Geek Moment #2: Katara, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

“No! I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me!”

Katara’s grandmother, Kanna, left her fiancé and her home the Northern Water Tribe for the Southern Water Tribe because she would no longer tolerate of the North’s misogynistic traditions.

Katara’s mother, Kya, sacrificed herself to save Katara from being killed by the Fire Nation in their hunt for the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe.

Katara, the last waterbender of the southern tribe, had it in her blood all along to inspire change wherever she went.

Although it was Aang’s destiny to restore balance to the world, the people that surrounded him were indispensable in getting him to that point. Katara was one of Aang’s strongest motivators in the sense that she would never let him be discouraged for too long. Even though Katara was, a little obnoxiously, the poster child for hope, without her, Aang probably wouldn’t have recovered as well as he had from the discovery of his people being wiped out by the Fire Nation.

“Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders may be gone, but you still have a family. Sokka and I, were you’re family now.”

Katara wasn’t just a big picture thinker. Yes, defeating the Fire Nation and ending the 100-year war was the end goal, but she always thought of people like Haru and Jet, sympathizing with their individual causes and wanting to help anyway that she could. The personal effects of the war that she felt and her connecting with waterbending allowed her to touch people: in spite of growing up within the confines of the South Pole, she was able to find people she could relate to and make them feel like they weren’t alone, Aang included.

Katara had such a strong sense of responsibility and was quite motherly, even being dubbed the “sugar queen” by Toph, but it was almost like she did nothing but take risks. She decided to follow Aang around the world with her brother, Sokka. She went to the Northern Water Tribe to learn waterbending although it was forbidden for girls to learn. She helped an Earth Kingdom village regain its power from the Fire Nation. She helped a Fire Nation fishing village get back by impersonating a spirit, destroying a factory, and running some oppressive factory owners out of the village. She even faced Azula head-on in battle when Azula was in full on crazy mode, something only the truly brave can do.

Katara’s face-off with Fire Nation Princess Azula during Sozin’s Comet. Cutting it close, but Katara’s genius definitely pays off.

Speaking of facing Azula, Katara was also a incredibly amazing waterbender. She devoted so much time to honing her own craft, as well as teaching Aang. She learned the most impressive of waterbending techniques, bested all of the male students when Master Pakku taught her in the Northern Water Tribe (not to mention she challenged him, too, and almost won), and even learned and mastered subforms of waterbending, like healing and bloodbending.

Not yet a master waterbender, Katara fights in a match against one to dispose of the Northern Water Tribe’s custom to not teach girls waterbending. 

Katara most importantly was willing to understand others and bring about change within herself. Little by little, she was able to chip away her hatred for the scapegoats she had representing the Fire Nation, like Prince Zuko. She made peace with the people in her life that she felt let her down, she was able to sort out any conflicts that would come up between her and that Gaang, and she was able to sort out her inner conflicts and bring herself peace as well.

Katara is a very important female character to exist within the entertainment sphere because she is a perfect example of substantive, well-rounded, growing female character. The type of person Katara is, who she grows into, and how she grows are all well-established throughout the series. Even if some growth is implicit, it never seems out of character or all of a sudden. She’s still Katara, from beginning to end, and it shows any girl who’s watched the series that you don’t need some drastic transformation or royal blood flowing through your veins to be amazing. That’s a pleasant enough takeaway message for me.

And as always, water tribe.

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