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The Epic of Tokka

Caution - The Blog You Are About to Read May Be Highly Biased, Highly Philosophical, and All-Around "Shippy"

Gene Yang (in reply to my questioning how "anything major could happen to the series’ ships within a week"): But let me say this: lots of stuff can happen in a week. Lots of stuff can happen in a day. Movements and tensions can build over the course of months or years or decades, only to come to a head in a week or a day or even a moment.

Two elements of life’s freedom are counterpoised to one another in the epic narrative: the first being based on the continuity of the organic process of life itself, which frees life taken by itself from the individual’s circumstances, and the second being the individual’s freedom from the necessity of static perpetuation of the circumstances that they find themselves in. Within such a narrative, the good\ill effects of the latter primarily serve to consolidate the good\ill effects of the former relative to the individual actors. (If the former instead primarily serves to consolidate the goodness or illness of the latter for the individual actors, it would instead be a lyrical narrative, because of its centering on the subjective psychological circumstances of an individual rather than the wider scope of life.)

The structure in which the events of an epic narrative take place is between the individual’s ties to the family and the state. The latter “universal” social tie (universal, at least, for the members of the culture creating the epic) was presumed to be the necessary basis for life to continued and thus defined the first freedom of life. On that basis, it took precedence over the former, particular as it was to the individual epic hero and which therefore defined the second freedom of life in the classical (Greecian) epic. The event-structure of the modern novel style of writing (the “Romantic/bourgeoisie epic”) until recently replaced this original structure of the epic with the counterposition between the individual’s own tie to their own self-actualization in the modern world with the family & state taken as a basic unity (pessimistically taken as having been resolved as they ever would be in the former epics), with the latter being relegated to the position of the family in the epic and the former taking precedence over it. More recently, this itself seems to be giving way before what ought to be called the postmodern novelistic epic style of writing (of which The Lord of the Rings is the most famous example), in which the individual’s right to their own self-determination in the world is counterpoised to familial actualization alongside the individualistic state. The latter, essentially the universal redefining of current cultural values concerning the family & the state for the preservation of the former in a world composed of nations centered around individualistic rights, is taken as a universal social tie upon the basis of which humanity must continue, and therefore replaces individual self-actualization as the definer of the first freedom of life in the postmodern novelistic epic. In this style of writing, the novel-epic hero is one in whom the synchronizing of the state and the family’s interests are divested, as the audience’s interest in their own right to self-determination now is beginning to hinge upon its relation to such dynamic synchronization over time in their own lives.

Human life is of course engendered in two basic forms, male and female. (Even in the case of transsexuals, there seems to be a predisposition toward one or the other; it just does not necessarily sync up with the bodily attributes upon which the doctor decided most reflective of the individual’s inner mindset.) Mankind’s existence clings to that of womankind’s, existing as it does now to preserve womankind from the plight of their mutual circumstances. Womankind’s existence is likewise anchored in the world by mankind’s, existing as it does now as the motivator by which humankind (both male and female) moves past the bleakness of their circumstances in order to alter them. As far as I can tell, both evoluntionary research and the poetry of Genesis affirm this understanding of the matter, as does my practical experience with the subject; even in the case of voluntary celibacy, this would remain true, though it would extend to mankind/womankind as a whole (typically as the manner in which they percieve a single source of life to which they ultimately cling), rather than specific individuals.

In the classical (Greecian) epic style of writing, family (which can only come about through women) was taken as the motivating background for the epic hero’s endeavours, which they typically sought to preserve through the promotion of the state (which theoretically could subsist of through a community solely made of males for the extent of their lives). In the modern (Romantic/ bourgeoisie) novel style of writing, this dynamic was relegated to a side-show, as the combinded (though still somewhat contrary) motivators of the individual hero which sought the preservation of their value to themselves through their own self-actualization in a forbidding world. Within such a dynamic, the classical counterposition of each gender and their traditional sphere of influence is neutralized arbitrarily without any true reconciliation, something which the Enlightenment has become infamous for. In the postmodern novelisitic epic style of writing, the individual’s right to their own self-actualization becomes the motivator which they try to synchronize the state and the family in order to preserve, and from this comes the active reconcilation of the genders and their traditional spheres of influence – which of course allows for greater freedom of cross-overs from each sphere by individual males and females, with the added benefit of being on the main continuous with the past & its benefits (only free to a greater degree). From this continuing dialouge with the past, I believe, the general conception will pass into the background of the world's thought that the individualist state's continued existence hinges upon honoring above all else the family's ability to use the state as its anchoring point in the world, including its own "absolute right" to preserve the family as an entity lesser than itself (rather than as an entity to whose existence it must cling for any hope of survival in the face of anarchy).

