Avatar’s Bending in our Modern World

Hey guys, welcome to this month’s collaboration article, put together by your very own Geeks Under Grace anime team. This month we got together and thought about how the bending from Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra might be applied if we could harness it in our every day, real-world lives. We discuss each form of bending individually, as well as pick and choose which ones we each think would be the most useful for current developments in modern society.

Eric Perez

It would be pretty epic if we lived in a bending world. Through the sequel series, the Legend of Korra, we got to see a glimpse of what it would be like if elemental bending were possible in a society similar to our own. In reflecting on the benefits each bender would have in the world we live in today, I thought of the following:
mako_working_in_power_plantFirebending: I think Firebending would be pretty valuable, given how one of our biggest commodities is energy. The only type of bending which doesn’t require the actual element to be present, Firebenders can basically create energy (in the form of fire) at will, which, in our age of technology, could probably be converted to usable energy in a pretty effective and efficient manner. Also, if one were so advanced as to have the ability to lightning bend, then you’d pretty much have a walking Tesla Coil able to produce crazy amounts of energy through their fingertips. Apart from keeping oneself warm, Firebenders would probably provide a lot to the energy needs of our time.
haru_earthbendingEarthbending: This was touched upon in the show, but Earthbending can be useful for mining and rescue missions. Those who can Earthbend would add a huge layer of protection to those who work within mountains or underground. Having an Earthbender by your side would ensure landslides, cave-ins, and other disasters would be prevented or stopped in time. In addition, a strong Earthbender would be able to feel and pinpoint everything connected with the earth around them and would be extremely useful for search/rescue groups.  Obviously, being able to move huge chunks of earth with finesse can save a lot of time, resources, and risk if someone is trapped beneath rubble/debris. Those advanced enough to Metalbend, could offer even more, and would probably be imperative in building machinery, buildings, armor, etc.
aangAirbending: The top benefit for Airbenders would probably be transportation and movement. With a flying contraption similar to Aang’s, one could fly freely to nearly anywhere they needed. Also, as they propel themselves in the designated direction, Airbenders can jump and sprint great distances with ease, even over water. They would be the ultimate parkour/free-runners. Aang demonstrated that the classic “riding the airball” move can dramatically speed up transportation with little to no effort, much like riding a moped. These abilities are obviously  useful with today’s transportation struggles when it comes to traffic, trying to get a taxi, waiting for an Uber, flight delays, waiting in the subway, etc. Also, Airbenders could probably help with generating natural energy (finding a windy place for windmills wouldn’t be a problem if you knew a bunch of Airbenders). Moving heavy objects would probably be easier with the assistance of someone who could make things fly.
katara_revives_aangWaterbending: Those who could control water would do a ton of good for the world. One of the biggest benefits to Waterbending is its ability to heal others, if one understands the method. This ability provides a universal benefit and is always needed, no matter where we are in the universal timeline. Another huge benefit is the ability to find, extract, and filter water. One of the truths of this world all humans can agree on is that we need water to survive. People living in places without clean water would be extremely grateful if a Waterbender lived among them. The ability to find places to build wells, to carry huge amounts of water to villages, to filter the entire water supply – this would be invaluable to all parts of the world.
If bending were a thing today, each element would be useful in its own unique way. For instance, in addition to the above, each one could prevent natural disasters, and if one were thinking of advantages in battle, each would have its own crazy perk (Bloodbending, anyone?). However, if someone were to ask me which I thought ranked above the rest in usefulness, I would probably choose Waterbending. If we are to love and care for others as Christians, I think the abilities inherent to Waterbending would enable us to do so effectively by providing needed resources, healing, and even defense to others. With that in mind, though my favorite type of bending is Airbending, I would say Waterbending would be the most useful to society today.

