sharpasfire: (Taking after Grandfather Vader)
[personal profile] sharpasfire
Updating and not wanting to do my essays lead me to finally finishing these relationship essays such as they are. I apologize to any castmates who might disagree with my headcanon and invite you people to actually write your own relationship memes should you disagree. *cough*That'sahint*cough*



Ozai


He’s not nor ever will be in camp (besides Disco boggart form) but his influence definitely is responsible for a lot of Azula’s behavior! Sure, she may be naturally predisposed to being a malicious liar with a severe lack of empathy issues but like hell Ozai didn’t have a hand in framing that into cold and deadly ambition. She was probably under his complete dominion from the time she first demonstrated any abilities and whatever malleable aspects were likely molded in his image.

Ozai is probably the only person Azula could be considered loyal to, and even then I think both of them know that’s a conditional state. Of course Azula “loves” her father. This doesn’t mean she’s overtly fond of him or deluding herself that he favored her out of some deep familial bond. What it means is she actively seeks out his approbation in her success, because to Azula that’s the only kind of “love” she knows. It’s being useful enough to keep around, to avoid punishment, ultimately being perfect until you surpass everyone else. The kind of love other people express Azula finds weak and she has a real vicious fixation in undermining it.

So Azula pushes her father’s agenda because he’s doing what he trained her to see as the best course of action. I don’t doubt Azula has designs on becoming Fire Lord regardless of the method to attaining it. If Ozai pulled an Azulon, Azula has learned from the best to pull an Ozai. However, she really looks like she wasn’t plotting to overthrow her dad over the course of the war. Instead she preferred the smaller battles against the Avatar and her brother, basically proving herself to be an excellent daughter, with some private plotting going on to secure her own interests. I think part of her really wants others to acknowledge her and she wants her father to willingly proclaim her as the rightful successor. For him to demonstrate his “love” for her.

Their relationship is fucked up, one where Azula defers to him mainly because he’s a vicious and powerful bastard. Even if Azula is getting to the point where she can match him in power she’s still held in sway because, well, I think he scares her in the end of it all. Azula knows better than anyone how her father is willing to ruin armies, his family, her, simply for his own whims. Facing whole contingents of enemies without her powers is something she would rather endure than ever going back to Ozai with failure.

So deep and honest personal feelings Azula has for him? It’s really easy for her to play the devoted and honored daughter when she talks about him, she probably is genuinely proud of what he’s done and his regard for her actions. She wants his favor, especially at Zuko’s expense. At the same time she holds a deep unease that she would never admit to anyone, even her closest of friends, that she isn’t always following him exactly because she wants to. And that he makes her nervous not in that he’s just more powerful than her but he’s perfected in her the fear tactics she tries very hard to keep in others.



Iroh


Oh god a straightforward one. Azula has absolutely no respect or real care for Iroh. She sees him as the lingering obstacle her father put aside, an extension of Ursa in his continued care for her brother, and a loser in general. Part of her recognizes he’s a formidable fighter and a threat to take down first and take down hard. However, she’s absolutely not afraid of him because she knows what kind of a person he is, a gentle and forgiving man, and as such she has no fear of him. That means she has no problem being an absolute bitch to him at all.

Despite all her dislike and resentment of Iroh he’s not really her focus. Sure, Ozai sent her out specifically to drag him back in chains but she spends a lot more time trying to capitalize on other situations or getting a foothold in Zuko’s psyche. For her, Iroh had already given up from his over-attachment to his son and he’s already “beaten” in a lot of the ways that would spark her competitive nature. She’s the favored of the Fire Lord, she took out Ba Sing Se, all Iroh can do to her now is whine about how there is good in others and that just makes Azula roll her eyes.



Ty Lee and Mai


It’s easier dealing with them as a joint group first since for the most part they work as a cohesive unit and share the same status and history. Personal opinion makes me think that they became Azula’s “friends” as children for a variety of reasons, a lot of it being subtle in the ways of mutual benefits. As a princess there must have been many noble families hoping their children would grow closer to the royal family by making friends with her. Mai’s family probably pushed for it more, since Mai has a greater age difference and she is mostly shown as sitting there and enduring Azula’s presence. Ty Lee was probably more of an accident. Azula showing interest in her abilities, something trivial like “show me how to cartwheel,” which led to striking up a rapport between them.

