A herd of teal deer

I keep running into two mutually exclusive ideas about bloodbending:

  1. There is absolutely no reason except paranoia that it can’t be used in perfectly benign ways, mostly medical. Think of all the lives that could be saved with control over distinct parts of the human body!
  2. Bloodbending is INHERENTLY damaging to the psyche of the user, regardless of the purpose it’s put to. Inevitably, any waterbender who uses bloodbending in any capacity whatsoever will go mad.

The first seems a little more popular at the moment, but I’ve definitely seen the second. For me, the first is a little more philosophically satisfying—it’s bloodbending as we’ve seen it used that is so damaging, the function rather than the mechanism. The second seems to fit better with its actual portrayal, though: nobody ever considers putting it to any kind of beneficial purpose, and Katara, who one might otherwise expect to do so, is the one who pushed to have it criminalized. Even at the end, nobody thinks of using bloodbending to reverse bloodbending, they’re just, let’s try … MORE HEALING.

When it comes to my babies!!1111!! Noatak and Tarrlok, though, this becomes particularly uncomfortable. It’s bad enough with Hama, who was driven to it, but they were forced to expose themselves to its effects as children. It’s all well and good to say, well, it’s terrible what happened to them as boys, but they really needed to man up and pull themselves together as adults (er—okay, actually that argument always pisses me off). But if what happened when they were boys stripped them of a good part of their moral agency and their capacity to properly understand the world around them, it takes the sense of tragic futility that already overshadows their story all the way to woobieville. There are no real stakes if they were incapable of anything else; it’s not so much tragic as just sad.

It’d certainly explain Tarrlok’s characterization swerve in the finale as well as his insistence on fate and doom and inevitability, but … meh. Even though fanon B probably fits canon better, I really find A much more satisfying.

So I was reading the waterbending entry on the wiki for very definitely non-fic-related purposes, and:

Those who practice the technique open themselves up to homicidal madness.

…Oh.

  1. anghraine posted this