I really love giant monster movies. I especially love the ones that are more than just giant monster movies. Yeah, Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla features a giant radioactive dinosaur but that film also nails a commentary on post-war Japan and the horrors of nuclear war. Peter Jackson’s King Kong, while maintaining the original’s Beauty and the Beast storyline, also manages to deliver biting criticism on the idea of zoos.
Colossal is a film where Gloria (Anne Hathaway) discovers that she is directly controlling a giant monster on the other side of the globe. Yet for all the grandeur of that premise, it is much more a film about dealing with different types of abuse. Gloria is a mess, she drinks, she lies, she cannot maintain any kind of self-sustaining lifestyle. When her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) throws her out, Gloria returns home and must try to put her life back together. When she returns, she meets Oscar (Jason Sudeikis); a “nice guy” who is anything but.
The abusive relationship between Oscar and Gloria is the primary focus of the film. Oscar manipulates Gloria, setting himself up as her tether to sustainable living. He gives her a job, fills her house with furniture, spends free time with her. On the surface it does not sound bad, but Oscar uses all of this to control Gloria. When she attempts to do something (or someone) he doesn’t like, he gets angry and violent. In the case, the violence is not just against Gloria. Remember that giant monster thing? Yeah, turns out Oscar’s one too – only he has no compunctions against murdering people to keep Gloria in line.
Oscar is a piece of work to say the least and Colossal shines best when it is fully exploring the nature of his abuse. On this level, the movie is certainly a triumph. That said, when exploring Gloria – the movie ultimately falls flat on its giant face.
Gloria the Monster
Gloria is an abuser too. Her relationship with Tim is far from healthy. Since she cannot hold down a job, she is dependent on him. This in itself is not necessarily bad, but Gloria abuses this dependence. The beginning of the film makes it clear that she is not job hunting. Instead, she goes out drinking with friends all night – using either their money or Tim’s to sustain her alcoholism. Whenever confronted on this, she lies or gets angry at Tim for confronting her.
In addition to this, the film also shows us that Gloria is further abusing Tim by taking advantage of their apartment when he’s not home. Gloria’s plan in the beginning of the movie is to placate her boyfriend out of their apartment and invite her friends in so that they may resume drinking (likely Tim’s liquor). It only falls apart when Tim announces that he can no longer cope with her destructive lifestyle and wants her to move out.
This opening is fine. What happens next creates the problems. Gloria never repairs/admits her abusive role with Tim. Instead, she continues to shut him out throughout the film, choosing instead to reveal her monstrous secret to the people she spends all night drinking with (clearly the responsible ones). This is what helps cement Oscar’s hold over her in the first place.
Tim tries to contact Gloria and talk with her. He scolds, clearly still angry from their bad relationship. He does, however, have one crucial exchange of dialogue with Gloria when he apologizes for always lecturing her and genuinely seems to care about how she’s doing. This shows a painful truth of abuse: It ultimately turns both people ugly. Tim appears not to be the lecturer of choice but by habit – his role in Gloria’s pattern of self-destruction.
We’re never sure about Tim because the movie is not interested in fully exploring his relationship with Gloria. We do know that he cares about her – maintaining contact after she returns home. We do know that he comes for her at some point, worried about her developing home situation. We do know that he lectures her, but with seeming regret that their relationship is not different.
The biggest failing comes at the film’s climax, when Gloria flies to South Korea to follow through her plan to neutralize Oscar. She shuts Tim out again through all of this (Tim is expressing worry and concern, even attempting a confrontation against Oscar) but that’s not the problem. The problem is her final phone call. Here is the dialogue (I’m paraphrasing) :
Tim: “I’m worried about you. You owe me an explanation as to what’s going on.”
Gloria: “No I don’t, you threw me out. You said I was too ‘out of control’ – well now I’m more out of control than ever!” *click*
In this final exchange, Gloria resumes her form of abuse. There is no scene in the movie where she really admits and attempts to discuss her problem with Tim. In this last exchange, she abandons her responsibility and throws her problems on him. Worse, she implies that everything that happened to her at home is somehow Tim’s fault.
Gloria never hits Tim but it is clear that she is the source of emotional abuse in their relationship. She is the self-destructive one who cannot handle her emotions and thus decides they are not her responsibility. By not having Gloria ever acknowledge and confront her own history of self-destructive behavior, it completely ruins the redeeming/empowering arch that the film’s writers were attempting to communicate.
