About this course
Have you ever noticed something that looked familiar in Avatar: The Last Airbender? That’s because there is! Besides being a great show, Avatar: The Last Airbender draws heavily on many different aspects of real-world cultures. Join me each week as we discuss a different aspect of the show and how it relates to some historical and cultural parallels. Please note, while it is not necessary that students have finished the entire show, some familiarity will be beneficial!
What you'll learn
Topics will include parallels between the four Avatar nations and Arctic indigenous peoples like the Inuit and Yupik, monarchical China, Imperial Japan, and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as other people and histories from across the world. We will also dive into the details, like geography, environment, food, architecture, and even cultural traditions like clothing! We will discuss worldwide developments like industrialisation and colonialism, as well as resistance against oppression and their impact on both the Avatar world and our real world. Finally, we will look at the various martial art styles that inspired the different element bending, and even try some moves! Students will be encouraged to dissect their favourite episodes, characters, and details to see why they like them, and how they relate to their own world, and then share those details with their classmates.
Note: Some topics may be expanded or reduced due to student interest – focusing on topics that encourage engagement is the goal!
- Introduction to the World of Avatar
- Indigenous Arctic peoples
- Imperial nations
- Monks and Religious organizations
- Nomadic peoples
- Four Element Understandings of the World
- Animals and Natural environment
- Martial arts
- Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism
Each week, students will be introduced to that week’s historical or cultural topic, before discussing examples from various episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The discussion will focus on how the fictionalization is similar and/or different to real-world examples, as well as encouraging students to think about why the creators of the show chose to maintain or change historical realism. This will guide students towards thinking critically about how stories are told, as well as how history can be used to critique and comment on our present-day world.
Materials & Homework
Most weeks, students will be given 10-15 mins of reading to prepare them for the next week’s lesson. They will then be encouraged to spend 10-15 mins reviewing Avatar: The Last Airbender to find parallels to bring to the class discussion. Towards the end of the session, students will begin preparing a 2-3 min slideshow presentation talking about the historical parallels of their favourite episode/character/or plot device. This will require students to prepare and rehearse their presentation outside of class time.