Which character do you like best?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Katara A:TLA/The Last Airbender

Todays character:  Katara!
ps. see some of my original work here: raweraser.blogspot.com

Sweet, a little dramatic at times, but kick ass. 
She may make us full of awe, but stay tuned 
her film (would be) franchise counter part is just 
You see what I did there.
So small-white-girl, it actually hurts...


Aka: Little miss exposition
believability: Katara's characterization throughout the show is truly dynamic. If the show is a story of growth from child to man for Aang, it is even more-so for Katara. She comes off, at the beginning, like a young teenage girl. As the series moves forward, Katara becomes a major player, not just as a vapid love interest for Aang or to narrate the opening credits, but as a warrior, strategist and protagonist. The story becomes as much her story as Aangs. She is responsible but is shown to not always be so.  Possibly the only moment I personally have with Katara where her believability is questioned is at the very end when she finally accepts Aang's crush and returns his love. For me, this is unrealistic. Katara has spent far too much of the show denying Aang feelings for them to suddenly come rushing in. Let's face it, how many young people would actually forgo someone they truly had feelings before just because there was a war on? For most young people, a war like that would be reason enough to prompt marriage, let alone dating. She makes it clear she has no feelings for Aang. His love is so unrequited it hurts. The ending was simple wish fulfillment. That being said, I love all of Katara and Aang's children, so that makes up for it a little, especially Bumi. (But seriously, 'war' didn't exactly stop her when it came to Haru. Or Jet. "Now's not the right time" is girl for "oh god I don't know how to say no without hurting his feelings so I'll let him down so gently that he won't get it")

How did miss exposition stack up? Well... she... she's ok at reading the plot synopsis off of wikipedia... but she misses about 75% of everything that happens inbetween leaving the south pole and... arriving at the north pole... It's actually amazing how we are literally hearing the thoughts of this little 14 year old girl, but we get no trace of her personality at all. I don't believe her because it sounds like she's reading off the wikipedia page. Now I'll be straight with you: this is the screenwriters fault and the directors fault. We see more or less nothing that happens to these characters. We don't see Katara's interactions with her brother or Aang and so we cannot even begin to sense their connection. If only Mr. Llama had read the script before hand! If only he had had the presence of mind to hire a better director! Who were these dumbasses who screwed up Mr. Llama's adaptation?! 
Oh wait, he wrote and directed it himself... 
 I don't think we've seen so much producer/director/writer failure ever in one room -
Oh. Right. Nevermind.

Score: 9.5/10 0.2/10 (she giggled convincingly like... once)

Katara is, surprisingly, not a Mary Sue; she struggles for a vast majority of the first season in developing her waterbending and is often jealous at the rate Aang progresses in his own training. What takes her months to learn often takes Aang seconds and she is gets jealous and annoyed because of it. She is impulsive in many points, and believes the best in people, especially when she finds them attractive like Haru and especially Jet. This infatuation can even blind her to the insanity jet causes. However, when she does finally see Jet for what he really is, she refuses to be a push over ever again. She holds grudges fast and hard - she never seems to truly forgive Jet for lying to her until it is too late and she cannot save his life. She still shows signs of feelings for him and that her feelings remain hurt. However she is able to mend these faults through Zuko. In many ways for Katara, Zuko and Jet act as foils for one another. Katara trusts them both, is betrayed, and then she rejects them upon their return. The difference in them is not in Zuko and Jet's characters but in Katara's learned lesson: Where she refused to forgive Jet, she forgives Zuko, and the two combine to make an unstoppable team. Also don't forget that time she stole waterbending scrolls from pirates. That was a mistake.

