was much more mature than its predecessor.

With the announcement from Netflix that they would be producing an adaptation of The Last Airbender, talk quickly turned to how the characters, stories, and tone of the original show would translate from animation into live-action. It was revealed the creators of the original show, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, would serve as showrunners, hoping to avoid Netflix’s live-action mistakes like with Cowboy Bebop. Unfortunately, the pair departed the series citing creative differences, throwing into doubt how authentic the adaptation would be to the original show.


Related: Avatar: Why Korra Was A Better BENDER Than Aang

Despite this, Netflix still has an opportunity to explore the characters of the original show in a new light for several reasons. One of those reasons comes in the form of The Legend of KorraKorra was a show made again by Nickelodeon with DiMartino and Konietzko serving as creators and showrunners. While the fan reception to Legend of Korra was certainly more divisive than that of The Last Airbender, there are ways Netflix can use the sequel series to benefit its adaptation, specifically when concerning Aang’s character.

Netflix Can Allow For Aang’s Darker Themes To Be Explored In A Deeper Way

Netflix producing the adaptation for Avatar: The Last Airbender allows for Aang to be explored much more profoundly than was possible on Nickelodeon. It is worth noting that Nickelodeon, and the original show, did explore Aang’s traumatic experiences to some extent. However, the target audience for that show was and still is young adults and children, meaning some things couldn’t be explored to their full potential. The Legend of Korra though was much more mature in its tone than The Last Airbender. While it still aired on Nickelodeon, it seemed like the creators were allowed more freedom in just what they could show to explore the deeper themes of Korra’s character in comparison to Aang’s. This means that Netflix can also do the same, given the more adult and mature content that has been presented on the streaming service over the years. The Last Airbender can explore the darker themes of the original show in a way Nickelodeon, a channel dedicated solely to younger audiences, didn’t allow.

Korra’s Trauma Was Explored Differently To Aang’s

the legend of korra netflix the last airbender

The Last Airbender often explored Aang’s deep-rooted issues throughout singular episodes rather than extensive character arcs. For the most part, especially in the show’s first season, Aang was a very childish, overly exuberant character. It was in this season, that the more mature themes of his character were mainly given one episode to shine. For example, the season 1 episode “The Southern Air Temple” featured one of Aang’s biggest traumatic events. In the episode, Aang comes to terms with the fact he has been in cryosleep for 100 years, and he is the last surviving member of his tribe. At the end of the episode, Aang, Katara, and Sokka find the body of Aang’s old air-bending master and father figure, Monk Gyatso. This causes Aang to enter the Avatar State due to his anger and intense grief, with the episode ending on a very somber note. While this is certainly one of the central parts of Aang’s character, even lending itself to the title of the show, it is rarely explored on this level again.

Similarly, episode 12 of season 12, “The Storm”, sees the young Avatar Aang dealing with his guilt over leaving the Southern Air Temple and being frozen in ice, allowing Fire Lord Sozin, the grandfather of Aang’s enemy Fire Lord Ozai, to commit genocide against the Air Nation and begin the Hundred Year War. The episode heavily features flashbacks to Aang’s past, showcasing his reluctance to become the Avatar and the effect that had on his childhood. Again, most of Aang’s guilt and childhood trauma are explored in this one episode. It is only in the season 2 arc in which Aang’s best friend and animal companion Appa is stolen that a facet of Aang’s trauma is showcased across multiple episodes, drastically changing his character towards the end of the season. While these are certainly dark themes, and much more mature than regular children’s shows, the way Korra’s trauma was explored is much more natural and could improve Aang’s character in the live-action Netflix adaptation should it be implemented.

Related: Why Legend of Korra Is BETTER Than Avatar: The Last Airbender

The Legend of Korra showcases Korra’s trauma in a much different way. Rather than being focused more centrally on one-off episodes, the more mature nature of the show allows for Korra’s issues to be spread out across the entire show. The main examples of this come in the season 2 and season 3 finales of The Legend of Korra. In these episodes, Korra loses her spiritual connection to her past Avatars and becomes paralyzed by the Red Lotus after being poisoned, with both of these issues having long-lasting effects on Korra. One of her main frustrations with herself throughout seasons 3 and 4 is that she can’t ask her previous Avatars for help like Aang did with Kyoshi for her different mindset, or Roku for his wisdom. Also, her paralysis at the end of season 3 extends across the first part of season 4. However, where these two events differ from Aang’s issues, is that they culminate in a heartbreaking, intensely realistic depiction of PTSD for Korra across The Legend of Korra season 4. The entirety of the last season tells the story of how these events have caused Korra severe traumatic stress, making her less effective as an Avatar overall and showcasing her need to overcome her past trauma. This is starkly different from Aang’s portrayal, with a lot of Aang’s issues being addressed in singular episodes and less effecting on his overall life, barring a few specific instances.

Making Aang And Korra More Similar Will Make Their Differences Less Jarring

Aang and Korra on Avatar: The Last Airbender

Making Aang more like the titular character of Legend of Korra in Netflix’s The Last Airbender in terms of the show’s portrayal of his traumatic events will be beneficial in more ways than one. While it would allow Aang’s issues to be presented more naturally, showing his struggle to deal with the massive issues the original show presented over a longer period, it will help address one of the biggest criticisms of The Legend of Korra—especially if Netflix decides to adapt the latter down the roadOne of the main criticisms of the sequel show was the drastic change between Aang’s character and Korra’s. While a lot of those changes personality-wise were necessary and helped establish Korra as her own character who wasn’t overshadowed by Aang, showing both of the characters dealing with trauma in similar ways would help lessen the differences between Avatar Korra and Avatar Aang. In doing so, it would give the characters something in common outside of simply being Avatars. This would make their drastic personality differences potentially less jarring, should Aang be shown as more similar to Korra in Netflix’s adaptation.

It remains to be seen just how the iconic characters of Nickelodeon’s cartoon will translate to live-action. However, it remains true that Netflix could learn from The Legend of Korra and would be wise not to dismiss it as a disconnected sequel. Bridging the gap by exploring how the two titular characters deal with their trauma would not only allow Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender to be more emotionally resonant and more mature than its subject matter but would make Aang and Korra, his spiritual successor, feel more connected and allow audiences to further sympathize with the hero who strives for balance in a wartorn world.

Next: Why The Avatar Live-Action Show Will Be Better Than Original Last Airbender

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