1. Kessie says:

    Oh man, I loved Avatar so much. Zuko’s story is so powerful! Like when Katara tells him she’ll never forgive him because she was wronged, he figures out a way to help her right that wrong.

    There was a lot of Christian theming mixed with the Eastern thought. Like when Aang is learning to open his chakras–everything he has to learn is a Christian virtue. But I never hear anybody talk about that.

    • notleia says:

      You’ll have to remind me what those virtues were and why they’re specifically Christian and not something we hold in common with Buddhists and/or Daoists and/or Hindus. I just remember a bunch of releasing tied into detachment, which is par for the course for Buddhism.

  2. notleia says:

    I’ve been keeping up with those abuse stories, and I can’t blame them for defining “forgiveness” as “moving on” because there’s so much pressure on them to hurry up and forgive and forget and not be bitter so everyone else can go back to feeling comfortable again. And in some cases, the church really do expect the victims to fully reconcile with a not-actually-repentant abuser, which is a thing I would hulk-smash if I could. The fact is that forgiveness is a process that rarely corresponds to an outsider’s expectation of what a proper timeline is. And that’s why I like Avatar. They acknowledge that forgiveness or repentance or any kind of emotional growth is not neat and pat and at a steady rate, that there are setbacks and complications and raw feels involved.

    • I can’t blame them for defining “forgiveness” as “moving on” because there’s so much pressure on them to hurry up and forgive and forget and not be bitter so everyone else can go back to feeling comfortable again.

      Which is a grotesque perversion of Biblical faith. It denies justice — and denies what Scripture actually says about how repentance and forgiveness works. This is why in a sense we “need” a God of wrath and vengeance, and how attempts to soften Him or remove His fiercer attributes are exactly what ends up hurting people. After all, the coverups of abuse are not happening because people think God is perpetually angry. They’re quite eager to affirm that He is gracious and “forgiving,” so “forgiving” that He does not punish people for sin.

      Whereas when God Himself talks about how to deal with others’ evil, He is bother absolutely holy about it and purely pragmatic.

      If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

      (Romans 12:18-21 ESV)

      I love how He says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you …”, acknowledging the reality of living in a world where we cannot yet live at peace with all people.

      He also does not say, “Never avenge yourselves because vengeance is bad.” He says, “Never avenge yourselves, because that’s My job.”

      And He does not say, “Avoid evil and simply forgive evildoers.” He says something far more challenging: “Overcome evil with good.”

  3. Fred Warren says:

    There’s a lot to like in this series and its sequel. Nice insights into Zuko’s journey, looking forward to your thoughts on Aang and Katara. Wrong choices > repentance > forgiveness continues to be a prominent thread in Legend of Korra as well.

  4. Hannah says:

    YES! I was so delighted to see this article! I only just watched the series for the first time last year and now my whole family enjoys it and its sequel. And yes…I cried a couple times in the climax.

    It’s a real delight to hear your thoughts one of my favorite characters, and I’m looking forward to the rest!

  5. Hannah says:

    Oh! And the story of Zuko and the rest of Team Avatar continues in the graphic novels The Promise and The Search (the latter in which we discover what happened to his mom!)

    These stories are a great continuation of the show, and the messages of forgiveness continue to abound with Zuko’s struggle as Fire Lord in The Promise and the peak of his grasp of unconditional love in The Search! Any Avatar fan definitely should NOT miss these graphic novels. Fantastic art too!

    • You just sold the graphic novels for me, Hannah.

      I wonder though: why did they not simply have a direct-to-DVD film for that rather pivotal continuation of the story? It would have been a great bonus for fans.

      • Becky says:

        They wanted to! Nickelodeon wouldn’t do it!!!! So they did the graphic novels instead. And it isn’t hard to picture the music or voices with the beautiful art. 🙂

  6. Julie D says:

    Well-written redemptive arcs are so hard to find in any media. I think Once Upon a Time has a particularly bad example with Regina, because it tries to give her more credit than she’s earned.  (I’m speaking primarily from the second season, as she wasn’t fully cognizant of her Evil Queen past in the first and I gave up on season three). She realizes that she cannot have a relationship with her son unless she acts a certain way, but it doesn’t ‘click’ that she’s done things that need to be forgiven.  On the other hand, the narrative (and a good many fans of the show) want her to be reconciled without repentance.

    Viewers in generally seem to be confused about this topic, seeing only ‘justice’ or ‘forgetting’ as the options after a betrayal.  But forgiveness isn’t really something one earns–you can never do enough good to erase the bad–it’s a gift.

What do you think?