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Boiling Rock of Squee! - moonspinner
moonspinner
moonspinner
Boiling Rock of Squee!


Nothing beats discovering a show a few episodes to its conclusion. No evil weeks, months, years of cliff-hanging. No shipping wars or fan-wanking to sour it. Just long, long weekends of watching and squeeing and giggling silently to myself in the office when I rememeber Sokka's jokes.


I just caught up with what I think is the last episode released so far, the Boiling Rock Part 2. Half-way through the episode, I couldn't help myself. I had to pick up my notepad and start scribbling my favorite lines:


Big (Not So) Dumb Guy: “That’s him, warden. He’s the impostor.”

Warden: “You threw him in the very prison you were trying to escape. It was all part of Your Plan!”
Not-at-all-by-mistaken Identity Guard (sweating because Karma is biting through his butt right now): “It was coincidence!”

Love, love, love how the Big (Not So) Dumb Guy goes from being the weakest link to a total asset in the Escape Plan V2.0 . (But what happened to his girl and best mate? ::sob::)


SUKI ROCKS!

I love Suki so much! I have been so scared since Appa’s Lost Days that Ozzai’s Demons killed her. I’m so glad she’s OK.

The rematch totally rocked. I kept waiting for Ty Lee’s Acupuncturistic Fists of Doom(TM) to make an appearance and I’m glad Suki had learnt from their last encounter how to avoid them. And wasn’t it totally cool how the young people were on top, fighting against each other and gravity while the old hands stayed below? Nice call back to the episode of Sokka’s Master and young fighters using their agility.

Is it just me or is continuity in Avatar solid-gold?


MAI!

“Saving the jerk who dumped me.”

“I love Zuko more than I fear you.”

I liked Mai simply enough before but after that showdown, I loved her. And as for Ty Lee… Ty Lee who I’ve always thought was creepy and horrible with her ‘I Will Knock Down People With My Fists of Doom Because Azula Tells Me Too Even Though It’s Obvious That I’m a Basically Sweet Person Who Would Rather Dance’ attitude… Well, her split-second decision to take Mai’s side and use those same Fists of Doom(TM) on Azula (whose had it coming so bad you won’t believe) completely changed my mind.


Gosh, the protagonists for Boiling Rock were Sokka and Zuko, right? But the women - Suki, Mai, Ty Lee, Azula - stole the show.

Hands down.


“Seriously, you guys, didn’t you find any meat?”

Toph rocks.

Tags:
Current Mood: ecstatic ecstatic

38 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
r0ck3tsci3ntist From: r0ck3tsci3ntist Date: July 4th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
AVATAR!! ♥
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 4th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I knew we were twins. :D
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: July 4th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
It just does not get better!!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 7th, 2008 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
So much word. :D

What is even better: now that I'm all caught up on the episodes, I can go and read all your meta on it. I'm looking forward to that almost as much as I'm looking forward to new episodes. :D
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: July 8th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! I love talking about it!
fialleril From: fialleril Date: July 4th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bwah ha ha ha ha!

I have hooked you forever! My goal in life is now complete!

No shipping wars or fan-wanking to sour it.

Oh honey. You have no idea. I take it you haven't really entered the fandom yet, then? This fandom has the worst case of wank and shipping wars I've ever seen. It's vicious. I've learned to just find the few people who write good stuff and stay out of the rest of it.

Sorry for the downer, but I thought I'd warn you. ;)

LOL. Big (Not So) Dumb Guy = Chitsang. I have this pet theory that he found out his best mate and his girl were actually double timing behind his back. :D

Suki does indeed rock. But Mai will always be my girl. ;)

I still find Ty Lee kind of creepy, but the episode "The Beach" did a lot to humanize her for me. And watching her take down Azula was certainly interesting. I honestly wasn't expecting that to happen quite yet - I thought they'd save it for the finale.

Now what I really want to see is Zuko going to rescue Mai and Ty Lee from prison, only to get there and find...they're already gone. :D Just like Iroh. It would be amazing.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 7th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)

I have hooked you forever! My goal in life is now complete!

There’s a scary amount of truth in that statement. Believe it or not, I’m thinking of writing fan fiction! Fan fiction! The writers need to tell us how the Fire Nation attacked the Air Temples and tell us soon before I break my no-more-new-fandom-fiction vows!

Oh honey. You have no idea. I take it you haven't really entered the fandom yet, then? This fandom has the worst case of wank and shipping wars I've ever seen. It's vicious. I've learned to just find the few people who write good stuff and stay out of the rest of it.

Thanks for the warning! I dipped a toe into it over the weekend – just reading, not contributing – and I think I’ll stay out of the pool. I sort of expected the Zuko-worship and the Kataang vs Zutara wars but I was surprised at the level of vitriol in some posts. ::shudders::

Still, I already joined atla_unspoiled and it seems relative safe but what do you think?

LOL. Big (Not So) Dumb Guy = Chitsang. I have this pet theory that he found out his best mate and his girl were actually double timing behind his back. :D

Heh heh. I can live with that. :D

Suki does indeed rock. But Mai will always be my girl. ;)

Suki won my heart when she: a, first got Sokka into a dress to teach him how to fight and b, told him she was a warrior and a girl. (This is me cutting myself in mid-rant about female characters that are not allowed to be both).
I was undecided about Mai for a long time because while her indifference to everything in a world where everyone had great passions and great destinies coupled with incredible knife-skillz** definitely impressed me, I thought it was rather cold of her to be throwing same knives around her baby brother to get an adrenaline high/score points with Azula.

I still find Ty Lee kind of creepy, but the episode "The Beach" did a lot to humanize her for me.
I sort of understood her more after that episode, but I thought it was a bit much for her to break down and cry because she was a septuplet (sp?)? In fact, “The Beach” episode is probably the one Avatar episode that didn’t ‘sit’ well with me. How did Azula go from the 15 year old girl who took down Bai Sing Se from the inside by winning the loyalty of the city’s Gestapo by sheer force of charisma to the a girl who can’t score points with beach bums? And how do the kids of the Fire Nation go from being the inhibited children in Aang’s school to dropouts from 90210?

Now what I really want to see is Zuko going to rescue Mai and Ty Lee from prison, only to get there and find...they're already gone. :D Just like Iroh. It would be amazing.

It would, won’t it? :D I’d love to see Mai and Ty Lee on their own, without Azula’s evilness tainting their intrinsic coolness. :D

Just like Iroh.

I miss Iroh so much in this season. And it's so sad to see his big stomach go. *g*


**I think one of the many things I love about Avatar is the fact that not every formidable warrior is a bender. We even get to see some benders who aren’t very formidable at all (Toph’s teacher for example). Despite all the joking, Sokka is the leader of the Gaang and he brings more to it that the obvious comic relief. It’s funny how much I liked him from the first, even when we’re not sure he and Aang are ever going to be friends – yes, even when he was being a totally chauvinistic pig to Katara; and he was so unflinchingly brave when he faced down Zuko and an entire Fire Nation navy ship.



peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I thought it was rather cold of her to be throwing same knives around her baby brother to get an adrenaline high/score points with Azula.

You know, this has been a topic of hot discussion in fandom ever since that episode aired and I was always weirded by it because it was clear to me even in the moment of watching the episode that Mai carefully weighed the situation and ultimately...didn't really have much of a choice either way. In the middle of a hostage negotiation with people who (to the best of HER knowledge) had already made an attempt on her, her mother, and her brother's lives isn't really the best time to start arguing amongst yourselves. And it's NEVER really a good time to argue with Azula. I don't think she was being cold at all. Particularly not in terms of endangering Tom Tom with her knives, especially given later meta commentary about her skill and how she specifically taught herself to be so good that she doesn't have to even hurt anyone, much less kill them. (This was in response to a reference to her as an assassin which was immediately denied with the assertion that Mai is just not a killer.)

I think the worst one could accuse her of is being a little too full up on her own bad-assery given that it was obvious that she thought she could take Tom Tom back?

