The Avatar franchise has spawned many memes over the years, with a notable rise due to the success of Avatar: The Last Airbender ‘s recent arrival on Netflix.I’ve chosen to highlight just one moment from the series that’s particularly darkly perfect for our age: the line “There’s no war in Ba Sing Se.”
THERE IS NO WAR IN BA SING SE
Avatar: The Last Airbender’s second season, episode 14 contains the phrase “City of Walls and Secrets.” The episode mainly focused on Team Avatar’s arrival in Ba Sing Se, the vast capital of the Earth Empire.
They are there in part to warn the Earth King of the coming solar eclipse that could help the heroes turn the tide of the Hundred Years’ War with the Fire Nation.
Team Avatar’s plans are complicated when Team Avatar learns that the Earth King is unaware of the war in Ba Sing Se – even after stopping a massive drill that attempted to breach the area.
The ruling class in China, led by Long Feng, the leader of China’s secret police known as the Dai Li, is part of a vast conspiracy to conceal the realities of war from them so they can live a carefree life away from the conflict, while Long Feng and others like to rule him in the shade in his stead.
People who cannot be convinced by normal circumstances are captured by the Dai Li and taken to their deep underground base, where they use a hypnotic light – along with the phrase ‘There is no war in Ba Sing Se’ – to brainwash them into obedience.
Team Avatar’s compassionate ally Jet is also present, along with Joo Dee, the interchangeable maid.
WHY THIS MEME IS PERFECT NOW
According to KenYourMeme, the scene was first used online in 2015 before becoming a common meme used all over Tumblr. An authority figure may attempt to convince an observer to believe their version of the truth, even if it’s clear and easy to prove it’s a lie, such as with an obvious drill in the walls of your home or city.
It’s a very apt meme considering that most if not all political parties around the world are at one point or another responsible for double standards or massaging the truth. Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, who is also known as Baghdad Bob in the West, is a prominent example of the kind of person the meme refers to.
In the days of President Saddam Hussein, Al-Sahhaf served as the information minister for the Iraqi government and was the government’s spokesman.
Al-Sahhaf became especially notorious for his bold, bombastic and often false statements of Iraqi triumphs during the height of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies.
During the war, Al-Sahhaf claims that Americans killed themselves rather than fighting Iraqi forces, they did not cross Baghdad’s city limits, and they were nearly defeated by the Iraqis.
Whatever he said about the war that wasn’t in Baghdad, he was clearly wrong, despite his efforts to convince people otherwise.
American culture has become more and more accustomed to lying authority figures in the age of “fake news”. In recent months, failed government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the meme’s accuracy.In particular, the Chinese government and US President Donald Trump have been accused of downplaying the seriousness of the virus’ threat. Trump, in particular, has come under scrutiny for an almost constant mischaracterization of the truth.
Streaming via Netflix
In light of the recent revival of interest in The Last Airbender, which is now available for streaming via Netflix, it makes perfect sense that “There Is No War in Ba Sing Se” would see a revival as a meme. Attempts to downplay the effect of the virus (which has killed more than 100,000 Americans at the time of writing) is an attempt to ignore the giant drill in the city walls. If you’re not careful, you could end up like Jet.
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