Over on tumblr someone had asked me for my opinions on this video: link
It is about 50 minutes long, but, in my opinion, is well worth the watch. So I decided to watch it and give my thoughts.
I definitely agree with the first part where the narrator says that Azula’s psychology is the result of a broken family and poor parental upbringing.
But I do disagree with the sadism bit. I’ve typed about this many, many times. I feel like there was really only one time that sadism could be argued and that was when she smiled at the burning of Zuko’s face. But beyond that, I feel like sadism is not a part of her character. As I’ve typed prior, she has done many, many things (including the coup and stopping a senseless torture at the boiling rock) to dispute this.
I also disagree with the Azula always lies bit. I do think that she lies and deceives a fair bit, but I also think that she has a tendency to be very brutally honest.
But I do like his assessment that she is a machiavellian rather than a psychopath. I never really saw her as a psychopath per-say. I always thought that she has trouble functioning in social situations. But I also always felt as though psychopath wasn’t quite the right term though I couldn’t put my finger on it. And as the narrator said, she doesn’t display impulsiveness and such.
I also thought that it was interesting when he started talking about how she has trouble interpreting people genuinely reaching out. The way I took that was that Azula is so used to showing false sympathy and displaying certain feelings to suit a purpose that she assumes others do the same thing and so it’s harder for her to be compassionate and understanding.
Moving on to part two. I agree with him saying that she has antisocial personality disorder. It is kind of similar (imo) to psychopathy, but it isn’t the same. But I still highly disagree with saying that she has a high level of sadism. However when he moves on to say that she’s a narcissist, I can agree with that. I can see that being as she is her father’s favorite and a princess. In some sense, she has almost be raised and predisposed to this disorder. And as he mentioned, it’s reinforced by the friends she has chosen and by her father and by her own need to believe it. That last facet is particularly interesting to me because it highlights some insecurity on her end. Which the narrator ends up touching on.
On that note, I also highly agree with the paradoxal, ‘significant impairment in self-functioning’. I’ve discussed this in the past as well; she has very high standards for herself, higher than those she has for others. And along with it, she longs for the approval of others. Like, she has this bizzare sort of sense of self worth. On one hand she does kind of display narcissistic traits but she also has so much insecurity that she needs the approval of others, her father in particular. I like that the narrator points out that it stems from a natural human desire for intimacy AS WELL AS her “detached need for superficial status.” I agree with him when he begins discussing how the fact that she is not on equal footing with her father, that he is one of the few people she sees as above her, contributes to why she so yearns for his approval and love.
In general I like how he has linked power dynamics into how she forms her desire for love and approval. Though I, myself, would like to say that, by the end of the series, I think that she starts to develop a desire for love with people like her mother and Mai and TyLee like the kind she has for her father. Possibly because, at that point she is so broken that she might see herself as inferior. Which is something that would really destroy her. But it would make sense considering how entrenched perfectionism is ingrained within her. By the end of the show, she is so very far from perfection, I can see her almost craving approval wherever she can get it since she can no longer get it from herself.
As he goes on to say, she uses manipulation and undermining to try to make herself become “the most beautiful and smartest girl in the room”. I think that this is a means of protecting her ego and helping herself to feel the sense of security and perfection she craves. Which brings me back to my headcanon that Azula is very highly insecure, hence why she craves perfection and has to be better than everyone else. Which is why she takes it so hard when people are better than her at some things.
Come part three. Right off the bat I agree with the narrator in that she views even the most simplicit social interactions as combative; I have typed about this elsewhere as well. “To lose something is a moral failure of shame and humiliation.” To me this stands out and and once again highlights a deeper insecurity. That even losing a game in good fun makes her feel awful and shamed. It roots back to her perfectionism.