In fact, “The Beach” episode is probably the one Avatar episode that didn’t ‘sit’ well with me. How did Azula go from the 15 year old girl who took down Bai Sing Se from the inside by winning the loyalty of the city’s Gestapo by sheer force of charisma to the a girl who can’t score points with beach bums? And how do the kids of the Fire Nation go from being the inhibited children in Aang’s school to dropouts from 90210?

Oh, The Beach. I love The Beach so much.

BUT FEEL FREE TO IGNORE MY UNSOLICITED DEFENSE OF IT.

WRT Ty Lee, I feel like the entire sharing on the beach session works best if you take Li and Lo and their talk about Ember Island being a little bit mystical at face value.

I generally feel like if I could accept magic karate, crazy hybrid animals, and steam powered jet skis, a mystical catharsis beach isn't too much of a stretch.

RE: THE REST

I think the thing to keep in mind wrt the kids from The Headband vs. Ruon-Jian, Chan, and crew (who, I must say, were categorically not "beach bums" at all, but the children of FN VIPs) is that these are both different age groups and different social classes. In The Headband, Aang and co. were not in as low a strata of FN society as they were in, say, The Painted Lady, but it still wasn't the upper echelons. Like, those kids were clearly not from families that would be allowed into the capital city. And the contrast of inhibited, indoctrinated, working-middle-class kids and leisurely, self-absorbed, myopic upper class teenagers is actually perfect for what the Fire Nation is supposed to be. (Uh, hi, my name is Rawles and I am obsessed with Fire Nation society and culture.)

And I actually love (love, love, love) Azula in The Beach and see the thing is I don't think it's especially inconsistent at all. Azula is charismatic and amazing when she's Princess Azula of the Fire Nation and is conquering cities and leading armies, sure. But if you take away her rank and title (since they were incognito) and make her interact with normal people doing mundane things and she still has all of that intensity and perfectionism and ruthlessness, it stops being, "Omg, you're kind of intimidating, but also hypnotic and enthralling, YES I WILL DO BATTLE FOR YOU," and becomes, "Uh...you're weird and scary and way too into this. Please leave me alone."

And to me it is completely, utterly believable that Azula who, the first time we really see her in a full scene, is INCENSED by a single hair out of place is someone who does not know how to turn it down a few notches. She's ALWAYS at 11. And it is one of the many reasons that I adore her.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 10th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Hi! *waves* Thanks for dropping by! If you haven't realized already that I'm desperately looking for people to talk about Avatar with, I think it should be clear after this reply needs to be fitted into 2 comment boxes :P

It’s hard to analyze a character who internalizes as much as Mai does (or may be I’ve just been lazy because until I confess that until recently, I’ve never cared enough about the Fire Nation kids to try) but you’ve done a pretty good job of it there. When you put it that way, it makes a great deal of sense. She is good enough with knives not to harm her brother. She is confident enough in her bad-assery to think that she/Azula/Ty Lee could take Tom Tom without keeping their own end of the bargain. The Boiling Rock shows that for better or worse, she’s really bought into the Fire Nation propaganda of Fire Nation good, Everyone Else evil. It may be thrill-seeking for her, running around with Azula, but she genuinely believes that she’s doing the right thing.


BUT FEEL FREE TO IGNORE MY UNSOLICITED DEFENSE OF IT.

Are you kidding? I like the show so much that I’m more than eager for a proper defence of the Beach.

I generally feel like if I could accept magic karate, crazy hybrid animals, and steam powered jet skis, a mystical catharsis beach isn't too much of a stretch.

Actually, I totally buy that (i.e. the mystical cathartic properties of the beach). I like the fact that it’s never referred to directly (outside Lo & Li’s wacky-sounding declaration) but that you see the characters falling apart because of it: Mai raising her voice; Zuko’s confession (that he was angry at himself), Ty Lee’s admission, and most importantly Azula affirming something that I’d always thought: she had as much Mommy issues as Zuko had Daddy issues.

It's as you said, the REST, that I’m still trying to ‘buy’.

In The Headband, Aang and co. were not in as low a strata of FN society as they were in, say, The Painted Lady, but it still wasn't the upper echelons. Like, those kids were clearly not from families that would be allowed into the capital city. And the contrast of inhibited, indoctrinated, working-middle-class kids and leisurely, self-absorbed, myopic upper class teenagers is actually perfect for what the Fire Nation is supposed to be.

Mmmm… The way I see/saw it, the disconnect is exactly what I won’t have expected in the Fire Nation. The first Fire Nation kids we get to know are: Zuko, Azula, Mai and Ty Lee in that order. Mai is a governor’s daughter when we meet her and Ty Lee was the daughter of a person of great import. (I can’t remember right now but I vaguely recall Azula being shocked that she was in a circus because she had attended ‘Fire Academy for Girls’ and her father was a VIP.) This quartet are all upper-echelon and it seems to me that they’d be a more natural progression of Aang’s indoctrinated schoolmates than the Beach teenagers.

Sure, the kids in Aang’s school were not upper-class. (It was a public school.) But I don’t think they would have not been permitted into the capital city. They seem to be shocked by Aang’s ‘colonial’ habits but not as disgusted as you’d expect from a class-conscious society.

If anything, the upper-class schools would have even more indoctrination. The parents of those children would be training their children to fill in their roles – ministers, advisors, Generals, etc. This is a land, remember, where no one thinks it strange/wrong for the Crown Prince to be burnt and banished at the age of 13 because he can’t stand up to his father. The kind of idyllic, Westernized existence of the Beach kids actually seemed more fitting with the forced utopia Bai Sing Sei than with the ambitious Fire Nation: there you would find teenagers who were completely ignorant about the war and behaved accordingly.

(Uh, hi, my name is Rawles and I am obsessed with Fire Nation society and culture.)

LOL!


Edited at 2008-07-10 12:53 pm (UTC)
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Sure, the kids in Aang’s school were not upper-class. (It was a public school.) But I don’t think they would have not been permitted into the capital city.

Well this is actually meta information, but non-nobles/aristocrats are actually legally barred from entering the capital city!

They seem to be shocked by Aang’s ‘colonial’ habits but not as disgusted as you’d expect from a class-conscious society.

I don't really see, considering we've never really seen anyone from a higher class address the idea of colonials, that we can say that they weren't disgusted ENOUGH? And, recall, the teacher was essentially like, "Bah whatever colonial slob." The kids were more accepting, but then they're kids and it could likely be that their curiosity about Aang and the weird ways in which he acted overrode their misgivings.

This quartet are all upper-echelon and it seems to me that they’d be a more natural progression of Aang’s indoctrinated schoolmates than the Beach teenagers.

If anything, the upper-class schools would have even more indoctrination. [...] [In Ba Sing Se] you would find teenagers who were completely ignorant about the war and behaved accordingly.


Well, see the problem I'm having with this argument is that you're assuming that the kids on Ember Island WERENT indoctrinated? Or in training to be Generals and the leaders of society, etc. There's not really anything to support that assumption. It's not as if any political conversations were met. You assume an ignorance that was never actually demonstrated and that I have a hard time believing actually exists given that Chan's dad, for instance, is an admiral? I mean, there's a big difference between ignorance and apathy.

To me, it's perfectly believable that the noble adults are out fighting their mostly won war and these are the spoiled, sheltered aristocratic children who don't care about the war all that much because:

1) It's all they've ever known.

and 2) It doesn't actually affect them in any meaningful way other than that their parents are gone sometimes so they can throw parties for other Very Important Teenagers and hang around on the beach.

I mean, that's pretty much what aristocracies do? They're a leisure class.

And here's another thing: Ty Lee fit in very well with those kids. Mai was accepted, but generally dismissed them because she's...herself. Zuko and Azula are both just generally socially abnormal and thus ran into problems.

I don't think that they are fundamentally a completely separate type of creature from the kids on the beach?

Their lives have clearly turned out differently from the kids on the beach in that they're in the thick of it all. But that's because they're a prince, a princess, and two extremely important nobles who are closely connected to the princess. We never see anyone else in the FN corps that are as young as the four primary FN kids. So you kind of have to assume that they're the exception. And most importantly they were all only out there because they were on very specific missions by the Fire Lord himself. Zuko had to capture the Avatar. Azula had to capture Zuko and Iroh and took it upon herself to do everything else that she did in the interim and made Mai and Ty Lee come with her as her elite crew. And as soon as they ostensibly completed this mission they didn't do anything but go back to the Fire Nation and faff about for a couple of months until something ELSE came up. I mean when we see them Azula's like getting her hair washed or wandering in the garden to harass Zuko. And Zuko and Mai were spending most of their time, apparently, sexing each other up at Mai's house?

