Animation has become one of the most imaginative and effective ways to convey a story — and for good reason. There are no physical restraints when it comes to this particular medium, and a creative flair can reflect quite immensely when it comes to this particular topic. Perhaps a great example to reflect the true power of animation is the Avatar series, which is — without a shadow of a doubt — one of the most renowned animated shows of all time. The adventures of Aang and his successor Korra have been etched into the minds of millions who grew up and fell in love with the charm of the Avatar franchise. It's easy to see why this series has achieved this critical acclaim — after all, one need only look at the meticulously crafted story, memorable characters, and the detailed world to understand this rabid fan following that the show has garnered since time immemorial.
However, while the series is certainly aimed towards kids, a closer look at both these shows will reveal a bunch of questionable material that should probably not have been a part of this series, to begin with. While the creators of the show certainly hid most of these elements to an extent, any person who happens to notice these discrepancies will find it extremely hard to forget due to their disturbing nature. So, without further ado, let's take a look at 30 of the darkest secrets in Avatar that you definitely didn't know about.
32 Energybending Is Inhumane
One of the most powerful forms of bending in the series has to be energybending, which happened to play a crucial role in the final stages of Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang used this form of bending to take away Ozai's ability to firebend. While this might've seemed somewhat cool, Amon's abuse of this power in The Legend Of Korra showed just how dangerous and inhumane this ability was, if used in the wrong way.
Look at it from this perspective — people who have the ability to bend have used this power throughout their lives, to the point where it's almost an extension of their being. To have this power completely cut off from them without a moment's notice will understandably send such a person spiraling down a whirlpool of depression, after losing what was essentially a major part of their identity.
Not that it really matters, since...
31 The Last Lion Turtle Died After Giving Aang The Ability To Energybend
We've already mentioned before about how Aang used his energybending ability to pretty much negate the need to kill Ozai, which was a neat little way to end the series on a high note as Aang didn't sacrifice his humanity at all. It was quite lucky that he managed to get this ability by meeting a Lion Turtle — the last of its kind, no less.
However, the fate of this Lion Turtle is pretty much left to the imagination of the viewers, which is certainly not ideal. In fact, the facts point to a grim reality that no one would like to admit — being the last of his kind, the Lion Turtle decided to live the rest of his days in isolation, before passing away due to natural causes. If this is true, then one must wonder exactly how Amon even got the ability to energybend in the first place.
30 Bloodbending Is Just So Messed Up
The special forms of bending present in the Avatar series are pretty awesome. However, one must keep in mind that just because some of these abilities are cool doesn't imply that all of them can be used for noble causes. If you want a fitting example, just look at the forbidden art of bloodbending, which has been touched upon multiple times in the series.
The implications of this particular form of bending are really disturbing, when one takes a closer look at the various ways in which this ability can be used (none of which are particularly pleasant). Can a bender stop the flow of blood to the heart? Is it possible to stop blood from coursing through a particular limb, making it useless? The questions that arise are endless, and it's honestly surprising how a pure art like waterbending can be used in such a vicious manner.
Speaking of waterbending...
29 Waterbending Is The Only Art Not Taught By An Animal
The history of how bending came into the world of humans is told in a very interesting and beautiful way in The Legend Of Korra. A two-part episode documents the journey of Wan, and how he became the first Avatar. It's a wondrous and beautiful tale, that adds to the already rich lore of Avatar's universe in multiple ways.
However, one of the main sticking points that we absolutely must talk about has to be the manner in which these different forms of bending were taught. Firebending was taught by the dragons, airbending was taught by the air bisons, and earthbending was taught by the badger-moles. However, for some reasons, waterbending was bestowed upon humans through the moon, of all things. Why is it that waterbending is the only art that wasn't taught by animals?
28 The Father Of Toph's Kids Could Possibly Be Sokka
In The Legend of Korra, we are introduced to two women who have carried forward the Beifong name — Lin and Suyin Beifong. Both siblings are completely at odds with each other for the majority of the series, but one thing they do share in common is a minor animosity of sorts when it comes to their mother, mostly due to the fact that they didn't really grow up with a father figure.
However, while Lin's father is revealed as a mysterious person called Kanto, Suyin's father isn't even properly specified. This begs the question — just who did Toph end up with in the first place? One popular theory that has been making the rounds is that Toph actually ended up having her kids with Sokka, and when he ran away for unexplained reasons she ended up lying to her children so that they wouldn't seek out their actual father.
