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'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Movie Announcement Brings Hope and Fear, by Heather Rolfert

Imagine yourself as a kid again. You’re running to the TV, jumping over toys, shoving past siblings or even sliding over the side of the couch in a desperate attempt to catch your favorite show. You must see it the second it starts. Even though you’ve seen the opening sequence numerous times, the show wouldn't be complete without your beloved character making another appearance.

These memories could have happened years ago. You could have been five, six or seven years old. It’s possible you could have been 20, 26 or 30.

No matter your age, TV shows are precious. Avatar: The Last Airbender is one such show for me and many others. It came out in 2005 and grew to be known as ATLA to dedicated fans.

Avatar: The Last Airbender follows Aang, the newly found Avatar, on his time-crunched journey to master the other three bending elements: water, earth and fire. However, everyday is a reminder of a world where the fire nation reigns supreme and only one person can save the world: the Avatar.

Everyone who’s watched Aang since day one knows that 2005 wasn’t exactly a couple of years ago. Precisely, it was 18 years ago, and fans of ATLA have spent that time living without hope or promise of anything new for the show.

Now, however, we have a small flicker of hope. A couple months before the new year rang in, ATLA fans got an announcement we needed years ago: a new movie.

The announcement incited excitement. Now it’s time to stop saying ATLA never got what it deserved. Messages of strength, child-like wonder and hope will finally consume ATLA fans once again.

At a time when seasons of shows are cut, this announcement carries the promise of seeing favorite characters grown up, spending more time with loved couples and bonding with others over hated villains. Among all that, a new movie carries the promise of further reviving a TV show remembered by so many.

But nervous feelings still slither in, taking over the excitement. Nervous feelings about a live action movie in place of what was animated all those years ago. Feelings about actors not representing how all the ATLA characters were seen in the minds of fans. Feelings about pronouncing Aang’s name wrong and calling him Oong throughout the movie.

Fans have even more frayed nerves because of changing relationship meanings between Aang and the brother/sister duo Katara and Sokka. Water, fire, air and earth bending becoming a joke instead of a unique quality. About Zuko not living up to his animated counterpart. And Azula and Zuko’s relationship losing all its twisted meaning.

The point appears clear. The list could go on and on, including big and small fears of fans anxiously awaiting for 2025 to push 2024 away.

Since discovering ATLA (which wasn’t long ago, but long enough where my bond with the show runs deep), Katara has been my favorite character. On the surface, it appeared that I liked Katara for no definite reason. But, deep down, I could see Katara in my actions, thoughts and feelings as I became the friend everyone knew they could always rely on.

Katara’s journey begins with her as a young girl unsure of the power she gained in a tribe where no one water bends. She yearns to use her bending, but she knows no one around her can help her understand the seriousness of such a unique gift. When she starts bonding with Aang, she becomes the mother figure, pressuring everyone to act as seriously as she does.

It’s with Aang that Katara sees how bending is not to be taken lightly and shouldn’t be brushed away like nothing. But she can’t let herself go through life without experiencing the best parts.

When we have a deep connection with a character, it’s hard to see them grow and change in ways we don’t want. I’ve always been called the “mother” of my friend group, always carrying extra napkins during lunch or bringing snacks and bandages to hikes. If Katara was ever portrayed in any role but the mother figure, it would be devastating to see changes in my role model.

That’s where my fear comes from for the ATLA movie. I’m worried I may begin to drift away from a character I feel deeply connected to if she’s changed. Some ATLA fans may feel the same way with Aang, Sokka or Zuko. Regardless, all of us are scared to see the original versions of our beloved characters portrayed in a different light.

Of course, we are still years away from sitting anxiously on the couch and hugging a bowl of popcorn as we watch the new movie.

Maybe there won’t be anything to worry about. Maybe we’ll become our younger selves again, racing into the kitchen to grab a juice box in an attempt to be faster than the commercials. Maybe people will see the value in the movie that takes inspiration from and extends the original ATLA TV show.

Without a crystal ball, though, no one can truly predict how the new ATLA movie will turn out. For now, we’re all going to have to wait it out. Options currently include rewatching ATLA over and over and over or watching it for the first time.

In the meantime, we have to remember that the cabbage merchant’s cart of cabbages has been through far worse than what all of us will be put through waiting until 2025.

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