So, I’ve started rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a series I love with great characters and an almost palpable respect towards Asian culture. I’ve been loving my journey through the series and the intricacies of the world that I hadn’t noticed on my initial watch through the series over a decade ago.
Much of the series still holds up 15 years after its initial release. There are some moments of sexism, underdeveloped side characters, and some juvenile humor that haven’t aged well, but overall, it’s still one of my top animated series of all time.
Side note: Thank you to Netflix Japan for hosting the series on their platform. But I would appreciate it if they would remember my language settings like with other series so I wouldn’t have to keep resetting the spoken dialogue to English for each episode…
One thing that kind of rubs me the wrong way is in the intro to every series the narration ends with the line “But I believe Aang can save the world.” This got me thinking about the prevalence in stories of stopping world threats. With the abundance of superhero movies, stories involving threats to the world and heroes that stop them have started to become almost tedious to me. It’s a phenomenon that is now being called “Save the World Syndrome” within my home. Every time a plot point comes up in some movie or show where the primary obstacle is a world-ending… thing, it’s another case of Save the World Syndrome.
I understand the appeal of using threats to the world as an easy threat. The ending of the world is easy to understand for the viewer. It’s big, it’s scary, it’s a threat that doesn’t really need any real explanation. But after three Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, where over half of the movies involve threats to the world in some form or the other, the trope has begun to feel tired and overused. Personally, I’d like to see more stories where the big final arc is not about saving the world as a whole, but the characters’ world. Not a “Save the World,” but a “Save My World.”