Deconstruction: Ana Watches Avatar

I don't have a Narnia this week (at least not yet) and for this I am sorry--my laptop broke last week and it's made life exponentially harder because it was what I used from bed when my back was acting up (which is "most of the time" now).

I do, however, have a live-watch of Avatar: The Last Airbender which may entertain some of you. My short review is that Season 1 was fine, if a little rushed in parts (particularly over the self-sacrifice of a girl who is miserable in her misogynistic culture--her sacrifice is covered in literally two lines of dialogue, which... just... ugh.); Season 2 was one of the best things I've ever experienced and had an amazing disabled character with hopes and dreams and challenges and a world-outlook I knew as intimately as my own; and Season 3 showed the rift of a major creator shakeup (I'm told various people left the show) and is in my personal subjective opinion ableist garbage that stabbed me deeper than I could have imagined and over which I still quietly bleed.

All of which makes the show utterly impossible to rate as a single contained unit, of course, because "best thing ever" and "worst thing ever" don't average out cleanly. People have asked whether I recommend watching it and I never know how to answer the question. "Don't watch Season 3" would mean skipping the episode in Season 3 with the old lady and I did like her. "Don't watch Season 3 except for that one episode with the old lady" would be my recommendation, I guess.

To be clear before anyone leaps in to tell me my opinion is wrong, my gripe isn't just with the ableism of the stereotypical messy-haired, disheveled-clothes, cackling-descent-into-crazy villain. Awful as that is, I'm used to that by now. No, what hurt the most was watching how the Season 3 writers just didn't care about the disabled girl Toph, to the point of actually making her established trauma into a literal punchline. That hurt me, because it wasn't just benign neglect or careless invisibility--it showed people actually understanding how and in what ways someone like me is human but then laughing at the idea that anyone would ever care because, c'mon.

Why would you care about Toph getting a resolution of her parental arc? Why would you care about her receiving closure on the letter she sent to them pleading her case one more time and asking for a reconciliation on terms that respected her as a person and not a pet? (A letter she asked for help writing because she can't write!) Why would you care that she was shuffled off the show so everyone else could have a one-on-one episode with the Brooding Angsty Boy, a fact that was lampshaded with a scene where she tries to confide in him anyway about her problems with her parents, only to be brushed off because he doesn't care. Why would you care about a disabled girl, or the latter scene in the "recap" episode where she explicitly points out that everyone else has a character arc but she's just a cannon for them to point at problems so the plot can continue. (And of course she's okay with that because, like a good Disabled Character, she's just happy to be here helping.)

I cared. I cared. And it hurt to see that care mocked and belittled.



Enjoy the Storify if you're into that sort of thing. There are exactly 1,000 tweets, which is Storify's upper limit, I learned. I've placed an embedded Storify reader under the cut, though it might crash your web browser if you try to view it all here on Blogger. Direct link to a non-embedded view is here: Anatar.


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