Autistic Toph Masterpost
It’s a long one folks. The @mightyoctopus and I are both autistic, and the other day we were discussing and concluded that Toph is also autistic. Here’s some canon evidence to prove it.
It has been said before that bending is a metaphor for neurodivergence. An innate, often unconscious extension of the person, connected to emotions.
Toph is the best earthbender in the world, and this didn’t happen by chance. She took to bending incredibly naturally. Here’s how it links to her being autistic.
Special interest - Toph knows everything about earthbending, more than most people as she learned from the badgermoles. She is truly an expert, and it’s her favourite thing to talk about, and the topic she knows the most about.
[ID: Toph at Earth Rumble holding up her Championship Belt, a serious expression on her face. /End ID]
Heightened senses - Many autistic people are more sensitive to sensory inputs than non-autistic people. Toph is incredibly in tune with the world around her, constantly aware of everything through her earthbending. This saves people on multiple occasions: hearing Azula in The Chase, and saving the pregnant lady’s husband in The Serpent’s Pass are two examples
[ID: Image 1: Toph lays on her front on the ground in an earthbent tent, her head tilted as though listening, one palm flat to the floor. Image 2: On the Serpent’s path, the man falls off the cliff. Toph, somewhat far ahead, has instantly turned and bent out a rock ledge to catch him.Momo sits on her shoulder. /End ID]
Stimming - Self-stimulatory behaviour is defined as “the repetition of physical movements, sounds, words, or moving objects”. Toph is almost constantly bending. This is partially due to using it to ‘see’, but through the lense of bending being neurodivergence, we know benders need to bend, and to deprive them of their element makes them depressed (See: Hama, or the LoK).
[ID: Toph in greyscale, white beams traveling along the ground and over her to show the waves of sound and movement she uses to earthbend. /End ID]
It is not uncommon for adults, usually parents or teaches, to try and stop an autistic child from stimming, (very harmful for the kid’s mental health).
Toph’s parents and teacher discouraged her from bending, wanting to keep her only to the basics. It’s no wonder baby Toph ran away, overwhelmed and confused. The freedom she found through earth bending and Earth Rumble is what helped her be comfortable and confident, much like when autistic teens and adults allow themselves the freedom to stim and it benefits their mental health.
[ID: Image 1: Toph sits quietly in a chair at her parents’ house. In focus is her earthbending teacher, talking. Image 2: Baby Toph has her eyes closed and sniffs at the nose of a badgermole. Image 3: Toph at Earth Rumble, she is pointing and laughing. /End ID]
Moving away from bending to other general autistic traits
Shoes - Toph doesn’t like shoes as they restrict her sight. Consider also: it’s very common for ND people to hate the sensory hell that is shoes and socks. Toph is the poster girl for shoe-hating autistic people
[ID: Toph wearing Fire NAtion clothes and her Earth Kingdom head band. She is pushing one foot into a shoe, the bottom of which is straining against its seems as though about to break. /End ID]
Sensory - Toph hates the sensation of shoes and loves the texture of earth to the point of always being dirty
Toph: “You call it dirt, I call it a healthy coating of Earth”:
[ID: Toph in her underclothes having just woken up in Ba Sing Se. Her hair is a large messy mane around her head, and she is speaking. Katara is out of focus in the foreground, looking at Toph. /End ID]
Blunt - Toph is blunt often to the point of insult, and sees no reason to pointlessly soften her words, which is a very common trait of autistic people.
Toph: You blew it. You had a perfect stance, and perfect form. But when it came right down to it, you didn’t have the guts.
