Aang and Katara: Destiny, Friendship, and Epic True Love
Hello there. TarelElenar, incurable romantic and obsessed Avatard, bringing the Kataang shippers a refreshing reminder of why we love this pairing so much.
I don't exactly see why a Pro-Kataang essay is really necessary, since all you have to do to find the evidence for it is watch the show. But since it seems a lot of people are clamoring for one and I just finished re-watching all the episodes from start to finish I decided, "What the heck. I might as well."
So without further adieu, I present to the Avatar fandom my Aang/Katara Manifesto: Destiny, Friendship, and Epic True Love.
(Ye be warned that portions of this essay be filled with much flailing and spazzing as the author is both an avid Avatar fan and a hopeless romantic.)
Aang is the titular Avatar and last Airbender, the "Chosen One", the hero of the story. He's also one of the sweetest, most likeable little protagonists I've ever seen. I mean--just look at that face! (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) In spite of the overwhelming amount of tragedy and loss in his past and the enormous amount of pressure facing him in the present with regards to defeating the Fire Lord and restoring balance to the world, he's a very stable and together kid. He is, in fact, refreshingly light-hearted. He's able to laugh and have fun in between dodging Fire Nation pursuers and learning to master the four elements. He's cheerful and carefree and just so normal that it's easy to forget that he's the most powerful being in the Avatar universe. But make no mistake: Aang is not just a goofy little kid. He is fully capable of being wise, responsible, and mature beyond his years. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
Katara is a Waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. Hopeful and optimistic, she was one of the few who still believed in the Avatar even after a hundred years of war and destruction with no sign of his return. After her mother was killed in a Fire Nation raid, Katara took on the role of nurturer/protector in her own family and with the remainder of her tribe. Consequently, she is very responsible and down-to-earth, grounded and very caring towards others, especially those in need. Katara is also an idealist. She tends to believe the best of people and is immeasurably stubborn and willful about causes and people she trusts in. Once her trust is broken though, watch out! (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
Why they're good together:
In a word: BALANCE. Aang and Katara compliment each other in a way that brings out the best in both of them and pushes them to grow and mature and reach their full potential.
Aang is shy and painfully non-confrontational at times, prone to running away from his problems. Katara is upfront and unyielding when it comes to things she cares about, causes she thinks are worth fighting for. Aang is sometimes impatient and acts without thinking about the consequences. Katara is usually very patient--though she is prone to the occasional temper tantrum once the right buttons are pushed. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Together, they push and pull at each other's strengths and weaknesses. Katara's gentleness and caring is what pushes Aang to gather his courage and face his destiny. And Aang's fun-loving carefree spirit is what reminds Katara to take a load off from being his Protectoress and the Gaang's designated mother-figure occasionally, and just have a good time being a simple teenage girl.
From 'The Boy in the Iceberg'
Katara: I haven't done this since I was a kid!
Aang: You still ARE a kid!
Both: (wide grins)
I love this. This balancing-out factor is one of the reasons Katara and Aang fit together so well as a couple. They bring each other to the same level. They equalize each other. They relate to each other on a level playing field. They mutually care about each other and it shows.(screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) When one is down, the other one is pulling them back up. Their love is so natural and beautiful, that's it's able to conquer anything in its path--Aang's despair at losing Appa (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…), Katara's insecurities, their occasional childish bickering... even the Avatar State itself. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)(screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
Quite simply, they are each other's light in the darkness.
Build-Up and Development
It's almost impossible to document all of Aang and Katara's canon moments in the series. Their romance was planned from the very start, in "the DNA of the show" (www.avatarspiritmedia.net/inte…) from the beginning. The foundation and groundwork for Aang and Katara's relationship was laid in the very first episode. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
And it's only been growing and building ever since.
Since talking about Aang and Katara's canon moments would mean capping scenes from almost every single episode (Seriously. They have that much development. There's something to be said for putting that much work and passion into writing a realistic and believable romance for a kid's cartoon.) I'm only going to cover those moments that are my personal favorite and that I think best illustrate what their relationship is all about.