Cooper D Barham

Firebending: Alright. I get it. Firebending is cool. It is the only bending art which is, in essence, infinite. As infinite as human emotion, anyway. Precision Firebending in our modern word could be utilized as a means of welding infrastructure. Cooking food and keeping warm would be child’s play. Bending lightning (an advanced form of Firebending) would be of profound usefulness for the whole “free, clean, renewable energy” thing we humans seem to be so infatuated with solving.
But I’d like to tackle this from a different angle. Have you watched the shows?  Firebenders universally struggle with volatile temperaments and lack of control, even the more tame of them. Uncle Iroh was aware of this and emotionally mature through years of experience, which is why he eventually managed to break the mold. But, for your general populace, you’d need to expect most people typically wouldn’t have the innate character or wisdom to know how to restrain themselves. Firebending is an all-or-nothing style. Once it’s out, you can’t extinguish it. You can’t even manipulate it to a different location, unless it’s electricity. Can you imagine how morbidly destructive riots would be? Anarchy and violence might reign supreme, even in the light of other benders who’d oppose them. It’d basically become the plot of the original series. But, hey, at least we’d finally have a reason to give psychological health the attention it deserves.
Earthbending: Roads would either not exist, or there’d be different kinds available.  One kind would be for the non-benders (Avatar-muggles, if you will), which would be occupied with vehicles, bikes, and foot traffic. The other would be for Earthbenders. For those familiar with the animated series (you know, probably everyone reading this article), Earthbenders can sort of just… ride the ground in a variety of ways. Or if you’re capable of Metalbending, you’d be able to swing around on cables like in Korra, though I doubt such things would be widely accepted in our world, at least not without some modifications to how we make buildings.
Honestly, Earthbending would probably be the most effective bending in terms of advancing civilization. Buildings would be a breeze to create. Controlling the natural world through tunneling, creating trade routes, and rerouting bodies of water would allow for stronger cities and faster travel. Plus, despite the obvious antithesis of Water against Fire, I think Earthbenders would be most effective for subduing rogue Firebenders. “Earth” is, after all, the most vague and thus most versatile of the styles. Mud, dirt, metal, sand, and lava are all within the domain of Earthbending. You could use it to find precious minerals, to harvest shrapnel from wounds, and if working in coordination with a Firebender, you could theoretically make glass. Hm. I’m not sure if you can Bend glass…
Airbending: Okay, you ready to hear my beef with Airbending? Because it’s on the fast track to your face. Literally every other bending style has some “advanced” form of the craft (a la Lightningbending, Sandbending, Bloodbending, etc.), but you know which one doesn’t? You know why that’s bogus? Because there’s one hiding in plain sight. I’ve always wondered how Soundbending isn’t a canon idea, considering sound is just vibrations in the air. I’m going to give our modern intelligence the benefit of the doubt in this theoretical bending-reality, and assume we’ve figured out how to do such a thing.
If Airbending existed in our world, flying would be an entirely different animal. While we have no narrative examples of creating a large apparatus for flight, it’s not hard to believe such a thing would be possible, even if unnecessary. Most people would fly by way of the Air Nomads, using some sort of contraption to allow independent, individual flight. Maybe some would even learn how to “enter the void of tranquility” and fly without assistance from a physical object, but probably not many. I suppose Airbending could be used as a source of power, but, honestly, compared to what Waterbending and Firebending bring to the table, whatever Airbending could offer would be mostly moot by comparison.
Soundbending, however, would be useful in a variety of recreational ways. Imagine concerts. Those things would be nuts. Singers would be able to create perfect, authentic pitches. The acoustics in a room would be easier to decipher and construct. It could also be weaponized for non-lethal means of quelling dangerous characters. My only issue with Airbending, and, by extension, Soundbending, would be those who could abuse it. We know from Korra that a team of competent Airbenders can generate a full-bodied tornado with relative ease. A tornado is self-perpetuating once created and could only be stopped by another equally effective team of Airbenders, which is unlikely to be on-hand at any given moment. As such, Airbenders have access to natural disasters which cannot easily be stopped by other Bending arts.
Waterbending: Let’s get this out of the way. Waterbenders would, without a doubt, be the most stigmatized people-group ever. Each time a full moon rolled by, people would stay inside, and the authorities would be watching every known Waterbender like a band of hawks. Parents would warn their children to beware Waterbenders for their ability to Bloodbend, however rare it may be. It’s a terrifying ability. Hollywood would make it the subject of horror films. A third of all heavy metal songs would be about Bloodbending psychopaths. They’d be social pariahs.
Or absolute saints. Because Waterbenders also have the magical ability to heal people. It’s not an end-all-be-all healing technique, but it’s far better than it has any right to be. If you could harness a benevolent Bloodbender, then all the more. Medical practices would go through the roof if we had a means to slow, quicken, and manipulate blood flow at will. We could restart hearts with such an ability.
What’s more, Waterbending allows for almost as much versatility as Earthbending, with steam, ice, and mud within its domain. We could purify water on a whim, refrigerate food, walk on water all Jesus-like, and even traverse the ocean floor.
Among them all, I’d say Earthbending would have to be the most useful, though. I’m sure my bias came through pretty handily, but in case it wasn’t obvious, I think Earthbending is the most superior form of bending. It has so much power and options available. You don’t even need to be Toph-levels of hardcore. Average Earthbenders always seem to stand out more than average other-benders.
Now if we could deal with the chi-blockers and would-be Equalists, we’d finally succeed at having a world on the… bend.
Bend? Get it? Bend? I’ll be here all week. I take tips in the form of hard cash and gifts of otter-penguins.