Either way, in both cases I think the girls discovered reasons to keep up their relationships, dysfunctional as they may be. Azula probably found any other potentials wanting in their abilities or personalities; she is definitely not the type to endure excess so picking the two of them may be all she thought necessary. Another difference is since she had playmates and Zuko was always shown as being alone/with Ursa they likely weren’t forced on her but by personal choice. Azula had enough understanding or desire to want friends, even if she’s not quite aware of how to treat friends beyond familiar servant. Meanwhile both Mai and Ty Lee gain a different kind of freedom if they accept Azula’s tyranny. Mai appeases her parents’ drive to help with their social climbing, Ty Lee gains special recognition from her many sisters for befriending the, er, difficult to please princess.

I assume in the years they spent together it means they developed a sort of understanding through experience. Azula demands control, but over time I think they both managed to find exceptions and test boundaries of what was acceptable and not. For Mai it was a lack of duties, if she did everything Azula readily expected of her without fail she could slack off on the uglier tasks if it didn’t challenge her orders, such as running in sludge or fighting over Bosco. For Ty Lee it’s that she can get away with doing more in front of Azula than anyone else, such as being affectionate to her or saying things that would otherwise undermine her.

The other reason Azula likes them is because they work together. She knows Mai and Ty Lee are mutual friends, this is an advantage in her mind. It’s a dynamic that she can step in and be a part of, such as Ty Lee teasing Mai over Zuko, or step back and use, such as telling Mai to go see Ty Lee to get her to leave. Their own dysfunctional quirks (because honestly an emo goth girl and a perky hippie as bffs) balance well with her on a level approaching normal human needs. Because they are the closest thing she will ever get to having peers or being immersed in a group. They are hers for lack of a better concept, and even if Azula will never sincerely acknowledge the friendship part of their relationship she damn will point out her possession of them. They are the only two people in camp that Azula will unequivocally step in for if they’re being seriously threatened. They are the only two people Azula might ever “risk” something for.


Mai


While being Azula’s old friend, Mai’s relationship with her is strained at times as to be expected of their personalities. There has to be some genuine not-hatred between them, even if Mai resents and fears Azula. Despite utterly failing in reading Mai’s choice at Boiling Rock I don’t think the princess is stupid enough to continue hanging around someone who hates her, even if she was confident in her control of Mai through intimidation and threats. Mostly Azula sees her as someone devoid of excess passion/care, which means she can use her in a direct no-frills manner befitting good minions. At the same time she might feel she has to test her loyalty more, like making Mai choose between her younger brother and Bumi in the hostage situation, reassuring herself in times like that Mai hasn’t failed her.

While Ty Lee is probably the easier one to get along with one on one for Azula, she does value Mai just as much. In fact she may prefer Mai’s way of dealing over Ty Lee’s when it comes to business. They share more in common temperament-wise, a mutual disdain for the politics of the court or preferring the luxuries of their station but not overindulging. They also have the same background that their families clearly want to use them as a political instrument. Mai’s poker face toward things she cares about is something Azula understands, although she thinks Mai lets that become too much of a defense that it ends with her easily maneuvered into passivity.

Being harder to react and less eager to please means that Azula would bully Mai more if she felt like it. It also means Azula values her enough that if Mai reacts she may reassess her plans; never enough to feel like she’s acquiescing to her, but enough that in the future she’ll actually consider an alternative. Probably the main reason why Azula would never be uninteresting for Mai (besides the living in fear part aha) would be how the two of them never settle in complete agreement so there’s always some tension. It’s simply a matter of whether or not that tension is used in directing Mai’s interest and Azula’s desire for control.

While they’re not the most stable of relationships and really need Ty Lee to pull them together, they’re still friends. Azula does care about Mai in her own special conditional psycho-controlling way. She notices her problems and, while not solving them unless it benefits her, does present her with limited opportunities to enjoy herself if she stays in line. And Mai’s loyalty is important to Azula. If somehow it was just Mai betraying her it would still hurt like hell to Azula’s pride and already very fragile concept of “that thing we call relying on someone that isn’t trust,” to a point where she would probably slip into the downward spiral of crazy, although not as…dramatically.

It’s a weird relationship based mostly on negative space/people/thoughts. They’re like those friends who end up together not from any real connection but just because everybody else sucks more. Yet at the same time while they might like being apart from each other Azula is reminded just from sheer exposure of Mai’s presence so having her around is in the plus category. It makes her happy. She likes her in as much as she can like anyone and Mai continuing to be a loyal friend/minion is something Azula would make a priority, the alternative being—either slightly less interesting life from Mai’s absence to going crazy from betrayal.