The Boy in the Iceberg/The Avatar Returns
Was there any part of their interaction in these two episodes that I didn't like? From the moment she first pulls him out of the iceberg, they share a connection. I don't think it was romantic at first, but there's no hiding the fact that something about the two just immediately clicked. They became fast, almost instant friends. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Aang shows off for her, Katara is eagerly fascinated with his Air Nomad heritage, they laugh and smile and go penguin sledding and are just such kids together. Aang brings Katara the first dose of real fun she's had in a long while. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) And Katara's caring nature brings some needed comfort to Aang when he finds out he's been frozen for over a hundred years. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) The two hit it off so well that Katara is actually willing to leave her home and tribe--the only world she's ever known--to go with him. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
These are just the initial stages of the relationship, but already it's one that's sweet and caring and healthy and mutually beneficial to both parties.
As the classic quote goes, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
The Fortuneteller and The Cave of Two Lovers
Isn't it ironic how, in the two episodes of Avatar most associated with romance as a major theme, Kataang features heavily? (And contains poetic symbolism like this? (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)) In the former, Aang's crush is painfully obvious and he spends all his time trying to get Katara to notice him, to no avail as she's preoccupied imagining the "powerful bender" she's told by the titular fortuneteller that she's going to marry. At the end of the episode, however, after Aang single-handedly saves a village from a volcano and Sokka comments, "Sometimes I forget what a powerful bender that kid is." Katara comes to see him in a different light. He's no longer just "A sweet little guy" like Momo. He could, someday, be her husband. This revelation is heavily emphasized, with a sweeping camera move of DOOM and an expression on Katara's face like that of someone having a major epiphany. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
And you'll notice in the very next episode, she gives Aang his first kiss on the cheek. Something between them has definitely shifted.
As for Cave of Two Lovers, well...
An entire episode dedicated to showcasing their relationship and how it's slowly changing from Best Friends Forever, to Best Friends and Maybe Something More?
Really needs no explanation.
It starts off with a classic romantic device. The demonstration requiring inappropriately close proximity in order to properly teach it. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Feel free to giggle at poor Aang's awkwardness.
The romantic goodness continues when the two become trapped in the labyrinth made by the Two Lovers. Having previously been told that the way out is to "let love lead the way", Katara shyly suggests they kiss. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Aang messes it up, as teenage boys are prone to do, but the offer still stands later when their torch is dying and they maybe (almost) kiss just as the lights go out. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
This is a huge moment for them, emphasized with close-ups on their faces and the music swelling with the same leitmotif we heard playing in the background of the Oma/Shu story. (This same musical theme, in fact, can be heard playing every single time an attempt is made to confess their feelings, as in The Earth King, Nightmares and Daydreams, and the Day of Black Sun. It's even labeled "Kataang" by the Track team! Isn't that awesome?! It's like our own Avatar version of the "Across the Stars" theme from Star Wars!) Though the romantic subplot between Aang and Katara has to be put on hold for the next few episodes as extraneous circumstances demand their full attention, it remains a significant step in their relationship.
Because you really don't kiss someone unless there's the possibility that you maybe, possibly, kind of sort of might like them Like That.
Oh man... how can I even begin to describe how beautiful their relationship is in this episode?
This is Aang's Darkest Moment. He has never been more filled with rage or grief or despair. He is completely devastated and heartbroken by the loss of Appa. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) He is more than willing to inflict real, physical damage upon the parties responsible. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
And Katara pulls him out of it.
You just don't get a love more powerful than that in your regular kid's cartoon.
The Guru/Crossroads of Destiny
In which Aang's love for Katara is shown to be anything but a simple shallow crush and Katara's heartbreak at the fall of her dearest and closest friend bears an uncanny poetic resemblance to both the Ocean Spirit's rage at the death of the Moon Spirit (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) and Oma's devastation at losing Shu (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…).
And in which the blocking of the scene in which she brings him back to life directly parallels that of their first meeting. (i20.photobucket.com/albums/b21…)
Choosing love over power?
Giving her up in order to save her life?