The failings of Colossal hit me as someone who was a victim of emotional abuse. They also irk the hell of me as a writer. Anne Hathaway does such a fantastic job of playing Gloria that I want to be rooting for her at the end. It also seems like writer and director Nacho Vigalondo wants her story to be empowering, a rise of an abuse victim against the abuser.
And it almost is! That’s the infuriating part. Gloria and Oscar are done so well but the failings of Gloria and Tim ruin it. This, as is, is not the story of a victim rising up but rather the tale of one abuser getting the best of another and then presumably continuing her abusive journey. Who’s the next Tim? Who knows but there is reason to think there will be another.
If you’re a writer and you want your protagonist to fix their flaw and be likable at the end, you have to make sure they earn it. Otherwise it feels like you’re forcing an unnatural ending that the story does not support.
Abuse is a complicated subject to tackle as a writer. Believe me, none of my numerous blog posts or short stories have done it justice. It is crucial to understand these basics: there are multiple types of abuse, men and women can be abusers, and abuse is a disease that infects everyone. If you’re not going to tackle all appropriately then be prepared for me to tear your work apart. We need a better dialogue on this serious issue, not half-baked ideas of female empowerment.
Colossal could have been an achievement. Instead, it is an entertaining giant monster movie wishes it was something bigger.
This is likely the final part of the increasingly long “You’re Not Alone” series. It might not be, but we’ll see how it goes.
What follows is, as always, not absolute truth, but rather lessons from personal experience.
In part two, I talked about the importance of forgiveness. That one must forgive themselves before truly forgiving someone else and that, an apology, while seeming like the most basic human decency, is still far more than most who have been emotionally abused receive. A large part of recovery is being okay with that: accepting the apology that is never given.
Why is that?
Because very often it is beyond the psychological capacity of the abuser to fully understand and sympathize with the damage they have done, despite the fact that they too have very likely felt the hurt (or at least one very similar). I am not saying that they are dumb or cruel, just that they are in a different mental space. That said, I have been asked: “should you ever actively confront the person who abused you?”
Having actually just finished an incredibly painful conversation with Sinda (let’s keep the same abuser name ’cause why not – it’s not their actual name anyway), I can honestly say that: yes, you should… but don’t expect them to be receptive… and watch your own words carefully.
Confronting an emotional abuser is hard. For starters, the very word confrontation implies a struggle, it is not a word meaning peace. You are going to have to say something that someone really does not want to hear. You cannot control how they react, but you can try your best to still accommodate them.
When I confronted Sinda, I tried to be as diplomatic as possible (I’m sure she would say the same thing). First, I asked if she would like to talk, specifying that, while it was important to me, it did not have to be immediate. Show your abuser that you respect his/her time – in fact, do your best to treat them with respect, period. Even if you do not feel that they deserve it, treating someone with respect always says more about you as an individual than the person you’re respecting.
I gave her several times to choose from and let her know that, if she really did not want to: the confrontation did not have to take place. She responded by choosing a date, but saying that she didn’t think she had anything left to say and she didn’t see the point of the conversation. She also was honest enough to say that she was still angry (still not sure why) at me and wasn’t sure how more talking would help (it is my fault for not hearing her on that point). That said, I had already stumbled on the tripping stone I got caught on.
I had also told Sinda earlier that day that I did not want to have the talk then, because I had been feeling feelings of anger/depression about our relationship (our second attempt at one) and I did not want those feelings to spill out onto her. That said, hearing someone who has hurt you respond to your desire to be heard with essentially what was “not my problem, you have to deal with things on your own” can be triggering to say the least.
In part because it is true. We obviously all deal with our emotions and struggles in our own ways. Make no mistake, my writing this is part of me dealing with mine. That said, there is a great importance in life in HOW things are said/done, not just the WHAT. Look at Shakespeare, man never had an original story idea in his head… yet his plays have lasted thousands of years because of HOW he told them.
In my defense, I have in large part been dealing with the damage of the second relationship with Sinda by journaling, therapy, friends, yoga, emotion exercises, blog posts (ha) and general trying to avoid stupid situations. That said, Sinda had expressed the desire to be friends and I was having real trouble with this for a variety of reasons.