Ty Lee


Ty Lee is the balance to Mai and probably the only one who has a chance at getting Azula to be anything approaching normal. It’s pretty obvious that if Azula is being “sociable” then Ty Lee is following or beside her. Possibly leading in rare cases when Azula has no idea what the hell is going on, but she’ll never admit that. And if there was anyone Azula had to put up with for extended amounts of time without reprise, Ty Lee would likely be the only one to survive it.

Ty Lee also has the distinction of being possibly the only one who can ever actually get to Azula’s weak spots, such as they are. Even if someone physically overpowers her she’s still a confident and crazy sadist who is working the angles and eroding any position she can. She’s also savvy enough to recognize the subtler attempts and undercuts, which is why even Mai wouldn’t get far without a show of dominance from her, if not outright dismissal. But Ty Lee never displays any vocal contradictions to Azula’s orders, she’s unquestionably loyal and flatters her constantly, so when Ty Lee asks for something it is far more beneficial for Azula to grant it than to upset her. So she capitulates.

Mostly it’s that Ty Lee is so pliant to Azula, who expects to be obeyed but never…liked, she is ambivalent about it she subconsciously gives a little back. It’s a calculating thing too, and she has no qualms of messing with Ty Lee’s head or feelings when she wants to. Especially since Ty Lee can irritate her with her attitude and priorities at times. But I think even her hardcore psycho perfectionist issues haven’t completely washed away the idea that when someone is genuinely happy to see you and is the only person willing/wanting to show you some affection, maybe it’s a good trade to reciprocate a little. She actually shows concern about what Ty Lee wants, especially if that means she’ll want to stay with her willingly. Of course if Azula did that to other people it would be weak because they are more likely to exploit that advantage whereas Ty Lee just doesn’t have that drive in her.

I think a lot of it is Azula both largely disdains and respects her. She sees her as a ditz, someone who just doesn’t get things and more often than not makes her roll her eyes in exasperation. Ty Lee is terminally perky, kind of shallow, more likely to think about boys than the actual fight, so all of that presents a very non-threatening front to Azula’s inner control freak. Because even if somehow Azula was in a compromising situation, what would Ty Lee want out of it? Nothing except maybe a chance to fluster her, and even then she obeys Azula’s orders if she tells her to quit it. At the same time Ty Lee is an amazingly competent fighter. The best at hand to hand in the entire cast if not their world, and has an amazing final move of incapacitating benders. It’s clear why someone as goal oriented as Azula would seek to cultivate and keep that relationship. It just so happens Ty Lee is the kind of person to use those talents to entertain at the circus so Azula has to adapt to dealing with her...unique nature.

As long as Ty Lee is loyal to her first, she can do anything she wants and Azula won’t mind. Same reason why Ty Lee can have ten boyfriends and for all the complexes rooted in their relationship it won’t seriously upset her as long as she comes when she calls. But at the same time if she ever shows more than just a passing interest Azula’s possessive nature, and in some cases jealousy, flares up. Which is why she goes from completely calm to temperamental when Ty Lee hints at having a deeper relationship with Misa (or anyone really), because strategically it’s fine and Azula even likes Misa and yet—yet the idea of Ty Lee really caring about someone else gets under Azula’s skin. For reasons even she doesn’t quite understand (which means I can cop out on elaborating!). Hilariously enough she finds comfort in Mai’s crash and burn relationship with Zuko because, when Ty Lee does trip over the issue, Azula’s first reaction is to go seethe quietly around single/hates everyone Mai and never talk about it.

Basically, if Azula managed to care about someone unassociated from all the politics and power games and mindfuckery it would be Ty Lee. After all, she’s the one who has the most success of pulling Azula out of that world. And it’s canon she is the only one who could ever get away with calling her “sweet sugar cakes” without maiming. Their relationship is so awkwardly multifaceted that it wouldn’t even matter how it developed; Azula might even give up some of her advantage, so long as Ty Lee stayed with her. But it’s ultimately conditional. Azula would (and has) obviously throw away everything about their friendship if Ty Lee really stepped out of line (and did) because that’s who Azula is. No matter how much Ty Lee means to her, she can’t make her forgive what she obviously sees as a serious transgression.



