Let’s talk about the Nickelodeon show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” for a second. Why was it an amazing show? Because they embraced the idea of mistakes and how making them is perfectly fine.
In “Avatar”, every character had heroic characteristics with real flaws. Aang is immature; Sokka is sexist and insecure; and Katara held grudges. But the best example is Prince Zuko. At the beginning of the show, Zuko is obsessed, disrespectful and has no concern for the safety of his own crew. Yet, we, as the audience, can relate to him and feel some empathy.
The great thing that happens is that through that sympathy, we are exposed to Zuko’s growth, which becomes the arch that leads him into becoming a hero although he still made mistakes after switching sides. He learned from his mistakes and that allowed him to grow.
In a lot of media, we often see the flawless hero fight the irredeemable villain. A recent and massive example of this is Captain Marvel. Brie Larson’s portrayal of Captain Marvel is strong and powerful, but she fails to show any emotion or make any major mistakes. At the end of the day, she comes off as hollow and stiff.
The villains, or the Skrulls, in Captain Marvel (SPOILER ALERT) were portrayed as victims; and the Kree are the bad guys. Although this was clever, they don’t do much else with the idea. They don’t explore the ideas of moral shades of grey or that the supposed bad guys were actually just puppets in a history; having their narratives written by the supposed good guys.
A massive fix they could have done was to bring more humanity and sympathy of the situation with Captain Marvel fighting her old friends to the point of death; those qualities are intrinsic within us all, whether or not we’re heroes.
Making mistakes shouldn’t be seen as this vile thing to avoid at all cost, but as a necessity that has and will happen. Making mistakes is a way for getting closer to answers. A lot of people are trialed by fire learners and this style both brings up a lot of unsavory results but also gets answers at a rather good pace.
Revisiting “Avatar”, Zuko is, in some ways, a trial-by-fire learner. He acted first and learned from the mistakes after. By the end of the show, he became a great leader because of his mistakes.
The fact that this theme was explored in a kid’s show is amazing. As children grow up and parents basically beat into their brains that mistakes are bad; that they should be avoided and if you make too many mistakes you’ll never become something. But this show tells a different narrative: as long as you learn from those mistakes, they can help push you forward.
I’m not saying you should always do things that lead to a mistake, but making honest mistakes is nothing to be ashamed of if you learn from it. We are humans; we are not perfect, but learning is our greatest chance at getting close. Now, go make good choices and make some mistakes so then you can learn.