My thing is that I don't buy that those kids on the beach would NOT be doing what they were doing. Indeed, everything seems to point to the idea that this is exactly what they'd be doing.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 10th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Well this is actually meta information, but non-nobles/aristocrats are actually legally barred from entering the capital city!

OK, then that's a moot point. I guess the creators didn't think it important enough to make it into the actual episode.


Well, see the problem I'm having with this argument is that you're assuming that the kids on Ember Island WERENT indoctrinated? Or in training to be Generals and the leaders of society, etc. There's not really anything to support that assumption. It's not as if any political conversations were met. You assume an ignorance that was never actually demonstrated and that I have a hard time believing actually exists given that Chan's dad, for instance, is an admiral? I mean, there's a big difference between ignorance and apathy.


There is ignorance: otherwise how could indoctrinated, aristocratic kids whose parents are generals, ministers, etc and live in the exclusive capital city not know who Princess Azula and Prince Zuko were??? It's not so much apathy but the Beach kids living in a bubble.

Edited at 2008-07-10 03:00 pm (UTC)
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

There's a HUGE amount of like background/setting information that doesn't make it into the actual episodes, generally because its not terribly relevant to what's actually going on in the episode and they only have 20 minutes. I imagine unless it's a plot point that some commoners are trying to enter the capital city, the fact that they're not allowed isn't going to be mentioned.

There is ignorance: otherwise how could indoctrinated, aristocratic kids whose parents are generals, ministers, etc and live in the exclusive capital city not know who Princess Azula and Prince Zuko were???

Well, that's just a suspension of disbelief issue. You're supposed to assume that they don't recognize them on sight without trappings like flame diadems, etc. much like you're supposed to assume that none of the prisoners in TBR would recognize Zuko. Or, hell, that his giant facial scar isn't a unique identifying characteristic?

You know, people fanwank that since that's an Agni Kai tradition and also since Zuko's crew assumed it was a training accident in The Storm, that facial scars aren't uncommon in the FN despite the fact that we don't actually ever see anyone else with one. I think it's actually even easier to think from what we've seen that the only times people see Zuko and Azula in the capital are like when they're standing on the big platform in the capital square a 100 feet above everyone else or when Zuko's walking two feet to get into his palanquin to ride the ten feet to Mai's house. And the royal family hadn't visited Ember Island in years and years and it's not like they were staying where they would be expected to stay. Like I went into in my other comment, there's a very insular and cloistered feel with the royal family since they're often trying to evoke a little Imperial China/Forbidden City/Divine Emperor kind of thing.

I'm not going to argue that that tone is 100% consistent, but in any case, them not recognizing Zuko and Azula on sight is ultimately a plot convenience moreso than an actual reflection on how ignorant the kids on the beach were or were not.

Of course, my original point WAS that the aristocratic youth of the Fire Nation live in a bubble of sorts. I just believe that very same bubble is reasonably to be expected from Fire Nation society.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 10th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

It is a plot convenience requiring suspension of belief but it's also what adds to the disconnect of the story. I can buy the prisoners in the Boiling Rock not recognising a scarred boy who doesn't look anyone in the eye as a Prince. With the Agni Kai - with *Fire* bending alone as a national character - not being scarred would be common enough. Zuko *was* recognised by the warden who promised to protect him to some extent. So it's not totally farfetched that between his low profile, his short stay in prison (And this includes time in the cooler) and the warden looking out for him that Zuko was not identified.

The kids, on the other hand, probably went to the same schools (Royal Fire Academy for Girls), were invited along with their VIP parents to the Fire Lord's banquets. That is to say nothing of pictures and posters: we know Zuko at least had his mug shot up for a whole season. Also I'm guessing that with their joint defeat of the Avatar, conquest of BSS and triumphant return to the Fire Nation, the royal children were very popular at that time. How many aristocratic girls didn't dream about marrying the next Fire Lord? How many boys didn't fantasize about Azula? To sell the idea that the entire generation of Fire Nation children that would be most interested in the Prince & Princess was... not? ::sighs:: I still don't get it. I can accept your explanation in order not to be too nitpicky. Avatar is normally a solid show on continuity and themes and characterisation and The Beach is the only one episode that doesn't work for me.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

*Granted, Zuko's later confusion over how Mai found him kinda RUINS HIS CREDIBILITY A LITTLE.

It is a plot convenience requiring suspension of belief but it's also what adds to the disconnect of the story.

This I will grant you. I mean it doesn't remotely bother me? But then it is not the kind of thing that ever bothers me. I have a friend who holds up the prisoners not recognizing Zuko as The Big Flaw of TBR. It happens!

Zuko *was* recognised by the warden who promised to protect him to some extent.

Actually, the Warden explicitly states that he recognizes Zuko because Zuko was his niece's boyfriend. Zuko is also shocked that the Warden knows who he is before he explains.* And he doesn't hide Zuko or anything, his dubious protection just comes in the form of him threatening to tell people who Zuko is unless Zuko lets himself be tormented until the Warden is forced to hand him over to Ozai.

The kids, on the other hand, probably went to the same schools (Royal Fire Academy for Girls)

But how long ago was that, exactly? And given that we've never seen Zuko with a single FN friend (granted he was banished when he was 13; though we know when HE finished school whether he was actually finished or not) and Azula in the company of anyone but Mai and Ty Lee, even in random background shots, even once, I'm inclined to believe they certainly weren't particularly well-acquainted with anyone else.

were invited along with their VIP parents to the Fire Lord's banquets.

Do we know that this even happened? I'm not being facetious! I actually do feel there is need to question whether Ozai would even have banquets, much less whether children would be invited to them if he did?

That is to say nothing of pictures and posters:

The only pictures and posters we see around the FN are of Ozai in Divine Emperor fashion. With the single exception of the portrait of Mai and Zuko in Mai's bedroom.

we know Zuko at least had his mug shot up for a whole season.

That was actually in the Earth Kingdom. Where they did recognize him! (In Zuko Alone.)

Also I'm guessing that with their joint defeat of the Avatar, conquest of BSS and triumphant return to the Fire Nation, the royal children were very popular at that time. How many aristocratic girls didn't dream about marrying the next Fire Lord? How many boys didn't fantasize about Azula? To sell the idea that the entire generation of Fire Nation children that would be most interested in the Prince & Princess was... not?

And see, I don't think that you're being asked to believe that they're not interested in them. I would actually make the argument that all that fantasizing and wishing and dreaming and them being larger than life ideals but people only ever getting brief glances of them in full martial or royal regalia with their topknots and flame crowns would only make it exponentially more likely that, upon seeing some weird over-competitive girl and her dorky brother grumping about with bonus pair of really hot girls, it would never occur to them that this was the Crown Prince and Princess of the Fire Nation.

What I feel is missing is the indication that there are visual representations of them so accurate and so plentiful spread around the country, or even just the capital city, that they would still be immediately recognized despite fulfilling three of the main criteria for NOT being recognized -- i.e. not dressing like they're expected to dress, not acting like they're expected to act, and not being where they're expected to be.

I mean, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by celebrities' faces on television, in magazines, in newspapers, in movies, on billboards, on the internet, in ads of every kind everywhere. And celebrities still manage to go unnoticed on occasion in public by dressing down?

They don't have any of that kind of thing in the FN and expectation is just such a massive part of human cognition and perception. I can't see it as terribly farfetched.

I HOPE THIS ASSISTS YOU IN EVEN FURTHER ACCEPTING MY EXPLANATION.

Avatar is normally a solid show on continuity and themes and characterisation and The Beach is the only one episode that doesn't work for me.

I guess I won't point out the questionable continuity issues in other episodes then. XD

Edited at 2008-07-10 05:23 pm (UTC)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

This I will grant you. I mean it doesn't remotely bother me? But then it is not the kind of thing that ever bothers me. I have a friend who holds up the prisoners not recognizing Zuko as The Big Flaw of TBR. It happens!