However, if things had been a bit different then Toph wouldn't even have had the opportunity to become a mother in the first place.
27 Toph's Original Design Was Completely Different
It goes without saying that the character design of Toph is truly quite astounding. The first impression that one would get after looking at her is that she's a small, fragile woman who's been held back due to her debilitating condition, which couldn't be further away from the truth. In fact, Toph is easily one of the most powerful characters in the entire series by a country mile, and her appearance was initially meant to reflect that.
While forming the character concept for Toph, the creators initially wanted to portray her as a bulky man with the physique of a pro wrestler, who also happened to have full usage of his eyes. However, this idea was scrapped in favor of the design we all know and love — and boy, are we glad that happened.
26 What Was Up With Katara And Zuko?
Most people might remember that for a considerably long time, Katara and Zuko had a lot of screen time together, which potentially hinted at a romance. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that there were plans set in place that would see Zuko and Katara become more than 'just friends.' And let us tell you, the amount of fan artwork certainly indicates that viewers would've liked this twist in the tale.
However, this idea was eventually scrapped, and Katara ended up with Aang instead. Perhaps it was all for the better, but it would've been quite a sight to see the opposing elements of fire and water come together to live in harmony. Sure, Aang and Katara might've been a safer option... but sometimes, taking risks can pay off in dividends.
25 Bosco Was Eaten By The Earth Queen
Bosco was one of the most lovable characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it's easy to see why. Unlike the usual amalgamations of creatures that we see in the Avatar universe (elephants rats, lemur bats, and platypus bears are good examples of this), Bosco was exactly what he looked like — a bear. A big, brown, boorish bear that was undoubtedly a great source of comedy.
However, there's no mention of Bosco in The Legend Of Korra, which is certainly quite suspicious. In fact, there's a pretty prevalent rumor going around that the queen of the Earth Kingdom, Hou-Ting hated animals. In fact, she disliked them so much that — as a show of her supremity — she straight up ate Bosco to send a message to the rest of her kingdom.
24 Zhao's Grim Fate
The level of success that the Fire Kingdom had attained when it came to their conquests led to the emergence of many haughty and arrogant personalities, that would stop at nothing to achieve their goal. One such man was Admiral Zhao, who led the siege against the Northern Water Tribe. His lust for power was so overwhelming, that he even killed the Moon Spirit in his personal goal for utter domination. However, he got his just desserts when La, the Ocean Spirit, dragged him underwater to his early grave.
However, this was not the last we would see of Zhao. In The Legend Of Korra, Zhao was revealed to be one of the pitiful spirits stuck in The Fog Of Lost Souls, where he was doomed to an eternity of non-existence. This led to his mental state completely degrading, and even for a vile individual like him, we can't help but feel a bit sorry.
23 Azula's Pitiful Mental State
Since we're already on the topic of psychological instability, we simply can't move on without talking about Azula.
The tipping point that led to the degrading mental health of Azula occurred when two of her closest friends, Mai and Ty Lee, betrayed her. After this event, Azula became more and more paranoid over time. Ultimately, she found a chance to redeem herself during the Agni Kai with Zuko.
However, she was unable to defeat her brother fair and square. This broke her, since she always believed that she had been superior to him, and couldn't fathom the thought of losing at his hands. When Katara and Zuko bested her, Azula completely lost her mind and had to be transferred to a mental facility. A sad ending for the princess who was a firebending prodigy.
22 General Fong Was Completely MENTAL
To ensure their safety during the journey to Omashu, Aang and company were assigned an escort that would be provided to them at the fortress of General Fong. However, what the Earth Kingdom failed to realize is that their General was a completely mental psychopath, who had little to no understanding of what the Avatar State truly entailed.
In the mind of General Fong, the key to dethroning the Fire Lord lay in Aang and his Avatar State. He was so deluded that he decided to attack the Avatar himself, in a bid to witness this power firsthand. Eventually, he managed to do so... by making Aang believe that he'd straight up buried Katara alive.
Jeez, just chill out Fong.
21 Zuko And Mai's Numerous Ups And Downs
Relationships in Avatar are a tricky business, and for a show that's aimed towards kids, these affairs are surprisingly complicated. Just take the example of Zuko and Mai — two people who ideally should've had a very normal relationship, had it not been for extraneous circumstances that put a ton of unnecessary strain on their bond.
After some ups and downs, they finally got back together at the end of the series. However, in the comics, Zuko becomes unstable due to the pressure put on him with the responsibilities of governing a nation that wasn't as powerful as it used to be. This leads to a confrontation between Mai and Zuko that culminates with the former leaving the latter... again.
