Feminist Roles of "Avatar the Last Airbender"

Updated on June 29, 2020
Andromeda Gal profile image

Avatar the Last Airbender has been one of my favorite shows of all time. I've watched the entire series close to 6-7 times by now.

Strong Female Characters

Avatar the Last Airbender is a TV show that kids and adults fell in love with ever since its release. While the show's success has been earned for a variety of reasons, one of the main elements that stood out to me was the many strong female characters at the core of the story. In a world where females are too often overtly sexualized in media, it's refreshing to see a cartoon with such a positive impact on gender stereotypes. Together, let's revisit some of the strongest characters in Avatar the Last Airbender who also happen to be female.

Katara, The Waterbending Master

Katara fighting Mai
Katara fighting Mai

From the very first episode, Katara had to deal with Sokka's casual sexism. However, this was an important point to defining her character, as we watched her grow through the episodes. She was always eager to learn water-bending, constantly looking to improve herself.

The greatest turning point for our blue-eyed warrior was when she had to face off against Master Pakku, in proving herself worthy of fighting despite the gender stereotypes. Throughout the fight, she lets her emotions drive her to display her prowess. It is after Pakku agrees to teach her that we see Katara transform to be a true water-bending master.

Even after this point, we still see Katara grow as she reluctantly learns blood-bending. Facing off against the man who killed her mother showcased the amount of trauma she went through while still remaining strong.

Toph, The Blind Bandit

Toph at Earth Rumble VI
Toph at Earth Rumble VI

The Blind Bandit is no force to contend with. Toph Beifong, despite being blind her entire life, is shown to beat up burly men at Earth Rumble VI. Even this moment was drenched is casual sexism that Toph was merely some "small blind girl." The power of this moment was that she was able to single-handedly gain respect from not only the Avatar's team, but also from the audience as she quite literally destroyed the idea that she was weak.

Throughout the series, Toph is seen to grow not just in her physical abilities, but also emotionally to connect with her friends. Her resilience of learning metal-bending to escape from her metal trap displayed her resourcefulness and ability to think creatively.

Suki, Kyoshi Warrior

Suki, at the Boiling Rock
Suki, at the Boiling Rock

Suki's first appearance in teaching Sokka how to fight was itself a call-out to not underestimate women. While we did not see her reappearance until much later in the series, Suki was undeniably a powerful fighter. In the boiling rock episode, we see her agility and skill in making use of a "prison riot" situation.

In the final marks of the show, Sukki's courage and skill are used in tandem with the team as they take conrtol of an army ship.

Azula, Princess of the Fire Nation

Azula, at the Fire Nation
Azula, at the Fire Nation

It is not often we see the marks of a great villain. In fact, it's often that stories fall short because the villains are either not believable or not understandable enough. This is not the case for prodigy princess of the fire nation, Azula. Gifted at a young age, we see her growth and observe not just how intelligent she can be, but also her sheer power and mastery of fire-bending. Her character growth—or shall we say demise—demonstrated to the audience the way her mind was warped and bent by a war-torn nation at a young age.

Her signature blue flames and mastery of the ancient lightning bending technique was one of the most prominent and sinister features. With strategy and intelligence above all, Azula is not a force to be reckoned with.

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