“Though played as a joke, Azula has never had to moderate her behavior in this way before.” Is another interesting point. One of the reasons she struggles to interact socially on the beach goes back to the power-dynamic thing that he mentioned prior. She is more or less on equal(ish) footing with everyone else so she longs for a different type of approval again. Plus that kind of moderation is foreign to her, she has never really had to put on a different persona for anyone before. And as he says, her usual manipulative tactics can’t earn her the genuine affection she desires in those scenes.
Despite what I said above about her possibly having narcissism or displaying traits of it. I love that this narrator poses that she might not have that disorder at all. That it could be the product of simply being isolated and brought up in a royal environment where she never had to seek that kind of approval. It would simply be because she hasn’t learned how to socialize correctly.
I was also very happy that he tackled the scene where she is talking to Zuko at their old beach house. Like he said, that scene was so important for showcasing that Azula isn’t devoid and bankrupt of empathy. It just, as he put it, doesn’t come naturally to her. As he points out, “there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for her to purposefully search out her brother.” She has been shown to help him out before, but this is the one true time where there really isn’t anything for her to gain from approaching him. He goes on to mention the “this place is depressing quote.” Which is profound because it is a true moment of empathy. The implication being that Azula harbors some hurt over the past. And for, perhaps, the first time in the series she sees the same hurt on Zuko and empathizes. As he points out, they are completely alone too, so there really is nothing for her to gain from it, even in a social means. I absolutely adore the interpretation, “this is what Azula may be like if they had taken away the pressures of the outside world, of their father.”
I like how he interpreted her suggestion to trash Chan’s party as well. He brought her insecurity to the surface and made her feel inferior so she had to remind everyone and...especially...herself that she was still on top. As well as she needed to get back into her comfort zone both internally and externally.
Part four was very interesting to me as I have dived into talking about her darker psychology before; link
I really like how he pointed out that she was raised to use fear to form relationships. The call to her father’s relationship with Ursa and how it was fear based stood out to me because, though I knew her upbring has so much to do with how she forms relationships, it didn’t quite click that her father and mother literally modeled using fear in place of love right in front of her. Like he said, she has only known love and relationships through fear so it really rattled her to see love overpowering that fear.
Once again going back to her insecurity, Mai choosing love over fear and Zuko over her left her feeling foreginly weak and venerable. It pretty much rocked her entier feeling of security and self-image. Which, to me explains her lashing out in a way that I hadn’t considered prior to the video.
That was the perfect segway into her losing her grip. Like the narrator says, “if Mai and TyLee can betray her, anyone can.” And so we get into the interpretive delusions. I found it particularly interesting when he noted that she even accused her own body of conspiring against her instead of admitting that fear and control weren’t the way to go.
I also absolutely loved how he highlighted the, “you always had such beautiful hair line.” Now that he mentioned it, I pay more attention to it. At first I just thought that it was a segway into the next thing hallucination Ursa was going to say, an icebreaker so to speak. But it is so much more, as the narrator says, her perfection was always tied into and alluded to with her perfectly styled hair. Furthermore that the hallucination was brought about by and opened up with that line because it was the first time she really saw herself as physically less than perfect.
I am also so, so happy that he notes that “almost every interaction we see with them (Azula and Ursa) is a critical one.” We see almost nothing in canon where Ursa is being affectionate with Azula. But we see a lot of Ursa scolding her and displaying signs that she doesn’t like Azula’s ambition and power. I like how after this part he draws a parallel between the hallucination scene and the betrayal scene, with love vs fear at the root. How pretty much everything Azula thought to be true is falling apart around her. It really tears her apart because as he said; accepting this would be to accept weakness in herself and there for imperfection. Which circles back into insecurity.
I think that the narrator’s take on diagnosing her with schizophrenia is interesting as well. Though I do stick to my guns in thinking that she has it, I do agree that diagnosing it so early on would be the wrong thing to do. However by the time the comics, that take place years later, roll around the hallucinations are still present, which is well over the 6 months hs of persistence that was mentioned.
