Many of my friends my age and a bit younger watched Avatar: The Last Airbender when they were kids. We didn’t have TV growing up so I missed that, but now Netflix has made it possible for me to find out what the hype was all about. And with people who loved the series when it first came out re-watching it as well, this seems a perfect time to take a look at the personality types of the characters in this series.
This was turning into an enormous blog post, so I decided to split it in two. In today’s post, I’m talking about the “Team Avatar” characters — Aang, Katara, Sokka, Suki, and Toph. In the next post, I’ll be talking about the Fire Nation characters (yes, I know Zuko could go on both posts, but if I put him in part two there’ll be five characters for each post so that’s why he’s in the Fire Nation group).
You’ll notice as I talk about each type that I reference functions. In Myers-Briggs® theory, functions refer to the mental processes that each type prefers to use. If you’re not familiar with functions or want a refresher, you can check out my post “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever” and Susan Storm’s post “The Cognitive Functions – What Are They?”
One more note: usually when I type fictional characters I research other people’s typings as well, but for this post I chose to approach the characters with fresh eyes. I haven’t read any other articles about the Myers-Briggs® types of Avatar characters. This is all just my perspective on the characters after binge-watching the series on Netflix for the first time.
Aang — ENFP
Aang is a character who loves life and sees endless possibilities in the world. He thrives when at peace with people, but also believes in staying true to his personal convictions even when that puts him at odds with those he cares about or with every Avatar who has come before him. He’s not tied to just one way of seeing the world and can see possibility for change even in the most unlikely people.
ENFPs lead with a function called Extroverted Intuition, which Personality Hacker nicknamed “Exploration” (you can click here to read about their nicknames for the cognitive functions, or check out their book which is linked at the end of this post). This function is all about discovery, figuring things out, putting patterns and puzzle pieces together, coming up with innovative ideas, and pushing buttons to see what happens. It’s comfortable with “what could be” rather than just what they can verify.
Their co-pilot function is Introverted Feeling, or “Authenticity.” This function makes decisions based on what feels right to the individual. It’s focused on aligning with core values and personal conviction. Personality Hacker says, “If you strongly identify with Authenticity, from the time you were a little kid, you’ve been extremely aware of the emotional impact events have on you as a person” (p. 72). We see this trait constantly in Aang, from the earliest flashbacks to his insistence on standing trial for a murder he may have committed in a past life to his final decision about how to handle Fire Lord Ozai.
The interplay between Aang’s Intuition and Feeling makes him deeply committed to what personally feels right as well as able to come up with possibilities that elude others. The ultimate example of this is when he finds a different way to defeat the Fire Lord that lets him save the world without violating his personal conviction that killing is wrong and violence must be a last resort. We also see him act impulsively, making decisions based on his Feeling side (which is a decision-making function) and then having to sort things out using his adaptable, innovative Intuition side (such as when he released the zoo animals at Ba Sing Se).
We also see Aang go to his less-strong functions, especially when stressed. His tertiary Extroverted Thinking, or “Effectiveness,” tends to show up when he starts to panic as deadlines approach and he becomes obsessed with cramming as much prep-work as he can (like he did right before the eclipse). I know for a fact he’d not the only ENFP who puts off worrying about important things to the last minute. We also get to see his inferior Introverted Sensing function, which tends to make ENFPs more withdrawn, depressed, obsessive, and focused on their body/health when they’re stressed (Naomi Quenk, Was That Really Me? p. 245). Lenore Thomson also notes that inferior sensing can make ENFPs feel “dissatisfied with what they’ve accomplished,” even if there’s no apparent reason (Personality Type, p. 218). Aang spends a lot of time second-guessing himself and wondering if he’s doing the right thing. Ultimately, this turns out not to be such a bad thing and he’s able to integrate the different sides of his personality to become a whole, healthy person who saves the world.
Katara — ESFJ
Katara is the emotional heart of Team Avatar — a powerful, capable young woman who is deeply committed to cooperation and protecting others. She cares deeply about family, harmony, and social responsibility. Like all FJ types, Katara makes decisions based on what will meet everyone’s needs best (Personality Hacker, p. 70). Often, these types set aside their own needs and desires so they can focus on other people, such as when Katara tells Aang that she can’t think about being with him before the war is won because “We have other things to worry about. This isn’t the right time.”
An EFJ’s reasoning method isn’t based in impersonal logic. Rather, “It’s anchored by the people who depend on them, and they work hard to divide their time and energy” among everyone in their lives “who expect their loyalty and devotion” (Personality Type, p. 342). They often end up doing everything for everyone else, and may grow to resent that at some level. That’s how Katara ends up being seen as the “mom” of the group. Another example of her Extroverted Feeling at work is found in the conflict between Katara and Toph. Katara starts by explaining to Toph what she expects of her, and then when Toph insists on pulling her own weight (and no more) instead of being cooperative, Katara flips out.