One: I wanted to be friends, which in itself was not a healthy thing. Given the nature of how my romantic relationship with Sinda had ended, it made no sense WHY I wanted to be friends. Our second romantic relationship did not even last two full months and went from honeymoon phase straight into tension that ultimately ended with Sinda emotionally cheating on me with an ex-boyfriend. Given the months of build-up we had done beforehand: the attempts at healing, the frank and honest discussions that had happened, Sinda’s repeated expression of “it’s going to be hard but I really want to try to make this work” – holy shit must things have gone wrong for a relationship to deteriorate that quickly. I share the blame in this, I was no saint being attacked by a wicked devil. This was a relationship I asked for, and so I share the responsibility.
I wanted to be friends because I still cared for Sinda, I did not want her to think that her actions had made me hate her, and also (on a personal and perhaps selfish level) I did not want her out of my life – I was ready to let go but not walk away. I felt that, knowing her and our past, I had been unreasonable to expect the relationship to work so soon. While two years seems like a long time in life – it is not. To put it in context, have you ever had something – a book or a movie – that you were obsessed with for a while, then later couldn’t understand how you liked it in the first place? How long can stupid obsessions like those last? Things involving people, their emotions and who they are, often times take much longer to change.
So onto Two: I was still hurt. I really can be a hypocrite, having just written in part two about the importance of dealing with one’s own feelings before attempting any kind of serious connection with another person (or at least seriously considering WHY I was attempting that connection). I have spent years working on personal control and how to be understanding and compassionate with others and one lesson I have learned over and over is that: emotions cloud everything. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to be objective in something you are emotionally involved in – at least it is for me. Had I been objective, Sinda’s comment would not have gotten a reaction. Indeed, I had anticipated that she would not react positively – but had ultimately decided to go ahead with the confrontation anyway.
This is important: go ahead with the confrontation, despite how you think/know the other person will react. Emotional abusers will rarely react positively, even sometimes if years have gone by since the abuse. The reason to confront an abuser is simple: stand up for yourself and be heard. This may not sound like a good enough reason, but trust me – it is so instrumental in healing from the damage they did.
Emotional abuse takes away from your self-respect. It diminishes you as a person and sends the not subtle message of “you’re not worth it.” Well, I am worth it. Sinda is worth it. EVERYONE is worth it. If someone hurts you – it is their responsibility too. To think otherwise is to shoulder way too much emphasis on yourself. Think of it this way, if you have a dog or cat and someone runs it over – is it unreasonable to ask that they feel bad about it… or to talk about it with you after?
“Man, that sucks, I didn’t even see it coming… well, sorry, hope you have a nice day!”
That reaction is insane and incredibly self-centered. Yes, they said sorry but it didn’t change anything – in fact the nature of HOW they said it makes it seem like they don’t care at all. I have hurt people, including Sinda, and everyone who has talked to me since I hurt them – they all had the right to be heard, even if what they were saying was entirely about how I had hurt them. When you hurt someone (and we all do at some point, we are human after all) take responsibility for it – and that does not mean simply acknowledging that it happened.
To get back on point and to relate this in, Sinda has apologized for cheating on me. She did, and I believe her sincerity and want to believe her genuine regret. HOWEVER, several things took away from this and turned from horrible mistake into abuse. The largest was the violation of trust – I was there the night Sinda cheated on me. I was in bed with her, laying down to sleep. I overheard most of the conversation (being alone together in a silent room). It bothered me as it went on, climaxing with a sickening “Call me in the morning, I love you.”
I knew what it was as soon as I heard it, but I still had to ask – “who was that?”
“Oh, I thought I heard a man’s voice. Was her boyfriend there?”
“YOU NEVER TRUST ME. NOTHING I CAN SAY WILL MAKE YOU TRUST ME!”
“… I do trust you.”
The next day Sinda announced she was unhappy in the relationship. Two days later we had a fight where I said some horrible things and took away her agency by accusing her of not thinking clearly. Accusing someone of not being fully aware of what they are doing/saying is a serious accusation. It is directly saying to someone else: “I know more than you.”
