(c) Avatar: The Last Airbender
The American animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender ran from 2005 to 2008, and has been the favourite series of many for over fifteen years. When the final episode aired in 2008, companies such as Dark Horse published comics- picking up right where the series left off. At the time of writing this article, I finished watching the series last night. I must confess, I almost cried when it ended.
Thankfully, there is a sequel series called The Legend of Korra (2012-2014), and an upcoming live action series which will be exclusive to Netflix. Admittedly, I never really had a favourite animated series in my life. However, Avatar has definitely fit that claim for me. I loved it so much. Before I dive into today’s content, this will be the first in a series of articles based on the Last Airbender animated series. Today, we will be discussing the issue of the “Painted Lady.”
This is the final scene, of the series finale.
The Painted Lady:
Within the “Avatar” universe, there are four countries: the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom, the nation of the Air Nomads, as well as the Water Tribe. Keeping that in mind, the Water Tribe is divided between the Southern and Northern Water Tribe. Although the series was produced in North America, this is not an example of cultural appropriation. Yes, the Fire Nation is clearly inspired by imperial Japan. However, these are still fictional places. Therefore, the television series is not copying anything.
By season three of the series, Aang, Katara, and Sokka find themselves in one of the Fire Nation colonies; a small village named Jang Hui. The settlement rests near the river of the same name, and is composed mostly of house boats as living quarters. The small fishing village is severely impacted by a nearby Fire Nation factory, which has been producing large amounts of waste; and polluting the Jang Hui River. A river spirit known as the “Painted Lady” is said to protect the village of Jang Hui, as well as ensure its prosperity. However, the spirits abilities are blocked due to the pollution in the area.
Once Team Avatar arrives in the village, Katara meets a young boy who asks her for one of the fish they purchased. After the boy takes the fish, Katara notices his mother is pretty sick. In fact, most residents of the village are suffering in some way. Katara learns of the legend of the Painted Lady, and initially believes it is just a story. Out of the kindness of her heart, Katara impersonates the Painted Lady and steals from the Fire Nation factory; providing the residents of Jang Hui with the supplies they need to survive.
By the end of the episode the factory is destroyed, and the real Painted Lady appears to thank Team Avatar for their efforts. According to “Avatar” mythology, only the spiritually enlightened are able to see spirits in the physical world- whether those spirits have good or bad intentions. So, why is this important? Throughout the series, Katara has proven to be an entirely good person. Katara has saved people from death with her healing abilities as a water bender, as well as always doing the right thing. Since Katara goes out of her way to save a group of people she doesn’t know, this allows for her spiritual enlightenment. Not surprisingly, Katara becomes further enlightened when she ultimately marries Aang- the avatar.
The Modernist Son, 2020-2021