For the first two seasons, I thought I was going to type her as an ENFJ (partly because my ENFJ brother thought they were the same type), but by the end I settled on ESFJ. ENFJs use Introverted Intuition as their co-pilot, and the strongest traits of this function is that it sees things from other people’s perspectives, forecasts what might happen in the future, and has “aha” moments of sudden insight (Personality Hacker, p. 347,354-55). Katara doesn’t really do that.
Instead, Katara uses Introverted Sensing as her co-pilot. It’s fairly well-developed for her, showing up in strong traits of reliability and carefulness. Like most SJ types, she respects and upholds traditions while also creating new ones. We see this at the end of the first season, when she upholds her own people’s tradition to train female water benders while also respecting the women who teach water healing in the northern tribe. She also manages to change the master water bender’s mind about training her through her persistence and determination, possibly opening the way for more female water benders.
Katara also has an intensely practical side, which I think comes from her Introverted Sensing. She does what needs to be done in order to forward the goals of her group and protect those who can’t help themselves. She doesn’t think ahead, though, and strategy is a weak point for her. Her tertiary Extroverted Intuition makes her more impulsive, not better prepared. For example, during her time posing as the Painted Lady, she lied to everyone, delayed their plan to save the world, and fed Appa purple berries to make him look sick so she could help the river tribe. She acted out of compassion, but her plan didn’t have long-term viability. She needed Aang and Sokka’s perspectives to help her come up with a plan that would work without her there to constantly help.
An ESFJ’s inferior function, which often shows up in times of stress, can lead to an ESFJ becoming excessively critical and displaying convoluted logic (Quenk, p. 152). Katara doesn’t lash out at people all that often, but when she does she displays both those traits. Probably the best example is when Sokka says he doesn’t want to seek revenge for their mother and Katara shoots back, “Then you didn’t love her like I did.”
Sokka — ENTJ
Parts of Sokka’s personality look like an ESTP and part look like an ESTJ. While I was trying to choose between the two, I realized that there is a way for it to look as if someone is leading with both Extroverted Sensing and Extroverted Thinking. As an ENTJ type, Sokka leads with Extroverted Thinking and his tertiary function is Extroverted Sensing. When he by-passes his less comfortable co-pilot of Introverted thinking, we see him as someone who has a strong Thinking side and an immature, fun-loving Sensing side.
Sokka’s sword master says that he is defined by three key traits: creativity, versatility, intelligence. These traits come from a combination of his preferred cognitive functions working together. Like many other TJ types, the people around Sokka recognize him as the efficient, logical, ideas guy. He’s relentlessly efficient and makes decisions based on impersonal criteria. In “The Painted Lady” episode, Sokka argues that they can’t help the people of the fishing village because they have a schedule to keep. He’s not being heartless, as Katara suggests. He’s just focused on the big-picture (something he gets from his Introverted Intuition). If they take out the Fire Lord, then they help everyone. And that means getting back on schedule as soon as possible.
When he realizes Katara won’t leave without helping, though, he refuses to abandon her. One of the strongest characteristics of TJ types is that they’re intensely loyal to the people that they let get close to them. He might not approve of her original plan, but when she needs him he’s there and he puts all his energy and intelligence into helping her achieve her goals in the most efficient way possible. And he consistently does that for all his friends throughout the series.
As someone who relies heavily on Extroverted Thinking, Sokka tends to be suspicious of things that can’t be measured and tested. He will not believe in the supernatural and isn’t sure Zuko can change. And if he can, then there better be evidence. As Sokka tells Iroh when he tries to convince them there’s good in Zuko, “Good inside him isn’t enough. Why don’t you come back when there’s good outside him as well?” Another example is when Toph asks if the rest of Team Avatar really thinks friendships can last more than one lifetime and Sokka starts to say, “Well, scientifically speaking, there’s no way to prove …” before Katara cuts him off.
His tertiary Extroverted Sensation is a function that is adaptable, easily bored, and thrives on real-world sensory input. It’s the function that shows up when Sokka talks about how much he loves “wacky time-wasting nonsense.” That side of him takes his sword master’s instruction to manipulate his surroundings to his advantage, and turns the rock garden into a lounge. Sokka knows he didn’t do exactly what was expected of him and thinks he messed up every task but the master says, “You messed things up in a very special way.” That’s partly his Extroverted Sensing and partly his co-pilot Introverted Intuition, which tends to see things from a perspective that other people don’t share.
