When I was watching Avatar the first time, I was probably in middle school or high school, and I remember getting into it just for the bending. Each form of bending is based on a different form of Chinese martial art, and because my family is from Taiwan and I grew up in a household where we watched Jet Li movies just as often as any Western action movies, the idea of martial arts giving the martial artist control of the four elements was extremely compelling to me. Upon rewatch, though, I realized that as a kid, I somehow missed a lot of the diversity of the Avatar universe. Though bending is such a physical act, the Avatar universe also went out of its way to showcase many characters with physical disabilities and mental trauma.
Spoilers for all of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra after the jump.
So I’ve only seen Frozen a couple times by now—five or six, but who’s counting?—and yet I’m still struck by how amazing this story is. Sure, it has some problems. I mean, nothing’s perfect, but Frozen has so many progressive themes that it’s hard to ignore what a great movie it truly is. Additionally, while being caught up in its awesomeness, it might be a little hard to articulate why certain parts of the movie are so great. I knew that I didn’t really like Elsa’s and Anna’s parents when I first saw the movie, but it wasn’t until the second or third time through that I realized I disliked them because of how abusive they were to their daughters.
A friend of mine and I were discussing Tangled recently, and when I asked him why he hadn’t liked the movie, he replied, “It was just too dark to be a kids’ movie.” It took me a while to understand what he meant by that—surely a movie about a princess and her animal companion friends wasn’t dark? Then I realized that while the characters themselves may not have been particularly bleak, the theme of the story was. The driving force behind Tangled is the twisted relationship between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, and understanding it is key to understanding why Tangled was such a great movie.