The Pieta pose?
Love as a form of energy that can't be created or destroyed?
There is no way stuffing that much EPIC TRUE LOVE into two episodes can be taken lightly.
In which Aang is smooth and suave with girls and Katara is jealous and shy and Aang and Katara have a HOT AND STEAMY PASSIONATE DANCE and we see a different aspect of the Kataang relationship beyond the normal cuteness. Just look at that sultry expression on Katara's face! (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) You tell me that's not an "I so totally want you." look.
They move perfectly in synch. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Their faces come so close they almost kiss. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) They tear up the dance floor and end up in the traditional Romantic Tango pose(screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) just sweating and beaming and breathing heavily and holding each other close. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
There is just no explaining away that dance in my mind. Nothing is that blatently romantic in context and yet means absolutely nothing.
The Day of Black Sun
And we're back to being an Epic True Love OTP.
I adore their scenes in these episodes. Especially the one on top of the submarine. It feels so much like a war movie in which the hero is going off to face the unknown, into an uncertain future, into a battle in which he may not survive... (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) But before he does that, he has to say goodbye to the woman he loves... (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)... and tell her he loves her Today because he might not get the chance Tomorrow. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
Though the battle looms heavily upon their thoughts, they're able to share a moment to just be together, loving each other. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) It's a brief moment... but it leaves Katara wanting more (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) and being sad when it comes to an end (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…). The moment she whirls around to watch Aang fly away like the wife of a pilot watching her husband's fighter plane take off...
It's just beautiful. Katara and Aang's relationship has transcended beyond an ordinary crush, having grown and developed along with their characters. Now, it blossoms into the fully realized, serious and mature, grown-up relationship it's always meant to become.
And they still mutually care about each other SO incredibly much. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
I feel absolutely no need to demolish any opposing ships in order to prove Kataang (as the members of a certain other ship are so fond of doing). I will, however, address a few of the most common arguments they offer to discredit the relationship.
Kataang is only one-sided
Aww, come on, just 'cause Katara hasn't said it aloud yet doesn't mean she's not thinking it. Even if it were true that Katara didn't like Aang Like That, that doesn't make the Kataang relationship any less canon. It just means it's currently one-sided canon. One-sided canon is still perfectly capable of becoming two-sided canon. And also, I'm of the opinion that if you specifically intend to get two characters together as a couple eventually (as Mike and Bryan imply with their comment on the Kataang romance being in the DNA of the show from the start)... you probably already consider that couple of yours canon, regardless of what stage of development they're in.
(All this distracts from the fact that the opposing ship isn't even one-sided at this point but I digress.)
If you'll notice, Katara isn't actually that forthcoming when it comes to her feelings and guys she likes. She's quite the shy, insecure teenage schoolgirl actually. She never really confesses her romantic feelings for anyone, much less the guy she's had the most romantic interaction with. Her actions, however, speak much louder than her unspoken words.
So what does Katara do when she likes someone?
1. She blushes. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
2. She gets a dreamy look in her eyes. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…)
3. And she fangirls them. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) Incessantly. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
It stands to reason then, if she liked Aang Like That, we would see her:
Blushing- (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
Getting a dreamy look- (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
And fangirling him- (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
...well whadda ya know?
Some other things Katara does that, while we haven't seen demonstrated with others, are still common devices that strongly suggest that she is, in fact, into Aang.
She plays with her hair- (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…)
She avoids eye contact- (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
She gets jealous when he's with other girls- (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
She kisses him on the cheek- (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
And she hugs him. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) A lot. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) WAY more than she hugs anyone else. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) She's like the Starfire of Avatar or something. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Physically affectionate with everyone and in general but the guy she likes STILL gets more hugs from her than all the others combined. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) I mean seriously! (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Look how many hugs they have! (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) They just go on an on!(screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) Okay I think you get the idea. (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…) (screenshots.avatarspiritmedia.…)
It's been a long, slow process, but Katara is definitely realizing that she loves Aang. And eventually her words will confirm what she's been saying with her actions from the very beginning. It's never been about if. Only about when.
