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Avatar: The Last Airbender Fans Still Can't Agree On The Show's Most Important Discourse (Zuko's Hair)

Widely regarded as one of the best animated shows ever made, Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is still sorely missed by multiple generations of fans. Though they can enjoy its sequel, "The Legend of Korra," while awaiting the upcoming live-action remake on Netflix, nothing truly compares to the original series. A huge reason for the praise received by "The Last Airbender" was its surprisingly dynamic core cast of characters, who saw dramatic changes throughout the three "books" of the show. No one changes quite as drastically as Prince Zuko (Dante Basco).

Entering the plot as its main antagonist, Zuko's path takes him from a disgraced prince to a revolutionary leader. The tremendous growth he experienced was — and arguably still is — rare for fantasy villains, especially those in stories meant for a younger audience. As a result, the character has gone down as a fan favorite.

Though his impact on viewers is undeniable, one aspect of his character development is still up for debate ... his hair. Just as Zuko evolved from season to season, so did the style of his versatile locks. The show even poked fun at this fact during a "Book Three" episode, "The Ember Island Players" (as seen on YouTube). On Reddit, fans continue to argue with each other over which season of the series gave Zuko the best haircut, with some fans making the case for one of his less-remembered stylings.

Zuko's longer cut is the clear favorite

A recent discussion spawned from a Tumblr screengrab posted on the subreddit r/TheLastAirbender. At some point during the Tumblr era, a user named sokkable argued that Zuko's "Book Two" hairdo is perfect, while vividly decrying the other two looks. Though they remarked that "Book Three's" style was "angst overload," other users in the screengrab passionately argued in favor of it, and several redditors fervently concurred.

"I liked book 2," wrote u/TheoryKing04, "but book 3 still had my heart." u/SaiyanPrincess28 agreed, replying "Book 3 all the way!" Though most chimed in only to echo this sentiment, a few others tossed more contenders for Zuko's best and worst looks into the comments. "But they were all of them deceived," joked u/G66GNeco, "for another hairstyle was made." u/thesirblondie replied with a hyperlink to Dev Patel's "modern" look from the reviled film adaptation, while a number of other users — such as u/candyapplesauce_99 – praised the man-bun worn by Fire Lord Zuko in "The Legend of Korra."

Regardless, the "Book Three" mane definitely seems to be the clear favorite among this large collection of redditors. While you could argue that the redesign was a mere byproduct of the early-2000s obsession with angsty antiheroes sporting uncut hair (see "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "Revenge of the Sith"), Zuko's style could be seen as the culmination of a cosmetic evolution that mirrors his character arc throughout the entire series.

How Zuko's hair symbolized his changing heart

When "Avatar: The Last Airbender" begins, Zuko wears a traditional Fire Nation top-knot (for what it's worth, this Tumblr blog dedicated to analyzing "Avatar's" cultural inspirations claims that this style was inspired by Thai cultural practices). The hairstyle is rigid, literally, and simultaneously bound and adorned by Fire Nation opulence. At this point in Zuko's journey, he desperately wants to be worthy of his father and the legacy of the Fire Nation, yet doesn't realize that this path constrains his potential as both a fire bender and a leader.

Zuko is forced to cut the top-knot off at the beginning of "Book Two," after his sister, Princess Azula, attempts to capture him. He flees with his Uncle Iroh to the Earth Kingdom, where he sports a short, humbly maintained do that allows him to blend in with the local youth. Just as Iroh is forced to reconsider his life's purpose by seeking refuge in Ba Sing Se (the site of his greatest military failure and the death of his son), Zuko is given the opportunity to experience life beyond his gilded destiny in the Fire Nation.

Though Azula manages to bring Zuko back to the side of their father, Fire Lord Ozai, his "Book Three" hairstyle shows that change has already taken root. He now allows his hair to grow wildly, only briefly tying it up when forced to perform official duties. In his father's war room, Zuko attempts to replicate his "Book One" look. When he meets with his imprisoned uncle, however, his hair is loose and tangled. When he finally turns on his family during the Day of the Black Sun, his locks are as wild and unconstrained as his future.