Exactly. Like you said about pointing out questionable continuity issues (please don't! Really. I tend to enjoy shows more when I see there's nothing to nitpick), it's subjective. What's one fan's easily explainable contradiction is another fan's dealbreaker.


*Granted, Zuko's later confusion over how Mai found him kinda RUINS HIS CREDIBILITY A LITTLE.

LOL. You know, there's also the possibility that some prisoners recognized Zuko in the Boiling Rock and simply, did not care. They weren't exactly the Fire Nation's finest. What would really have been their reaction to the traitor prince?


Re: Zuko's mugshot. Was that in the Earth Kingdom or in Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom? (The free Earth citizens in Zuko Alone didn't recognize him until he declared his identity.) And considering the fact that Zuko was an exile from the Fire Nation, won't at the very least border patrol be able to recognize him on sight?

Re: Fire Lord's banquets & the Academy. I really don't know. Since the girls are relatively young (I'm guessing Katara's 14, give or take), I would have said it can't be that long since they graduated. I, for one, would recognize the Crown Princess of my country at 14 if she had gone to school with me when I was 10. The Fire Lord conducted a very public Agni Kai with his son with a host of people in attendance. He doesn't strike me as the retiring sort. In the interview I read on Avatarspirit, the directors/creators made a point of saying that the royal family structure in the Fire Nation was different from that of BSS, Earth. The Crown Prince wasn't isolated, but expected to go on missions and know the land and prove himself.


But the one thing that I do agree with is that human nature being what it is and if* the Beach kids had had no earlier interaction with the Royals, they would have failed to recognize them simply because they were so ordinary looking. Zuko was scarface and Azula was an anal-retentive geek.

*(But that's the rum, ain't it? :P)


I HOPE THIS ASSISTS YOU IN EVEN FURTHER ACCEPTING MY EXPLANATION.

>D It does & it doesn't. :D
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 09:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

What would really have been their reaction to the traitor prince?

Well you either take the Warden's word for it that people in FN prisons don't like traitors or not?

Re: Zuko's mugshot. Was that in the Earth Kingdom or in Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom?

It was everywhere in the Earth Kingdom. At the very least, Fire Nation-controlled and neutral places. The wanted poster was in the oasis in The Desert, for instance. And though they didn't recognize Zuko on sight, they knew his story when he announced himself in Zuko Alone.

The Fire Lord conducted a very public Agni Kai with his son with a host of people in attendance.

It's actually questionable how public it was considering the crew of Zuko's ship were unaware of how he received his scar?

There were actually numerous discussions way back then about how people in the EK seemed to know more about Zuko than Fire Nationals.

Since the girls are relatively young (I'm guessing Katara's 14, give or take), I would have said it can't be that long since they graduated.

Katara is 14. M&B have said that Azula is the same age as Sokka, i.e. 15. Ty Lee's age has never been stated, though people tend to assume she's the same age as Azula. Mai is 17.

He doesn't strike me as the retiring sort. [...] The Crown Prince wasn't isolated, but expected to go on missions and know the land and prove himself

I didn't say Ozai was retiring. I was implying that he's not the kind of guy I would assume throws lots of banquets and suchnot. Yes, they discussed how he's probably done some fighting, dueling, etc. in order to prove his worth to those who might want to jockey for his position, but that's entirely different from interacting socially with people, which is what I was saying demonstrably doesn't seem to happen very often with the royal family.

I, for one, would recognize the Crown Princess of my country at 14 if she had gone to school with me when I was 10.

[...]

But the one thing that I do agree with is that human nature being what it is and if* the Beach kids had had no earlier interaction with the Royals, they would have failed to recognize them simply because they were so ordinary looking.


But the thing is, you can't really say that with any conviction given that we don't know anything about the circumstances of their matriculation? You seem to be assuming that any prior interaction automatically equals lifelong instantaneous facial recognition under any circumstance, but that's not really realistic.

Zuko, for one, has actually not been in the country at all, period, for the last three years and apparently had no associations or connections outside of his family, Mai, and Ty Lee.

And even if you operate under the assumption that every single girl at Chan and Ruon-Jian's party was important enough to have attended the Royal Fire Academy for Girls (which isn't a given), you're still a few circumstances and assumptions away from the point where it becomes questionable that they wouldn't recognize Azula, namely:

- That they are all of the age to have been at school with her at the same time (assuming that she didn't finish early, that they aren't more than one or two years older than, etc.)

- That Azula's matriculation actually included lengthy association/interaction with all of them

and

- That she, contrary to what was shown, spent enough time *at that party* interacting with these girls for them recognizing her or not recognizing her to be an issue at all

It's one thing to assume that you would recognize an important person who you spent a lot of time with in childhood years and years later.

It's another thing entirely to assume that you would recognize an important person that you may have seen on occasion in childhood years and years later when that person is not supposed to be there, is not acting like themselves, don't look like themselves, have identified themselves as someone else, and you're probably just seeing them in passing in a crowded room or on a crowded beach.

Like you said about pointing out questionable continuity issues (please don't! Really. I tend to enjoy shows more when I see there's nothing to nitpick)

*SALUTES* Yes, ma'am!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

Well you either take the Warden's word for it that people in FN prisons don't like traitors or not?

I think he really believed that. I just don't think he was right.

It was everywhere in the Earth Kingdom. At the very least, Fire Nation-controlled and neutral places.
...
It's actually questionable how public it was considering the crew of Zuko's ship were unaware of how he received his scar?
...
There were actually numerous discussions way back then about how people in the EK seemed to know more about Zuko than Fire Nationals.

There won't have been neutral places in the Earth Kingdom, since the war had been going on for 100 years but that aside, it is strange that the EK knew more about Zuko than the Fire Nationals.

but that's entirely different from interacting socially with people, which is what I was saying demonstrably doesn't seem to happen very often with the royal family.

Actually, there isn't much indication that the Family did not interact socially. The children had playmates when they were younger. They went to an exclusive school - but still a school. If the Family really wanted to be completely cloistered, private tutoring would have been the way to go. As the Capital City was exclusive to the high-class, it's all the more reason for the elite to recognize each other on sight. Speaking practically, the Royal children had to have been well-known enough to the public otherwise the Fire Nation police-substitute would have to deal with a myriad cases of young, dark-eyed teenagers with gold hair pieces posing as the Crown Prince/Princess for laughs.


And even if you operate under the assumption that every single girl at Chan and Ruon-Jian's party was important enough to have attended the Royal Fire Academy for Girls (which isn't a given), you're still a few circumstances and assumptions away from the point where it becomes questionable that they wouldn't recognize Azula, namely:
- That they are all of the age to have been at school with her at the same time (assuming that she didn't finish early, that they aren't more than one or two years older than, etc.)
- That Azula's matriculation actually included lengthy association/interaction with all of them
and
- That she, contrary to what was shown, spent enough time *at that party* interacting with these girls for them recognizing her or not recognizing her to be an issue at all


Actually, you were the one who stated the case that the Beach children were exclusively aristocratic/upper-class people and that Ty Lee & Mai fitted into that world. Azula & Zuko had already spent the day on the beach, being seen/seeing most of the kids that ended up at that party.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

There won't have been neutral places in the Earth Kingdom, since the war had been going on for 100 years but that aside, it is strange that the EK knew more about Zuko than the Fire Nationals.

Ah, but there clearly were neutral places in the EK. Like the port in The Waterbending Scroll that didn't appear to be controlled by anyone but was free to be visited by everyone. There are a few places like that that they run into throughout the seasons. Mostly seedy ports, though.

And it's not strange if you assume that they royals more or less keep themselves and their dealings somewhat underwraps? XD

Actually, there isn't much indication that the Family did not interact socially. The children had playmates when they were younger.

Azula had playmates. Exactly two. Zuko had none. And they're shown alone in the palace with no other children around at all. Clearly they left the palace every one in a while, but my point is that they aren't social butterflies. It's not Versaille in the 18th century. I think that the kind of instant visual recognition you're asking for requires more than having met someone a few times or seen them around sporadically.

