Sartorially Smart Heroines‘s sharp-as-usual analysis of Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
It should be noted that Azula’s choice of outfit is not unexpected. The Fire Nation royal family has a tradition of leading from the front: Azula’s uncle Iroh, the Fire Nation crown prince until he abdicated in favor of her father, led the Fire Nation’s campaign against the Earth Kingdom. His son, Azula’s cousin Lu Ten, was killed at the siege of Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom capital (which is a good example of why a lot of real-world monarchs don’t lead from the front. The line of succession can be broken really quickly that way). They’re well-suited to doing so, being some of the most powerful and best-trained firebenders around. And when they do, they wear standard Fire Nation military uniforms.
What I find particularly fascinating about Azula is her character arc. In season 2, she’s as SSH describes her: brilliant, vicious, and deadly. In season 3, however, we’re reminded that she’s still a 14-year-old girl. One who has, in her way, been abused as badly as her brother Zuko. Her father has forged her into a weapon, and she’s unable to function as anything else: she doesn’t know how to interact with people her own age (she tends to revert to her default mode of precise military timing, loud shouting and explosions), she believes in the absolute power of fear to control people and doesn’t know what to do when it fails, and she begins to decompensate when she’s taken out of an action-oriented role and put into an administrative one.
Of course, that last could be because she’s been put into the now-redundant role of Firelord after her father has declared himself worldwide emperor, proving that she was only ever a tool for him to use.
Long Feng: “You have beaten me at my own game.”
Azula: “Don’t flatter yourself. You were never even a player.”
Re-watching episodes of A:TLA while writing this. I’ll admit that I’m a relative latecomer to the Avatar: the Last Airbender fandom. I didn’t actually watch the series until after I’d bought all four seasons of The Legend of Korra, and I didn’t even watch Korra until a couple months after the series had ended. But I have to say that I love the Avatar Universe. I fell completely in love with the story, world-building, and characters. While the show features a stellar cast, all around, the Last Airbender character I felt most brilliantly written was the main villainess, Fire Nation Princess Azula.
I love that she’s so cartoonishly evil but without being cartoonishly inept—an extremely rare balance in storytelling. On top of…
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