Miss Exposition... isn't all that good at water bending? that's kind of a flaw. She is shown, in the beginning, to have weak control over her powers. However she is terrifyingly good at breaking open giant tombs of ice. Also her powers of poor plot narration are without bounds. For Katara of the film, there really is not much to say about her flaws as a character because we do not see enough of her doing things in the film. So now is the time to give notice to THE BIG casting flaw. Everyone and their mothers have gone on the record saying how dissappointed they were at the casting of now-19-year-old Nicola Peltz. She is pretty vanilla when it comes to ethnicity, and it really was a shame to see a role of such opportunity for an often ignored ethnic class go to another all American white girl. Now, I held out. I had hopes that they cast Nicola because they couldn't not have her. I hoped that they had forgone the ethnic casting because they had found simply the perfect actress, in voice, temperment and maturity to play the role. And yet literally none of those things was the case. From how the movie turned out, Nicola Peltz could have been a hobo child off the street who had never been in front of a camera before in her life. Part of the problem was, indeed, the writing of her character who, despite talking more than any other character in the movie, lacked a single personality trait reminiscent of the source character. She is more vapid than any nightmare. She has no personality, makes no decisions, and so has no flaws.
Score: 9/10  0/10


Katara is a water-bender, and becomes one of the best, if not the best water-bender of all time. But she does not do it slowly. As stated before, much of his skill is trained and worked through slowly. She becomes a thorough learner and an avid studier of what water bending is capable of. She invents new techniques and uses imagination. Through one of the single most interesting and chilling episodes she is even taught the terrifying and morally ambiguous art of blood bending. She learns that her powers are not just good, the way she imagines herself to be, but that they are also something to be wary of. She discovers Uncle Ben's Spiderman clause without ever having to spell it out. It is the challenges and moral quandaries that Katara struggles through that make her abilities interesting.

All I can really do is repost this picture from last time. It is all the words I need: 

                                              (although again it should be noted that the actual choreographers did an interesting and well thought out job. Much of their fighting f-ups were due to the lack of cgi anything)
Score: 9/10  4/10

Personality Type:
She is unsure of herself, excitable and above all, annoyingly hopeful. She quickly learns the healing powers most female characters are subjected to, and throughout the first season develops into a nurturing mother figure for both her brother Sokka and the new Avatar, Aang. But the best part about Katara is that even by the end of the first season, she does not stay that way. She gets crushes on boys and falls in with the wrong crowd (Jet is clearly a sociopath). She even deals head on with sexism in a legitimate way: she accepts it from Jet and ignores it because of her feelings, she fights it from Paku because she demands her right to be able to defend herself, and, most importantly, she demands that she not be treated as a sexual object. On multiple occasions Aang asks Katara to be more than friends and she tells him, to the point she is not interested. He does not listen and so she actually makes him listen to her. These are events that real young women everywhere have to deal with. Katara knows when she wants a man and when she does not and she will tell you so.

Personality? What's that? And let me make this clear: I do not blame Nicola Peltz. She was offered a role, she took it. Do I personally disagree with the decision to cast her? Yes. But here's the thing: she's actually not a bad actress. Take a look at her work in Bates Motel. Bailey is an interesting and dark character and Nicola plays her well. She's interesting to watch and has a lot of ups and downs. The entirety of lacking personality is in the poorly written script. Also it didn't help that her costars gave miserable performances as well. Seriously, all she does is exposition:

Score: 8.5/10 1/10

Katara's Fears: losing anyone else she cares about, being seen as the healer girl, not living up to her potential, being naive and tricked, becoming ruthless -- a fear that is shown multiple times throughout the show. It impressively shows that a young girl could be turned into a killing machine and monster. Much like Katara's main foil, Azula.
Mr. Llama's Katara's fears: speaking anything that isn't exposition. Betraying emotion. Interacting with castmates. Her angry angry brother Soaka. Irritable Dev Patel. Its actually kind of hilarious.
Score: 7/10  3/10

