After much hiatus-ing along the way, I’ve finally seen the entirety of Avatar: The Last Airbender. (TV series, natch — not the Shyamalan film. Though I laughed and laughed at how the episode “The Ember Island Players” seemed to presage the movie’s awfulness.)
I very much enjoyed the show: the characters, and most especially the world it takes place in, which has all kinds of nifty little details squirreled away in the corners. Apparently Nickelodeon is planning a new twelve-episode series to air next year — set seventy-five years later, focusing on Korra, a Water Tribe girl who’s the new Avatar — and I am very much looking forward to that.
It was interesting, though, watching a show which fundamentally was written for a kid audience. I read a decent amount of YA, but this was aimed at a demographic aged 6-11 (according to Wikipedia), and they play in a whole different ballpark. I could feel the difference: the show still grapped with interesting and sometimes difficult ideas, but the way it did so was . . . simpler.
Which feels like a criticism, maybe even a dismissal, and that’s the part I find interesting. I can’t find any words to describe what I’m thinking of that don’t sound like pejoratives. It’s simpler. The answers come more easily. They aren’t explored in as much depth.
But that isn’t a bad thing. How many adults got hooked on that series? I’m nowhere near the only one. Just because we weren’t the intended audience didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy it. If it didn’t reach quite the same depths of grief and heights of joy as, say, Dorothy Dunnett, that’s okay; I was shouting at the TV screen anyway, which is a good sign that I cared. The story may have been simpler, but it wasn’t lesser.
So I’m left wondering, what makes that trick happen? What’s the secret technique that makes a nice, simple story for children (Avatar, Harry Potter) into something hordes of adults enjoy? Was it the characterization? Again, that didn’t have the depth I might expect from an adult show — but it was compelling; I giggled and cheered and wailed at the characters not to do the stupid thing I knew they were about to do. Was it the world? Maybe we were all just starving for a full-blown setting that wasn’t the usual familiar medieval Eurofantasy. I’d be curious to hear from people who loved the show: what was it that drew you to it?
(Be spoiler-free, if you can.)