Zuko


Saving the most complicated for last! Oh Zuko, Azula’s feelings for her brother are so deeply fucked up and not healthy in the least and yet at the same time say a lot about her. Because as much favor as Azula finds with Ozai, and no matter how “perfect” she becomes, she can’t psychologically separate herself from Zuko the way he managed to separate himself from her. Which is why she introduces herself to the Avatar by claiming her relationship to him (if not derisively) and why she goes out of her way to manipulate him into coming back to the Fire Nation when really she could have pulled off the coup of Ba Sing Se alone. And why she finds his little inner turmoil “pathetic” but at the same time is so invested in being an antagonist to it.

Okay I’ll have to digress a little to explain why I think this came up. All throughout their childhood they’ve had a competitive relationship. Azula adores tormenting her big brother and telling him he’ll always fall behind her. Canon seems to hint the family was not always as divided but that’s how it stood from what we saw. Where Ursa favored Zuko, Ozai favored Azula and nobody pretended otherwise. Of course Zuko wanted Daddy’s love, we see his issues with it for two and a half seasons. But Azula wanted Ursa’s acknowledgement too, she just decided instead of pursuing it she would go the opposite way of embracing what made her a monster.

The big difference came in that whole family implosion that night when Ozai makes his bid for Fire Lord. I personally think Azula’s glee over this is that it means she would win. She’s the useful child who would get all the attention because it honestly doesn’t occur to her that you would openly go against the Fire Lord, even if he’s old and decrepit and Ozai is better. Then she goes to brag to Zuko like a good little evil demonic sister and Ursa catches her. We don’t get to see their conversation but I’m sure what happened out of it is when Azula is struck with the moral implications of the conflict. One deeply fucked up nine year old is going to be the messenger that creates a dividing point between her parents, and Zuko is back in his bed sleeping peacefully, never knowing what happened and probably still ignorant of Azula’s role in it by the series finale. Because we know he’s not the most observant of the family, good going Zuzu.

Azula realizes Ursa loves Zuko enough she is willing to kill someone, kill the Fire Lord, for him and suffer banishment. And she realizes Ozai loves power that he would definitely have killed her for the opportunity. Whether or not she thinks Ursa would do the same thing for her...I think she wants to believe it, obviously when she goes crazy this is the one concept, that her mother loves her no matter what, she needs to hear but can’t bring herself to accept. Because she knows what she is and Azula isn’t the kind of person to pretend she deserves it. There’s no self-pity in this judgment, Azula is just accepting her choices to be someone who rules with power that nobody would ever sacrifice something important for. But it doesn’t matter because she’ll never be in a position of weakness where she would need it. And when she realizes all of this it’s at a point where she’s committed herself to it and doesn’t look back.

Okay large digression but this brings us back to Zuko. It’s kind of obvious to see just how deeply and poisonously she would resent him for this. Zuko has, to Azula’s mind, everything she can’t have by her choices and by being what she is. AND HE DOESN’T REALIZE IT. He just accepts their mother abandoning them with crying and sniffling. And when Azula has the chance to prove to herself that she’s better off, Iroh comes and comforts him. Stupid Uncle Iroh, who gave up the throne to cheer up her worthless brother. She doesn’t understand what’s so wonderful about Zuko to cause this kind of reaction.

Then Zuko grows up and fails epically, even that part with the Agni Kai, which reinforces Azula’s belief that this is the rightness of her choice. So Zuko goes off into exile to realize that there are things outside the Fire Nation, while Azula continues to live as a princess with this hidden warning “do not end up like your brother.” So it makes sense Zuko would, in this time of exile, grow into his own somewhat. And Azula would never forget that her worth is in comparison to what others can or can’t do for Fire Lord Ozai. That she must be, above all else, something that is the opposite of her brother and mother. It’s probably the best reason why Ozai sends her after Iroh and Zuko when he learns of their betrayal in the South Pole. Azula has the most reason to find and ruin them, which she does with much vigor and rampant bitchery.

Then Ba Sing Se happens and all of fandom complains about what an idiot move Zuko makes by choosing Azula’s side. Of course why would Azula offer it? She really could have managed taking down the Avatar with the Dai Li alone, but she says she “needs” Zuko. Actual canon line: “I need you.” And I don’t think she’s entirely lying by that point. She could have phrased it a hundred other ways that would have gotten the same reaction because Zuko never cared about her needing him before. But Azula has spent three years alone, training and perfecting herself. Now she has a chance to bring Zuko back home, under her control because if he accepts her terms he has to remember he’s indebted to her, that she is once again ahead of him.