[ID: Toph poking Aang in the chest and shouting at him. He looks sad. /End ID]
Theory of Mind - this is understanding someone else’s thought process and perspective, which is harder for most autistic people. In Bitter Work when Toph starts training Aang, she gives him one set of instructions, then gets frustrated when he can’t grasp them. It isn’t until Katara suggests that “He responds well to positive teaching” that Toph tries again, and even then she doesn’t compromise her brash teaching style, just occasionally adding in a small nod of approval
[ID: Image 1: Toph stands looking slightly cross. Katara is next to her, talking brightly and gesturing back towards Aang, who sits on the ground urther behind them. Image 2: Aang high in the air with his feet on 2 different pillars, holding a weight in both hands, he is smiling big and bright. Toph stands on her own pillar, hands behind her back. /End ID]
Masking - This is something autistic people learn to try fit in. When we see Toph around her parents, she is soft and quiet, nothing like her usual self. When a change in routine occurs (the avatar visits), she gets overwhelmed and angry by Aang’s threat and lashes out.
[ID: Image 1: A close-up of Toph at her parents’ house, hair tied back, smiling serenly with an open expression. Image 2: Toph at her parents’ house, hair tied back wearing a fancy dress. She is stood up at the table, leaning forward on her hands and yelling. On the wall behind her and her mother’s face is smeared food from where bowls have flown. /End ID]
Inflexibility - Autistic people love routine, and we struggle when things go differently to how we expected. This is part of why Katara and Toph clash so much. As the lovely @rolandtowen made a couple of great (and correct) posts and is working on a masterpost for, Katara is also autistic
They initially clash in The Chase, as Katara has an expectation of how to set up camp (divide tasks among the group), whereas Toph had a different expectation of travelling (carrying her own weight). When faced with a routine different to the usual or expected one, both girls get overwhelmed, frustrated and constantly argue
In The Runaway, they keep fighting.
[ID:Image 1: It is night, Katara is angry with her hands on her hips. Toph is angry with one fist up and clenched. They are in the middle of an argument. Image 2: Toph and Katara wearing Fire Nation clothes, both stood in mud, hands braced against the other’s hands as they are fighting. /End ID]
Autistic people often have a very strong moral compass, as seen many times throughout the show in Katara. It’s also common for autistic people to reject or ignore social rules they see as pointless, as seen through Toph having no qualms against stealing.
Part of why they fight is a clash of morals, which also links back to Theory of Mind, neither girl fully understanding the other one’s thought process or behaviour reasoning, nor do they take the time to talk.
[ID: Sokka, Toph and Aang in Fire Nation clothes, carrying baskets of supplies and laughing brightl.y /End ID]
Jokes - Despite finding many things funny, Toph doesn’t always pick up on jokes
Toph: Zuko needs to go back to whatever the original source of firebending is
Sokka: So, is he jumping into a volcano?
Toph: I don’t know. For earthbending the original benders were badgermoles
Here Sokka is trying to set up a joke, and knows Toph has a dark sense of humour. But she doesn’t interpret his statement as a joke, she’s too focused on talking about her special interest: earthbending.
[ID: Toph sits holding a bowl, staring straight ahead. Sokka sits next to her, smiling and looking at Toph. They are lit by a campfire’s light /End ID]
Boundaries - Toph struggles to know other people’s boundaries, and assumes them to be the same as her own. This results in her punching her friends harder than they’re expecting, and throwing around the gaang with earthbending.
[ID: Image 1: An image of a large rock potruding out the ground as though just earthbent. Image 2: Sokka in his sleeping bag flying through the air, screaming. Image 3: Katara with her arms out, angry. Toph in front of her, back to the viewer, one arm to the side. Following this arm’s motion Aang is flying through the air towards Appa, having just been thrown by an earthbent rock. Image 4: Toph and Katara walking away from the viewer, Toph punching Katara’s arm, Katara stumbling slightly from the impact /End ID]
Gender - There is a high comorbidity between autistic and trans and non-binary people. Some think this is because autistic people are more likely to know their gender and not care about societal roles and expectations, thus more likely to transition. We’re also more likely to be gender non-conforming, as we want to be ourselves and be comfortable, rather than bother with gender roles.