Now, let's go over to another rollercoaster of a relationship.
20 Lin And Tenzin's Strained Relationship
The Legend Of Korra starts off a fair bit after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender. This means that there are a number of events and occurrences that have already happened, and the only hints that have been provided to players lie in the subtle interactions that occur between the characters.
A brilliant example of this would have to be the interactions between Lin and Tenzin. Rhymes aside, they do seem like a couple that didn't work out. Apparently, Lin didn't want children while Tenzin did, which led to the downfall of their relationship. However, when Pema confessed her love for Tenzin, a jealous Lin tried to get her thrown in jail. She failed — for obvious reasons — and as a result, she flipped out and wrecked the Air Temple Island.
Guess Lin doesn't really handle rejection all that well.
19 Each Book Starts Off In The Same Manner
One of the main reasons why Avatar is so popular among kids and adults alike is due to the methodical way in which the series has been crafted. Everything from the dialogue, to the story, to the action sequences — the series manages to hit the perfect note with everything. But perhaps the best way to display this cleverness has to be by explaining how every book (AKA season) starts.
At the start of every book, there are a few events that happen beforehand, which is always followed by a shot of Aang lying down on any surface. This shot is so consistent that one must wonder whether the creators made this intentional just to add a bit of flair to the series as a whole.
The general consensus is that yep — it's totally intentional.
18 Who's The Airbender In The Opening?
The opening of Avatar: The Last Airbender is certainly one of the most popular openings in TV history. The amount of times that the line "but everything changed when the Fire Nation arrived" has been quoted — and misquoted — on the internet is absolutely endless. However, there's one universal question that arises when someone looks at the opening — just who is the airbender in the intro?
The firebender (whose face is blacked out until later on) is Azula. The waterbender is Pakka, who's a member of The Order Of The White Lotus and is generally regarded as one of the best waterbenders to have ever existed. The earthbender is Sud, who was Avatar Roku's earthbending teacher. However, it's never really specified who the airbender is, and the identity of just being a random Air Nomad is not really a satisfying explanation.
The next entry includes a character that would've definitely been a better fit for this role.
17 Monk Gyatso's Character Is Inspired By The Dalai Lama
Before he was encased in a block of ice, Aang was at the Air Temple, where he was being groomed by the monks to become an Avatar befitting of this lofty title. One of the monks who was spearheading his development was Monk Gyatso — a wise airbender who would've imparted precious knowledge on Aang... had he not turned his back on the lofty responsibilities of an Avatar and run away.
It seems that the creators weren't exactly being subtle when it came to portraying Gyatso as an all-knowing mentor. After all, his name — and another's as well — has been derived from the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (no points for guessing who the other person is).
It seems that Monk Gyatso was still supposed to play a vital role in the Avatar's journey, even after his death.
16 Momo Was Supposed To Be A Reincarnation Of Gyatso
Momo and Appa were two loyal animals that accompanied Aang throughout his journey. They managed to provide a lot of comic relief, and — in the case of Appa — actually contributed to the overarching story in more ways than one. However, Appa wasn't the only one that was supposed to have such a major impact on the series — if anything, Momo was supposed to have been a major part of Aang's development as an Avatar.
We say this because at one point during development, the idea of Momo being a reincarnation of Monk Gyatso was actually thrown around. It certainly would've been quite interesting to see Momo giving sage advice to Aang in the form of a lemur bat, but unfortunately, it seems we will never see this come to fruition.
15 The Air Nomads Were Alive And In Hiding All Along
One of the major plot points in the original Avatar series was that the Air Nomads had been completely wiped off by the vicious attacks of the Fire Nation. This realization was something that was very hard for Aang to deal with, and understandably so — after all, all his mentors and friends were gone, making him the only surviving Air Nomad... who also happened to be the Avatar.
However, the whole point of being an Air Nomad is to be constantly on the move at all times. Therefore, the possibility that the Air Nomads weren't wiped out does hold some merit — they simply went into hiding, and closed themselves off from the outside world, lest they risk their demise at the hands of the Fire Nation. It might be a far-fetched theory... but hey, anything's better than having to talk about death, right?
14 Jet's Heavily Implied Death
Welp, sorry about that.
Jet happens to be one of the many side characters introduced in the original Avatar series. His initial entry was as a minor antagonist, but throughout the course of the series he ended up changing his ideology and decided to help the Avatar. However, it turned out that he had actually been brainwashed by the Dai Li, and would've killed Aang had it not been for his strong resolve.