Actually, you were the one who stated the case that the Beach children were exclusively aristocratic/upper-class people

I did! I didn't contradict it? The capital city is exactly that...an entire city. It's not unreasonable to think that every single young girl in the capital city doesn't go to The Royal Fire Academy for Girls is all I was getting at. Especially since it's the ROYAL Fire Academy, perhaps implying a certain amount of noble blood being necessary. I mean, hey, they might all have (I did allow that assumption)! But at the same time Chan and Ruon-Jian might have invited some girls who while upper class were not the upper, upper echelons since they invited Mai and Ty Lee without knowing they were VIPs purely based on how attractive they were.

Azula & Zuko had already spent the day on the beach, being seen/seeing most of the kids that ended up at that party.

But sitting in their own little group? I mean, it's not as if they got up on a podium and were like OY EVERYONE LOOK AT US! DO WE LOOK FAMILIAR? Azula was sitting by herself. Zuko was hanging out under the umbrella with Mai. And they all got up to play one volleyball game. It was a crowded beach, who can say how many people were were bothering to pay attention to that particular group of four people?

Hahahaha. Thinking about it, pretty much everyone who DID notice them noticed Mai and Ty Lee. MAYBE IT WAS ACTUALLY THEIR HOTNESS THAT BLINDED EVERYONE TO THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS IN THEIR MIDST?

Also you should know this is like the longest meta conversation I've had about Avatar in moooonths. (Not in IM anyway.)

IT HAS BEEN DISTRACTING ME FROM WORKING ON MY RIDICULOUS AU FIC EPIC, BTW. (WHOOPS?)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

Ah, but there clearly were neutral places in the EK. Like the port in The Waterbending Scroll that didn't appear to be controlled by anyone but was free to be visited by everyone. There are a few places like that that they run into throughout the seasons. Mostly seedy ports, though.

You're right: the shanty towns, outer-rim-like places. But - not to be too nitpicky - I don't think they are any Nation's/Kingdom's territory. They were probably settled in by war refugees and their land isn't of much value to either side.


And it's not strange if you assume that they royals more or less keep themselves and their dealings somewhat underwraps? XD
It's just that that contradicts just how widespread the knowledge (if not the details) of Zuko's exile was.


Azula had playmates. Exactly two. Zuko had none. And they're shown alone in the palace with no other children around at all. Clearly they left the palace every one in a while, but my point is that they aren't social butterflies.

I think this has more to do with the personality of the children than any intention of their parents to isolate them - the latter being my point i.e. that there's no indication that the Royal Family was cloistered by principle.


I did! I didn't contradict it? The capital city is exactly that...an entire city. It's not unreasonable to think that every single young girl in the capital city doesn't go to The Royal Fire Academy for Girls is all I was getting at. Especially since it's the ROYAL Fire Academy, perhaps implying a certain amount of noble blood being necessary.

Well, demographically speaking, the elite would have to be small. It's sort of the whole point. :p For another, it's not expressly said so but I don't think Mai's father, the Governor of Omashu was from Royal blood. There's the indication of social climbing and Mai being repressed in order not to jeopardize his career. I still can't remember what Ty Lee's father does.


But at the same time Chan and Ruon-Jian might have invited some girls who while upper class were not the upper, upper echelons since they invited Mai and Ty Lee without knowing they were VIPs purely based on how attractive they were.

OK, but then isn't the Beach's zone supposed to be an exclusive hanging out spot? (I'm not trying to be facetious, but like I said, the agreement that the Beach kids were aristocrats came after you explained to me the difference between them and the kids from the Headband. Because - taking you back a little - I was arguing that the kids in the Beach were once the kids in the Headband, and true aristocrats would have recognized the Prince/Princess easier).

So sure, Chad/Ruon Jian didn't recognize Mai/Ty Lee (Royal School for Girls sort of implies one for Boys) but Chad & Ruon Jian would have known that Mai & Ty Lee were VIPs to even be there in the first place.


Zuko was hanging out under the umbrella with Mai.
...
And they all got up to play one volleyball game.
...
Thinking about it, pretty much everyone who DID notice them noticed Mai and Ty Lee. MAYBE IT WAS ACTUALLY THEIR HOTNESS THAT BLINDED EVERYONE TO THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS IN THEIR MIDST?


LOL! I was about to point that out to you. The volleyball game did get the "All eyes on us" attention that Azula wanted, only it was more like "All eyes on my hot girlfriends". Actually, I think the idea of Ty Lee and Mai being just that hot that they literally blinded everyone to the Royals is more believable than the kids not recognizing the Royals who were hanging out with said Ty Lee and Mai.


IT HAS BEEN DISTRACTING ME FROM WORKING ON MY RIDICULOUS AU FIC EPIC, BTW. (WHOOPS?)

Actually this is distracting me from the evil plot bunnies that have been haunting me since I got hooked on this show, so.. Yah? :P But we can take a rain cheque, if you like. I'm enjoying the discussion: it's sort of like catching up with my shiny new shiney-show :P but I guess it can be quite tiresome for you since you've probably already had this discussion a zillion months ago a zillion times already. :(
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 10:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry it took this long to get back to you. I'm only online between certain hours each day.

You're right: the shanty towns, outer-rim-like places. But - not to be too nitpicky - I don't think they are any Nation's/Kingdom's territory. They were probably settled in by war refugees and their land isn't of much value to either side.

For topographical purposes they generally identify those places as parts of the Earth Kingdom! But I actually agree with what you're saying. On my podcast (or the podcast that I host, anyway), we once discussed how nerdily into the issues of territory and population spreads and stuff on Avatar my friend and I are!

It's just that that contradicts just how widespread the knowledge (if not the details) of Zuko's exile was.

I feel like it became widespread out in the world once he was a fugitive.

I think this has more to do with the personality of the children than any intention of their parents to isolate them

Possible!

It could also be something that only started in these last few generations, that is, that their personalities were informed by the intentions of their parents and grandparents to raise them in a certain way. For instance, we know that the Fire Nation from Aang's time was a very different place. And we've seen that the Fire Nation when Roku was young (and this was in the palace/capital city/with the aristocracy, etc.) was COMPLETELY different.

By the present time, they all seem either by personality alone, by habit, or some combination to just not be that...jovial/social/whatever?

For another, it's not expressly said so but I don't think Mai's father, the Governor of Omashu was from Royal blood. There's the indication of social climbing and Mai being repressed in order not to jeopardize his career. I still can't remember what Ty Lee's father does.

He might not have been! But then Mai could have been admitted due to her association with Azula, who can say. I am just speculating at this point, though. Of course, I was only speculating about THAT specifically being the criteria. And Ty Lee's father is a general, if I recall correctly.

OK, but then isn't the Beach's zone supposed to be an exclusive hanging out spot

Ember Island is very specifically somewhere that the upper echelons of society go, exclusively, yes. BUT even in high society there are still tiers? Like, Chan and Ruon-Jian explicitly note that they are only inviting the ~*~Most Important~*~ people to their party. I feel like you can have gradations within the distinction of elite or upper class.

I remember at one point there was some business about the proximity of an estate to the palace being indicative of the social status of the occupants. So, as an example, if you live at the very edge of the capital, sure you're not a commoner. But does the son of the famous General Chan want you at his party just based on the status of Not A Commoner?

Actually, I think the idea of Ty Lee and Mai being just that hot that they literally blinded everyone to the Royals is more believable than the kids not recognizing the Royals who were hanging out with said Ty Lee and Mai.

I have made an executive decision that this is actually canon.

I guess it can be quite tiresome for you since you've probably already had this discussion a zillion months ago a zillion times already. :(

Noooo, it's not tiresome for me. Believe me, I learned how to leave tiresome conversations about Avatar alone a loooooooong time ago.

Though, clearly, with my executive decision above, I feel this matter has been resolved. XD
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re:

By the present time, they all seem either by personality alone, by habit, or some combination to just not be that...jovial/social/whatever?

