I recently had the pleasure of finishing Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar the Last Airbender for the first time. When the cold winds of winter arrived, I was reminded of how utterly atrocious the final seasons of Game of Thrones were (plus there was a pandemic), and was consequently plunged into a period of joyless darkness. I could not focus on anything, which was devastating because TV is my tried-and-true coping mechanism. Nothing can ever beat the euphoric high of finishing an episode and realizing that you completely forgot that you existed for 20-45 minutes. My inability to TV myself out of my depression was really starting to cause problems (i.e. more depression) when I stumbled upon [was forced by a concerned friend to start watching] Avatar. What follows is a detailed breakdown of how Avatar restored my faith in TV, thereby allowing me to return to ignoring my problems 20-45 minutes at a time:
1. It has absolutely nothing to do with James Cameron’s Avatar.
Avatar the Last Airbender is an animated television series following tween Aang, the last person alive with the power to bend the air to his will, alongside his other element-bending friends as they try to prevent the evil Fire Nation from conquering the world. James Cameron’s Avatar is about––um... blue people? And it’s really long. They are in no way related, and this fact really set me on the path towards healing.
2. It is the perfect balance between light watching and emotional investment.
I first noticed that my TV addiction wasn’t giving me the same high when I discovered that I simultaneously had no patience for dumb shows and no emotional capacity for deep shows. I started so many things: Real Housewives of New York, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Real Housewives of the Potomac, The Queen’s Gambit. Nothing. But Avatar tells the story of kids with crushes and super powers AND an intricately designed world in the midst of a crisis comparable to WWII Europe. It is the perfect balance of light and deep. Like my soul.
3. It knows how to do a season finale.
Unlike SOME shows (you know), Avatar actually knows how to wrap up their shit. The season one finale was what really sold me on the show. (Spoiler) Aang gets to fight people while encased in a giant spirit fish. Game of Thrones left me in a really vulnerable position. I lost my faith that TV would be able to follow a basic plot structure or honor its character arcs. But through its great season finales, Avatar taught me to trust again. This was very important to me in this difficult time.
4. It is better.
A better parent reveal than Star Wars, a better antihero than Star Wars, a better moral foundation than the Bible (and Star Wars), a better footloose episode than Footloose, and better memes. The fact that Avatar’s excellence healed me is probably a sign that my standards are too high and the experience of constantly being let down by other shows is affecting my mental wellbeing more than it should. But I don’t care.
5. The Guru” Season 2, Episode 18.
OK, the rest of this article was a drill but this part is not a drill. The episode entitled “The Guru” follows Aang as he learns how to channel his power by clearing his chakras. A blocked chakra prevents the optimal flow of energy. Some of you may be familiar with chakras, either vaguely in a hippy way or decisively in an educated way. If you are the latter I apologize for my following explanation. According to this episode, the body’s seven chakras are centers of energy, and each can be blocked by oppositional emotions. The earth chakra is located at the base of the spine, deals with survival, and is blocked by fear. The fire chakra is located in the stomach, deals with will power, and is blocked by shame. The chakra located in the heart deals with love and is blocked by grief. And so on. As far as you all know (teehee), I am not an air bender and don’t need to unblock my chakras to defeat an evil firelord. BUT, young padawans, that does not mean that we can’t use this knowledge to our benefit. Considering how grief has blocked my openness to love was, like, helpful to me. So. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Shut up.
Healing is not a linear process. One little thing cannot fix everything. Unless that one thing is Appa.
Appa's a six-legged, flying “air bison.” And I love him. And he cured me. And now I’m a licensed psychologist.
Emma Cooney is a junior in the SFS studying Culture and Politics and Film and Media Studies, the Public Relations Manager of the Indy, and is also definitely a licensed psychologist.