Stop Gatekeeping People Based On Their Personal Opinions and Preferences

So I was watching a TikTok video yesterday of two best friends talking about their preferences when it came to Avatar: The Last Airbender. One of them was their least favorite ships and someone put Zuko and Mai, and I had said: “Finally, someone else who doesn’t like them!” A lot of people liked the comment, but this one girl took offense to it and called me an “old person” hating on teenagers.

First of all, let’s not pretend that ATLA didn’t come out when I was nineteen years old in 2005. I love ATLA but Zuko and Mai have always made zero sense to me, even then. Secondly, can we stop gatekeeping fandoms? You don’t need to be ageist. So what if ATLA is animated and I like it as an adult? It’s literally hurting no one that I still enjoy a show that I watched when I was younger. Anyone of any age is allowed to be a part of a fandom.

Thirdly, “old people these days”? Um, call me when you get some life experience, sis. Thirty four isn’t even old in the grand scheme of things.

Also, just because it is a canon ship doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

My problem with this ship is that they fleshed out Zuko, but Mai is pretty closed off and we learn nothing about her. She has the one scene at the prison, and that’s it. We don’t know her allegiances and we don’t know her. I feel like if Zuko switched back sides and became like Ozai – Mai would follow suit. She’s too wishy-washy.

I wish that if they were going to make Zuko have a love interest that she would be fully fleshed out, as well. Pretty much all we see of Mai is that she’s sarcastic, she loves Zuko, she’s good with knives, and she hates everything and finds everything boring. Well, I find her boring.

She may be better well rounded and fleshed out in the comics, but I haven’t read much of those yet so I honestly have no idea. But they did a poor job of capturing her essence on screen, and I always felt that she and Zuko weren’t a good match.

It’s fine if they’re your favorite ship – you’re allowed to love them and like them collectively and as individuals. What isn’t okay is insisting that I hate the anime or hate these characters and be ageist towards me just because I have a different opinion and preference than you. We all see the world through a different perspective and lens. Clearly yours is different than mine.

You’re young so I hope that you learn to be less problematic as you grow up. People are allowed to love the same ships and hate the ships that you love. That’s just the way of the world. We’re all different.

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 (Yellow Arrow Publishing, October 2020). She has also authored two micro-collections, and three full length poetry collections.

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