Position of Power:
Katara is, as was said earlier, often misjudged, She is powerful and can be truly terrifying but because she is young and because she is a girl she is seen as weak by those in positions of power. Azula uses Katara as a vulnerability during her fight with Zuko, and it is exactly this misguided judgement on Katara that leads to Azula's ultimate defeat. Among the Aang group, she is the mother, and her judgement is respected nine times out of ten. One of the few times she loses her argument is when she is grudging to take in Zuko upon his return to the Gaang. She makes it clear that she is a mama bear and there in she reins.
Ms. speaks-only-in-basic-plot-points has not power amid the people. She fights, she heals, but she becomes a voyeristic component of the film. She is used as, I have stated often, the bringer of exposition and is the immediate go-to for the viewer to relate to and see through the eyes of. Because of this, her own personal conflicts and decisions are negated from the film almost entirely. What we are left with is an empty husk that we are intended to take and use for our own feelings. Sadly there is not much their to find. She watches and so we must look on with her.
Score: 7.5/10 2/10

Katara's conflicts are many and multifaceted throughout the television show. She falls in love, she falls out of love, she gets hurt, she faces physical adversity, she must revive a fallen friend, she is betrayed, and she faces her own inner demons. Much of this has been talked over but it should be noted: where the Aang of the show and the Aang of the film undergo similar conflicts, the Katara of the two mediums do not. Gone from the film is the sexism and moral quandaries of that little fourteen year old girl. In its stead is left gaps and holes and a filler of stagnant attempts to turn Katara and Aang's younger lives into a convincing love story.
Score: 10/10 2/10

Love Plots:
She has so many and they are all interesting. Now, we all know I am not a huge fan of Kataang, so I will forgo another rant. What I will say about their relationship is that the portions of developing Aangs crush and Katara's lack of interest were some of the most human moments in the show. Things like this happen all the time in the lives of young adults. Your close friend develops feelings for you, feelings that you don't happen to return. How should Katara Cope? How should Aang? The most realistic part of this is that Aang even ignores Katara's protests and tries anyway. It is not necessarily a morally sound thing to do, and it even feels a little scummy but it is undeniably realistic. It is because of this intensely interesting relationship that the show has develped between these two characters that I cannot see their relationship working out. Without the well developed narrative and character relationships, I could not have come to that conclusion. Katara's other relationships are just as interesting as well. The betrayal, early on of Jet, has been discussed but it comes as a pivital moment in Katara's life. That betrayal helps her grow up and helps her understand more about herself-- and she hates it! She goes on to grow these grudges for Jet that move on to Zuko. More than anything, after the sudden death of Jet, her unresolved feelings about what Jet has done pass on to the next person to betray her: Zuko. His betrayal hits her in close proximity to Jets and for the rest of the series she treats him as one would treat the ex of a bad break up. She is scorned by love. To say that no romantic feelings occured between Zuko and Katara is ignoring a large portion of their characters. Nothing may have come from it in the cannon created by Bryan and Michael, but they clearly have horomones flying around between them in their scenes. Katara's relationships make her more interesting, and she never comes off as a boy swapping girl with one man for every day of the week. It just makes her seem more human.

And if we ever needed more proof:
 In the distance the wailing of a thousand Zutara fans (not to mention the hoisting of their pitchforks and torches) can be heard... Mind included...
If you do not interact with the other characters in any way people can see, then relationships cannot develop. That being said, the closest thing we had to even slight romance was between, once again, Zuko and Katara. You know, if you count fear and love as the same thing. I bet Azula does. 

Score: 9/10 1/10

In hopes that Mr. Llama will never try to continue his epic catastrophy ever again and leave a beautiful thing to its original form (also that someday somehow Zutara will become in the cannon with Katara and Zuko as old people):

Overall Complexity:
Katara is a very complex, unique and interesting young character. To try to reiterate what has been stated above would be boring to read. Just know this: Mr. Llama's film took a character that had everything going for her and wrote her into obscurity. She became little more than a pair of eyes and a cute face. It is not the actresses fault that this character fails so much on screen. This is the fault of her director, who wrote himself a screenplay that lacked any kind of intrinsically emotional value. You cannot become attached to characters who have no substance. You cannot destroy everyones childhood and you will not destroy mine.

Good DAY sir!

Overall complexity: 8.7 TV and 1.65 FILM

I'll do Sokka next. Eventually.