Toph is not just happy at being played by a man at the Ember Island Players, she is exstatic. She doesn’t care about hwo society percieves her, and potentially prefers being percieved by others as more masculine. Her relationship with gender is different to what is expected of most cis girls
[ID: Toph holding the box railings at the theatre, beaming excitedly. Katara lounges next to her, looking disappointed. /End ID]
This concludes my masterpost on why Toph is autistic. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts or additional points, please let me know.
Have some happy baby Toph as thanks for making it this far
[ID: Baby Toph kneeling on the ground laughing as a badgermole licks the side of her face. /End ID] @atladescribed
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Imagine the Ember Island Players creating a romance between you and Zuko which hits a little too close to home
You sat beside Katara and noticed how Zuko sat on the other side of her. Aang faltered, obviously wanting to sit there and you smirked as Zuko obliviously missed Aang’s look. Zuko had been with the group a few weeks now but his social skills still weren’t very good and you found it made for some very interesting interactions. His attempt at telling jokes alone made you smile every time you saw him for a full week afterwards and you found Zuko did a lot of things that amused you but apparently not so much the others. “I was going to sit there” Aang whined and Zuko shrugged “so? Just sit next to me”. Aang pouted and you laughed to yourself “here” you said standing up “take my seat Aang” and you moved so he could sit beside Katara. Katara was oblivious and you sat on the other side of Zuko chuckling at Aang’s blush. “What was that all about?” Zuko asked and you smiled “ow nothing you just almost ruined Aang’s evening”. Zuko frowned and went to ask what you meant when the lights dimmed so you knocked his arm shaking your head “i’ll tell you later now shhh”. Zuko folded his arm huffily but stopped talking. The play was wonderfully awful. As you hadn’t joined the gang straight away you knew you had time to just enjoy the first few acts and make fun of the way they portrayed all your friends. Plus what could they do to your character? You didn’t have any old flames like Katara or Sokka and you didn’t have an emotional backstory like Zuko or Aang. So you relaxed arms spread over the back of the bench and waited for *yourself* to make an appearance.
The second your actress walked on stage you knew it wouldn’t be good. They had your character all wrong! Your actress flirted with everyone and acted like a lovesick idiot. You didn’t think it could get much worse and then your character met Zuko’s.
“I’ll save you from the pirates” Zuko’s character purred to yours and you spluttered. “That...that wasn’t even me! That was Katara!” you whispered angrily. You looked to Zuko for confirmation who nodded “yeah I didn’t say that to you...and I certainly didn’t tie you up while staring at you like that”. “And I did not flirt with you like that either”. You both glared as your characters bonded and they actually invented Zuko letting you go voluntarily. As Zuko’s character stared off into the distance and said your name you heard Sokka and Suki wheezing from laughter while you simmered with anger and embarrassment. “I didn’t do that!” Zuko cried and you saw he was blushing vividly. That made you blush too and crossed your arms tightly “they better not stick with this theme”.
Of course they did. By the time act 3 had ended you and Zuko were living a star crossed lovers lifestyle in Ba Sing Sei. They again got you mixed up with Katara and said Azula kidnapped you to lure Zuko to the Earth King’s palace. The act ended with Zuko charging in to save you, offering his own life in exchange for yours, but Azula outmanoeuvred him and arrested him too. As the lights went up for intermission you and Zuko paused before exploding.
“That never even happened!”.
“I knew he was in Ba Sing Sei but we never went on a date”.
“Yeah that was a different girl”.
“And you did not fight with Jet over me”.
“I didn’t even know you knew Jet!” Zuko agreed and you both paused for air.
