The Rise and Rebirth of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

How a show released a decade became popular in 2020

If you haven’t heard of it by now, you might as well be living under a rock. 

In the past few months, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has seen a revitalization in popularity. It has been all over various forms of social media in 2020. But how did this show rise to its original point of popularity? And how has it become popular again in the current year?

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” originally aired from 2005 to 2008. According to an August 10th article from the Daily Tar Heel, the plot revolves around Aang, an air nomad monk who is the current Avatar, the master of all four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. The show begins with Aang being trapped in an iceberg for 100 years. During his slumber, the Fire Nation had been on a military campaign to conquer the world under the leadership of the Fire Lord. Once Aang wakes up 100 years later, his mission is to stop the Fire Lord and end the war.

The main cast also includes Katara, a waterbender whose mother was killed by the Fire Nation raid and Sokka, Katara’s older brother who relies on his instincts and his trusty boomerang. Other important characters include Toph, a blind, loudmouthed earthbender, and Zuko, the son of the Fire Lord who has been banished from his home kingdom and tasked with capturing the Avatar to restore his honor. 

Even before Avatar became popular in 2020, it was popular among Nickelodeon fans a decade ago and was different from the shows being released at that time. A June 22nd article from Screenrant stated that the show was praised for having a diverse cast of characters that were based on various Asian and Native cultures. One example of this is the Southern Water Tribe, the people Sokka and Katara belong to and who were based on the Inuit tribe of North America. Also, the show presented some more adult themes like war in a way kids would be able to understand. Furthermore, an article from the Harvard Crimson on March 1 stated that the world-building of Avatar is incredible as the creators established a world in which the viewer could visualize themselves. Other factors like character development and design, the dynamics of bending and its many variations, character interactions, and the many memorable secondary and side characters helped to raise the show to the level of greatness it is today. 

After the show ended, other forms of Avatar media were created. A live-action movie was adapted from the show, but the movie is seen by most as hot garbage and is not recommended by most people. A sequel series was released in 2012 called “Avatar: The Legend of Korra,” which is set 70 years after the events of The Last Airbender and details the adventures of Korra, the new avatar trying to keep the peace that was created by Aang. 

Earlier this year, “The Last Airbender” was released on Netflix and became the most-watched series on the platform. From this, long-time fans could rewatch and relive the series they loved and new fans could experience Avatar for the first time. Because of this popularity, Netflix has greenlit a live-action series that the original creators of the show, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, were going to produce, but according to an August 18th article from Gamespot, they left due to creative differences with the Netflix staff. Also, The Legend of Korra was released last month as a result of its prequel series. All of these factors show how good Avatar is to be considered one of the best series of all time a decade after its original release.