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Has anyone ever told you that you’re terrible at communicating your feelings? Or that you don’t know how to resolve an argument? Or maybe someone called you emotionally unavailable? Well, listen up, because I have the perfect solution: “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
I always looked forward to watching reruns of “Avatar” with my sibling in the wee hours of the morning before going to elementary school. We would laugh together at the cabbage merchant’s cart getting repeatedly destroyed, cower from Koh the Face Stealer, and cheer for Aang’s victories. The show holds a special place in my heart, but it wasn’t until I rewatched it as a twenty-year-old that I realized almost all of my emotional intelligence can be attributed to the series.
On our first night back on campus, my roommate revealed that she had never watched the series all the way through. Naturally, we took on the mission of watching all three seasons over the course of the fall semester. From the very beginning, I was taken aback by how emotionally mature 12-year-old Aang, 14-year-old Katara, and 15-year-old Sokka could be. Take, for example, what Katara said while helping Aang out of the Avatar State when he finds out the Air Temple was invaded by the Fire Nation:
“Aang, I know you’re upset, and I know how hard it is to lose the people you love. I went through the same thing when I lost my mom. Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders may be gone, but you still have a family… We’re your family now,” she said.
In just a few sentences, Katara handles the situation with more grace than any teenager I’ve ever encountered. She diffuses Aang’s anger and brings him back to reality. She recognizes and validates his emotions, then establishes a connection by sharing her own experience with grief. Lastly, she ends on a message of support, ensuring that he does not feel alone in his pain.
As the show progresses and the subject matter intensifies, so does the characters’ management of emotions. Each episode contains valuable lessons about dealing with love, loss, fear, and every feeling in between.
I believe “Avatar” should be required viewing for everyone, everywhere. The show is so much more than quality entertainment and art. It’s an incredibly effective tool for social-emotional learning, guaranteed to instill empathy and an aptitude for emotional communication in its viewers. I’m proud to say that most of my emotional intelligence stems from my absorption of “Avatar” as a child, and you can bet that I will be showing the series to my future children. Just imagine how many of today’s issues could be solved if we all lived by these characters’ examples.
Where does the other one percent of my emotional intelligence come from? Family, friends, education, social upbringing — the usual suspects. But nothing compares to the lessons I’ve learned from Aang and the rest of the gang.
— Incoming Books Exec Nina M. Foster ‘23 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and will happily befriend anyone who agrees that Katara and Zuko should have ended up together, or fight anyone who thinks that Aang and Katara are the perfect match.
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