In all three types of writing, that which is promoted for the preservation of the motivator takes precedence over the motivator itself, and in that way is the harbringer of the events which prevent the stagnation of life and potential ills to the motivator which may come of that. As in the postmodern epic-novel style of writing the active reconciliation of cultural values regarding the state and the family (and thus the gender’s two traditional spheres of influence) is the intended goal, if the heroes of such an epic remain (heterosexual) males women will have a two-fold function in the plot’s developments: as a temptation to further drift into stagnation when he has already veered from his purpose, but as one who voluntarily provides otherwise inaccessible help when he is in active pursuit of his high goal (the shift in her nature being reflective of how he has altered the circumstances surrounding her life by his course of action). This must not be mistaken as romantic writing (which deals with the inward psychological aspects of the character), even if it nears the border of said realm of fiction; the relationships of such characters will tend to be subservient to the epic-making tendencies of the hero’s quest, their continuation based upon how well their unity/disunity serve to preserve the continuity of life itself (insofar as that is defined by the epic in question).

In “Legend of Aang”, Katara played such a role for Aang, as a temptation to fail to seek enlightenment and the high ideal of his people (“The Guru”), but also as the one through whom his high ideals are grounded in compassion towards the concrete situations of others. Similarly, Mai was a temptation for Zuko to fail to seek the honor of his nation (portrayed throughout the first half of Book 3: Fire), but also the one who helped preserve him from a reckless pursuit of self-affirmation (an excessive grasping onto “honor”, “The Boiling Rock Part 2”). For these reasons, in all likelihood Katara and Mai will play some role in de-polarizing the conflict between their boyfriends in The Promise (Katara because of her concern for breaking apart families, Mai when she finally learns of “the promise” and thus of the heedlessness of Zuko’s action in the context of the given circumstances), a conflict which came from a too high(rather than too low) focus on and consideration of how they might affect life by an unbending attachment to what each side considers “good”.

Does Suki play a similar role for her boyfriend, Sokka? She has more than once been an inadvertent temptation for him to leave behind his duties as a warrior (“The Day of Black Sun, Part 2 – The Eclipse”), but has also been the one who helps him resolve more personal concerns when excessive attachment to a leadership ideal would have pushed him to do otherwise (“The Boiling Rock, Part 1). Sokka’s role in The Promise seems to be that of an attempted leader trying to mediate the domestic dispute so that tensions do not break out unduly, and in such a way that the Fire Nation does not grab any advantages for itself and away from the Earth Kingdom in the process (it obviously being the main perpetuator of The One Hundred Year War). Suki’s role seems to be that of a peace-keeper and go-between for the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, more concerned that no warmongering imperialist tendencies emerge from either side (Kyoshi Island having little to do with mainland Earth Kingdom affairs until Avatar Aang returned) than to be biased to either’s defense should tensions break out. Thus, she could easily become somewhat against Sokka’s chosen path of leadership should Aang need backup in the carrying out of “the promise” in terms of arms and not just feelings of sympathy, a position which would clearly be anti-Fire Nation if Aang as the Avatar had to act preemptively per his promise despite no clear imperialist attempts being involved – which would seem to be the cut-off point for Suki in terms of Zuko “becoming like his father”, as her decision to protect Zuko per Mai’s request after Zuko cut ties with the Harmony Restoration Movement heavily implies. The assumption that the two of them might provide a bridge between the two sides via their continuing intimacy despite the polarization between the two sides seems unlikely, as Sokka did not end up going back to Kyoshi Island and instead joined the Harmony Restoration Movement and so it would appear that he and Suki have mostly been out of touch during the year after the War, and thus they do not have the connectedness necessary for patching over the issue between Zuko and Aang (at least, not how their relationship presently stands). To desire otherwise despite the obvious events of the story so far is to insert an ad hoc lyrical interpolation of the romantic variety into a mostly epical story, which would go far in explaining why those who primarily ship “Sukka” for “Sukka’s” sake and who are worried about its emotional “sweetness” disappearing tend to not like the epical romances of “Kataang” and “Maiko” – they simply desire another style of writing than the show has chosen to base its narrative on (one which concentrates on character’s inner emotional lives, rather than primarily on the events surrounding them), but have been able to understand an under-developed relationship as somehow comforming to their desires despite everything else. So, we are faced with a dilemna: does Sokka’s role as a biased leader trying to hold the peace without undermining the Avatar’s decision making bespeak of excess that Suki shall help lead him away from, or is it indeed his duty to take up that position, which thereby makes Suki’s peacemaking without discrimination (until the point of obvious movements toward further colonization) a temptation that he ought to avoid?