Nature and nurture combined. I definitely agree with that. :D Who won't be a loner like Zuko with a father like Ozzai & a grandfather like Azulon to contend with? And Azula, who can be argued to be as much Ozzai's and Azulon's victim (only more of the child soldier than prisoner-type) would also not be inclined to have around her prettier, more-talented-in-other-ways young women to take the attention from her. It was bad enough contending with Zuko. I've always read that scene of her and Ty Lee setting up Mai as Azula punishing this girl who she has deigned to make friends with for liking her brother at all. (Oh the irony!)


I have made an executive decision that this is actually canon.

To be precise: Article 3.5, Section 305-iii, part 3-v. of the Dogma of Avatar.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 10th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

And I actually love (love, love, love) Azula in The Beach and see the thing is I don't think it's especially inconsistent at all. Azula is charismatic and amazing when she's Princess Azula of the Fire Nation and is conquering cities and leading armies, sure. But if you take away her rank and title (since they were incognito) and make her interact with normal people doing mundane things and she still has all of that intensity and perfectionism and ruthlessness, it stops being, "Omg, you're kind of intimidating, but also hypnotic and enthralling, YES I WILL DO BATTLE FOR YOU," and becomes, "Uh...you're weird and scary and way too into this. Please leave me alone."

I can buy Azula being too intimidating and perfect for people to love her. (I think we get a hint of that with Mai’s “I love Zuko more than I fear you” to her in Boiling Rock. In order words: “It was never both. I, your best friend, has only ever feared you.”) But charisma is not limited to title and rank. And her very perfectionism would have made her learn how to flirt and learn how to do it well. (Unless, of course, the Beach was her first attempt but when she was complaining to Ty Lee it sounded like if she had had this problem for a long time). The same way Azula arrived incognito in Bai Sing Sei, assessed the situation and played it to her advantage is precisely the same way that Azula would have arrived on the beach, assessed the Cool Kid rules and made herself Queen of the Beach, complete with resident hunk – just because she can.

It’s not really a question of turning down her intensity, it’s a question of reading people and knowing where to press their buttons to get them to do what she wants – and Azula is (at least up until that episode) a master at this. Hence, my dissatisfaction.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I think that Mai never loved Azula because Azula bossed her around, was cruel to her at intervals, and kept her under her thumb her entire life, not because Azula was too perfect.

And no, charisma as a trait is not limited to title and rank, but Azula, as dynamic and powerful a person as she is, is quite clearly used to using her rank to get what she wants, when possible, all the same. I mean, she'll use anything at her disposal. But mostly she uses rank, intimidation, and opportunity (besides sheer physical prowess) to achieve her goals. Sure, she deceived Long Feng, knowing that he was the one really in charge since Kuei was obviously a moron, but she also used rank and intimidation to get the Dai Li to follow her, which was essentially the crux of her entire plan. She knows how to push buttons, it's true, but much of her button-pushing is scaring people and just bringing all of that intensity and power to bear. And I've already gone over how that doesn't really work well in certain situations. Azula is manipulative and incisive, certainly, but she manipulates fear and can see weakness and that's not really all that good for picking up dudes? Also, notice that her inability to really understand OTHER much more socially significant emotions is what led to her losing Mai and Ty Lee.

And I do quite believe that it was something she'd never really dedicated any time to trying before. And why would she? She's not that old, they hadn't been there specifically since they were all kids, and their whole palace life is very insular. Azula only wants to excel at it because that's the situation into which she's been placed and as such she has to dominate. Just like with the volleyball game. And just like Azula kept Ty Lee and Mai all those years because they were better than her at things/had skills she didn't and so she wanted to learn from them, when she fails at acquiring Chan, she gets Ty Lee to show her how. And just like Azula pushed Ty Lee down when she couldn't cartwheel better, she burns Chan's house down when she can't get him. In fact, The Beach is kind of Azula's entire character condensed.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 10th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

But the thing I don't think her rank as Fire Nation Princess had anything to do with the double coup in Bai Sing Sei. The Dai Lei were, after all, a veritable army of powerful Earthbenders loyal first to Long then to their King and City. Azula won them by sheer force of personality ("terrifying and awe inspiring") because she gave them the kind of leadership they'd been dying to serve under. I see the metaphor of flirting/Ty Lee tumbling. But the disconnect for me is why she would fail at that. Tumbling was something she physically could not excel at. Flirting is a milder version of the manipulation she's been doing for most of her life. ::shrugs::

I do see your arguments though and I think they've certainly helped me reconcile myself with that episode better.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 10th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

That's me up there by the way. I have no idea how that happened.
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 10th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I didn't mean that with her rank as a Fire Nation Princess she appealed to any kind of loyalty, but rather that it would have assisted her intimidating and enthralling them because FN or not, I have to assume people would look on the scion of the nation that's taking over the world as someone great and terrible (great-mighty, not great-good). We also saw a lot of that with Iroh.

And see where my disconnect with your POV is that, I don't see flirting as a milder version of what Azula has been doing for most of her life. Ninety percent of the time, Azula manipulates through fear. Because that's what she's always evoked. Because that's an emotion she understands. I think that romance is something that Azula does not have an instinctive or natural understanding of; these are emotions that she doesn't get on a fundamental level. So the only way for her appeal to them is to mimic someone who does. Stopping here before I start in on lengthy meta about Azula's personality and issues. Azula is empirically nowhere near as much of a people-person as she thinks she is.

Also, I will admit that the reason I love this about her so much is because I find it intensely refreshing that she's not a femme fatale. Azula, in addition to being a sociopath, has always struck me as extremely asexual. Throughout the series she's always been presented as someone whose power is actually traditionally masculine in a lot of ways and I was actually extremely happy not to see this monstrous, terrifying, almost androgynous figure start sauntering around wrapping teenaged boys around her finger with her feminine wiles. That's a pretty overused trope and we don't often get to see...not that.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

And see where my disconnect with your POV is that, I don't see flirting as a milder version of what Azula has been doing for most of her life. Ninety percent of the time, Azula manipulates through fear.

Fear is her default mode of manipulation but it's not the only mode she’s used. It's not fear she uses with Zuko in BSS as much as tempting him with what he wants. And it's hard for me to see the army of Dai Lei, powerful Earth benders of a 100-year-old impenetrable City, being frightened by the Fire Lord's prodigy daughter who only has two young girls for her bodyguards/allies.

Re: Romance and Azula as a people person.

But the Beach wasn’t about romance. Ty Lee wasn’t being romantic towards the guys. Mai wasn’t even making an effort. The Beach was about Azula winning and keeping the attention of the most popular guy in the Beach for one party. It wasn’t about making him fall in love with her. Referring to another character – the Queen Bee of ‘Mean Girls’ (Rachel MacAdams’ character) – this kind of territory mapping is just a milder form of warfare. When Lindsay Lohan’s character comments that high school isn’t much different from the jungle, complete with prey, predator and food chain, she was right.

Now, Azula getting a guy to fall in love with her and stay in love with her is a totally different cup of tea from what she was trying to do with Chad (why would she even want to keep Chad? She’d be happier with someone like Ozzai – intelligent and ruthless) and that she would have had a problem with. She’d have tried to keep him by blackmail (emotional, physical, mental) instead of just being the kind of person whose best friend won’t one day have to dump her for her brother. She’d have eventually driven him away with her crazy*.

Azula, in addition to being a sociopath, has always struck me as extremely asexual. Throughout the series she's always been presented as someone whose power is actually traditionally masculine in a lot of ways and I was actually extremely happy not to see this monstrous, terrifying, almost androgynous figure start sauntering around wrapping teenaged boys around her finger with her feminine wiles. That's a pretty overused trope and we don't often get to see...not that.

A-ha! Now that has helped me a lot to understand my problem with Beach! Azula. The thing is this: I don’t think female villains who moonlight as femme fatales are an overused trope. I think it’s the opposite. The woman is either a femme fatale whose a very powerful (but essentially only a) tool of the bigger, male, Bad or she’s the kind of villain who ends up falling for the hero and losing to him. But she’s never allowed to own both powers.