The gang all looked at each other before bursting into laughter. “What is so funny?” you cried and Sokka smiled. “We all know none of that stuff happened, we were there too remember?”. “Yeah so...can’t we rant?” you asked. “Well yeah but why get so mad about it? Are you trying to convince us or yourselves that the idea the two you flirted is so impossible?”. You and Zuko exploded again at the thought and Sokka and the others burst into laughter again. “All i’m saying is this is a lot of emotion to come from nowhere” Sokka smiled “now i’m going backstage so yell at each other or something” and he disappeared with Suki. Katara and Toph left for snacks and Aang went to the toilet leaving the two of you alone. “But i mean it is ridiculous” you muttered and Zuko nodded “utterly ridiculous”. “Sure we ended up together a few times” you shrugged “but that was completely by chance, it wasn’t like you were hyper-aware of me or vice versa”. “Yeah not at all” Zuko agreed but he wasn’t looking you in the eye for some reason. You stared at him confused and noticed his neck looked slightly red as if he was blushing. “Wait did you?” you asked suddenly “notice me more?”. Zuko looked up and he was indeed blushing deeply “what I....of course not! I never...I mean I did learn your name before anyone else’s but that’s because we spent that time together when I helped the pirates kidnap you and you wouldn’t shut up the whole night”. “Then why are you blushing so much?” you asked and Zuko shrugged “I don’t know I...it’s just them insinuating I like you. I’ve had it a lot”. “You have?” you asked amazed and Zuko nodded “when my uncle heard you’d seen me in Ba Sing Sei and that we’d reached a deal not to tell on one another he had this annoying smirk like i’d done it for any other reason besides the fact it was mutually beneficial. Then when I went back home Azula made it seem like me and you had a thing and Mai got jealous and started asking about you and I had to explain all our interactions and it was very awkward...she wanted me to reassure her by putting you down and making the idea seem impossible but I must have failed because she didn’t believe me. So I guess that’s why it makes me feel weird, everyone keeps telling me I act differently with you and I suppose I do but I have no idea if that’s because everyone keeps saying it or if I always have”. You nodded your head but were unsure what to say. “Well which one do you think it is?” you asked eventually and Zuko paused “what?”. “If you had to guess, would you say you act differently around me because of what people say about us or have you just always acted that way”. Zuko thought, staring at the ground and basically anywhere but at you, “i’m not sure but I guess maybe the second? They must have got it from somewhere I suppose”. “The second?” you asked surprised and Zuko’s blush returned vividly “I’m only guessing, I honestly don’t know”. You nodded your head and went to speak when the others returned which stopped you right in your tracks.
The second half of the play began of course with you and Zuko reuniting in the prison under Ba Sing Sei. You and Zuko did end up there together but you definitely did less staring at one another. You rolled your eyes as your characters began to passionately speak to one another stepping closer and closer. They finally reached one another and you laughed when your character began yelling at Zuko’s. “Ha maybe they got some things right!” you whispered to Zuko who nodded “you did yell at me a lot”. You smirked and went to apologise when Zuko’s character kissed yours. You and Zuko abruptly shot away from each other. “That is not even close to what happened!” you cried at the others who were all laughing. Zuko nodded “this is just slander! They didn’t even bother to try to get our characters right and anyone with half a brain would realise that!”. Someone shushed Zuko and he glared “shush yourself” he cried before storming from the room. He didn’t return for the rest of the play and honestly you thought that was probably wise. It got worse and worse. They still kept in Zuko’s betrayal of Iroh but changed it making you at the centre of Zuko’s struggle. He chose the crown and they made you react dramatically (even getting a love ballad moment). They then skipped forwards to Zuko at the palace, who got his own song when he realised he’d made the wrong choice. Your characters reunited not long after and promptly confessed their love for one another. Then you were both murdered by Ozai very much in line with the tragic forbidden lovers style.
“I mean I’m just glad she’s dead” you shrugged on your way out “anything to end that romance”. The others smirked when Aang paused “do you think Zuko went back home to the villa?” looking around for the angry fire prince. “No he knows we don’t know this place well, he’s probably just sat outside somewhere” you replied looking around but you couldn’t see him brooding anywhere either. When you walked out the front door and still didn’t spot him Aang frowned “okay everyone split up and look for him, meet back here in five minutes”.
