As I stated before, I’ve wanted to do reviews for awhile, especially on this show. This week for grad school, I did a paper that analyzed on Aang’s framing as a more feminine male lead. This is something that has been debated over between fans for quite some time. In researching for my paper (which was legit watching some of my favorite episodes) I found that Aang was definitely a bit more feminine. However, I found that this series, and even the legend of Korra series, did quite a bit to subvert gender norms.
I’ll start with explaining Aang’s femininity. I’d like to start by stating that this is not a diss on Aang. I personally adore Aang and he is one of my favorite lead characters I’ve seen introduced in an adventure series. And it also needs to be noted that feminine traits in men shouldn’t be considered as something negative. Now with all that in mind, I feel that there were several subtle instances that displayed Aang’s more feminine traits. It was something that could be seen in the very first episode. He as an aura of mystery that is normally projected onto women in cinema when we are first introduced to him.
His personality is also one that doesn’t really fit the dominant ideology for what is/ should be considered masculine. The episode that really showed this was the episode with the fortune teller in the first season. Sokka teases him because he made jewelry for Katara saying “Instead of saving the world, you can go into the jewelry making business.” Without skipping a beat, Aang says “I don’t see why I can’t do both.” That spoke a lot to Aang’s view on masculinity and they were so subtle about it. Aang doesn’t separate masculine and feminine tasks, saying that he could do both with no problem. Even so, his masculinity isn’t completely disregarded. They make his desire for Katara very clear. This is one of the many reasons that I adored Aang.
However, Aang wasn’t the only example of a subversion of gender norms. It’s seen in characters like Toph as well. She is a young, thin, blind girl who was far more masculine than some of the boys that she spent time with. The subversion of gender norms and archetypes was also seen in the episode where Aang ended up in jail. His cellmates were originally framed as intimidating but were shown to be very sensitive and in tune with their emotions. The subversion can even be seen in the fact that one of the most dangerous antagonists is a woman.
The way that the writers handled the perception and growth of these characters is one of the main reason that I absolutely love this show!