Kate Gilleo

As Avatar fans, we’ve all probably pondered what kind of bender we would most want to be. I’ve never taken a poll, but I get the feeling most people would want to be either Firebenders or Waterbenders. I’m definitely with those who say Water, though. As a New Englander with strong ties to the beach, I could easily see myself lying on a sandy dune, messing with the waves and knocking hapless surfers off their boards. More heroically, in a real-life situation, Waterbending could be used to save lives and even put out fires. I can picture a Waterbender joining the Coast Guard or Navy, using their skills to assist in search-and-rescue missions or to turn the tide (pun intended) in at-sea battles with smugglers or pirates. And what would be cooler than a firefighter who could put out fires without the truck?
At a more day-to-day level, I can see kids playing in a pool and using Waterbending to make whirlpools, or a prankster messing with somebody in the shower by halting their water. Too busy binge-watching anime to get up and grab a glass of water from the other room? No problem–just will the blob of water from your dinner glass in the kitchen to come to your parched lips. Chilly from the long ride which soaked you at a theme park? Dry yourself off with Waterbending! Too tired and cold from shoveling all day? Just bend away the snow in your driveway, little by little.
Another thing which could benefit from Waterbending is the entertainment industry. A native Bostonian, I remember being fascinated by the Jordan’s Furniture Water Show as a child, mesmerized by spouts of synchronized water to upbeat music and strobe lights. But how cool would a water show be if it were performed by a team of Waterbending acrobats, dancing and twirling and throwing around jets of water instead of the traditional juggling props? I’m thinking Olympic swim routines done in orbs of water suspended midair by a teammate, where the audience could have a 360-degree view of their tricks.
Naturally, all types of bending would be helpful in everyday life. Construction workers with Earthbending skills. Architects who can excavate without tools or risk of breaking ancient material. Firefighters who could help tame and control the flames without needing a truck or any unnecessary water. Who knows? The possibilities are absolutely endless.

Thank you for reading this month’s article. Next month, we branch out and enter the *really* fun territory, where we open our hearts and talk about our feelings <3. That’s right, next month’s topic is favorite anime husbando‘s and waifu‘s (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s exactly what it sounds like).  We can’t wait to share it with you.
God bless and have a great day.

Cooper D Barham

Aspiring author, marriage and family therapist, and active behavioral health technician, Cooper fills his world with God, music, videogames, anime/manga, drawing, reading, writing, and some physical stuff in between. If you ever want to talk about the big or little things of life, fire him a message. Helping others through tough times is both his passion and way of living. 'Got it memorized?'


  1. John Canary on March 6, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’d choose firebending. You could eliminate terrorists so quickly. With any element, really.

    • Cooper D Barham on March 9, 2017 at 4:24 am

      Why do you think so?

      • John Canary on March 9, 2017 at 11:28 am

        Bullets are no match for something like an element.

        • Cooper D Barham on March 10, 2017 at 4:50 am

          Why would they be using bullets? Wouldn’t they most likely be elements, too?

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