You returned five minutes later to see Katara, Suki, Sokka and Toph all hadn’t found him either. “I wonder where he is” Katara frowned and you shrugged “he’ll be fine, that boy has nine lives”. “He didn’t in that play” Toph commented and you nodded. “True but that play was a mess and there’s one thing I still can’t get over. Zuko said his family and friends thought he liked me that’s where his side of this rumour started but in the play they acted like I encouraged him! Where on earth did they get that idea?”. The group all went quiet and you paused “what?”. “Well...I mean you kinda do encourage him” Sokka frowned and your jaw dropped “I DO NOT! When have I ever...”. “When we got kidnapped by the pirates you teased Zuko constantly and refused to be quiet until he spoke to you” Katara pointed out. “Yes but that was to annoy him not flirt with him!”. “Okay how about when June asked if you were his girlfriend and you replied he wishes instead of no?”. “I was joking” you shrugged and Toph smirked “or how about when I was sneaking out to see Zuko at the Western Air Temple and found you already on your way to see him? What were you popping in to see Zuko for huh y/n? Nice date by the campfire?”. “I was doing the same thing as you! I was going to see if he would tell the truth and given that I knew him best I thought I....”. The gang all erupted and you paused “what?”. “You know him best?” Sokka asked smirking and you nodded “that doesn’t mean anything it’s a fact”. “Ow is it?” Sokka asked and you nodded “It is! Fine if I don’t know him best what was his fake name in Ba Sing Sei?”. Everyone went quiet and you nodded “or how about how long ago he was banished from the fire nation? Better yet just tell me his parent’s names!” you cried. When nobody replied you smirked folding your arms victoriously “told you I know him best”. “Yeah you’ve definitely proved how much you know about Zuko” Suki smirked looking past you. You frowned before you heard someone behind you. You turned to see Aang had found Zuko and by the look on his face he’d heard everything. You blushed and looked down “Zuko we were...”. “Having a competition to see who knows me best?” Zuko asked mildly amused and you paused “well sort of...Sokka started it”. “No I didn’t” Sokka retorted “you declared you knew Zuko the best and when I asked if you were sure you started spouting your favourite facts about him”. “They’re not my favourite facts about him” you snapped and Sokka’s smirk just grew “whatever y/n” and he turned leading the way home. The others all followed and purposefully made it so you and Zuko were at the back. “Why were you talking about me anyway?” Zuko asked and you paused “ow nothing I was just er...trying to work out why the Ember Island Players thought I had a thing for you but the gang was not helpful”. “They couldn’t think of a reason?” Zuko asked innocently and you frowned “no they could actually think of lots of reasons, it appears similar to your family they were also under the impression I held a flame for you as it were”. “Ow really?” Zuko asked. He kept his voice flat but you could swear he was smirking slightly. “Stop enjoying this” you whined pushing him “it’s not funny, it’s embarrassing”. “Liking me is embarrassing?” Zuko asked and you paused “no I didn’t mean that, I just meant having all your friends claim you like someone when you can’t see it”. “You really can’t see where they’re coming from?” Zuko asked and you shook your head “nope not at all”. Zuko looked away and you frowned “I saw that, what did that look mean?”. “Nothing...” Zuko trailed off but you sighed grabbing him by the arm to make him look at you “I’m sick of everyone saying things about me for once just say it to my face!”. Zuko sighed “fine, I just think i’ve been honest with you but you’re not being honest with yourself”. “Not being honest?”. Zuko nodded “Yes, I admitted I could see where my family were coming from and how the rumours started but you’re acting as if they plucked them out of thin air!”. “Well maybe they did! I don’t see how any of our interactions could be interpreted as romantic”. Zuko didn’t look convinced. “You don’t think there’s some truth to what the Ember Island Players said? That maybe there is something here?” Zuko asked gesturing to the small gap between you. “No of course not! Do you?”