The blending of bending: How we engage with the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender through memes


People often use memes to express their ideological stance on real world events. This study departs from a recent COVID-19-related meme which makes use of elements known from the animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) and Avatar: Legend of Korra (LOK), and asks how it came to be and how stance is conveyed through them. After acknowledging the impact of the series, conceptual blending theory is adopted to investigate the worldbuilding of the macrocosm in ATLA. This is identified as a correlative network, which acts as the blended space of multiple input spaces consisting of intertextual references. The world of ATLA then functions as a new input space which is updated with modern elements, resulting in the blend of LOK. Minor blends are identified in the hybrid animals that occupy the fictional world. Lastly, it is shown how the selection of a particular input element for participation in meme blends already conveys an ideological stance, rather than only emerging through readers’ eyes.

Metaphor and Symbol, (accepted)
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