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Previously in Part 1, I have discussed how strong beliefs are the cornerstone of Fire Nation cultural traits. In this part I will discuss the other, darker side of that dedication: The sacrifice that such passion entails.

Sacrifice in Fire Nation culture, or why Zuko got his face burned off )
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* Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] fairladyz2005 for being kind enough to look this essay over prior to posting. Her comments and insights made it a much stronger work.

Ah, Fire Nation, Evil Empire of the Avatar series. What to say about your war-mongering ways and colonialism, your racism and destruction of whole cultures, your red-and-black décor that screams evil in such style?

In which I try to make my point with fart jokes and shipping rants )
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Continuing from Part 1 of the essay about the combination of steadfastness and dynamism that makes the Earth Kingdom so formidable, this second part of the Earth Kingdom culture essay is an examination of its diversity and ultimately identity.

Identity and Pride in Earth Kingdom Culture )
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Culture in Avatar: The Last Airbender Series:
1. What It Is to Be Free: Aang and the Spirituality of the Air Nomads
2. We Can Do This, Together: Community and Change in the Water Tribes
3. Stand Strong, Stand Proud: Earth Kingdom Resilience and Identity

The Earth Kingdom is a vast place. If you take a look at the map of the Avatar world, the Earth Kingdom takes up like two-thirds of the inhabited world and likely more with the destruction of the Air Nomads. Similarly, nearly two-thirds of the story of Avatar takes place in the Earth Kingdom, since much of Book 1: Water is about Aang and his friends traveling north through the Earth Kingdom.

How to summarize that sprawling group into a few words? )
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In Part 1 of this essay we examined the cultural values of the Water Tribes and how they affected the story of Avatar. Now let us take a look at the darker side of Water Tribe culture and how the Tribes worked through it as a society and as individuals.

Bring me all your chauvinists! )
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Culture in Avatar: The Last Airbender Series:
2. We Can Do This, Together: Community and Change in the Water Tribes

The Water Tribes come across as a people of contrasts. On the one hand they seem to be the great communitarians, valuing their communal ties and the bonds of family and friendship. On the other hand we have seen how oppressive that community can be in the Northern Water Tribe arc at the end of Book 1, when teenage girls were forced into arranged marriages and the role of women was strictly proscribed. How do we explain this seeming contradiction?

The characters show similar contradictions... )
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In Part 1 of this essay I have discussed the contours and contradictions of Air Nomad culture and how it influenced Aang and other air Nomad characters. Now I continue with a more in-depth discussion of their cultural values through Aang's story.

Returning was the just the beginning of Aang's journey for the meaning of freedom. Also, Star Wars! )
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Culture in Avatar: The Last Airbender Series:
1. What It Is to Be Free: Aang and the Spirituality of the Air Nomads
2. We Can Do This, Together: Community and Change in the Water Tribes
3. Stand Strong, Stand Proud: Earth Kingdom Resilience and Identity
4. Burn for My Belief: The Fire Nation and the Courage of Conviction
5. Subcultures and Conclusion

My account of Air Nomad culture is basically a story of one character, Aang. We know of others such as Monk Gyatso, Avatar Yang Chen, and other monks in flashback scenes from "The Storm," but as far as we know Aang is the last of the Air Nomads. His struggles to find the meaning of freedom and spirituality, while an individual story, is also about the culture he was raised in, its values, perspectives, and flaws. In a very real sense, his culture lives on through him.

In this essay I'll examine the idea of freedom. And Star Wars comes into it somehow. )
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In Part 1 of this essay on Avatar: The Last Airbender as a political story, I discussed attempts to resolve the crisis of a worldwide war unilaterally, from the Earth Kingdom side. In that part and Part 2 I talked about the reasons why the attempt failed, and indeed that maybe it was best that it failed--because the solution had to come from inside the Fire Nation. Until a viable alternative rulership presented itself, outside intervention might have done more harm than good. Then I said that such an alternative existed in the Fire Nation due to the history of anti-war dissent starting from Roku onwards, and that the internal movement to end the war found its focus and leadership with Prince Zuko, both Sozin's and Roku's descendant, finding his conscience and his destiny.
 
So all the pieces are in place, and the goal is clear: Zuko would become the new Firelord, replacing his father and vanquishing his sister. He would then end the war and bring peace. His uncle and his Order of the White Lotus cohorts would retake the city of Ba Sing Se, something crucial to stabilizing Zuko's rule. Dissidents to the new Firelord holed up in the world's greatest fortress would be a headache and a nightmare for Zuko, and risked splitting his nation apart. And most crucially, the Avatar Aang would neutralize the current Firelord Ozai.
 
Reasons I Love Avatar 4, Part 3 (in which we ponder kinslaying for fun and profit) )
 
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Part 1 of this essay on Avatar as a political story talked mainly about the Earth Kingdom and its political attempts to end the war, and the root causes of that failure. Here in Part 2 I will discuss another effort to end the war unilaterally from the outside, specifically the coalition invasion in "The Day of Black Sun." Then I will discuss the Fire Nation's internal anti-war movement and how it was suppressed ("The Avatar and the Fire Lord," "The Headband," and even brief mentions of Book 1 episodes like "The Storm"). Based on that, I will discuss how internal regime change was the only real solution to the war from the start. I will also ramble on about Zuko again, so brace yourselves for that.Reasons I Love Avatar 4, Part 2 (in which nothing goes according to plan, and that's a good thing) )

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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