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Why Avatar: The Last Airbender is Still Wildly Popular

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Avatar: The Last Airbender—originally aired on Nickelodeon for 3 seasons between 2005 to 2008—debuted on Netflix in May of 2020 and it’s still as popular as it was when it was airing on television twelve years ago. Avatar:The Last Airbender has been amongst the service's Top 10 list since it’s release on Netflix. Needless to say, viewership numbers that strong for a show that already ended has raised plenty of eyebrows about just how strong the staying power of Avatar: The Last Airbender really is.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused streaming services to essentially replace movie theaters for the past few months, leading a confluence of die-hards Avatar fans and fandom newbies pulling up Netflix and streaming Avatar:The Last Airbender at their leisure. Nevertheless, a television series more than a decade removed from its finale isn't going to rise to the top of Netflix if it isn't one that many people aren't already deeply connected to, and one that can easily pull in casual viewers. Fans might enjoy rewatching the originals for the sake of nostalgia. Some are still trying to recover from the kind of damage that left fans all around the world scarred in the 2010 big-screen, live-action catastrophe, The Last Airbender. Thankfully, Netflix is trying to do the Avatar world and fans some justice (going so far as to promise fans not to mess it up) by recreating the TV shows into movies that more like the original shows.

Twelve years on from Avatar: The Last Airbender’s conclusion, the show’s continued popularity can be pinpointed to a few factors. Like Star Wars, Dragon Ball, Naruto, or The Lord of the Rings, to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender is to step into another world. Its story was a grand, metaphysical adventure; thus, its heroes and villains quickly gained the interests of viewers. Aang, one fo the main protagonists, travels to the different Nations to master all four element as the new Avatar inspired viewers of all ages to cheer for a twelve-year-old hero tasked with a challenge that no one else in the living world had been tasked to do. This is going on while Zuko's determination to earn the right to return to the Fire Nation make him a parallel to Aang—even when Zuko’s labeled a villain.

The fact that Avatar actually came to a clear end with Legend of Korra, may be the most important factor in its longevity and growing fan base. Although the Avatar world storyline has continued in graphic novel form, the show itself concluded. For the show’s premise of Aang having such weight on his shoulders to master the elements and end the rule of Fire Nation on the world once and for all, this was an absolutely fitting approach. The story of Avatar had its own epic conclusion, giving viewers an emotional attachment as a real saga. Revisiting Avatar: The Last Airbender now brings all those feelings of adventure, suspense, and a battle for the fate of the world racing nostalgically back into the minds of viewers. That nostalgia Millennials and older Gen Zs are feeling is the reason people constantly rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender. People like the relatability and likability of the characters and the series tackles serious topics like fascism and sexism in unexpected ways. Once Netflix makes Legend of Korra available, it will trend in the Top 10 for weeks on end too.