Unfortunately, Jet didn't exactly have a happy ending. After overcoming the hypnosis that had been placed on him, Jet tried to kill Long Feng. However, he ended up receiving a fatal would of his own that caused serious internal injuries. No matter how hard Katara tried, she couldn't heal these complicated injuries, and was forced to leave Jet behind to an offscreen death.
13 Lake Laogai Shares Its A Name With A Labor Camp That Was Infamous For Practicing Torture
The camp where Jet was brainwashed — and also where Appa had been held captive — was named Lake Laogai. The secret base was meant to house the operations of the Dai Li, but was abandoned soon after it had been discovered by Team Avatar. However, that's not all — in fact, the name itself is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this base.
You see, Lake Laogai is named after the various labor camps that had been set up in China. The term "Laogai" itself is an abbreviation for Laodong Gaizao, which means "reform through labor." Opponents of the Chinese Communist Party were sent here, and were subject to cruelty, punishment, and torture, among various other heinous things that we'd rather not speak of.
12 Amon Might've Gone Too Far, But He Was Fighting For A Just Cause
Okay, you might be fuming after reading this title, but just hear us out here.
The inhumane nature of energybending has already been discussed before, and it must be said that Amon was abusing this unique power to drive his own agenda under the guise of equality. However, the fact of the matter is that people who have the ability to bend have an inherent advantage over those who don't, and there are bound to be some individuals who would abuse this power to achieve their own needs.
So, the idea of making each individual equal when it comes to their abilities is certainly something that shouldn't be scoffed at. However, Amon certainly went too far when it came to achieving this reality.
11 Aang Separates His Connection With The Past Avatars
The Avatar series actually has a trilogy of comics that continue the story from where it was left off. The title of this trilogy is The Promise, and it actually does a pretty good job of providing fans with some much-needed closure and tying up the loose ends of the plot that were still left after the finale had aired.
During one particularly powerful moment, Aang is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making a monumental decision. He takes the advice of the past Avatars — namely, Avatar Roku. However, despite what Roku says, Aang vehemently disagrees, and the ensuing argument forces Aang to sever his connection with the Avatars completely.
If you're wondering what this choice was all about, then let us enlighten you.
10 Zuko Forces A Promise Out Of Aang To End Him If He Became Evil
After becoming the Fire Lord, Zuko realized that the responsibilities of this position were nothing to scoff at. In fact, there are moments in The Promise where he feels that he might descend into insanity, just like his father. To prevent such a grim fate for himself and the nation, Zuko forced Aang into a pact where the latter would have to kill the former if he exhibited any traits of the former Fire Lord, Ozai.
The worst part about this promise was that Zuko actually started making decisions that his father would've made, forcing Aang into the debate with Roku that we've talked about earlier.
Perhaps the main reason why Zuko forced one of his closest friends into such a dark pact is probably due to the possibility of a reality that he knew, but didn't want to admit.
9 Zuko Is Very Much His Father's Son
No matter how hard Zuko might try to deny it, the fact of the matter is that he's still the son of ex-Fire Lord Ozai, and his train of thought is dangerously similar to his father's — more so than he would like to admit. The fact that his destructive decisions almost compels Aang to kill him is proof enough of this fact.
If that wasn't bad enough, at one point during his reign as the Fire Lord, Zuko actually goes to his father for some advice on how to rule. This discussion predictably turns sour, and Zuko ends up storming out in rage. However, the very fact that he needed to go to his father for advice just shows Zuko's dependence on his dad — even though he hated him with every fiber of his being.
8 Ursa Completely Destroys Ozai
The entire premise of The Promise revolved around the search for Zuko's mother, who was driven out by Ozai. The story of the comics is certainly quite entertaining, and ends on a high note. One of the many highlights of this trilogy has to be when Ursa finally confronts Ozai after being forced into hiding by the ex-Fire Lord.
Ursa goes off on an admittedly badass monologue about the pitiful nature of Ozai, and how his pride was ultimately his downfall. This hits Ozai very hard, and the man known for being strong even in the toughest of times broke down as his pathetic form begged Ursa for forgiveness.
It's understandable why Ursa hates Ozai so much. After all...
