I happened to come across another blog post advocating for Kataang with an argument that goes something like, “Fire/water bad boy/good girl is so overdone!!” Maybe that is true, except that Zuko was never actually a bad person, he was a victim of an extremely abusive family. (Uncle) Iroh was telling him (Zuko) from the very beginning of the series that he was not a bad person and that he had choices about what he wanted to do with his own life.
All of the flashbacks from his childhood underline that he was not a bad/evil child (not to say that people don’t change as they grow older, but that Zuko has been consistently not evil and struggling with his demons aka his raggedy, abusive family). Zuko was born into a set of very unfortunate circumstances that included having a father and a grandfather who were both, for lack of a better term, super villains. Every bad thing he ever did was because he was under extreme pressure to be the perfectly evil son that any evil Fire Lord could ask for.
The Blue Spirit and the Painted Lady. Both of them go undercover to do some good. Zuko saves Aang from imprisonment and Katara provides medicine and food to a dying water port and provokes her friends into helping clean the river while also scaring away the fire nation soldiers who were bullying the townspeople. Zuko’s actual motives for rescuing Aang are just a tad suspicious given that during the time that Aang was captured, Zuko was also still trying to capture Aang for himself, but if his intention was to get Aang for himself, I highly doubt he wouldn’t have, at the very least, enlisted his Uncle Iroh to help him. Having Uncle Iroh’s help would have increased his chances of success.
I conclude that the Blue Spirit was representative of Zuko’s inner good fighting to be itself as he could not be “good” as himself because of the circumstances thrust upon him by his father and his position as Prince of the Fire Nation. There is room to continue arguing that Zuko only rescued Aang so that he himself could take him back to the Fire Nation and have “his honor restored”, using the disguise so that Aang’s captors would not recognize him. The problem with that theory is…if Zuko had returned to the Fire Nation promptly after stealing Aang from his other captor, then those captors would’ve been made aware that Zuko stole the Avatar from them.
Those these are just thoughts and theories from repeated watchings of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I do not truly believe that Zuko’s intention at the time of snatching Aang from being imprisoned included turning him over to the Fire Nation at that time. Which would show that Zuko’s true nature, the child in the flashbacks who always defended and protected other people, was showing itself in the Blue Spirit.
This point underlines that despite his own, heavy circumstances, Zuko is a good person who, when he feels free to choose, chooses to do good. Making him a viable option for a love interest of Katara.
But have you seen the fucking fan art? They’re fucking adorable together. Let me talk about why I love this meditation art so much. Now, Zuko comes from a broken, very abusive ass home where people were always nitpicking and criticizing him. Okay, every fan of Avatar knows that Katara is kind of a butthole with a mothering complex and is very detail oriented, a hard worker, and supportive. Besides his Uncle Iroh (and his mother who has been long gone at this point), Zuko has never had someone who was working on making him better without tearing him down in the process. That sounds like love to me. Katara also thrives in her role as teacher and caretaker and has a very great capacity for giving. This would make her an excellent mate for the fire lord and a wonderful mother to raise the next generation of royal children.
To give some balance and opposition to my own opinion (cackles), I will add that Mai does call out Zuko’s bullshit too with her no nonsense, dry, sarcastic, yet honest personality, but to me, their personalities are too similar to make a balanced relationship. This does not account for any emotional growth that Mai might have in the future, but even still, that would not change the foundation of their relationship, which we do not get to see a lot of as Mai is not a main character. Her feelings for Zuko have been strong and steady, but all potential love matches (Mai, Katara, Toph, and possibly even the girl from Ba Sing Se whose name I clearly do not remember that had a huge crush on Zuko) have a core of being steady and dependable.
Those Beauty and the Beast vibes. Zuko, a royal from a broken home who behaves as a monster although he is filled with conflict holds a peasant girl with an unconquerable spirit and big dreams prisoner. In the end, the ugliness melts away and reveals the loving Fire Lord beneath who wants peace in his nation and in the world. To complete the comparison, Katara must end up with Zuko. It’s only right. I repeat, Katara would be an amazing queen or Fire Lordesse or whatever it’d be called. The point is she is highly respected, intelligent, and has excellent leadership qualities to help Zuko clean up the fire nation and help rebuild the world.
Given how obsessed I’ve been about shipping Zuko and Katara, I’m sure to come up with more examples soon. (skips away cackling)
I will say that Katara does have a special way of calming Aang when his anger or upset causes him to go into the Avatar state, and no one else is capable of reaching him in this out-of-control state when this happens. This does present a special connection that Aang does not share with anyone else, but I’d be willing to bet that he could find another match who has the power to calm him when he is at his most agitated. Also, I’d like to think that as Aang got older, he learned to control the Avatar state, more specifically becoming so angry that he goes into the Avatar state in a destructive way, on his own, as he is not even a teenager during his time in the Last Airbender series.
So I don’t think that is enough of a reason to ship Aang and Katara.
Katara is a healer and after all of the fucking abuse, the nightmares, the stress, losing his mother, having a literal psychopath for a sister, and living 16 or so years beneath the thumb of an arrogant lunatic, Zuko needs some emotional healing. This is not to say that Katara should’ve felt obligated to help heal Zuko, but I believe after Zuko helped her find peace with her mother’s death by agreeing to do things Katara’s way (hunting down the man that murdered her mother), that they have a very innate understanding of each other in a very specific way that Katara and Aang do not share. They both have looked darkness in its face and made choices to not be as horrible as the people who harmed them.
Obviously, since the entire Air Nomad nation was wiped out during Aang’s extended hibernation in his iceberg, he has definitely experienced heavy losses too. But the specific “field trip” of Zuko and Katara hunting down her mother’s killer served as a bonding moment for them, I feel because Zuko supported her desperate desire to look her mother’s killer in the face while not judging her for harboring hate and violence nor for wanting revenge.
Although Katara does eventually “choose Aang’s way” of forgiving the man who murdered her mother, he did not support the way she processed her feelings of hate and the want for revenge and sought to deny her what thought she wanted by standing in the way. In this way, Zuko exhibits an ability to recognize and acknowledge the whole of Katara’s grieving and healing process that she needed to go through, against Aang’s advice, in order to find her own peace with the violent loss of her mother.