|Pairing:||Zuko x Katara|
|Alternative name(s):||Zutara, Painted Blue|
|Fandom:||Avatar: The Last Airbender|
|Prevalence:||Popular, Juggernaut Ship|
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Zuko/Katara, or Zutara, is a popular het pairing in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom. The pairing gained popularity early on, and maintained a strong following throughout the show's three season run.
Early evidence for the ship was based primarily on the episode 1x09 "The Waterbending Scroll." Future episodes contained interaction between Zuko and Katara which gave their fans hope of a canonical relationship. The season two finale, 2x20, "The Crossroads of Destiny," had a scene that would have fit seamlessly into many a Zutara fanfic, for instance.
The third season was especially kind of Zuko/Katara 'shippers. Midway through the season, Zuko joined the Gaang, which put him into regular, close contact with Katara. While she was initially hostile towards him, Katara and Zuko eventually established a strong working relationship, highlighted in episodes such as "The Southern Raiders."
Not all nods to Zuko/Katara fans were so kind, however. The DVD extra "School Time Shipping" teased the fans of a variety of ships, including Zuko/Katara. The season three episode "The Ember Island Players" also poked fun at Zuko/Katara fans, and was greeted with annoyance and hurt by some fans: "Way the fuck too meta. It crossed the line between teasing the fans and mocking them."
A long-running debate in the fandom revolved around whether the Zutara pairing becoming canon was ever considered by the writers. While the showrunners maintain that Kataang was planned from the start and Zutara was never a possibility, some comments from other people involved in the franchise contradicted this. Joshua Hamilton's Avatar Extras stated that "Zuko was originally going to be the love interest for Katara" and "The writers and creators toyed with the idea of Zuko and Katara falling in love". Even M. Night Shyamalan said that when discussing the plot of Book Three with Bryke, they had not yet decided at that point "who Katara was going to end up with".
Many Kataang fans denied the Avatar Extras as "goofs" or "written by Nickelodeon", while they ignored Shyamalan's answer because he was not a writer for the series. These dismissals were shot down when writer John O'Bryan was featured on the 'Braving the Elements' podcast. He confirmed that a Zuko/Katara ending was brought up "a lot" in the writer's room and that some on the writing team did indeed push for Zutara to happen instead of Kataang, himself included, but "lost that fight" - implying there were debates among the writers over the issue.
Zutara is considered the juggernaut ship of the Avatar fandom. Zutara Week, first held in 2008, was an early fanweek which inspired fanweeks for many other ships and characters. Dante Basco, who voices Zuko was nominated by the early fandom as the captain of the Zutara ship.  Both Mae whitman and Dante Basco (the voice actors of Katara and Zuko) have expressed support for the fandom
Themes and Trends in Zutara Fanfic
Early Zuko/Katara fanfic frequently found Katara a prisoner on Zuko's ship. Zuko was frequently written as being experienced and sexually aggressive, while later canon established him as a giant, awkward dork around women.
Fanfic!Zuko comes in many flavours [...] but The Waterbending Scroll’s Creepy Quasi-Seductive Kidnapper!Zuko [...] is a very popular chap. And that interests me [...] because that particular version of Zuko is canonically so very out of character, compared with subsequent interactions with Actual Girls He Likes. [...] These two brief interactions between Katara and Zuko are the most jarringly different Zuko we see in the entirety of the series. He is not like this at any point, really, before or after this episode. [...] Zuko is compassionate or angry or honourable or awkward or dorky or... [...] This? This creepy circling and personal-space-invading and bribery and low seductive tones thing? From thence a lot of very popular fanfic springs, but where’s it coming from in terms of character? Who acts like this?
[Azula.] Oh. [Ozai.] Oh.
And I would argue that this is an example of Azula and Zuko not really getting the full implications of their behaviour. When Azula deals with... wossname — Chad? — she is as awkward and dorky as Zuko. Creepy Quasi-Seducer!Azula seems simply to be acting in the way her father acts. [...] As fan theories go, the idea that Creepy Quasi-Seductive Kidnapper!Zuko is more accurately Creepy Quasi-Seductive Because He’s Acting Like His Dad Kidnapper!Zuko really appeals to me.
Jill Bearup, Prince Zuko: He'll Save You From The Pirates
Season two saw a shift in Zutara fanfic. Rather than focusing on a captor/captive dynamic, fanwriters began to explore scenarios in which the characters were forced to work together as a team.
Many Zutara fans deal with the series finale—and the canonically established relationships—by setting their stories several years in the future, after Zuko and Mai, and Katara and Aang, have gone their separate ways.
A sub-genre in the Zuko/Katara fandom centers around their alter-egos: the Blue Spirit and the Painted Lady.
Shipping Wars and Militant Zutarians
Shipping wars in the Avatar fandom were fierce, and usually divided along Zuko/Katara and Aang/Katara lines (see Kataang vs Zutara). Shipping wars led to character bashing, usually of Mai and Aang, although Katara wasn't immune from fan rage.
Zutarians have been called the Harmonians of the Avatar fandom. Some fans of the pairing placed a lot of emphasis on the probability of a canonical Zuko/Katara romance. The more vocal Zutarians gained a bad name for fans of the pairing.
If you've ever wondered why the rest of the fandom likes to mock the hell out of us? THIS IS WHY. Because collectively, we are obnoxiously immature and don't know when to accept things the way they are and shut up. Unfortunately, that gives those of us who are sane about shipping a bad name.
Many of these fans felt betrayed by the series concluding with a definite Aang/Katara and Zuko/Mai slant. Many Zutara fans shrugged off the series finale's ships, and continued to create Zuko/Katara fanworks much as they had before. The more militant Zutarians continued to express their bitterness and anger over the lack of canon recognition of Zuko/Katara as a ship.
- Tempest in a Teacup, by AkaVertigo
- Stormbenders, by Fandomme
- Dangerous Ground, by wilderness-writer
- such selfish prayers by andromeda3116
- Golden (Zutara) by ZutaraOPM
Other Fan Activities
- The ZutaraOPM group registered a star "Zuko & Katara" for 2020's Zutara Week Day 4: Celestial 
- Poem for Zutara Week 2013 by Dante Basco
- Poem for Zutara Week 2020 by Dante Basco
- I Fell in Love With Katara (And I’ll Probably Always Love Her), Archived version by missturdle
- Irrationality is Irrelevant: Zuko/Katara, Archived version, a Ship Manifesto
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Reflecting on Zutara and What Could Have Been
- Archive of Our Own tag: Katara/Zuko (Avatar)
- FanFiction.Net: [Katara, Zuko]
- Zutara page on Shipping Wiki
- Zutara Week
- "Well, Tonight's Evening Of Entertainment Left Me On The Floor Screaming, 'IS THERE NO GOD?'". Archived from the original on 29 Nov 2012.
- Meet the Writer with John O'Bryan
- You know that the ship sails itself when the captains are the voice actors.
- "If you don't ship anything in Avatar, then GTFO!". Archived from the original on 6 May 2013.
- "Zutara - canon?". Archived from the original on 28 Nov 2012.
- "I like to bend it bend it! (but not too often)". Archived from the original on 6 May 2013.
- "Avatar Ship Wank". Archived from the original on 6 May 2013.
- "Strap on you tinhats 'cause the creator's BETRAYED US!!1!1!!!". Archived from the original on 6 May 2013.