Happy Anniversary to the “Avatar” Blog!
As of this past Sunday, I’ve been running this Avatar: the Last Airbender blog for three years. Is three years a long time? It certainly seems like it, especially to have been committed to maintaining a blog devoted to a single animated children’s show. Perhaps this says more about me than it does about Avatar, but don’t let that cloud the issue. Avatar is a very special show deserving of higher praise and analysis than I think it gets on average, and I’m eager to revisit it after The Legend of Korra has come to an end.
In other words, I’m much more excited to spend the time and effort needed to keep this blog alive than I’d been, say, a year ago. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot since then—it’s hard to tell—and what I’ve learned, I’d liked to apply to this blog, making it better than it’s been in the past. How? I’m not entirely sure, but a key word that comes to mind is openness. This openness involves both myself and my general readership.
For me, I’m making a conscious effort to open up my critical approach. Tox, a relatively new commenter on this blog, has illuminated some rather glaring flaws in my writing process (flaws which, upon brutal self-reflection and extemporaneous readings, I now recognize as having seriously hindered a respectful analysis of Avatar and Korra). To fix these issues, I’ll need to write more, while remaining conscious of where my biases and lack of knowledge gets in the way. I won’t totally abandon my more subjective, more personal approach, but it won’t be as egregious as it’s been in the past (I’d hate to hold up “The Southern Raiders” as the greatest episode without any objective and formal evidence to support my claim, regardless of my personal feelings).
As for the general readership: I can’t remember who suggested this, but I love the idea of making the Avatar reviews much more democratic. As opposed to the old model—in which I give my full thoughts on an episode, with little room for dialogue—perhaps the way it’s been going lately (with the quick impressions, followed by further discussion and elaboration from commenters) should be the standard for the future. Everyone here is so civil and articulate, even in disagreement, and I’ve really loved the responses to the individual episodes of Book Four. I think such a dialogue can only improve once our attentions are focused on the entire series in the retrospect (and in lieu of the production history). I’m still pondering this one, but it feels like the right way to go.
In the meantime: 1) there are still a few more episodes of Korra to go before the franchise comes to an end (and, judging by Korra‘s eventual slide out of the time slots of cable television, there will be no further on-screen stories or developments in the rich and intriguing Avatar universe), and those have to be dealt with as they come; and 2) among other things, the Frozen video review is still underway and taking up much of my free time. How much time? Enough to realize that my issues with Frozen go way beyond the movie itself—which is a typically well-made, moderately entertaining American feature-length animated movie—to the culture that surrounds it and made it such a massive success. I can’t say anymore that, since I want to save it for the actual review, but I will repeat a single observation: it’s frightening how thoroughly this latest generation has been swayed by nostalgia for even the most insipid products of our childhoods in the midst of late capitalism. [This has also affected the Avatar franchise, resulting in episodes like “The Headband” and “The Beach,” which pay awkward homage to the 80s films that creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko grew up with. The terrible love triangle of Book One and Two of Korra also hints at this postmodern self-indulgence (ominously calling to mind a belief of film critic Pauline Kael that a collaboration, or a “joint authorship…usually means a shared shallowness”).]
In a way, the issues I have with both Korra and Frozen are one in the same: their inherit progressive potential is squandered by their poor storytelling. Who knows what affect Korra could have had on the public consciousness had its creators fully adhered to the pragmatic needs of good narrative and entertainment. Who knows how much more meaningful Frozen could have been had it been conceived as more than a self-conscious continuation of the “Disney legacy.”
Maybe all these things and more will be speculated in the following year. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I’m excited to see where we go from here. I hope you all are, too.