Everyone’s got their opinions on what makes a great show. You’ve probably seen the same few more than once. But if you’re looking for a nerdy, black girl’s perspective, get your spectacles out homie, because here’s mine.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Azula
There isn’t a moment more real or heart-wrenching than Princess Azula’s loss of control in the last season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s hard to watch Azula, a strong, fear-inspiring character, begin to unravel. In my opinion, her defeat happens before she ever faces Katara. Her anger, loneliness, self-hatred, and doubt team up to dissolve the very thing that keep her grounded: Her self-control. The end result is disturbing, frightening, and saddening all at once.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Another powerful moment in animation happened in one of my favorite films, Howl’s Moving Castle. No character has ever resonated with me as much as Miyazaki’s version of Sophie Hatter, and I’ll tell you why. Sophie reminds me of myself. She’s got a dry sense of humor, a somewhat stubborn attitude, and tends to try to hide in a crowd–shrinking back when she’s given any special attention. Unfortunately for my fellow introvert girl, hiding out really ain’t an option when you’re the main character in a Miyazaki movie. That goes double when you’re cursed by a witch to look like an old woman when your self-esteem is low. Anywho, in one scene, Howl tries to show Sophie his affection for her by sharing his special childhood place with her. And at first, Sophie is happy and touched by it. But that quickly changes when she starts to doubt herself and suddenly feels insecure about her looks. Her doubt reactivates her curse and she changes from her normal self–a beautiful young lady–into an old woman. For me, the saddest part about this scene was how Sophie “rationalized” Howl’s gesture as just being nice. She couldn’t let herself believe that he had feelings for her–even when he tried telling her.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Katara
The next scene, another brilliantly-written Avatar: The Last Airbender moment, has a profound effect on me every time that I see it. When Katara decides to study under a master waterbender, she learns that her tutor has been teaching her a dark, forbidden art. Katara was unknowingly being taught bloodbending, a type of waterbending outlawed because of its unethical use and origins. So of course, she’s disgusted when she finds out that the master lied to her. But the lines blur ever more when she has to use her new skill in bloodbending to help capture her former teacher and put an end to the woman’s cruel, twisted ways. The audience sees Katara go through fear, anger, disgust, reluctance, and loathing as she struggles with the decision to go against her moral code in order to save others or to stick to her ethics and possibly allow other people to suffer at the hands of the bloodbender. It’s tough choice that weighs heavily on her. Though she ultimately makes the better decision, you can clearly see the toll it takes on her. Now before you think I’m playing favorites, lemme just say: ATLA definitely isn’t the only toon with deep moments.
We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story
But the most disturbing of the real sh*t on this list went down in the lesser-known 90’s movie We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story. If you haven’t seen the movie yourself, it’s kind of hard to describe it because if I’m being honest, it was all over the map in terms of plot. But put simply–if my old self remembers correctly–it centered a lot on the danger of letting fear and anger control one’s decisions. Now in the climax of the film, the villain–Professor Screw-Eyes, a sinister ringmaster with a penchant for black magic–is offered a chance to change his evil ways and atone for the terror he’s caused. Of course, in typical kids’-movie-bad-guy fashion, he basically tells the good guys to kick rocks and leave. However, he regrets that decision with the swiftness when he’s left alone with nothing but the darkness, his own thoughts, and a bunch of creepy-ass crows. It’s then revealed that he’s extremely afraid of being alone and that without people to scare, he has no choice but to think about what scares him. Then, in one of the most bizarre, unexplained twists I’ve ever seen, the crows swoop down on him, completely covering him as he stands with his arms out (looking like a weird human cross), and when they fly off, the only thing that remains is his screw-eye. And the crows don’t even let that remain. One of ’em scoops it like the last doorbuster at a Thanksgiving Day sale. It’s assumed that they pulled a Lion King hyenas move and ate ol’ boy, but that is only implied. Granted, the movie has quite a few scary WTF moments, but this last one…Yeah, this one definitely took the cake.