Earlier this week, Decider uploaded an article titled “‘Avatar’ and ‘Harry Potter’ Have One Big Thing in Common.” That title’s a bit off the mark though because the two franchises actually have much, and we mean much more in common than just one ‘big’ thing.
For starters, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter are both coming-of-age stories that center around young protagonists who explore the world in order to come into their own – all with the help of a few great friends, of course. As each story progress, therefore, the characters change – which isn’t something we’re used to seeing in film and television.
In film, most beloved franchises, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, center either on hero or trickster archetypes whose larger-than-life attributes exist outside the realms of space and time. In Harry Potter, the titular young wizard grows older and wiser with every year of magical schooling that he receives; his skills aren’t inborn, but acquired.
As for television, most stories told through this medium are episodic, meaning that each episode is a standalone adventure whose events, no matter how drastic they appear, can’t influence the tale we’ll see next week. While Avatar is somewhat episodic, especially in its earlier seasons, the series is always building up towards Aang’s destiny to battle the Fire Lord.
Both stories also feature protagonists who are the ‘chosen ones’ of their respective worlds. Where Aang was born the Avatar – a messianic figure whose constantly reincarnating spirit is tasked with maintaining the balance of the universe – Harry becomes destined for greatness the moment he survives Voldemort’s curse and their souls fuse together.
As chosen ones, Aang and Harry face the same obstacles. As far as the plot is concerned, they each have to defeat an incredibly powerful, older opponent. As far as character is concerned, however, their struggle is psychological as well, as both heroes detest their special-ness and long for normalcy.
Given that Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter are some of the most captivating stories ever told, it certainly makes sense that they have a lot in common.