Recently one half of Bryke, creators of Avatar: the Last Airbender, published a letter explaining their feelings about leaving the Netflix live-action Avatar project. Someone shady published a piece stating that the reasons they left were:
a) Netflix wanted to consider a few white actors and Bryke were very opposed, and
b) Netflix wanted to age up the characters so that they could include violence, blood, swearing, and sex, and Bryke wanted it to be, you know, FOR KIDS.
So this might not be true, and that article and guy who wrote it are for sure shady, but honestly all of that rings just a little bit true to me. Why else would Bryke leave, saying “You might like it, but whatever it turns out to be, it’s not what we wanted,” because, yikes.
First hearing the news I felt rage akin to how I used to feel annually for 10 weeks around May about Game of Thrones (there is now just a hollow blackened cavern where any feeling about GoT used to be). But at this point, I just have to laugh. Let’s go with it! If Netflix is trying to make Game of Thravatar, or Ravatardale, or Sabravatar, OK. Let’s imagine that, just for fun, and to soften the blow when the final product arrives.
The only problem is I’ve watched just one episode of Sabrina and none of Riverdale, so this will be depressingly Game of Thrones heavy – as in, the whole thing will be Game of Thrones. I’ll throw some A Song of Ice and Fire in there too. What would George RR Martin do with the Gaang? NOT AGE THEM UP AT ALL! Jon and Robb start at 14! Dany 13! 13! Why??????? Sansa starts at 12! Arya 9! Arya, now 10, is portraying a sexually-suggestive character on the stage and basically using seduction to get close to an assassination target in one of her preview chapters for Winds of Winter. I mean, her target is a pedophile, but still. He could have just NOT written it like that. In GRRM’s novelization of Avatar, you can bet the Gaang and co would be sexually active, maybe having sex scenes in excruciating detail happening on the page. Maybe one of the kids would have large, dark areolas and another of the kids would obsess about the large, dark areolas. But don’t fret, GRRM would also throw some rape or almost-rape in there too for all of the girls – for historical accuracy, of course.
K. Maybe it’s not entirely a hollow blackened cavern where my ASoIaF/GoT feelings used to be. Yet.
First thing’s first, and this has nothing to do with Game of Thrones:
Who do they want to cast as white?
- I’m trying to pick out some plausible characters and am really struggling. They just aren’t white. Why is this hard?
- The Cabbage Man?
- Maybe Aang
- Maybe everyone in the Water Tribes again
- … Zuko? They wouldn’t, would they?
- I can’t, it doesn’t make sense.
Game of Thravatar
Let’s begin at the end. It won’t have a satisfying conclusion. It will either have a conclusion so badly-crafted that we can’t help but wonder “Hey guys, maybe you’ve mentally checked out of this one and should move on to other projects that make you happy, like that ‘slavery is still legal in the 21st century’ one – ah, OK, maybe not that one, but still?” But they’re like “no, no, we’ve got this,” but it makes no sense, except that it is designed entirely on the format of “penultimate episode, something terrible and unexpected happens and involves a main character” set up in Season One, or they will just stop releasing episodes. And they’ll be like “we promise, we’re working on it,” but we’ll have seen the last few episodes they released and how they meandered and wasted time with characters who could easily have been cut entirely, like a three-parter on the swamp guy’s nephew and even a 40-minute arc of the mugger Iroh meets becoming a masseur, and we’ll think, “Nah, guys, I think maybe you want to quit and work on other projects that make you happy?” but they’ll be like “no really, it’s coming. Next year, I bet.”
While option two is frustrating, at least it’s not option one, where, I guess, in a shocker of all shockers, Aang decides, “Fuck it -” (and he says “fuck it” because he’s aged up) “why don’t I just harness the power of Sozin’s comet and destroy the Fire Nation?”
Zuko and Katara are there, and they either miraculously survive or they die and Aang is like “Oops but now I’m the Dark Avatar King Guy” and Toph “mercy” kills him while Momo wrecks all the Avatar temples, which are the symbols of Avatar power that corrupts, or something, and Iroh will be like, “Hey, wasn’t there supposed to be a climate change metaphor in here somewhere?” But everyone ignores him, because most of them are dead.
There would be incest and it is too gross to think about.
The CGI Budget
Appa gets killed instead of gets lost to save the CGI budget. Momo might also die due to this, but we need him to do the symbolic destroying of the Avatar temples so maybe not.
Hawky would be a raven, and he would say, “CORN!”
This would be OK.
Dangerous Ladies/Sand Snakes
When Zuko is at the Boiling Rock and Mai shows up, she should accuse him of cheating on her with Katara or something (hey, maybe he really does do that, why not), and say this incredible line, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.”
I can see Mai saying that. I can see anyone saying that. I mean, people say that on a daily basis. While I’m grocery shopping, I hear people saying this to each other. The cashier greets me with “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” On the radio, they introduce each new song with “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” And every song’s chorus is “You want a good girl/but you need the bad pussy.” PM Justin Trudea begins each Covid announcement with the time-honoured phrase, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” It is inscribed on the inside cover of every book, and is engraved on each tombstone. It will be on mine, when I die, and my last words will have been, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.”
