I didn't think they still existed, I really didn't--Super Zutarians, I mean. I realize that there are still those who ship Zuko and Katara, and that's fine, whatever floats your steamboat--but I thought that the end of the series pretty much ended the "OMG ZUKO SHOULD BE WIT KATARAAA<33333 AND NOT THAT FREAKIN' EMO BEEYOTCH!!!!" discussions.
I was wrong.
Truly, one would think that Super Zutarians would eventually embrace the light, or at least acknowledge the light--that light being the well-thought-out rebuttals to various Pro-Zutara forum rants. However, I recently was involved in an argument with what I thought was a dying breed, wherein I was called some vaguely amusing names, told to shut up multiple times, and asked to present my Pro-Maiko argument in a more intelligent light.
So, here. I present to you all an essay, part for spite and part for enlightenment, on one of the most plausible and most romantic kids' cartoon couples I have ever seen.
CASE I: MAI HATES EMOTION
This is predictably the first stage in Maiko vs. Zutara arguments (unless the Super Zutarian begins with 'Katara is prettier', a bogus subject which I will address in later issues)--a myth that I beg to set straight. Mai does not hate emotion.
Rather, I believe that Mai is the perfect example of a "poor rich only child", the girl whose entire childhood was centered around looking adorable and staying out of the way of her try-hard parents. And, really, isn't Mai's general character usually adored in other series? The lonely, intelligent girl who is pressured to stay quiet and is desperately bored with nobility--and therefore goes off in search of adventure? I can't even to begin to name how many young adult books have a version of Mai for their beloved main character.
Furthermore, I believe that Mai rejects conflict. She learned from an early age that it was Azula's Way or the Highway (or some Asian-esque equivalent of a highway) and, instead of arguing every single point, she just stayed quiet and walked away. We the humble Avatar viewers see this in Zuko's flashback episode. Azula and Ty Lee are playing a stupid game. Mai sits alone underneath a tree.
In the Beach episode, Mai herself informs us of her strict childhood. And, when her friends try to rile her up, she does indeed display anger. After her episode, it is seen in further
episodes that she expresses herself more and more.
From her early childhood, Mai's opinions have doubtlessly been curbed by her parents, as one wrong outburst could permanently damage their political career. If Mai threw a temper tantrum, she was probably punished. If she started sobbing in the middle of a fancy dinner party because she dropped a plate or something, she was probably punished. And if she screamed and ran up to embrace her daddy after he just gave a solemn but kick-ass speech to the general population
she was probably punished. Every character on Avatar has one or more flaw(s). For Katara, it's an overbearing attitude. For Aang, it's the need to live up to people's high expectations. For Azula, it's a lack of confidence masked with cruelty. For Zuko, it's a bad temper. So what if Mai has trouble expressing her emotions? It's how she was raised. She acknowledges her problems and, with the help of Zuko and her (albeit one being former) friends, she's working to fix them. Tell me, what's so hateable about that?
CASE II: OPPOSITES ATTRACT, AND, SINCE MAI IS ZUKO'S CARBON COPY AND KATARA HIS OPPOSITE, ZUKO SHOULD BE WITH KATARA.
This one appears a lot. I have really only a few things to ask about it: how opposite of Zuko is Mai? Is Katara more opposite?
Traits of Zuko--Defensive, Temperamental, Thoughtful, Repentant, Slightly Clueless, Stubborn, Protective, Intelligent, Lost, Fair, Kindhearted, Skilled, Hot-Headed, Distrustful, Creative, Strong, Brave.
Traits of Katara--Thoughtful, Bubbly, Stubborn, Strong, Slightly Hot-Headed, Protective, Excitable, Intelligent, Motherly, Kindhearted, Lighthearted, Creative, Truthful, Fair, Helpful, Repentant, Brave.
Traits of Mai--Elegant, Truthful, Brave, Defensive, Quiet, Thoughtful, Independent, Mature, Forgiving, Intelligent, Comforting, Kindhearted, Strong, Blasé, Stubborn, Skilled, Intelligent.
Let's count the matches in traits, shall we? All three characters have 17 traits listed. Zuko and Katara have 11 matches. Zuko and Mai have 9.
It's only a difference of two, but let's analyze further. The phrase "opposites attract" does not simply mean that people of completely different personality types automatically fit together; rather, it means that couples should have similarities--but where one half lacks, the other half provides. The same works with Mai and Zuko. Where Zuko is defensive, Mai is truthful. Where he is temperamental, Mai is quiet. Where he is repentant, she is forgiving, where he is clueless, she is mature; where he is hot-headed, she is blasé, and where he is lost, she is comforting. Again: where one lacks, the other provides.
