In every series, we see Avatar confront new enemies and challenges. Although each one of the villains was different from others – ideologically or in other ways, some aspects of the series have remained constant in all these years. The series has not shied away from being political and has its complex political system that helps it stand out. However, if we pay attention, it becomes evident that at least one political issue is comparable with the real-world, namely – wealth inequality. It has been an ever-present problem that has shaped the Avatar world for a long time now, although most fans often fail to realize it.
On careful analysis, one can easily recognize how most of the series’ problems result from the lack of compassion and accountability of the exorbitantly wealthy. Every fan can recall how the Chou family kept the surrounding citizenry impoverished by hoarding supplies and food. They used every resource to ensure that the inequality was not questioned, and it ended when Wan led an uprising against them using firebending. It is only one of many instances that show how deeply embedded wealth inequality was in the Avatar series.
Although the Avatar world goes through rapid technological advancement with time, its politics and economics remain the same. We see in the Era of Kyoshi that wealth inequality had become too big a problem for even the Avatar to stamp out. In Rise of Kyoshi, the helpless countryside, which is taxed exorbitantly by the corrupt officials, is attacked by bandit hordes, making their lives even more challenging. Even the house of Fire nation puts the life of the oppressed in grave threat because of their petty rivalries. We see wars and famines happen due to the arrogance and lack of compassion of the noble families.
The corruption of Ba Sing Se, set up by The Kyoshi novels, proved to be a crucial throughline in Avatar’s world. In the original series, we saw how corruption permeated the society of the world’s largest city, and the rich were able to get what they wished while the poor and the oppressed struggled. The corruption was structural but even physically structural since the design of the city was done in accordance with the inhabitants’ economic status.
We see the Legend of Korra explore the ghettos of the outer rings of the city. The Red Lotus can’t be blamed for starting a revolution since the conditions that they lived in were abhorrent. The assassination of the Earth Queen and the riots’ fallout later lead to the bandits’ resurgence. Kuvira later rises to power because of the events that were instigated by wealth inequality and the oppression of the rich. The Legend of Korra did a fantastic job of acknowledging the issues arising from economic inequality even though the protagonist lived in a much more industrialized and technologically advanced world than the original series. We see how Hiroshi and Iknik use their power and influence to enable revolutions that threatened the government’s stability.
Every single season stressed the social and political issues that arise from economic inequality. The Avatar franchise has introduced its fans with several philosophical, moral, and political dilemmas that help them think about the world differently. It is interesting to see how it has also given due attention to controversial issues such as wealth inequality. As the gap between rich and poor increases and the class anxiety grows, Avatar’s brilliant critique of economic inequality will become much more relevant.
Source-The Avatar Franchise Warned