Side note: I hope they paid that actress all the money for that shit, and also I know that they didn’t and that all the Sand Snake actresses were likely hideously underpaid.
Anyway. The dangerous ladies will be naked at least half the time for little to no reason. They will have clear motivations that the show will forget and entirely flub. We’ll barely see knife-throwing, chi-blocking, and blue flames. They’ll lose pretty much every fight within minutes. There may be WLW action that is not taken seriously, and there will literally be men onscreen watching every time it happens to reinforce that it’s only happening because of the straight male gaze.
Misogyny, in 100 different flavours
I did recently watch a few episodes and assorted clips from the earlier, “good” seasons of GoT, and I had forgotten how much the show hates women. Arya with her “most girls are stupid” and whatever crap that was with the Waif. Then there’s Brienne with “you sound like a bloody woman,” etc. How heartbreaking it is, that they made those two characters misogynists. Both of them have reasons to resent certain women in their lives, but Arya’s is sister-drama which is very different from hating ALL women, and in the books when Brienne thinks of people who have been cruel to her, shockingly, it’s always been men. But hey, they’re fighter-women so they must hate women just like all the men do, right?!
Here’s how that would look in Game of Thravatar:
- Toph’s “sugar queen”ing of Katara would increase tenfold
- Toph would say, unprompted, a whole bunch of stuff about how much she hates “girly” things and other women in general
- The part where she and Katara go to the spa and Katara tells her she’s pretty after bullies make fun of her would be cut
- “The Runaway” would be cut
- Nobody would ever say anything nice about Katara, ever.
- Whoever gets raped will have a scene where they say, “I’m glad it happened because it taught me not to be stupid and realize that the world is a dangerous place.” Not like she already knew that, or anything…
- They will write a consensual sex scene so poorly that the editing turns it into a rape scene. Genius!
- Azula would be openly dismissive of her friends. She wouldn’t care about them at all. When they turn on her, she would just lock them in a dungeon to slowly die and never think about them ever again.
- Similarly, any and all secret pain she feels regarding her mother would be cut
- Her mother is dead, in fact. Why have her be still alive, living in exile, for further comic books to explore? She’s a mom, we don’t care about her story unless she died tragically. Raped first, of course.
- None of the girls would ever talk to each other, basically
- Some of them might have sex, but again, only while some man watches. Extra points if it’s a man who has been castrated.
Misandry, but for real
Game of Thrones… might actually hate men as much as if not moreso than women, though the man-hate is sneakier and subtler. Poor Aang is not going to fare well.
- Gonna be a lot of physical and psycho-sexual torture of Jet when the Dai Li capture him
- Jet gets castrated by the Dai Li and then everyone makes fun of him for it, including when Smellerbee makes out with Katara in front of him or something
- Castration will be a widespread thing, and they’ll take as many opportunities as they can to draw attention to it. Like maybe someone actually tries to touch Jet’s genitals at one point and makes a comedy face, like, “Wait, whaaa?”
- Long Feng will kick Jet in the castration and it will not be painful at all, turning the tides in the important action scene.
- Except then Long Feng will kill Jet with a rock. But it’s OK because he was castrated, so what did he want to be alive for anyway, right? He can’t do anything anymore. You need a genitals for literally everything you do in a day, right guys?
- People will make castration jokes at Aang for some reason (probably because he’s a vegetarian)
- People will also make fun of Aang for being an Air Monk, and will make a lot of virginity jokes at him
- Aang has deep convictions about not killing anyone – as unseriously as Sokka already takes this in the original? Imagine that turned up to 1000.
- “You eunuch-vegetarian-virgin. You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy, and as we all know, that sacred saying means you gotta MAN UP and commit murder.” All of the previous Avatars will say this to Aang, as he asks for their wisdom while traveling on the Lion Turtle.
- Sokka will also not have a good time. He starts out making kind of misogynistic jokes, and that entirely ends in S1E4 after he meets Suki and learns a lesson. But in Game of Thravatar, that will never end. And until he fucks for the first time on screen (BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE ALL WANTED OUT OF A LIVE ACTION ATLA, RIGHT?), he is made fun of for not being enough of a man, or, something.
- Sokka’s jokes will be about sex and swear words, and nothing else (think Bronn’s “brilliant” material)
- Zuko will die. Instead of being redeemed, he’ll just switch to the good side at the last second and then sacrifice himself and die. (TBF this one is more a Star Wars thing, but, still)
- Or possibly, Zuko will do the hard work of redemption, but at the very end he will abandon it all and go hang out with Azula and be killed in Aang’s vengeance. He’ll be like, “Whatever man, I don’t care about anyone or anything.” And we’ll all be like, “Uh… like one episode ago you did, WTF?” And he’ll just shrug, and die, for no reason at all.
A Song of Water, Earth, Fire, Air
It would be too long.