What about Katara and Zuko? The traits that she does not share with Zuko are all admirable, yet they aren't really what Zuko truly needs to be completed as a person. (Ew. I just said "completed as a person". This is getting less and less spiteful and more and more sappy. Moving on.)
Both Mai and Katara--in some aspects--are very similar to Zuko. But the traits that Zuko does not have are made up for by Mai. Katara, in all her bubbly awesome goodness
just isn't properly suited.
CASE III: BUT KATARA IS PRETTIER THAN MAI!
Oh. You went there, didn't you, Super Zutarian? I don't want to quote overdone clichés ("beauty is in the eye of the beholder", remember that) but I just want to point out some particular
If you lay a bright bouquet of daisies (Katara) next to a single burgundy rose (Mai) and asked people to choose which one they'd want, some would choose the daisies. And some would choose the rose. The daisies are happy, glorious, cute, pretty, fun, loud and young. The rose is more edgy, dark, quiet, romantic, elegant and delicate.
Can one compare the first bouquet to the single flower? Actually, better question, why would one want to compare them? They are two completely different things, which evoke two completely different emotions. The daisies are light, the rose is dark. You might be the sort of person who finds the daisies more beautiful. But maybe Zuko is the type that likes the dark roses better.
CASE IV: THE MOMMY ISSUE
Once upon a time, Katara's mother was sadly murdered by the Firenation. Once upon a time, Zuko's mother was sadly murdered (banished) by the Firenation.
OMG THEY MUST BE SOUL MATES NOW.
Actually, pairing Katara and Zuko together strictly because of their shared loss is pretty offensive. It's like saying that two people with missing right legs should get married because they can relate to each other, and condemning them if they instead go off and marry people who still have all their limbs.
CASE V: MAIKO ISN'T DRAMATIC OR ROMANTIC
This is the one case that is the hardest for me to understand. Allow me to give a brief run-down of the Relationship of Maiko.
Deep breath, now.
Zuko and Mai had crushes on each other all throughout childhood. They were separated for three straight years when Zuko was banished by his father, but never forgot each other. When reunited, they find that they still have the, you know, hots for each other. Anyway, they bond over what we must assume are weeks, if not months, and gradually fall harder and harder (ha, Zuko, harder) for one another. Zuko is the only one who can coax Mai out of her quiet shell, and Mai often comforts Zuko. And, yeah, they do stupid cliché things like watch sunsets. They're teenagers. Teenagers DO that. Even if they think it's stupid, they still watch the sunset and laugh about how stupid it is but still both think, "oh, how absolutely romantic".
Zuko, torn between love for his girlfriend and the need to save the world, leaves in order to bring end to a war. He very dramatically leaves a note to go off and fight against his own country. Mai's heart is broken and she feels betrayed; when she sees Zuko again at the Boiling Rock, they argue, presumably have make-up sex (ha, in your dreams, Zuko), and then--here's the clicker--at the defining moment of battle, Mai betrays her own country, not to mention Azula, for the one that she loves. She risks her own life for the one who she loves. And she's forced to watch him run away, because she knows that if he stays, both he and the world will fall apart.
Despite the fact that I really, really wanted a sexy prison breakout scene in the Avatar finale, and that I didn't get it, the little Maiko bit at the end had me grinning. I wish that their was more creativity involved in her release, but then, the series is not about Maiko, it's about hope in a time of war. Maiko is a part of that, yes, but there were other parts that needed more focus.
So anyway, Mai surprises Zuko, helps him dress then presumably helps him undress (again, Zuko's frivolous little dreams), and they both declare a very strong like (but they really mean love) for each other. They then make out and it is assumed that Mai will become the next Firelady.
I don't know about you, but I find that above scenario dramatic and romantic.
Now, to be honest, I wish that Mai and Zuko were shown not just sucking the faces off one another, but having deep conversations and yadda yadda yadda. However, as previously stated, THE SHOW HAD OTHER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT. Mai wasn't even a main character. And, in the short scenes she appeared in, a relationship twixt her and Zuko needed to be quickly and clearly established. Long, humorous Mai/Zuko conversations about the merits of a certain type of dressing gown would leave the targeted age group all "
so do they like each other, or don't they?"
Kataang and Sukka had time for flirting because their relationship was established over all three seasons. Maiko was established over a sliver of one. So that leaves us, the humble viewers, to assume that, between Mai and Zuko, certain gabfests took place; to assume that sarcastic flirting took place; and, well, to make up the whole of their relationship on our own time.
And, you know, that's kind of fun to do. Figure out what went on when the cameras weren't rolling, I mean. And not in a dirty way at all.