. “No” Zuko yelled back and you nodded “fine! You are the most infuriating...” you started when Zuko grabbed you kissing you. You initially tensed at the sensation but soon melted into it. Zuko seemed to be trying to prove a point by kissing you passionately and not wanting him to win you kissed him back matching his intensity. Finally Zuko pulled away for air and stared at you “still not want to admit there’s something here?”. You stared at Zuko torn between admitting he was right and your pride. You were annoyed, frustrated, excited and exhilarated all at once. You were breathing rapidly, your cheeks bright red as were Zuko’s and neither of you made to move away. “I...” you started eventually “that was a good kiss”. Zuko nodded, his frustration melting away “it was, I enjoyed it...I’ve been wondering what it would feel like to kiss you for a while now”. “You have?” you asked and Zuko nodded “as annoying as it is to admit my family and friends were right, I like you and I have for a while”. You smiled despite yourself at how adorable Zuko looked all bashful and embarrassed. “I tried ignoring it for a while but then when I joined the group your friends all saw it straight away. Then tonight...the play was bad but I was frustrated that everyone seemed to see it apart from you the person I actually wanted to see it...you”. You looked down wondering how to reply “I’m sorry I bet that was really frustrating”. Zuko nodded “It was and I figured this was just one-sided but that...did you feel it too?”. Zuko looked so unsure and unlike himself it was endearing and gave you confidence. “Yes” you said shakily “after that kiss I can tell you it is definitely not one-sided. I like you too Zuko and probably have since the start”. “Probably?” Zuko asked and you sighed “I’m not good with my emotions, I can be oblivious to them so I can’t with certainty tell you it’s been going on as long as the play made it out to be but I know I like you. Right now in this moment...I hope that’s enough, I know it’s a shit confession and you probably wanted something more solid but I...”. Zuko began laughing and you paused “what’s so funny?”. “Something more solid? Y/n I’m on the run from the Firelord who is my father, my sister is hunting me to kill me and I could very likely be imprisoned for the rest of my life if Aang fails and that’s if i’m lucky...I’m not even sure if I have a future so trust me all I need is the present. To know in this moment right here you like me back” Zuko blushed but he stepped closer and took your hands “that’s more than enough for me”. “It is?” you asked and Zuko nodded “yes and if by some chance it becomes more long-term I’ll be very happy but for now I just want to enjoy this time with you”. You smiled and leant in to kiss Zuko again when someone coughed. “Hey what are you two doing?” Sokka called. Apparently the others had finally realised the two of you were no longer with the group and walked back to find the two of you as you currently were. Luckily it was dark so you moved away from Zuko but still held his hand. “Yeah we thought you’d gotten lost are you okay?” Katara called. Zuko sighed and you smirked at his expression. “We’re fine” you smiled “we were just talking and Zuko’s going to show me this beach he went to a lot as a kid”. Zuko’s eyes shot up to yours and he smiled. “You are?” Aang asked and Zuko nodded “yep, it’s not far from here so we won’t be long. You guys head back to the villa and we’ll meet you there” and with that Zuko tugged you away from the others. You smiled at Zuko and he smiled back at you “quick thinking, I didn’t think we’d get out of there so easily”. “You can thank me later” you replied when you heard Sokka gasp “wait are they holding hands? Y/n are you holding hands?”. “Run!” Zuko cried and you laughed but did as he said. You kept running even after Sokka’s voice trailed off and only stopped when you reached a sandy beach. You both collapsed on the ground and you turned to look at Zuko “did you know this was here or did you get lucky?”. “Totally the former” he smiled and you shook your head “you’re lucky I like you”. “I really am” Zuko agreed and he stared at your face tenderly. His fingers brushed your cheek and you smiled “what are you waiting for?”. “I have no idea” Zuko admitted and he leant in to reclaim the lost kiss from earlier. This time you weren’t interrupted.
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