Sokka Actor Defends Netflix’s ‘Avatar’ After Fan Outrage Over Toning Down Character’s Sexism: ‘He’s Still the Sokka We Know and Love From the Cartoon’

Ian Ousley, the actor who plays Sokka in Netflix’s live-action remake of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” is assuring fans the series is “not trying to take out anything” they loved about the animated series. “Airbender” fans became outraged on social media last month after Ousley and his co-star Kiawentiio (who plays Katara) told Entertainment Weekly the live-action series was toning down Sokka’s sexism from the animated show.

“There’s more weight with realism in every way,” Ousley said at the time, which prompted Kiawentiio to reveal: “I feel like we also took out the element of how sexist [Sokka] was. I feel like there were a lot of moments in the original show that were iffy.”

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“Yeah, totally,” Ousley then agreed. “There are things that were redirected just because it might play a little differently [in live action].”

Backlash was swift, as many “Airbender” fans argued that Sokka’s sexism at the start of the show was integral to his larger character arc as he slowly becomes more accepting. Ousley now told GamesRadar+ that the changes made to Sokka in the live-action series are not dramatic.

“The animated show really is the heart and soul of what our live-action show is. We were not trying to take out anything,” Ousley said when asked about fan backlash. “Obviously we took out that [sexist] element, but he still has that attitude. Not a sexist attitude, but it’s morphed into more of – in Sokka and Katara’s relationship – ‘I’m the leader and you’re the follower’ situation. Stuff like that.”

Ousley continued, “He’s still the Sokka we know and love from the cartoon. I don’t even think fans would notice some of those things, honestly, [when] watching our show… He definitely still has his arcs and his lessons in the show.”

Sokka’s toned-down sexism won’t be the only difference “Avatar” fans see in Netflix’s “The Last Airbender.” Showrunner Albert Kim previously said the show does not begin the same way the animated series does. The live-action series will also show the genocide of the Airbender people and the rise of the Fire Nation, which was only alluded to in the animated series.

“That was a conscious decision to show people this is not the animated series,” Kim said. “We had to sometimes unravel storylines and remix them in a new way to make sense for a serialized drama. So I’m very curious to see what’ll happen in terms of reaction to that.”

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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