Many of the people that know me know that I have a (slightly unhealthy) obsession with a cartoon called "Avatar: The Last Airbender." But when people ask why I like it so much, I have a hard time explaining. Here are my thoughts.
Part of it is that I like cartoons. They're relaxing, fun, and remind me of being a little kid. Fine, go ahead and judge, but we all have something like that.
At the same time there is something really cool going on with this particular cartoon, which I think boils down to this: it is a very conservative cartoon with a very progressive message. It is conservative (in a classical sense) because there is a single world order into which everything fits. There is a preset natural balance, a preset social structure that favors some people over others, and a savior figure to make sure that everything stays that way. If anything changes, the world is thrown into chaos.
At the same time, the plots are quite progressive. They suggest characters who overturn convention when it will benefit someone, and who think far outside a standard "good vs. evil" dichotomy. It's a little bit as if the characters from "Boondocks" walked into "Lord of the Rings." How they are going to resolve that is fascinating to me.