Yet what choice did I have? This was a woman who, only three weeks prior to this incident, had called me the best boyfriend in the world? Who before that had been telling her parents and friends about how lucky she was to finally date me? I have known her for close to five years. If two years is a short time to change – holy shit three weeks. It was either – “well, I guess that was all a lie” or ask “what is going on? You’re not making sense?” It didn’t help that I said horrible things before asking that question.
Yes, what had happened two nights before gives reason (but not an excuse) to my being irritable and upset – but I should have called Sinda on her lie before then. I was doubting myself, doubting my perception of events. My self-confidence was gone and my reliability shattered. Maybe Sinda was right. Maybe I was just looking for an accuse not to trust her, maybe I was being controlling in the relationship.
Of course, questioning her decision-making made me more controlling, at least in her opinion.
This is not exact but “You only want me to stay with you,” and “you only care about the relationship. Not about me and what I want!” were said quite often. As someone in love, this was the worst thing to hear. Yeah, I was calling her out – and not doing a good job of it – but everything I had said, I said for the purpose of trying to help (I’m aware that most abusers say this too). I knew Sinda had been going through a hard time and feeling depressed about her place in life, and I knew she had been drinking again to try to combat it. For those wondering: here are the effects of alcohol on the brain. I am not accusing Sinda of anything because ANYONE is capable of making poor decisions and doing things they regret while drunk or under the effects of alcohol – it is just the science of it.
That said, we are always, ultimately responsible for our actions.
I did not confront Sinda about the cheating until days after we had broken up. This again, is partly my fault for being silent. When I did, she apologized – saying she only did not tell me to spare me pain. She also said I had to deal with the pain of the relationship on my own and to stop involving her – and that she hoped to be friends.
This is a genuine question: am I insane for being beyond confused and hurt by this, and wanting to clear it up?
Yes, Sinda was again right: pain must be dealt with individually. Yet as she admitted this, she admitted no role of it in the fight, or how it had affected the end of our relationship. She essentially said “sorry” and drove off, leaving me with my dead pet in the road. After all, I was still the controlling jerk who was just trying to manipulate her.
Yeah, I’ve had discussing Sinda’s cheating thrown back at me multiple times by her. She admits to doing at and says she feels awful – but it was on me to deal with it. I was a jerk for bringing up the past and trying to control her.
Controlling people is a real thing, and something I never want to do. Have I said controlling comments to Sinda? I have, in both anger and periods of insecurity – mostly in anger – but not often. That fight is the largest event I can think of and most of what I said was “you’re not thinking clearly,” and “you can’t see what you have become.”
I should have confronted her about the cheating then – I should have. But I didn’t.
Sinda and I have known each other for years. I like to think that we know each other very well and, after months of talking and healing, I felt safe for the relationship, and Sinda had expressed desire to begin one as well (we don’t live close and she traveled down to see me, risking seeing my entire family – well aware of our past – just to see me). As I admitted in part two: I rushed things, I wanted to be healed so so bad, that I ignored the pessimistic aspects of reality to feel that way. None of that is on Sinda, like I said: I asked her to be my girlfriend.
Sinda also had no obligation to help me with my feelings after the relationship ended… at least I don’t think so. Yet the continued insistence on being friends led me to conclude: better deal with the negativity now then, don’t want this coming out ever again. For example, if I had never confronted Sinda on her cheating… years could have passed and still, when we first spoke again – it would have risen to my mind, and it would have been much worse after all those years of guilt.
This is also part of the importance of confrontation: your own mental health. For me, I don’t forget things – even the things I want to. I am someone who struggles with insecurity and self-image (part of my problems with anxiety I imagine) and so, an event like that – I would have felt guilty forever, until I knew she had cheated and I wasn’t crazy.
I had also found Sinda to be very controlling the last weeks of our relationship. I found her to be a complete opposite of the person I had known, getting annoyed at traits in me that she used to praise. For example: when we first started dating, I took time out of an evening with friends to tell her how wonderful she was. She was so happy and impressed by that, she told her mom the next day. In the final weeks – if she expressed feeling like crap to me and I said “I’m sorry to hear that, anything I can do to cheer you up” – that became emotionally smothering.