Honestly? This book series took a lot out of me. It has taken me some time to realize this, but the reality is, even something that’s supposed to be as “harmless” as fantasy novels can still do harm.
I haven’t read one of these books in years. It’s been almost a decade since the most recent one came out, and for me, they didn’t have any reread value. Still, moments in them stick out to me like rusty nails I step on out of nowhere in my day-to-day life. Sometimes when a book or movie or a show does that, it’s special, but in this case it’s not. It’s all the horrific moments, which are only there to provide characterization for whoever is narrating at the time. Out of context, it’s just wanton cruelty, and it’s stuck on repeat in my head.
I found the politics interesting, the characters were very easy to love and to be terrified for, the villains easy to hate (yeah, Ramsay and Euron are not complex), complexities of characters who aren’t just villains were interesting… There’s just so much trash to wade through.
Near constant depictions and references to animal cruelty, rape, torture, and baby-killing. Beloved characters die, and their bodies and memories are desecrated. Very little justice. There is a lot set up, and so far, no payoff. This is in service to “subverting fantasy genre tropes and expectations.” Yeah. But first, are they being subverted, though? Did you see what happened to Jon in the show? Very typical. And very empty. Will the point, in the end, be that nothing matters? Then why wade through all the death and suffering of innocents and the vulnerable, just to reach that bullshit Nietzschesque conclusion? Second, you can’t subvert expectations at all, if no one knows how it ends.
Whatever. GRRM doesn’t owe anyone anything. But if I’m going to pay my money for a book, I want answers and payoff and closure. Open-endings are fine, as long at they are endings.
Also at this point I’m not unscrewing my skull and placing my fragile brain back into the planetos. I will read the plot points on wikipedia.
But for ATLA but live-action and on Netflix, I have but one planetos-related quip.
There is always one boob out in Ba Sing Se
Dany goes to Quarth in book 2 and we find out that the fashion there is to have a cheeky one out, as Hannah Gadsby would put it. So Dany lives her life in Quarth wearing gowns that are designed to always have one boob out. She’s like, just turned 14 at this point.
There are a couple of asides about men staring at her one exposed tit. One of the such pedophiles is of course show-fan favourite Jorah. Later, Dany is queen of Mereen, where it is NOT the fashion to have one tit out, Dany wears a dress “in the Quarthian fashion, with one breast exposed” or whatever.
I’m talking to GRRM, not Dany. Dany, you do you.
When I first read this I was like, “Oh, OK, cool.” It wasn’t until maybe a month ago, which is almost a decade later, that I’m realizing why in the show, when Dany arrives at Quarth, none of the ladies were walking around with one of their boobs just lolling about. HBO has a nudity quota, I thought, why not take this obvious chance to fulfill it?
Yeah. It’s because that would look ridiculous.
I looked it up on google, and, fine, women are beautiful, but the asymmetrical look is difficult to pull off, especially with an eye-grabbing breast in the mix. Google it yourself. You’re welcome. It still doesn’t look elegant.
It would also be really impractical. What if you have to lean over something, you could snag a nipple.
IT’S STUPID, I SAY.
I don’t want to accuse GRRM of anything untoward but like, it’s a fourteen-year-old girl and it would look bad and inelegant, so why is a boob out? And if that’s what he’s into (especially if there are large dark areolas involved, which, by the way, if you hadn’t already caught that from those unnecessary Oakheart chapters, that’s, uh, definitely fetishistic and racist, as Arianne is the only non-white girl here and the only one whose areolas are given such creepy, rhapsodizing attention), why not just keep that to himself and not publish it?
Anyway. GRRM would have Ba Sing Se fashion be one-boob-out and it would be stupid.
Also I maintain that for no reason at all, his characters are way too young.
Netflix, but why
I don’t want to sound puritanical about not wanting the ATLA characters to fuck. But that’s what fanfiction is for, and importantly, this is a property for kids. It’s one of the best shows ever put on television and it was made specifically for a child audience. Does it have to be taken away from them?
The original show implied sex. What was that Sokka/Suki thing in the tent?
The original show had a whole whack of violence. Zuko walks around with a third degree burn scar on his face. Do you need more? Do we need to watch people get their limbs crushed by earth-bending? Why? Just so kids can’t watch it?
Also, I watched A Series of Unfortunate Events. That show got away with a lot, but it’s still child-friendly, and it’s also fantastic. Not being able to just throw sex, swearing, and gore onscreen means a creative team has to get creative. That’s why entertainment made for kids, if it’s good, tends to be really good. Why not just go with that?
Why take Avatar from kids?
And Finally, Animation
I was looking forward to more ATLA content. Especially since they had Bryke, and they were “going to do it right,” and they were going to try to be as culturally sensitive as possible and give a whole bunch of jobs to a whole bunch of people of colour.
But the live-action remake does make animation seem less desirable and less prestigious and less important than live-action, and that remains very stupid.
Happily, no one can take ATLA and LoK away from us. They’re animated, beautiful, with great characters, great messages, friendly for all ages, and they have SATISFYING CONCLUSIONS.
THANK YOU TO THEM.