The whole bit about the systamisted beliefs is something agree with as well as the delusions of grandeur and control. I’m not going to get to into that because it is something I have already analyzed in that link that I posted above.
I will talk about how I think that his interpretation of S&S is interesting. She claims that she is getting better and that the voices are gone (which is a step in the right direction). But the narrator has a point, the delusion is still very much there in that she is talking about how she was never meant to be fire lord. That the delusion simply evolved and twisted into something even more complex. And I think that it is interesting to note that she is getting her manipulative streak back and losing some of that impulsivity.
I love how he noted the contradictory delusions too. That her mom is both trying to get her on the throne and away from it. This was an eye-opener for me in a way. I always interpreted that scene as Azula just deciding that she wasn’t meant to be Fire Lord. He seems to interpret it as her maintaining the delusion and her mother helping her draw that conclusion. I am not sure if I agree with this yet, and will have to think on it. But I do like the theory.
I do like him bringing up schizoaffective disorder. I believe that I mentioned that one in that link above as well. I also like how he mentions that she displays signs of anxiety and depression.
Part six was great too, because again, I enjoy how he notes that every interaction we have see between Azula and Ursa is negative (particularly, I like how he notes that she overheard her mom asking what was wrong with her). I’ve been saying time and time again that, “this kind of dynamic can be very damaging for a child.” Regardless of how you feel about Azula, it is never good to say something like that in front of your child. I won’t get too much into this one either because I will definitely sound like a broken record. In general I agree with pretty much everything he says in light of her relationship with her parents and how it has shaped Azula into who she is. I like the mentioning of the conflicting parenting style as well and how she gravitated towards Ozai because it was easier to gain affection from him as Ursa’s affection is more rooted in emotion and Ozai’s was more rooted in power. Azula’s strong suit is power not emotion and so she drifted to Ozai because that’s the parenting style that coincided better with her. And again I really like the mention of the conflicting parental styles; that Ursa punishes Azula for things that her father praises her for. So she kind of just stuck to the parental style that was easiest for her to achieve.
Where it gets really interesting to me is when he mentions that Ursa may have been depressed when raising Azula. It makes me sympathize with her, where I hadn’t before. It doesn’t justify or make her neglect of Azula any better but I understand it more and I feel more sympathy should it be true.
Furthermore I like how he mentioned that her attachment to Ozai created a cycle between she and her mother.
I like that he mentions how Azula would lash out for attention as a child as well. To me that, perhaps she acted out not out of sadism but to receive her mother’s attention by any means necessary and the best way to do that was to act out and do something mean.
I absolutely love that he mentions the importance of an intervening parental figure and how Azula was forced to confide in her abuser while Zuko had Iroh. Again I won’t talk too much about this because I mentioned over and over how much of a difference Iroh made in Zuko being able to achieve redemption. I’m just happy to see such an articulate narrator agreeing.
I agree that her story was a tragedy too. And above all else I am so, so thrilled and satisfied that he closes that, “while it is easy to read Azula as an adult she is just 14.” And that Ozai didn’t give her much time to really be a teen girl. Thank you!!! This is what I have been trying to say for ages. Moreover I like how he says that, “Azula’s actions can’t be pegged on anyone but it is important to recognize the impact of abuse.” So, so, so important, and exactly what I’ve been trying to say.
As far as the narration itself goes I was really impressed by the lack of bias. It was a clear cut analysis that seemed to be more rooted in fact-based speculation than emotional attachment (either positive or negative) to Azula’s character. The fandom really needs this imo. It is so split that there is seldom middle ground. And I love how this narrator takes that middle ground. I didn’t feel like he was trying to demonize nor make her out to be a saint. He was just telling things for what they were. I liked that a lot. He has a soothing voice too lol.
Basically this guys is saying everything I’ve been trying to say but he’s managed to explain it in a much more organized way.
I’m not going to lie I almost didn’t answer this ask because I didn’t feel like watching such a long video. But I’m glad I did.