ATLA and Transgender Characters!

Watch from 11:53-12:22!

How does a transgender person navigate the dangerous route of gender performance? It’s up to the individual, but in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” there is a scene that potentially indicates a transgender character named Smellerbee navigating the discomfort of being misgendered by a well-intentioned individual, Iroh. Though Smellerbee is a minor character, fans have nodded to the potentially progressive nature of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with its inclusion of minorities from varying racial, class, and gender identities. The presence of Smellerbee allows for increased visibility of a minority subject, specifically transgender women. From being misgendered, we see a distinct aspect of gender performance and reception in place between Smellerbee, who is misgendered, and Iroh, the man who misgenders her. When Smellerbee is misgendered, her solution is to leave the situation, and her friend follows her to console her. The situation of being misgendered speaks to a presence of notable gender performance as defined by Judith Butler, and Smellerbee’s reaction to being misgendered creates a specific survival strategy of a suppressed minority beneath a “phobic majoritarian public sphere” (Muñoz).

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