7 Ursa Was Forced Into Marrying Ozai
Royal marriages have always been questionable — at least when they used to be the norm. Fathers married their daughters off to the sons of prominent families, in the hopes of attaching their family name to royalty. In the comics, it's revealed that Ursa actually had a lover of her own, named Ikem. However, her father, who wanted her daughter to be married off to a potential monarch, forced her into marrying Ozai.
It's pretty obvious that Ursa was unhappy for the majority of her marriage, and the fact that she had to sacrifice her freedom to ensure the survival of her son is proof enough of the fact that Ozai was definitely not Ursa's ideal man (obviously).
Since we've already mentioned Ursa's lover, we should reveal that...
6 Zuko Might Actually Be Ikem's Son
When one takes a closer look at how Zuko was treated, you might understandably be confused at the way in which he was treated. After all, why would a Lord belittle his only male heir? In fact, Ozai went a step too far by straight-up burning, banishing, and stripping Zuko of his birthright when he was a mere 13 years old, who simply spoke out of turn and unintentionally insulted his father in the process.
However, this unfair treatment of Zuko might make sense if he wasn't really Ozai's child, to begin with. After all, it's very much possible that Ursa had an affair out of wedlock with Ikem, and became pregnant with Zuko. Ozai, fearing that he might become a laughing stock, instructed Ursa to keep this secret and pretended that Zuko was his son (not that he put up a very convincing act).
5 Legend Of Korra Dropped 'Avatar' From Its Name Because Of The Movie With The Same Name
The Legend Of Korra is certainly a worthy successor that lived up to the lofty standards of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, one of the many minor changes that were made included the name of the series itself. Unlike its predecessor, The Legend Of Korra decided to drop the Avatar name from its marketing, which might seem rather odd... until you look at the reason why.
Unfortunately, between the original Avatar series and its sequel, a movie was released by James Cameron that was simply titled Avatar. While the quality of the movie is a discussion for another time, the sheer promotion that went behind this film meant that Nickelodeon decided to not confuse their latest original show with the movie. It's a move that some might find unnecessary, but what's done is done.
4 Korra's PTSD Is Nothing To Scoff At
One of the major reasons why The Legend Of Korra received so much attention was due to the admirable way in which it tackled modern issues without being too ham-fisted in nature. Just take a look at the way in which the series tacked the all-too-real issue of PTSD through the medium of animation. In fact, the portrayal of this debilitating condition might be a bit too real.
Don't get us wrong — it's great that the show is sparking a narrative about these issues that plague society. However, at the end of the day, The Legend Of Korra is a TV show that's geared towards kids. Increasing awareness is one thing, and straight up making kids feel horrible is another thing.
Of course, there are a number of discussions that have been initiated by the series, including...
3 The Debate Sparked Over The Legend Of Korra's Ending
The ending of The Legend Of Korra is equal parts sweet and memorable. Both Asami and Korra had been through their fair share of bad relationships, and at the end of the day, they realized that they both were a great fit for each other. It's certainly an ending that's very progressive in nature, but the debate that has been sparked by this ending scene is anything but.
The ugliest facets of society were uncovered when the online discussion started over this particular scene. There were people who were straight up disgusted by this scene and wanted to boycott the show for — in their words — including what seemed to be nothing more than LGBT propaganda to influence the impressionable minds of young children.
Jeez, calm down with the narrative, grandma.
2 Aang Died Pretty Early Because His Body Was Weakened From Being Trapped In Ice
A lot of characters from the original series made an appearance in The Legend Of Korra, which is pretty awesome. However, one of the most noticeable absences has to be the titular character himself. Of course, one might say that Aang simply passed away naturally, but this death might've been due to the fact that his body was already heavily damaged.
After all, let's not forget that Aang's body was encased in ice for an entire century. That's obviously not a small number, and while he might've been in suspended animation, Aang's body obviously suffered irreparable damage from being in such a situation for so long.
Mental stress would've obviously played a huge part as well, especially since...
1 A 12-Year Old Is Entrusted With The Fate Of The World
Being a 12-year-old is certainly quite fun. After all, you're just one year away from hitting those glorious teenage years, and you have little to no responsibilities aside from schoolwork. Unfortunately, it seems that in the Avatar universe, 12-year-olds are deemed perfectly capable of being able to save the world at a moment's notice.
Just put yourself in Aang's shoes once — it might sound awesome, but you're probably saying that since you're conveniently ignoring the responsibilities that are forced upon you once you become the Avatar. No wonder Aang ran away from the Air Temple — the sheer amount of pressure that was put on him was way too much, and any normal person would lose their mind, let along a kid that hasn't even hit his teens yet!