I think you’ve hit on the real issue — it’s not the lying that hurt the fandom’s opinion of Amon, but the vulnerability. His self-presentation is incredibly appealing; it’s no wonder that he was able to convince so many people to follow him even as the things he asked of them grew more and more terrible. It’s something his audience — both non-benders in-universe and the fandom on the metatextual level — wants to believe, because he’s the realization of all their hopes for the Equalist leader, the perfect figurehead for such a movement and perfect adversary for the Avatar.
It doesn’t really matter whether Amon is telling the truth or not, so long as he remains more symbol than man.
But Noatak isn’t a symbol, and barely even fulfills the societal expectations of a man. That he’s human, that he’s not perfect and gets angry and needs to deal with bodily functions and is capable of dying just like everyone else, is a disappointment, albeit a somewhat expected one. That he’s terrified of death, cries for himself, and is still, at forty years old, defined to his very core by the abuse he suffered as a child, might as well be outright betrayal.
And that, I think, is where the RUINED FOREVER reaction came from. It’s not that he’s a liar, or even that his persona a lie, necessarily. It’s that, as a male victim of abuse, he’s seen as weak for not having gotten over it already, and fandom can’t stand that “weakness” in a character who they’d built up into this superhuman pillar of strength.
(Amon’s fake origins still had him as a victim, of course, but the narrative he created was masculine-coded — a firebender killed people he cared about, and he’s bent on getting his revenge. His true origin has none of that, forcing him into a far more passive role than anyone who believed in his story is willing to accept)
…and, yeah, if that’s really what’s going on, the fandom’s mentality is really messed up. o_0
Yes, this is exactly what I was getting at, but struggled to put into words. I hadn’t thought of the masculinity angle, but I definitely see it now - particularly the fact that he doesn’t follow the accepted your-trauma-makes-you-stronger script. Noatak and Tarrlok’s trauma wrecked them - and that’s one thing for Tarrlok (a manipulative, ingratiating man who wears soft blues and women’s perfume, and was sweet and gentle as a child) but quite another for a male figure of power and strength like Amon.
I see the ‘what happened to X as a child was sad, but now he’s a man and should be over it’ thing so much, even in my absolute favourite fic in the fandom, that I have trouble responding with more than sputters of rage. I originally included it in this post, but it would have been its essay - but anyway, I’m very glad you pointed it out there, because I think that’s critical, particularly fandom’s treatment of psychological resilience as a moral virtue, and (particularly with men) as a sign of strength.
it’s not the lying that hurt the fandom’s opinion of Amon, but the vulnerability
That he’s terrified of death, cries for himself, and is still, at forty years old, defined to his very core by the abuse he suffered as a child, might as well be outright betrayal.
is pretty much the distillation of everything I was trying to say.
YES on Amon’s generic firebender story being shaped to fit his narrative of masculine power. There’s very little of that in his own story. (As a genderswap fan and writer, one of the things I’ve noticed is that female!Tarrlok is common and fairly easy to write, while female!Amon is rarer and much more difficult; I suspect that’s … not unrelated.)
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