Avatar: The Last Airbender Adult?

24 09 2008

People say its taking the newer generations longer to grow up. That we’re not adults until we’re 25 or older, or at least we’re not ready to be adults.

But how can people say that when the themes and morals from young adult books, kid shows, and kid movies are getting more complex and more adult with every passing? How many kids read Harry Potter and were then accustomed to the idea of orphans, good, evil, friendship, death, and betrayal? The same can be said for Eragon readers or the Pendragon Journal readers.

Ideas of death, of friendship, of family, and of growing up and making the ‘right choice over the easy choice’ are overwhelming young adult entertainment.

Nickelodeon’s recently concluded amine show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, is a prime example of this. When a 12-year-old Aang, a young Air Bender (a bender is someone who can control one of the four elements: fire, earth, air, and water) discovers he is the Avatar, someone who can control all the elements, he’s forced to grow-up.

Something he initially fled from (for a 100 years by freezing himself into a ball of ice) but has to face when he wakes up to a world ruled and terrorized by the Fire Nation. Now its his job, his destiny, to restore balance and peace to the world (the four nations). That’s a big responsibility for a 12-yr-old boy, who just wants to play and have fun.

The three seasons/books of Avatar show Aang’s character development (from running and avoiding the inevitable to facing it and preparing for it). They also focus on Aang’s friends and enemies, who all come from different backgrounds with different views and ideas on life.

Aang’s two closest friends, Sokka and Katara, are members of an isolated water tribe whose mother was murdered by the Fire Nation and whose father is absent and fighting the Fire Nation. And Aang’s enemy, who later redeems himself, Prince Zuko (son of the Fire Lord Ozai), has been wounded and banished by his father (until he can regain his honor by capturing the Avatar).

With a shocking lack of parental figures, the Avatar brings up the ideas of independently working out your own issues, forming friendships with close bonds, understanding death and betrayal (as Aang had been frozen in an ice berg for a 100 years, so when he wakes up he does find his whole family gone/dead), and growing up in the right way.

Filled heavily with adult themes, such as finding refuge from the villains, making friends who you can trust, and even, in Aang’s case, finding a way to deal with killing someone (Fire Lord Ozai) romance and even war.

These can’t be themes and morals that slow down the growth of a generation! How many adults can say one of the phenomenal themes in their entertainment life was coming to terms with killing someone (like Aang or Harry Potter)? Or even, when Katara finds the murderer of her mom, does she extract revenge? 

I would almost say the coming generations are growing up too fast. There’s no real filter anymore, five-year-olds watch Transformers and Avatar and by ten, the kids know more about death and betrayal and friendship and growing up than 30-years-old do.

Its not Star Wars and Indiana Jones anymore that present themes and morals to the population, but cartoons and morning shows (which kids have all the access to because they’re supposed to).

But the question is, what’s too adult for kids and what’s too young for kids? How can there be a limit when what they’re presented with is so complex and so adult they’ll set for nothing else? And should we limit them? Is it easy to understand when you’re young than abruptly when you’re older?

The younger generations aren’t growing up too slow, but are they growing up too fast? Or right on time? 

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One response

14 10 2008
Mel Odom

I like this show. I’m going to pick it up on DVD.

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