#without katara the world would have literally fucking ended wtf
Okay deep breath because I’ve never done this before and this has probably already been done but Katara is a great character and it bears repeating
Katara is actually one of the main MAJOR protagonists of this series: it doesn’t really seem like it—-I didn’t realize it till later maybe because of some internalized sexism but also because it was never “a big deal”.
Think about it: She’s the last bender from where she comes from with a tragic past. She unleashes a power locked away for 100 years—the key to defeating the Fire nation and ending the 100 year war. She then takes on a quest to help save the world and on this quest she develops an amazing prowess with her abilities (as giffed above) starts revolutions (the earth kingdom prisoners) criticizes both her own “empire” to institute change (Water tribe patriarchy) and even helps the people of the “empire” she fights against (The Painted Lady).
Oh, and she defeats the Fire Lord.
But it never her destiny to do any of these things. Her narrative has a lot of standard hero elements except the destiny factor.
Aang’s narrative is “a big deal”. Zuko’s narrative is “a big deal”. It is their grand destinies to do what they do and become what they become—their ancestors’ and previous lives’ stories shape who they are and what they must do and so both Aang and Zuko are burdened by their royal and divine histories to meet, and fight, and join and save the world.
It’s never Katara’s destiny to do a damn thing. Remember the episode “The Fortune Teller” (s1e14) ? All Katara wants to know about is love and who she’ll marry—Aunt Wu tells her about a powerful bender—it’s never mentioned what a powerful bender she will become—possibly because it was never planned for Katara. Aang, perhaps ironically, wants to know about his love life, whereas Aunt Wu instead focuses on the great battle he will be apart of. Aang constantly has his destiny put on him, and we the audience are constantly reminded of it. Katara, the audience is reminded, is Aang’s love interest.
I have to go a little half-sies on how I feel about Katara’s role as protagonist. In some ways Katara’s rise is beautiful because it’s never her task to do so—what we learn is that people without these destinies, those not born into a position of importance can and do do great things. Although the lesson of “The Fortune Teller” to “shape your own destiny”, is directed at Aang, the series concludes with him fulfilling his specified destiny/task and Katara being the one to get shit done without being told a 100 times. But her treatment as a character was and is never at the same level as Zuko’s or Aang’s—again because of their destinies.
But I can’t help but feel that this is a reflection of the intersection of sexism and storytelling. Because in a subtle way the use of destiny in narrative storytelling closely mimics the way entitlement and privilege works in real life.((I was saving the discussion of destiny as a vehicle for in-narrative privilege for a english paper but let’s share this shit now)). Aang and Zuko are born into their destinies—they are given to them, and each receives special powers (avatar abilities & governmental power) and special tasks (Aang’s is obvious, Zuko’s has to do with resolving the tension of his bloodlines from Roku and Sozin). The narrative emphasis on their destinies focuses more screen time and weight to these characters as well.
What blows my mind is to remind myself that the main secondary conflict of the series finale was between Katara and Azula— as it should have been, because Zuko defeating Azula would have had different gender ramifications. While Aang took care of Ozai, Katara is ultimately the one who defeats the Fire Lord, and these two story lines, the defeat of Ozai and Fire Lord Azula are framed as complementary to each other. Up till the final moments, it is played out as though Zuko is the complementary character to Aang. But Katara got that moment instead and it’s so damn important to me because this moment makes all the difference in her status as a main protagonist.