CASE VI: MAIKO IS ONE-SIDED
This is another anti-Maiko argument used a lot, half in seriousness and half in fantasy. Its premise is a simple one: Mai has unrequited love for Zuko, who in turn loves Katara/Song/Jin/Aang/Whomever wholeheartedly.
You'll notice that, though this argument can be used by anybody anti-Maiko, it is most often used by Super Zutarians. This is because if Zuko doesn't love Mai, then he obviously loves Katara. It doesn't matter that any sort of romantic relationship has been established between our favorite fire bender and our favorite water bender, it's just logic. To a Super Zutarian, anyway. Because Jin had poufy hair, so she couldn't have been The One, and Song was too nice for our Zuko, so she couldn't have been The One.
My arguments against Mai's unrequited love closely mirror the arguments in the previous case, so I'll just state a few simple points. Ahem.
1. Though most of Mai and Zuko's relationship takes place off-screen, it's more of a relationship than Zuko and Katara will ever have.
2. Mai has her faults. Zuko has his faults. The strongest couples in the world are those who can have spats but kiss and make up. Super-amazing-fluffy-poodle-rainbow-sex-all-the-time couples, like the couple Super Zutarians presume Katara and Zuko would make, do not exist.
3. Mai is shy, but I don't think she's the pining-away-for-a-man type. And she isn't desperate. We all saw that, in the beach, if she feels like her relationship is going wrong, she will end it. She will feel bad about it. But she will not stay with a person if she believes they don't love her/are bad for her.
4. THE CAVE OF TWO LOVERS MEANT NOTHING, GET OVER IT.
CASE VII: ROMEO & JULIET
Ask any Super Zutarian for an anti-Maiko, pro-Zutara argument. It will most likely include that Mai isn't good enough for Zuko, Zuko and Katara OMG both lost their mommies, and, well, all the above cases. For that final touch--so that their sparkly forum message will end with a bang!--some Super Zutarians will add the concept of Forbidden Love.
It should be noted that Romeo and Juliet was not a horrible story overall. (Yes, I wanted to strangle Romeo sometimes for being ditsy, and yes, I read the whole play as a parody, but
still.) In any case, it should also be noted that both Romeo and Juliet died in the end.
Despite this, many--including a great deal of Super Zutarians--are adamant over the idea that forbidden love is the very best kind of love. Furthermore, since Katara and Zuko are not only from opposite nations but warring nations, were they to fall in love, it would be the greatest thing since Wacom tablets. Think about it: they would rendezvous in the Crystal Catacombs or the Cave of Two Lovers, declaring everlasting love for each other, reminiscing about their childhood and hoping the war would come to an end so that they could finally go public. It's very much like the Cave of Two Lovers story, actually, which is in turn a LOT like West Side Story. (Think about it--Jets and Sharks warring, Tony dies, Maria ends the fighting because of her agony
Secret meetings and forbidden love are very attractive and dramatic, I admit.
But Mai and Zuko are forbidden in a way, too--at least after Zuko ran away. You see, Zuko was a traitor to his country, thus making him an enemy to his country, thus making the scene where he and Mai fall back in love at the Boiling Rock the same as if he and Katara went at it in the Crystal Catacombs.
CASE VIII: STEAM BABIES
But it's not the same, some Super Zutarians will argue. Mai and Zuko's forbidden love and Katara and Zuko's (presumed) forbidden love aren't the same. Why aren't they? Because WATER and FIRE are opposites, and therefore FORBIDDEN.
Science Lesson 1:
When a little water comes in contact with a lot of fire, it bubbles up and evaporates. When a bit of fire comes in contact with a lot of water, it is put out. When roughly the same amounts of fire and water collide, it makes steam (and then steam babies and all that jazz).
So, essentially, Zuko and Katara kill each other. Neutralize each other. Bam. And in the steam case, both of them just fail.
Science Lesson 2:
When a few metal throwing knives come in contact with fire, the metal softens and melts and the fire grows hotter.
So, essentially, Mai's hard façade softens and melts when she's with Zuko, and Zuko becomes all the hotter and sexier for it. Or more warmer and comforting. Whichever.
For one thing, if you've read this far, you've just made me very happy, and you should tell me so. If you've read this far and you love what you've just read, you've just made me ecstatic, and you should tell me so. (If you've read this far and hated it, you should at least give a few reasons why.)
For the record, let me just say that I am not some Zutarian hater. (I kind of don't even mind the idea of Zutara.) I respect that people like certain couples together, and, well, yeah. But what I don't tolerate is people throwing all sorts of illogical and sometimes vicious arguments against a rival ship, like the accusations I tried to counter in the above cases. And now I sound like a lawyer.
But really, don't hate me if I threw some Logic Bombs your way.
Now have a lovely day and continue writing those trashy Avatar fanfics I so dearly enjoy.