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Avatar: The Last Airbender's Creators Had To Fight To Change Toph's Original Design

Even though Toph Beifong (Jessie Flower) isn't introduced until the 2nd season of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," she's one of the most memorable characters on the show. Despite her age, Toph exhibits unprecedented mastery of her skills, which she honed by studying badgermoles, the original earthbenders. By the time we meet her, she's already an accomplished fighter whose powers are so noteworthy that she's recruited to train Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) in earthbending as he works to defeat the Fire Nation. Her fighting style is also unique because of her blindness, a factor that allows her to use her seemingly benign appearance to disarm her opponents in battle. She's so keyed into her powers that she later invents metalbending, which plays a huge role in "The Legend of Korra."

Similar to the other protagonists, her character design stays fairly consistent over the course of the series. In many ways, she personifies earthbending. Toph has a notoriously stubborn and grounded personality, so it's hard to picture her any other way. She's a relatable, well-developed character with great comedic timing, so it's surprising that series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko originally imagined Toph as a boy. However, once the minds behind the series decided to change Toph into the female character fans know and love, they faced resistance from Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon wanted Toph to be male

Hosted by Janet Varney (the voice of Korra) and Dante Basco (the voice of Zuko), "Avatar: Braving the Elements" is a podcast that takes fans behind the scenes of the "ATLA" franchise. In an episode titled "Creating an Icon: TOPH! with Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko," the minds behind the show elaborated on the evolution of Toph's conception and character design. While DiMartino and Konietzko were set on having the character appear as a goofy jock, it was head writer Aaron Ehasz who convinced them to make Toph a young girl with a smaller stature, a shift that would create an interesting contrast between her physical presence and her incredible powers. However, Nickelodeon wasn't initially on board with the change, a resistance that surprised the showrunners.

"When I was a kid, I watched shows with girls, all the time. And I was never, like, it wasn't a problem! If it was a good show, I was into the show," Konietzko explained around the 22:50 mark of the episode. "And I think I remember this tough-looking, muscular teenage kid, and we were like, 'So, who's your favorite character?' And he said, 'Toph.' [Laughs] We got so many of those, but that one was really memorable, and it's just vindicating, you know? You're just like, ugh, if you could just get the suits to understand."

Thankfully, the network eventually relented and Toph went on to become one of the show's best characters.