Katara only thinks of Aang as a son. Her affections for him are entirely motherly.
First off, there's a difference between being motherly and being someone's de facto mother.
Secondly, ridiculous. Katara mothers everyone, not just Aang. This was dealt with in "The Runaway", with her treatment of Toph as sort of her rebellious teenage daughter. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) It has everything to do with her as a character and nothing whatsoever to do with her feelings for Aang. Katara's just a motherly person. And she kinda has to be to hold everyone together, in her family, in her tribe, and with the Gaang. (When she stops hating Zuko, she will mother him too. You'll see.)
Also, if her affections for Aang were strictly motherly, we would not be seeing her blushing or behaving like a shy awkward schoolgirl around him or relaxing into his kiss or having a hot, steamy, passionate romantic dance with him.
Not to mention that, on numerous occasions, she has actually differed to Aang's authority. Clearly she holds him above her at least some of the time.
Aang has to let go of Katara in order to master the Avatar State
Strictly speaking, the guru said he had to "learn" to let her go. That "learn" seems to me to imply that he'd be doing it over and over again. Leading me to the conclusion that he doesn't have to let her go or stop loving her as in permanently irrevocably forever, just when his duty as the Avatar requires him to use the Avatar State, and thus, temporarily let go of his earthly attachment to her. Earthly attachment isn't the same as love, by the way. I am very attached to my sketchbooks, but I don't love them like I would my dad or my sister or a boyfriend if I had one.
Besides, we simply don't know if this really is the only way for Aang to master the Avatar State. As King Bumi says, "Open your mind to the possibilities." It's possible that there's a different way to master the Avatar State, one we just haven't learned about yet, that doesn't involve letting go of earthly attachment or opening chakras at all. Previous Avatars have been married and still able to use the Avatar State. It's possible for Aang to fulfill his duties as the Avatar and still be with Katara, be married to her even, so long as he's able to put the duties of the world above his love for her if need be. Heck, it's even possible that Aang won't even USE the Avatar State to defeat Ozai in the final battle.
We don't know. What we DO know is that Aang already tried to let her go once. And, well... you know how that went down...
And we also know that "When love is real, it finds a way." and that Aang is "wise" to choose love over power, as stated by Avatar Roku and Iroh respectively. I wouldn't discount the words of reoccurring characters who consistently give advice and spout wisdom over the words of a one-to-two episode bit character whose only job was to provide conflict for the hero and a direction for the plot.
Really, all it boils down to is another obstacle for Aang and Katara's relationship to overcome. After what they've already managed to get through together, I think their love is strong enough to conquer this one too.
Why I love them so
I'm not really that picky when it comes to romance. I'll take what the writers give me as long as it's well-written and not too melodramatic and I like the characters and how they interact and if the relationship is a healthy one. But there are still several factors about Kataang that push me overboard from casual supporter to obsessive shipper.
They were Destined To Be
From the very beginning, Aang and Katara are destined to meet, destined to travel the world together and play a part in bringing peace to the earth. With their respective personalities, they seem almost tailor-made for each other. They're not just a good fit, they're a perfect fit. The Chosen One, with the burden of the world on his shoulders, and the Protectoress, the one who lifts those burdens with her gentle care.
One of the things I love the most about Kataang is the fact that even with Aang's crush, they were friends first. Their romance was built upon a solid foundation of friendship and trust and understanding and general concern for the other's welfare. They had what all good relationships should have: work and time. Their relationship had time to develop and grow and gradually change from a simple crush into real, solid, and undeniable love. They knew and related to each other on a healthy cooperative level. They looked out for each other. They sacrificed and gave of themselves for the other. They built each other up. They made up after their arguments and silly squabbles. They survived near-death countless times, been in innumerable perils and yet they've stuck together with sheer and utter unshakable loyalty and fidelity. They've been through almost everything humanly possible... yet instead of tearing them apart, the trials and tribulations only brought them closer together. It's not your typical boy-meets-girl scenario. It's a relationship that takes real, concerted effort on both parts to make it work, the patience to get through their problems together, a willingness to tough it out when things are bad, and a sweetness and caring that helps both Aang and Katara reach their full potential.
