Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t just a fantastic animated show, it’s one of the best pieces of television ever produced (and if you loved it, you can check out our list of more shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender). It’s exceptionally well-plotted, has an incredibly intricate yet accessible world, great fight scenes, and characters you instantly fall in love with. But if you really think about the world and the show itself, you’ll start to find some things that are pretty messed up. Seriously, it’s about a group of small children on a dangerous and extremely emotionally stressful quest to save the world. That's objectively pretty horrifying.
When you delve into everything these kids have gone through, it’s easy to draw conclusions about the world that put them in that situation. Sure, the Fire Nation was pretty awful, but what about the forces of good that are constantly putting Team Avatar in harm’s way? Or the inherent classism associated with bending? For all of it's bright colors and madcap action, Avatar: The Last Airbender is much darker than you think it is.
Child Soldiers Are Commonplace
Desperate times call for desperate measures. That's a thing that awful people say to justify doing something reprehensible. You know, like relying on children to do your fighting for you. That’s just what the “good guys” do when they form an army to attack the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun (a solar eclipse).
The Fire Nation is guilty of the same crime, as Ozai sends both the juvenile Zuko and his even younger sister Azula into combat situations on a regular basis. The craziest part? People barely comment on it. It's not like the adults in the situation (of which there are many) regularly discuss the ethics of using children in warfare. They just send 'em off into battle with some slightly fancier clothes and a reminder not to f*ck everything up.
Bloodbending Is Existentially Terrifying
Waterbending is a pretty sweet ability. Not only can you manipulate water, but a skilled waterbender can even heal people by adjusting the flow of their chi. Bloodbending, on the other hand, is pretty much the most horrible thing in the world.
The most "benign" use of the skill is controlling the bodies of others like a puppet. When that's your best-case scenario, you know things are going to get dark. Bloodbending has many sinister applications.
Amon used the power to take away people’s bending in The Legend of Korra. So, you know, he basically robbed them of their identity. Conceivably, you could even rip the blood right out of someone’s body, or cause them to have a brain hemorrhage. If a power like that existed in our world, it would basically be impossible to ever not have nightmares.
One Nation Is Objectively More Powerful Than The Rest
The crux of Avatar: The Last Airbender is that Aang's mission to stop the Fire Lord before Sozin’s Comet arrives. The comet enhances the abilities of firebenders to the point where many of them could be considered weapons of mass destruction. Using the comet’s influence, Fire Lord Ozai was able to lay waste to an entire forest in a matter of seconds.
The strange thing is, none of the other nations can match that destructive power. Seriously, they don't come close. Sure, waterbenders get stronger on a full moon, but they aren’t able to destroy cities with tidal waves or anything. How long until the Fire Nation just decides to be evil again and starts wrecking face?
Everyone's Cool With Assassination
The final moral quandary that Avatar Aang must face in the original series is the manner in which he will try to defeat Fire Lord Ozai. Everyone around him is for an assassination attempt, but Aang just can’t get behind the notion of snuffing out another life. Even his past lives were all cool with the idea of Aang killing the Fire Lord in order to save the world.
For real, no other human character even suggested that straight-up murder wasn't the only option. It wasn’t until Aang talked to a magic Lion Turtle (this show was so cool) did he realize he could bend Fire Lord Ozai’s life energy to take away his firebending. Good thing that the most important and powerful person in the world didn't start using execution as a way of solving problems, despite literally every person he loves and trusts telling him it was totally fine.