During lockdown, one of the most notable phenomenons was the collective obsession with specific television shows. Creating a timeline of COVID-19 only using TV shows is no large feat but something incredibly accomplishable. One of the most significant resurrections was of the children’s cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Though “Avatar” was a staple in the childhood of Gen Z, the impact it had on social media the first month it aired on Netflix was unpredictable. It broke the record for the show with the longest streak of being on the Netflix top 10 with a substantial 58 days. However, this was not an accident — it was a culmination of factors that lead to the reawakening of the series.
The show’s structure was exactly what everyone needed in the hurricane of stress caused by a pandemic, protests and a changing America. It provides a perfect balance of escapism and captivation. The beauty of serialized children’s cartoons is that they are light-hearted enough to distract us from the reality of our world but have an overlying plot that engages the viewer for multiple seasons.
“Avatar” engrossed its audience with an underlying plot, minimal filler episodes and well-developed character arcs. This is diminished by viewers who do not consider cartoon animation its own artform.
Its success is also attributed to the psychological aspect of a nostalgic show coming back to air. Many psychotherapists believe that people struggling with anxiety prefer to watch shows they already know. This phenomenon is because anxiety and uncertainty go hand-in-hand, so by reducing uncertainty, you are reducing anxiety, as well.. We are living in a time where it feels like everyday is going to bring another catastrophic event. We can’t control what we live through, but we do have control over the stories we watch.
Humans are creatures of habit, which gives us comfort. When we were young, we most likely created a routine of coming home, putting our backpacks down and watching our cartoons. Rewatching the same shows we did when we were younger activates our nostalgia as a comforting and healthy regression. It can calm us down and remind us of more carefree times. Watching Avatar is like giving your younger self a tight hug.
Aang may have disappeared from our world when it felt like we needed him most, and it may have felt like he was gone for a hundred years, but I believe in his own small way, he did actually help save our world.
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