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Unlike the OG Avatar: The Last Airbender Cast, I Want a Netflix Adaptation

*Sips cactus juice.*

Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Personally, I’m excited for the live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I’m ready to die on this hill. I haven’t always been this excited to see more Avatar: The Last Airbender. Let’s clarify that, first and foremost. Every network or studio under the sun has had trouble when it comes to adaptations. They don’t manage to capture the heart of the original work, make changes that get rid of diversity, and end up looking like they never even watched or read the original content.

The M. Night Shyamalan production of The Last Airbender did all those things. They got rid of all the diversity when it came to the heroes, making the people of color the bad guys. They missed the whole point of Avatar: The Last Airbender being about found family, patience, and kindness in the face of adversity, and they ended up with a movie that made it seem like Shyamalan never even watched the show.

Combine that history with the fact that the original creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have departed from the Netflix adaptation, and it’s easy to not be excited. More fuel was poured on that fire this past weekend, when the OG cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender got together for a reunion special where they discussed the show in general and how it’s being adapted on Netflix.

Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced Momo and Appa, said, “I just don’t know how you fulfill that any better than this show did. I’m open to whatever they do with the live-action adaptation, which I know nothing about, but it’s like, ‘Well, how do you do this better than the way that it was rendered on this show?’ I don’t know how you do that! I hope you can.”

Olivia Hack, who voices Ty Lee, also expressed concerns about the actual relevancy of having such an adaptation in the first place when she said, “Especially when you’re doing the exact same series, but as a live-action. You’re not adding onto it or expanding the universe. You’re doing the same thing, which feels redundant, but I don’t know. I’m not saying anything.”

There is plenty to expand on when it comes to Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a new adaptation doesn’t take away from that world just by existing. Either way, we’ll always have the original that’s so good the cast can’t imagine improving it. In fact, even following roughly the same story, there are opportunities to enrich it and add things the OG series didn’t have.

For one, the LGBTQ representation in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra was majorly lacking. I understand that at that time it was hard to bring that representation to an animated series aimed at kids—and it still is—but I want more. And I think there’s room for the Netflix version to do that.

Worries about whitewashing characters in the Netflix adaptation, especially with what they did in the Shyamalan one, are valid. These characters are people of color. And just like with LGBTQ representation in this series, I want more when it comes to PoC representation. Give me dark skinned benders that aren’t the enemy, and put them into positions of power that blow people’s minds—because everyone and their mother deserves to be seen.

To wrap things up, we need to talk about the fanmade videos for Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. They are what the live-action Shyamalan movie could’ve been like. And if a small team like this can make something so extraordinary, imagine what Netflix could do with it on a grander scale, especially with an awareness of the shortcomings of its predecessor. So, sorry OG Avatar: The Last Airbender cast. I’m excited for the Netflix adaptation, the changes to come, and the new viewers who will fall in love with this world and the characters in it.

(image: Nickelodeon)

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Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.