I’ve noticed that a lot of people say that the people in Azula’s life failed her. However, I think they’re forgetting an important piece of the narrative. She definitely was traumatized. However, she was also a sociopath.
Example one is when Zuko demonstrates to his mother how Azula feeds the turtle ducks, and his mother scolds him. Anyone that harms animals purposefully isn’t going to be the type of person that shows empathy when they hurt other humans.
Also she seems particularly gleeful when her cousin dies in war and she burns the doll that Iroh gives her. She constantly fat shames her uncle, as well, which isn’t a sign of being a sociopath but it is an unkindness which adds to her rather nasty personality.
Not to mention when Ty Lee said she was happier at the circus, and Azula wanted her help she set the ropes on fire just to manipulate Ty Lee into doing what she wanted. She isn’t shown being this way to Mai, but based on what Mai says in the boiling rock episode she obviously tried to control Mai using fear as a tactic, as well.
People want to forgive her because she has trauma, but Zuko has trauma, as well. His father burned his eye for speaking out against him and refusing to fight him, and he was traumatized by his mother leaving, too.
Azula’s trauma while different isn’t more significant than the trauma her brother faced. You cannot compare traumas, and I find the ATLA community rather toxic when they try to compare the traumas of the two siblings. They both endured things that no child ought to have.
They say that Azula’s mother never showed her affection, but the few times we see Ursa are in Zuko’s flashbacks where his mother is scolding Azula for acting up (i.e. being excited that her cousin is dead and insulting Iroh or when she mocks Zuko). However, she is also kind to Azula. Azula wanted Zuko to “play” with her and her friends (mostly to embarrass Mai and Zuko), insisting that family is important and Ursa agrees.
So we don’t really get the full picture. Yet even when Azula has her mental breakdown, her mother is telling her that she’s confused and that she does love her. So I think Azula knows her mother cared about her, but she embraced Ozai because she thought that he truly cared about her. Not to mention she was a natural prodigy, and he praised her for that. He turned his daughter into a weapon. That combined with her sociopathic tendencies made her a very volatile character.
So while I can have empathy for Azula because she did face trauma, I think it’s unfair to say that everyone gave up on her. I think they recognized that she was a dangerous sociopath and she couldn’t be reasoned with.
She enjoyed lying, she enjoyed hurting people, and she enjoyed being in control. I think it’s important to remember that she was a terrible person despite her trauma, and not simply forgive her because her father was a narcissist and her mother abandoned her and Zuko when they were children.
Azula is ultimately alone in the end because she chose to control people using fear and manipulation. Her mental breakdown whilst heartbreaking did not make me feel bad for her because who knows all the people she hurt and killed over the years? She even had glee when she saw how terrified Appa was when he saw her fire. You cannot convince me there was any good in this girl to begin with.
Linda M. Crate’s works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She is the author of seven poetry chapbooks, the latest of which is: the samurai (). She has also authored two micro-collections, and three full length poetry collections.