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Weekend Recs: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Photo by Viacom International Inc. on Wikimedia Commons

With the release of the live-action Netflix Original adaptation a few weeks ago, it’s safe to say that the Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) fandom is having a resurgence. Originally airing on Nickelodeon in 2005, ATLA has become a highly acclaimed cult classic (or, at this point, just a classic). Although its status as an anime is debatable—I’d personally say that it’s more of a gateway show to actual anime—the show has been credited as introducing a new audience of American children to anime. The series has also been praised for capturing intense emotional and political themes in a show made for children—though it’s definitely a show that is enjoyable at all ages.

If you have 10 minutes…and haven’t seen the Netflix Original yet, read this review. It’s largely received mixed reviews, though they do skew positive. In my opinion, while the casting is amazing (and it’s overall 10x better than the 2010 live action movie), the pacing and some of the characterizations were a bit off.

If you have 15 minutes…and like the original, read this New York Times essay about ATLA and its de-centering of whiteness.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon

If you have 25 minutes…and want read some academic work on ATLA, read “The Blending of Bending: How We Engage with the World of Avatar: The Last Airbender through Memes,” available online through Falvey. Inspired by ATLA memes during the pandemic, this article does a deep dive into ATLA, its fandom, and its memes.

If you have 1 hour and 32 minutes…and are a fan of Prince Zuko’s character arc, watch this deep dive video essay on his character’s psychology.

If you have 7 hours and 17 minutes…and haven’t already watched it, watch the first season of the live action series. It might not be perfect (or surpass the original), but it does have some bright spots—it’s visually stunning, the effects are great, including the bending, and Dallas James Liu really stands out as Prince Zuko.

Bonus: it almost goes without saying, but if you want to watch (or re-watch) arguably one of the best “children’s” shows of all time, watch the original animated series, also available on Netflix. If you don’t believe me, look at its glowing scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you have a free weekend…and want to explore more ATLA lore, read the books in the Avatar Kyoshi duology—The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi—available online through Falvey.


Annie Stockmal is a second-year graduate student in the Communication Department and Graduate Assistant in Falvey Library.


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Last Modified: March 15, 2024

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