The Avatar Character Comparison – Aang

Continuing our series of posts on the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, we’re taking a look at Sokka this week. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead.

While it may seem a  bit strange to put the main protagonist (indeed, the centre of the whole show) roughly halfway through the series of posts, it isn’t without cause. It’s simply because the characters to come share much in common with Aang and it is necessary to cover him before we get to them.

Background

As the very title of the show implies, Aang is the last known airbender a group of monks who could airbend and who lived in various air temples throughout the world. After being frozen for 100 years, he is finally released thanks to Katara and must contend with a dramatically changed world. One in which all the nations have been at war for quite some time. The series sees Aang as he attempts to master all the elements before Sozin’s comet arrives.

Why We Like Them

Aang is fairly young and as a level of maturity to match. He is relatively jovial although at times we catch a glimpse of the pain in his heart. The destruction of the air temples, the realisation that almost all his friends are long dead. and the acknowledgement that in his time away, the world has become very different.

Aang is a likeable character on many levels but none more so than because he is relatively upbeat. While Sokka is the resident pessimist, Aang tends to see the bright side in most things. We see this time and again as he attempts to come up with solutions to the various problems that the Gaang faces.

It is also hard to ignore his sometimes cheeky attitude and his obvious compassion for Katara. Both facets of his character provide much of the comic relief and heart of the series.

What Makes Them Great Characters

His destiny aside, Aang is a balancing force between Sokka and Katara (and later Toph). He has a lot resting on his shoulders and he shows us how it is possible to deal with them.

The select use of the Avatar state as a symbol of his deeper emotions is a wise move on the creators part; illustrating how a character can have often hidden emotions that rise to the fore in times of distress.

Aang also shows how a character can mature over the course of the series. It’s a theme I keep returning to because it’s so prominent and important to the series. While the likes of Sokka and Katara develop physical skills, Aang parallels Zuko insofar as he must develop his soft skills, the inter-personal and psychological ones.

Much respect should be given to the series for having a character that engages in and questions many theological, psychological and metaphysical traits inherent in the world. Although some may scoff that Avatar is merely a kids show, oftentimes it delves into depths of the human psyche that many supposed “adult” shows choose to ignore. Aang is the character used for these voyages and he provides an ample vessel for doing so.

Conclusion

Although Aang is the nominal protagonist, he is but merely the keystone in an otherwise strong cast of characters. His central role in many aspects of the series and the themes it explores makes him a superb character and one which certainly raises the bar for not only kid’s shows but TV in general

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