This is the closest thing approximating love that Azula has for Zuko. She recognizes in part that her identity is more solid when contrasted to his. As much as she resents him for his obliviousness, she willingly uses it to bring him into alignment with her. And maybe what she really wants is for him (defeatist and resenting it deeply) to acknowledge that he really needs her. He doesn’t need Iroh, who loves him and who gave up everything for him. He needs Azula, because Azula has the means and power to give him back what he wants. And that’s why Azula doesn’t betray Zuko at Ba Sing Se, and it’s why she actually agrees to give him what she promises.

From the stuff in the third season we actually see Azula mellow just a bit in her treatment of him. Sure, she manipulates him to come back with her by shoving him together with Mai, but she actually puts effort into making him agree willingly. She doesn’t command him, she coerces. And when he starts seeing Iroh she counsels him against it for many reasons, but it actually sounds concerned when before it would be taunting. Of course she’s risked tying up herself in his affairs. Lying to Ozai over who killed the Avatar keeps Zuko closer at her side, but it’s rather shocking she’s willing to do this when she knows what their father is capable of if he’s displeased. That she thinks enough of Zuko, even negatively, to put his interests against their father’s is…well, kind of remarkable.

This is why, for a long time, Azula would at times put aside the rivalry at camp. Because she doesn’t have political games to play with him, she already had him on her side. Mostly it was a matter of keeping him balanced between doing things she wanted him to do and ignoring the things that obviously were full of fail. So Azula had the opportunity to act like she did during “The Beach.” Sometimes agreeing with him to keep his guard down and let her continually reassess his loyalty, even going so far as to circumvent people seriously threatening him. But at the same time never neglecting a moment to remind them both how different they are and no matter how much they have of their shared history, she wouldn’t be him. Also a good reason why the last time they spent together pre-update was having Zuko see Azula’s worst fear being in his position.

So now Day of Black Sun has passed, Zuko has chosen his side and his own destiny. Azula wins against the invasion but “loses” him. We only see a brief reaction to it but she’s very unemotional about the whole thing. No rage, no real gloating, she’s just back to business fighting him and then when it looks like he’s going to die she escapes and doesn’t finish it with a thorough fireblast at the gondola. Something good villains take advantage of, but I think at this point it’s because she’s perfectly fine with simply letting him die. It’s just like the time with Azulon over again.

She doesn’t want to kill him. She wants to beat him, but she wants him to keep existing for her to beat. And even if he’s against her and a giant moralizing nuisance about it, that really won’t affect her dealings with him. Her attitude only changes when he becomes the catalyst that causes her to lose what she cares about. And after that it turns into her emotional degradation because her friends betrayed her, it’s devastating, and Zuko isn’t even around to notice because he’s too busy saving the world. That asshole.

So right now in camp Azula is miffed that Zuko essentially abandoned her offer, but she’s not surprised and kind of expected it. After all, he does have a valid course of attaining power that he could depose Ozai by an alliance with the Avatar that places him on the throne. It makes logical sense to her apart from all those quibbling honor points. Betrayal in their family is a long running tradition, especially since she’s so willing to do the same to him. So it doesn’t matter because she’s confident she can beat him. Nevertheless, Azula still sees herself as being related to him more than his identity on its own, hence the “goodbye brother” comment. And if everything worked out in her specifications, she would happily incarcerate Zuko in someplace unpleasant where she could still visit him for weekly mocking as the new kickass Fire Lord.

I think in short you could say she absolutely wants him to lose, yet doesn’t want to lose him. She hates him too much to ever articulate it well, especially since there’s no chance of reconciliation to whatever semi-functional relationship they had at that point. But it still hurts. Which is why at the end of the finale she says “I’m sorry it has to end like this” to him and Zuko says “no, you’re not.” Azula is sorry, somewhere deep inside. Not because she wants to be a happy family, or that she secretly holds onto the idea that maybe he loves her, or that she isn’t going to try and kill him seven times over. But she doesn’t know any other way to express her need for a big brother. She just knows it’s not how she wanted it to be.

Yeah, so, uh, we can assume that Zuko has some deep connections to Azula’s identity she’ll never be able to purge no matter how much she wants or needs to otherwise.


...oh man that was long-winded.

Date: 2008-10-20 03:13 am (UTC)
capthlock_rage: (And that's how we killed the Brady Bunch)
From: [personal profile] capthlock_rage
...................................................oh little sis

;_<;>

Date: 2008-10-20 03:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sharpasfire.livejournal.com
It's okay. I'm sure after everything Azula will realize that someone cares when they visit her in prison--

When they catch her from the proverbial falling into free space--

...








No wait you all suck.

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Azula

November 2011

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