Has Azula been made out as androgynous and essentially anti-feminine? I don’t think there’s been anything up until the Beach to indicate that:

She’s a prodigy, powerful and skillful in Bending. But so is Katara and Toph (both of whom train the Avatar) and Ty Lee and Mai are as skillful in their own attack modes. Azula is manipulative and a good tactical leader but I and any number of women who have run households and/or held down managerial jobs and/or just been big sisters will tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically masculine about that. She’s ambitious and power-hungry but not only are these not ‘masculine’ traits (who won’t be if they’ve grown up knowing that their less-talented, ‘wimpy’ older brother would rule simply because he was lucky enough to be born first), these are traits that Ozzai encouraged in her. And when she wants to, she can turn on the maternal, feminine charm like she does to Zuko at the end of Season 2 and in 3 before Day of Black Son. So yeah, I don’t see anything to make Azula out to be androgynous, or the kind of girl who resented herself for being female.

But Beach! Azula affirms the popular trope: that she’s competent because she’s not feminne and that only ‘lesser’ girls can score with guys; and to me, that message is the wrong and harmful one.



*(And maybe that was the point the writers were trying to make, but they had only 20-25 minutes of episode time to condense it into? This is me arguing against my own point!)
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 08:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I actually almost went on this long digression about the different way in which Azula manipulates Zuko because she knows him almost better than he knows himself since she's his sister but stopped myself to control comment length.

Which is to say, I think Zuko is the exception rather than the rule. Particularly since he doesn't scare easily.

And it's hard for me to see the army of Dai Lei, powerful Earth benders of a 100-year-old impenetrable City, being frightened by the Fire Lord's prodigy daughter who only has two young girls for her bodyguards/allies. .

But that's exactly what they said they were? That entire scene where she gives her speech...the fact that she's frightened them is mentioned multiple times. The first thing the Dai Li agent mentions to Long Feng is that she was terrifying.

But the Beach wasn’t about romance.

In another effort to keep my comment short I chose a bad phrasing. I was using "Azula doesn't get romance" as a stand-in catch all because I didn't feel like saying "Successful social interaction requires some sort of ability to engage emotionally or to fake that emotional engagement, but Azula doesn't have that ability because she perceives people only as a collection of behaviors and weaknesses to be exploited. She doesn't understand how to emotionally engage people other than in very limited ways, which is why no one loves her and she lost the two people closest to her to their emotional connections to others."

Has Azula been made out as androgynous and essentially anti-feminine?

Okay first of all to make this 100% clear and as I said in your questionnaire about Strong Female Characters: *I* don't believe in genderizing ANY character trait. At all. Ever.

I said *traditionally* masculine in some ways to refer specifically and solely to the way that Azula often forcefully dominates people, being that that kind of aggressiveness and alpha-ing is something that people (NOT ME) would ~traditionally~ consider a masculine characteristic.

I didn't say that Azula is anti-feminine or that she resented her femininity. It's actually hilarious that you got that from my comment because not long ago I got into a long discussion with someone arguing AGAINST the idea that Azula has any such gender issues. Because someone was arguing that she makes an intentional choice to be masculine and I was arguing that its actually a non-issue (i.e. she is just as feminine as she naturally is/as it naturally pleases her to be with no effort made in either direction) with her not a commentary saying that Masculine = Powerful and Feminine = Weak.

Toph, for example, is intentionally anti-feminine as an expression of the whole secretly insecure tomboy trope. When I said asexual and vaguely androgynous, I was referring to my perception of her based on the fact that Azula's femininity has never, ever been a defining factor of her personality in EITHER its presence or lack.

Following this, I don't see it as an expression of the trope you mentioned wherein because she LACKS femininity she is thusly hyper-competent and only less competent girls can score. It would be crazy to call Mai and Ty Lee not competent. Same with the various other overtly feminine, unstoppable, and kick ass girls like Katara and Suki.

The point wasn't that it's a lack of femininity that makes her unable to score. It's her craziness. Azula can't score due to her lack of humanity. Which circles right back around to the fact that Azula's femininity is not a defining trait of her character; her sociopathy is what defines her. Because her being a girl is totally irrelevant to her being the monstrous villian that she is.

It's not that I am necessarily against the idea of female characters who own their sexual power. Of course not. But I also like female characters for whom their sexuality just doesn't matter at all. I feel that Azula is one such character.

Edited at 2008-07-11 08:03 am (UTC)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 08:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I actually almost went on this long digression about the different way in which Azula manipulates Zuko because she knows him almost better than he knows himself since she's his sister but stopped myself to control comment length.

The first thing she tells Long Feng when she begins her "coup" is that she knows his type very well; then she progresses to prove herself right. Azula does not know people as well as she thinks she does, but she does knows people very well. She read Sukka well enough to know using Suki would de-rail their entire mission. As a child, she could still charm her mother. I definitely agree that it is her lack of humanity that is her ultimate downfall. She understands certain things about people - fear, shame, pride, etc. - and she fails at understanding the softer things about people - love, affection, etc.**

***EDIT - On reflection, I think Azula does understand the softer side. I think she understands Zuko's love for his father and Sokka's feelings for Suki. But instead of empathizing, she sees soft feelings as things she can use against people.

The first thing the Dai Li agent mentions to Long Feng is that she was terrifying.
Is it physical fear alone that is frightening them or sheer force of personality? The Dai Li aren't frightened of Azula when they drag the Fire Nation Princess disguised as a Kyoshi warrior out of her bed in the middle of the night. It's when she starts talking that they look at her in a different light.


"Successful social interaction requires some sort of ability to engage emotionally or to fake that emotional engagement, but Azula doesn't have that ability because she perceives people only as a collection of behaviors and weaknesses to be exploited. She doesn't understand how to emotionally engage people other than in very limited ways, which is why no one loves her and she lost the two people closest to her to their emotional connections to others."

I completely agree with this and contrarily :P, this is another reason why I don't get why she couldn't have exploited Chad's (a boy who's essentially an uncomplicated mix of hormones and ego) own behaviour and weakness against him. As I said, it's for this very reason that she'd get his attention. Keeping it on the long-term or getting him to feel anything emotional for her is a totally different matter.

OK, I can see better where you're going with Azula's femininity.

(On an aside: For what it's worth, I don't see Toph as an insecure tomboy as much as an a blind girl who's asserting her own control over her life/world the best way she knows how & fighting off the figurative shackles that her blindness & her parents have tied her with. It's more striking because she's a tiny little girl but if Toph was a young blind boy, coddled & hidden by his parents for that reason, he won't have turned out very differently).

Following this, I don't see it as an expression of the trope you mentioned wherein because she LACKS femininity she is thusly hyper-competent and only less competent girls can score. It would be crazy to call Mai and Ty Lee not competent. Same with the various other overtly feminine, unstoppable, and kick ass girls like Katara and Suki.

That is sort of what I said already, isn't it? I don't think that Azula is unfeminine and I think she should be able to score regardless of her competency and ambition. The difference between Azula, Ty Lee & Mai and the problem I have with the comparism between both is that of all three women, it's Azula that is the ambitious one. As you said, being a girl is secondary to her being a sociopath But she's a functioning sociopath: she's not yet reached the stage where people run away from the crazy.

It's not that I am necessarily against the idea of female characters who own their sexual power. Of course not. But I also like female characters for whom their sexuality just doesn't matter at all. I feel that Azula is one such character.

But the whole point of the Beach was to show us that to Azula, her sexuality does matter.

Edited at 2008-07-11 08:33 am (UTC)
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 08:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

She understands certain things about people - fear, shame, pride, etc. - and she fails at understanding the softer things about people - love, affection, etc.

Indeed.

I don't think being able to recognize soft, squishy feelings as a potential lure necessitates an understanding of them. Clearly she doesn't understand them on any real level. It's been demonstrated by her gigantic gaff with Mai that she doesn't.

The Dai Li aren't frightened of Azula when they drag the Fire Nation Princess disguised as a Kyoshi warrior out of her bed in the middle of the night. It's when she starts talking that they look at her in a different light.

I never said it was specifically physical fear? I also don't see how what kind of fear it is...terribly relevant? I was never arguing that Azula does not scare and intimidate people with her force of personality. Just that being able to scare and intimidate people with said force of personality does not necessarily transfer seamlessly to other things.

is is another reason why I don't get why she couldn't have exploited Chad's (a boy who's essentially an uncomplicated mix of hormones and ego) own behaviour and weakness against him. As I said, it's for this very reason that she'd get his attention.