While Suki’s (probable) desire for peace at (almost) all costs is commendable, and most likely will be of great importance in how the events of The Promise Part 3 resolve themselves, Sokka’s leadership was not portrayed in a negative light in Part 1 and if the tension builds up to the point where Aang may potentially have to kill Zuko (which, judging the thumbnails for the cover of Part 3, it will) or risk dropping his responsibilities as the Avatar, realistically speaking the potential violence must be mediated somehow and Sokka would have a duty to keep to his intentions to keep the war ended by supporting Aang in this endeavour even if it includes a limited amount of violence in the process. In that light, Suki’s being on the opposite side ought to be seen as a temptation for Sokka, not a help.

As I have already detailed my thoughts on Toph’s part in the plot elsewhere, I will not reiterate them here, and will simply ask that the reader bear them in mind if they found them in any way believable. The gist of it is, Toph most likely will have become more mature by the time of The Promise , and thus voluntarily has taken on the role of Metalbending Teacher (with all of the responsibilities that entails). It seems implied by the very way the description of Part 2 is written that Toph will need Sokka’s guidance to fill this role properly, and if my theories are correct, to prove that her bending can be productive to her parents and in that way progress in the world. We have already seen that she is willing to defend him as a leader in The Promise Part 1, which would suggest that they continue to rely on one another provide the support necessary for their continuned ability to carry out their epic-making duties. As I have explained elsewhere, Toph is not morally stable on her own (contrary to what I myself once thought of her before “The Runaway”) and require the motivation of a “loved” one who is willing to work alongside her and anchor her morally in human society. In a similar manner, Sokka has shown the need to cling to a loved one (first Yue, then Suki) in order to sustain his existence in the world, to the point at which he has been known to bullheadedly ignore what he knows he ought to be doing when they were percieved to have been in danger (as in “The Day of Black Sun Part 2”), something which Toph has had to save him from more than once. As Suki has done in the series, Toph likewise has given Sokka emotional support when his tendency to beat himself up internally for not holding to his leadership ideal rears its ugly head, though she has also shown the tendency to drag him away from his duties to a greater degree than Suki ever did(namely, when she bribed him in “The Runaway” to not tell Katara about the “Wanted” poster); however, if she has been reconciled to her parents and started up the Bei Fong Metalbending Academy in order to prove that there were responsible uses for her bending, she is more likely to lean towards the positive side of this dynamic in the comics than the negative (and it’s not as if she didn’t voluntarily come out of that extreme immature period in her life by the end of the episode, anyways).

That being said, the “movements and tensions” extant within the plot structure of the Avatar world tend to favor Toph supporting Sokka in the division of opinion seemingly present between him and Suki and the wrending apart of the “Sukka” relationship, and with that the reconciling of the antagonistic elements of Toph’s familial vs. political life alongside those of Sokka’s through the efforts of the other. Theoretically, this is fulfilled by Toph being motivated to eventually create the Metalbending cops of Republic City as a positive way of promoting the native Earth Kingdom people’s position in the elder Fire Nation colonies at the behest of Sokka’s desires as a leader, Sokka to give up his present immature desire to consider himself an “exceptional” person regarding romance (having “won” Suki forever because of his leadership during the War, despite the possible concerns of others, but who would not apply this principle to the relationships of others who accomplished much in the War, as Katara pointed out when the immature double standard was used against her) in a way which allows for him to remain a stable individual , by finding continual solace in his relationship with Toph. (If I’m right, the reason Sokka’s future was not mentioned at the 2011 SDCC was not because he didn’t contribute anything of importance, but because what he did contribute was intertwined with plot elements that they wished to leave a surprise.) This coheres well with what we know of Lin Bei Fong, and what a comprehensive knowledge of Toph’s relation to romantic relationships in general leads me to believe about the general mold of the father and the general environment in which Lin would have therefore have been raised. That, at least, is where my understanding of the subject must lead me for now, until concrete evidence comes along which shows it to be invalid for one reason or another; in any case, it would fit with the pattern of focus that I've detected in fictional works, and I must say the idea of Toph as a "working mother" Metalbending police chief and Sokka as the "family man" husband who supports her & her daughter (and who would correspondingly highly ranked in the governing of Republic City alongside her, perhaps as the cop's techonological expert) in this endeavour intrigues me to no end, as it would completely reverse the counterposition between the traditionally masculine sphere of the state and traditionally feminine sphere of the family and reconcile them "from above" thereby.

Agree or disagree, please express your opinions in the most open-minded way possible in the “Comments” section below.

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