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Azula's Jar of Hearts

by Attackfish Scales

One of the major themes of Avatar: the Last Airbender is abuse. There are several abusive relationships portrayed, and others hinted at in the show's three seasons, within the Fire Nation royal family. The most obvious of these is Ozai's abuse of his son, Zuko, and hinted abuse of his daughter, Azula and former wife, Ursa, which fits the current Western cultural ideas about what an abusive relationship looks like, with an abusive father and husband with women and children as his victims. However, not all of the abusive relationships in Avatar: the Last Airbender fit this framework. Just as Ozai is implied to have been abused by his own father, Azula, his daughter herself becomes an abuser, both of her otlder brother, and of her friends, Mai and Ty Lee.

From the first moment Azula and Ty Lee appear onscreen together, Azula's abuse of Ty Lee and Ty Lee's particular method of dealing with that abuse is on full display. Azula invites Ty Lee to become her minion, Ty Lee apologizes and refuses, and Azula covertly threatens Ty Lee and positions her in such a way that she has to join Azula or the people she cares about will be hurt. Ty Lee is all smiles as she accepts her fate. Through Zuko's flashbacks in the season two episode Zuko Alone, it is revealed that Azula has terrorized and controlled Mai and Ty Lee both since childhood.

Throughout the series, Azula asserts control over Mai and Ty Lee both by threatening them, and more significantly, by threatening the people they care about. This is ultimately what shatters this control. By trying to kill Zuko at the Boiling Rock, Azula shows Mai that her compliance will not protect the people she cares about, which causes Mai to turn against her. By trying to kill Mai, she shows Ty Lee the same thing, giving Ty Lee the courage to finally stand up to her abuser, and strike her down. Not only does this save the lives of everyone Mai and Ty Lee hoped to protect, but it eventually leads to Azula's breakdown and ultimate defeat.

Azula's Jar of Hearts

This is what Ty Lee wishes she could say. Set to Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts".

from Avatar: the Last Airbender (2005)
Creator: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
Distributor: Nickelodeon
Posted by Attackfish Scales