Suki — ISFJ
It’s probably not the most obvious personality type for a warrior, but ISFJs are protective, dedicated individuals who can make great soldiers (Captain America is another great example from fiction). Suki has been training with her culture’s most elite warriors since she was just a child. She’s a loyal, dedicated warrior committed to doing what is best for her people and the world. Not content to simply defend her island, Suki leads her warriors to help the rest of the earth kingdom. They start out escorting refugees, then start working security at the secret ferry. They willingly risk their lives to help others, ultimately being captured by the Fire Nation while protecting Appa from Azula and her friends.
Like other types who rely in Introverted Sensing, Suki is a loyal, dedicated person who finds comfort and belonging in tradition. She teaches her island’s traditional style of fighting, and insists Sokka conform to all the Kyoshi Warrior traditions if she’s going to train him. As is fairly common with FJ types, Suki is an excellent teacher, encouraging Sokka as well as teasing him.
Suki is very people-oriented and forgiving — not uncommon with FJ types since they so readily pick up on other’s emotions and needs. She’s initially unimpressed by Sokka’s dismissal of her for being a girl who fights and has no qualms about taking down his ego down a few notches. But when he comes to plead for forgiveness and instruction she’s happy to help. Off the battlefield, Suki displays an Extroverted Feeling type’s desire for harmony in personal relationships. She doesn’t really hold grudges or start arguments, even accepting Zuko’s help without much question.
When she runs into Team Avatar again when they’re on the way to Ba Sing Se, Suki does not lash out at Sokka for being overprotective, though it clearly annoys her. Instead, she opts for the more harmonious rout of having a discussion with him about why he’s acting this way. She does depart from some ISFJ stereotypes by not being preoccupied with anxiety (fear of the future is something Naomi Quenk describe as common among ISTJ and ISFJ types). Suki is a fairly optimistic person, even in prison. She’s strong and capable, and she knows it.
Toph — ISTP
It’s kinda hard to believe Team Avatar survived the whole first season without Toph. She’s the greatest earth bender in the world and makes sure no one forgets it. I type her as an ISTP not simply because they make the best action heroes, but also because she fits the type so well.
ISTPs lead with the Introverted Thinking, or “Accuracy” function. This makes Extroverted Feeling her inferior function. This feeling function is part of her personality, and she uses the insight she has into how people work to fool her parents into thinking she’s a perfectly obedient, meek child. However, it’s not a natural part of her personality, as we see when she clashes so strongly with Katara. They’re leading with opposite functions and that means they very easily (and often unintentionally) trip each others’ stress triggers, especially early in their friendship.
Like other TP types, Toph is committed to doing what makes sense to her. This isn’t a function that cares much about conventional wisdom. It values impersonal logic, but it’s also very subjective and individual. She follows her own ideas and, once she has the option of leaving the family that’s stifling who she is, she takes it. She’s not immune to the unkind words of others, but as she tells Katara on their girl’s day out after a few girls snub her, “I’m not looking for anyone’s approval. I know who I am.” Her moral compass is equally subjective, though no less strong for that. For example, she’s perfectly okay running scams on scammers. Katara thinks it’s wrong to scam as a general social principle, but Toph thinks it’s fine so long as you’re only scamming the bad guys.
Her Introverted Thinking works together with a co-pilot of Extroverted Sensing and tertiary Introverted Intuition. Her Extroverted Sensing side makes her very comfortable with the external, sensory world. The way she sees through her feet using earth bending is in some ways an extension of this natural strength. Like most SP types, Toph doesn’t enjoy being controlled by outside forces. She wants freedom from authority — no parents, no one telling her what to do. Her tertiary Introverted Intuition helps her stay open to unconventional possibilities and see things from others’ perspectives.
Since Toph is not tied to a single perspective and does not make decisions based on personal criteria, she is the only character who can create enough emotional distance to immediately recognize that Zuko is sincere in his Season 3 repentance and that they could use him to teach Aang fire bending. When the others are upset by their representation in the play, she has no qualms about telling them that what they’re hearing is the truth and she’s not upset that the fictionalized version of herself is a really buff guy. In fact, she says, “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.” She’s comfortable with things that are unexpected and easily adapts to new situations.
When ISTPs are stressed or other people refuse to give them alone time, they can “erupt” with emotional outbursts or a hypersensitivity to relationships (both typical of inferior Extroverted Feeling. See Quenk, p. 129). Toph’s outbursts tend to be short-lived. She even takes steps toward using her Feeling side to connect with people in a healthy way, such as wanting to “go on a life changing field trip with Zuko,” which she uses to try and talk about her hard childhood. She’s disappointed when he brushes her off, but she also doesn’t take it too hard.
If you would like to purchase the books mentioned in this article, you can follow the links below. Please note that these are affiliate links which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
- Personality Hacker: Harness the Power of Your Personality Type to Transform Your Work, Relationships, and Life by Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge
- Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual: A Practical Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others Through Typology by Lenore Thomson
- Was That Really Me? How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality by Naomi Quenk