They're an idealistic fairytale romance that's firmly grounded in the reality of how relationships work and develop. Speaking, however, of fairy tales...
Their Unshakable Epic True Love
This is it, the thing that always, always makes me fall head over heels in love with a pairing. The one factor that makes me giggle and squeal and shout "OTP!" without fail.
It is the Epic Love factor.
There is absolutely no denying that Aang and Katara's relationship is epic.
In the first episode he literally sweeps her off her feet. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) In the next episode her crying his name when he's almost about to drown is what awakens his Avatar State, and allows him to PWN THE EVER-LOVING SNOT out of Zuko and his guards. He's all her hopes and dreams, not just for herself, but for the whole entire world. One of Aang's greatest fears is losing her. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) She's the only thing in all the world that attaches him to the earth. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) His love for her is reborn of his love for an entire extinct nation of people. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…)
Think about that for a minute. Aang loves Katara with all the love he felt for the whole Air Nomad race. Imagine if Toph lost the Earth Kingdom or Zuko lost his beloved Fire Nation. Not just immediate family and friends but everyone. Teachers, distant relations, childhood playmates, the shopkeeper who runs the fishing cart, the weird old man who lives down the street, the kind woman who gives out free food on Thursdays. Imagine loving one person as much as you love all those other people combined.
Powerful stuff isn't it?
It gets better.
Katara is Aang's anchor, his breath of hope when he needs it most. She rigorously defends his inner goodness in front of doubters. (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) She comforts him when he's down and beating up on himself. Her love for him can calm him down out of the Avatar State.
Do you hear that? Her love for Aang is stronger than the Avatar State. Her care for him pulls him out of the depths of his darkest despair. That moment in "The Desert" when Aang's Avatar State is raging and blowing the sand in all directions (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) and everyone else is running for their lives (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) but Katara just stands there with a sad look (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) and then goes up to him completely unafraid and grabs onto his arm and pulls him into a hug while he's still in the Avatar State (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) and just holds him tightly until he calms down and they both cry... (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…) (dvdscreenshots.avatarspiritmed…)
YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE HOW MUCH MY SHIPPER'S HEART WAS SCREAMING "EPIC TRUE LOVE OTP!" IN THAT MOMENT!
I love it when characters team up in battle and even more so when the characters involved have a romantic connection. And no one on Avatar does more tag-teaming than Aang and Katara. They bend together so naturally and comfortably. They're the literal definition of yin/yang, opposites working together in harmony.
And then, finally, in Crossroads of Destiny...
I don't think there's anything more epic than the fact her love literally brings him back to life.
What else is there to say then? Aang and Katara's relationship is more well-written and deep and epic and true than should even be legal for a kid's cartoon.
Why on earth aren't there more adult show romances like Kataang I wonder?
What's next for them?
Kataangst. Lots and lots of Kataangst. Probably similar in format to The Day of Black Sun. Aang is facing off against Ozai for real this time, and from his perspective there's no guarantee he'll make it out alive. I can't wait for that scene they showed in the trailer. Aang looks so sad and so out of it. I betcha anything he's probably just told her, "Katara, I'm not gonna live through this." and she's like, "Zomg WHUT?!"
And then, after the epic climax, when all is said and done and Aang has fulfilled his destiny and defeated the Fire Lord...
Well, here's hoping that their relationship finally gets the well-deserved hard-fought happy ending that Mike and Bryan have worked so hard to get them to.
Some other Kataang essays worth reading:
More Than Normal: Aang/Katara (Avatar: The Last Airbender), by debacul (community.livejournal.com/ship…)
AFS: The Aang/Katara Portal, compiled by the_fox_bandit (the-fox-bandit.livejournal.com…)
For a complete list of Kataang moments in the series: (www.kataangforever.net/forum/i…)
All screenshots courtesy of AvatarSpirit.net and Photobucket
Avatar: The Last Airbender and the characters therin (c) Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, Nickolodeon