But the thing is...she did. She did get his attention that very same day. And couldn't keep it because she was crazy and scared him away. Which is exactly what you agree would happen?

That is sort of what I said already, isn't it?

Yes! I repeated it because it contradicts the idea that Only Less Competent Girls Can Score is the point.

The difference between Azula, Ty Lee & Mai and the problem I have with the comparism between both is that of all three women, it's Azula that is the ambitious one.

Yes, but see, again, that's not relevant here. I mean, you're saying that Azula's ambition and competence (positive traits!) are why she couldn't keep a guy, but it was clearly the fact that she's not right in the head (negative trait!). What is relevant is that Azula is the CRAZY ONE.

She could have continued being just as ambitious and competent as she is and just kept her mouth shut and she and Chan would have kept on making out?

But the whole point of the Beach was to show us that to Azula, her sexuality does matter.

I heartily disagree. The entire point of The Beach is that Azula is unable to make normal human connections with people due to her sociopathy and inability to engage emotionally (i.e. she is crazy). I don't think Azula's desire to land Chan is fundamentally any different than her desire to win the volleyball game. She cares about being perfect at everything she attempts; I don't see that as an especial interest in her sexuality. I'm sure there's some irritation and maybe even a little sadness that she's broken in terms of social interaction (she indicates this when she talks about how Ursa didn't love her), but again, that's not specifically and especially about her sexuality. It's about her humanity.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 09:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I don't think being able to recognize soft, squishy feelings as a potential lure necessitates an understanding of them. Clearly she doesn't understand them on any real level. It's been demonstrated by her gigantic gaff with Mai that she doesn't.

I think that's where the sociopathy comes into play. To her human emotions is a military science but she doesn't understand just how far love can push someone.


But the thing is...she did. She did get his attention that very same day. And couldn't keep it because she was crazy and scared him away. Which is exactly what you agree would happen?

Exactly. I already said that the Beach was like a condensed version of what would happen if in an Azula/Chad-type dynamic. It's the fact that it's over so quickly that makes it so disconnected from her personality. She scares him off with the crazy that would scare anyone off like 5 seconds after they kiss? She says he and she will rule the world together? Why would Azula want to rule the world with anyone, not the least being a Chad-type personality? I get it that they were playing it up for laughs but in the process, they dropped the subtle nature of Azula's craziness and hence, the disconnect.

Yes, but see, again, that's not relevant here. I mean, you're saying that Azula's ambition and competence (positive traits!) are why she couldn't keep a guy, but it was clearly the fact that she's not right in the head (negative trait!). What is relevant is that Azula is the CRAZY ONE.

Actually, I was saying that Azula's ambition and competence should not stop her from keeping a guy (If anything, they'd help her); and Mai and Ty Lee are not the best examples of competent and ambitious girls in the show keeping guys because while competent, they are not ambitious.


She could have continued being just as ambitious and competent as she is and just kept her mouth shut and she and Chan would have kept on making out?

Actually, she could have; for the same reason that she doesn't throw it in Zuko's face that "I talked you into taking my side and betraying your beloved tea-loving Uncle" when he's fighting by her side in BSS, or when they've taken the throne room. Instead, she keeps telling him what he wants to hear and what she knows will keep him by her side. Most people can be accomodating when they're getting exactly what they want and Azula, as manipulative as she is, is not an exception. She won't have kept up the pretence with Zuko for too long (the claws are already coming out when they get home); and she certainly won't have bothered with Chad for longer than that night. But she certainly could have lasted more than 5 seconds.



I heartily disagree. The entire point of The Beach is that Azula is unable to make normal human connections with people due to her sociopathy and inability to engage emotionally (i.e. she is crazy). I don't think Azula's desire to land Chan is fundamentally any different than her desire to win the volleyball game. She cares about being perfect at everything she attempts; I don't see that as an especial interest in her sexuality. I'm sure there's some irritation and maybe even a little sadness that she's broken in terms of social interaction (she indicates this when she talks about how Ursa didn't love her), but again, that's not specifically and especially about her sexuality. It's about her humanity.

I'd agree with that if the 4-way conversation in the beach didn't seem to go out of its way to show that yes, Azula can be human. She was hurt/downtrodden when she found Zuko in the family house with her "this place is depressing". She started by telling the rest of the gang that she was perfect then finally broke down and admitted that she was hurt by her mother. Like you said, the mystical carthartic nature of the beach reduced them all to their very human frailness and insecurities, even Azula.

peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 09:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Mai and Ty Lee are not the best examples of competent and ambitious girls in the show keeping guys because while competent, they are not ambitious.

My point was that I was never talking about (or aware that we were talking about) ambition as a trait keeping guys away from Azula or relevant to the situation, since, as noted, I don't it was her ambition at all, textually or metatextually, only her inability to be a semi-normal person emotionally.

Actually, she could have

That was an errant question mark. I was agreeing that she could have! Not saying or implying that she couldn't have.

It seems at this point to have boiled down to the fact that it only lasted for five seconds because they did it for the lulz like they do many things because they consider Avatar at least 50% a comedy show and they like to lampoon all of their characters. So, I accept the acceleration for the sake of a joke as a convention of the half-comedy show?

I think that's where the sociopathy comes into play. To her human emotions is a military science but she doesn't understand just how far love can push someone.

Woe upon her Cylon heart.

Edited at 2008-07-11 09:31 am (UTC)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Woe upon her Cylon heart.

he he. We agree on that.

It seems at this point to have boiled down to the fact that it only lasted for five seconds because they did it for the lulz like they do many things because they consider Avatar at least 50% a comedy show and they like to lampoon all of their characters. So, I accept the acceleration for the sake of a joke as a convention of the half-comedy show?

I do, it's just... Well maybe it's me holding Avatar to higher standards of characterization/character arcs than was displayed in that single episode. Maybe it's the way Azula in that episode skirts very close to the trope of Ambitious Women Scare Away Men... Like I said earlier, that message - intentionally passed across or not - hit a nerve.

But you've certainly helped me appreciate the episode a great deal more than I did before so thanks a lot!
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Ah, that is very understandable. I have certain things that are hair triggers for me too.

But you've certainly helped me appreciate the episode a great deal more than I did before so thanks a lot!

<3333333333

MY WORK HERE IS DONE.

(I live only to spread love.)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

*hearts Mai/Zuko icon* I need a .gif one with the "I don't hate you/I don't hate you, too" smoochies. Or better yet, a little!Mai/little!Zuko own. BTW, Mai being 17 means she's older than Zuko, doesn't it? Awesome! :D


MY WORK HERE IS DONE.

*G* Friend?
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

I've got a MILLION of them!

And, yes, it likely does. Which I, true story, wrote in my first Avatar fic (which was also apparently the first Mai/Zuko fic ever) and for a long time people thought that she was 15 too, BUT then the math proved them wrong and I could enjoy my older!chick/younger!dude kink to my heart's desire.

She is also, on various occasions, pictured as taller than him (or at least of equal height). <33333

*G* Friend?

I APPROVE OF THIS TRANSACTION.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 11th, 2008 10:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

::still laughing after the "and they lived happily ever after un-character assassinated and mulan 2 never existed". I haven't even watched Mulan 2. I refuse to defile my sacred memories of the original.

I could enjoy my older!chick/younger!dude kink to my heart's desire.

I spy ... a kinksoulmate. :p
peri_peteia From: peri_peteia Date: July 11th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm in ur journal making long comments?!

Oh man. Never, ever, EVER watch it. To this day I hate that I saw it EVEN ONCE. *shudders* I actually just made a recent post about Mulan and how is AMAZING. Because I love it so much that sometimes I have to remind people.

I spy ... a kinksoulmate. :p

Trufax, I appeared in your journal and started commenting at you because I looked at your icons and userinfo and was all, WILL/ELIZABETH? JANE AUSTEN (MY RIDICULOUS EPIC IS AN REGENCY ROMANCE AU, BTW)? H/HR AND H/L? DISNEY?! SUSAN PEVENSIE!!?!?!! CLEARLY THIS IS MEANT TO BE.

But uh not in a creepy way!
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