Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Kid Shows for Grown Ups

If ever by some random chance I end up running my own TV station, I can tell you some of the shows that are going to on the set list. Naturally, Babylon 5 and M*A*S*H will be prime time, but day times will consist of "kid" shows. Namely Naruto (in Japanese - can't stand the English dubs) and now also...

AVATAR: The Last Airbender.

A friend recommended this to me and I polished through the series in a matter of a week or so. Now I'm forcing my brother to watch.

It may be true that you have have to have the maturity level of a twelve-year-old to enjoy a kid's show, but I would argue that it's probably healthier to consume this kind of stuff than the crass romantic comedies and never-ending stream of reality-TV dramas that mostly show nowadays.

The Last Airbender isn't quite so philosophical as Naruto tries to be, but it definitely draws out quite a few laughs. One of the running gags in the story are the hybrid creatures. The only living, sentient beings that appear to be distinctly one species are the humans. Everything else is mix-matched - flying lemur rabbits and platypus bisons or saber-toothed moose lions. The latter one is actually pretty cute.

The first few episodes are a little emotionally shallow - when the protagonist discovers that he slept away the last hundred years and that the world as he knows it and the people he loved are all gone, his reaction is to look sadly at the ground for a moment. But things pick up pretty quickly after that. The dialogue is amusing, especially where Sokka and Toph are concerned, and the character development is well done. This is especially true of Zuko, but most, if not all, of the characters grow and change over time.

Season two sees an eerie tip of the hat to George Orwell's 1984, with the characters entering a city where the citizens are brainwashed and fed propaganda until nobody is even aware that the world is at war (despite the fact that they are the last "free" city standing). It's decidedly creepy, especially once you get past the obvious similarities to Orwell's work and notice that some of the techniques the city rulers use are surprisingly realistic...

Along with other ethical quandaries, season three sees the main protagonist (a technical pacifist) faced with a choice of whether or not to try and kill his opponent to save the world. I was a little disappointed with the resolution, as someone gave him an ad hoc third option at the last moment, meaning he didn't have to make the difficult choice in the end. I would have liked to have seen how the consequences of the real decision played out, as nice, tight third options aren't always easy to come by.

There are multiple crush/love relationships, but I appreciate the way that first and foremost the characters are friends and that they can give each other gifts and do nice things for each other - across gender lines - despite them not being romantically attached. It's refreshing to see. One other thing I kinda liked about the series is the way that all the characters seem to know when to accept defeat. For example:

Sokka: Great. So what am I suppose to do?
Aang: You could clean the gunk out of Appa’s toes.
Sokka (riled up): So while you guys are playing in the water, I’m suppose to be hard at work picking mud out of a giant bison’s feet?
Aang: Mud and bugs!
Sokka (shrugs): Okay.

Oh, and being the psych student that I am (was), I have decided that Zuko's sister, Azula, is most decidedly a psychopath.

Definitely a well-done series.

Katara: The King is throwing a party at the palace tonight for his pet bear.
Aang: Don't you mean platypus bear?
Katara: No, it just says, 'bear'.
Sokka: Certainly you mean his pet skunk bear?
Toph: Or his armadillo bear?
Aang: Gopher bear?
Katara: Just, 'bear'.
*short pause*
Toph: This place is weird.

1 comment:

art said...

I never read the book 1984. Perhaps I don't need to read it anymore because apparently all I need to do is observe reality today to know what it is about.

You should add the Flintstones to the list of shows that would be on your television station.