The perfect time has come around to introduce (or remind) you of the brilliance of one of the best fictional characters from the past few years: Katara. The main female character on the 2005 series Avatar: The Last Airbender – along with Toph, who’s just as great -Katara isn’t just an awesome female character. Often times, she’s the best character on the show.
For those who haven’t seen Avatar (after this post, you’ll definitely want to check it out), here’s a brief rundown of both the show and Katara’s character. The world is divided into four nations — the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation and the Air Nomads — each represented by a natural element for which the nation is named. Benders have the ability to control and manipulate the element from their nation. Only the Avatar is the master of all four elements. Aang, the last Avatar, hasn’t been seen for 100 years, and in that time, the Fire Nation has waged war on the other nations. However, young Water Tribe siblings, Sokka and Katara, find Aang trapped in ice…and their lives are never the same. Joining up with Aang, they head out to stop the corrupt Fire Lord and save the world.
Katara has lived her whole life within the Southern Water Tribe. The only bender left in her tribe, she’s often left in charge of her older brother, Sokka, who’s just a bit of a doofus – a loveable one though. On top of being a WOC, Katara is one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever come across. Here are some of the reasons why. Warning: this can get a bit spoilery!
1. She has her flaws, but she learns from them.
Often times, female characters are ‘perfect’ – they can’t possess bad characteristics, or what’s the point of putting them into the story, right? *sarcasm* That’s what makes Katara so brilliant. She’s not portrayed as a character whose sole purpose is to be cute and to do the right thing. Sure, she has her good qualities – she’s brave and fierce, willing to fight for what she believes in; she’s warm and caring, nurturing her friends and family; and she’s the heart of the series, always loyal to those she loves. However, she most definitely has her flaws as well – if anyone can hold a grudge, it’s Katara. She doesn’t forgive and forget easily, and that loyalty can sometimes turn into an aggressive defense of those she loves. Sometimes, she can act childish and often times she loses her temper. But that’s the beauty of her character – instead of boxing her into a role as the emotional center or mother of the group, Katara occupies many different spaces – she’s a warrior, a sister, a young girl in love and a feminist. She’s allowed to be herself. Over the course of the series, she also learns to adapt to these flaws, either embracing them or learning to become more accepting. While stubborn, she admits her weaknesses and learns to forgive, pushing past one of the toughest arcs on the show: fighting against the need for revenge and letting the man who killed her mother go free. However, importantly, she never does forgive him – and that’s what makes Katara, Katara.
2. She’s fiercely protective of those she loves.
As I said before, Katara is the emotional center of the group – she’s often motivated by both her will to help her friends/family and anyone she can, a perfect example being when she dresses up as a patron spirit of a small village in order to provide them with food and medical care. Katara has a huge heart, even after all of the trauma she’s went through in the past. Her capacity to still love and hope shows us that no matter what one goes through, you can still have an open heart.
3. She’s one of the best benders on the show.
While Katara may be the mother of the group, don’t get any false ideas. She’s still a badass fighter through and through, and is easily considered one of the best waterbenders later on in the show after more training. She’s able to blend both traits – being a deadly warrior and a caring friend – showing that women don’t have to pick and choose between the two roles. Katara is a great example of a strong, capable woman warrior who’s still able to embrace her feminine side.
4. She fights against patriarchal views – and wins.
If there’s one thing that irritates Katara to no end, it’s men who are pig headed. Whether it’s her brother or the Northern Water Tribe’s waterbending master, Katara puts them in their place – and rightly so. (While we all love Sokka, he does make dumb comments every now and then.) Right from the beginning when Sokka complains about bringing a girl on his fishing trip, Katara let’s loose, responding: “You are the most sexist, immature, nutbrained… I’m embarrassed to even be related to you!” Boom. No beating around the bush, no letting him slide. Katara hands it right back to him. This is so, so important – instead of letting sexism stop her, she speaks out, allowing a perfect role model for young girls or any woman who will be taught to just stay quiet. Even better, when she later finds out that Northern Water Tribe women are only taught how to heal with their waterbending, not how to fight, she lays into the master. Literally. She picks a fight with him until he finally agrees to teach her, and in the end, he realizes how important it is that women learn to fight as well. Katara 1, patriarchy 0.
5. She grows throughout the series, turning into an even stronger, more confident young woman.
One of the best things about Katara’s character is that she doesn’t stay the same. While the show does a brilliant job of this with the other characters as well, Katara especially stands out. From a child scarred by destruction rises a young woman confident with who she is and her own abilities. Instead of focusing on her as Aang’s love interest, we get to see Katara grow in her own right: into a confident, self assured warrior and healer, able to bring balance to others and herself throughout the rest of the series and even much later in Legend of Korra.
In the spirit of strong women warriors, who are some of your favorite characters who are badasses with a sword, bow or their hands? What do you love about them – or maybe even A:TLA and Katara, if you’ve watched the show! Make sure to check in next time for another amazing lady character…
(featured image via knknknk (Kinako); all gifs via Tumblr/Nickelodeon)