An important effect of an abusive relationship is feeling that, despite how much you tried, your actions meant nothing. That is how I felt with Sinda at the end – she might have felt the same way with me, I don’t know. I know my actions were to try to save the relationship and, when that failed, to do what I could to insure a positive friendship. That did mean calling Sinda out on how I felt she had acted – again, for the importance of your own mental health – don’t let this one slide. But, after the initial arguments/anger over learning that she had cheated on me – I never said that I hated her. I said I was confused and hurt but wanted to be friends.
Being friends to Sinda meant not bringing up what had just happened in the relationship AT ALL (otherwise I was being controlling by using the past) and not being too positive. How positive is too positive? I texted her while I was vacationing in Hawaii, saying that “it may be the most beautiful island but it is missing the most beautiful woman.”
Looking back, I can definitely see that going too far. It indicated false intent: I was not trying at the time to start a romantic relationship. My intention was to send a positive message, letting her know I still cared, but intentions are not everything. It was wrong and I apologized when confronted, as Sinda made sure I was aware I had gone too far. This did not stop Sinda from saying “I wish I was in Hawaii” next time we talked. But of course, she hadn’t been thinking about how I would receive it – a problem that I think runs deep.
For those of us who care about others and have been abused, that caring becomes distorted. We feel we are putting others before ourselves because: why else be in an unhealthy relationship? I could say I was putting Sinda’s needs before mine when I decided to let her back into my life but it would be a lie. This is not to say her needs were not of paramount importance: I loved her and wanted to see her happy – but that was what I wanted. Sinda, like so many victims of emotional abuse (like me) came to the conclusion that she was putting others way ahead of her own happiness. This meant that she had to focus on her and do what made her happy.
This meant ending a relationship she had also spent months/arguably years putting herself into – not just ending but completely ENDING – even talk would be too much. Talk was just my projecting my problem onto her, even if the breakup was recent – less than a month ago recent, and even if it had an ending as bizarre and abusive as that one (cheating on someone is ALWAYS abusing them, even if it is not done to hurt them – Sinda called it a “normal” relationship).
Sinda was so convinced that she was putting others before herself that she could not see how self-centered her actions had become. This is dangerous. I have done this as well, and I did horrible things while in this mindset (I destroyed friendships and was abusive in the relationships I was in). Sinda told me she tried really hard to make our relationship work… and she also told me she was just doing it to make herself feel better. To this day, I am not sure (and likely will never be, this is part of why one must accept the apology not given).
One of these people I could be friends with, the other I could not. I could forgive someone trying to do the right thing and screwing up… god knows I’ve been there enough. I could not/did not want to forgive someone who was willfully selfish and had lied the entire relationship just to satisfy her own need. This unknown was part of my reasoning in confronting Sinda.
Don’t live your life with doubt, especially if you have been abused. It was not your fault. I said terrible things to Sinda, things that – even despite what was going on – she definitely did not deserve. Have I ever been actively controlling of her… I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. I would actually invite her to post just how I was on this blog, or if she wants to write it on her own – I would give the link. I tried to do what I thought would help Sinda in the long run to be happy, she herself told me – in happier times – to call her on abuse and any signs of any patterns she was repeating. I never expected that to turn into “just bringing up the past to hurt me.”
I never tried to mold her into the perfect girlfriend, she was already perfect to me. She still is, despite everything. Yes, Sinda has been abusive to me but, like I said in part two, to label her a villain would do nothing except make me feel better. She is just as lost in life as I am, as anyone is. I hope she finds her way.
I am glad I confronted her, although I wish Iit had gone better. The confrontation ended with Sinda labeling me a controlling abuser, telling me to fuck off, and saying with certainty that she now understands all this (everything, posts included) to be part of my attempt to control her. This despite the fact that Sinda is not her real name, that I never wrote it with the intention of blaming her (never posted it to her Facebook wall, never sent it to anyone she was involved with). When we were good, I was brave for bringing this to the public and speaking out. When we were bad – I was controlling and invading her privacy. No one, save me and close friends, will ever know who she was… but you all know now that this happened to me. Was I perfect? Not even close. I will try to be better in the future.
I make no apologies for loving Sinda, and for trying as hard as I did to make things work. I made mistakes and the relationship was not a healthy one… but since when do you logically choose the person you love? I see her as someone fully representing the beauty of all people. Perfect: no, but deep down she does have a good heart. At least that is my belief, and one that I am content to have.
All of this said: part of the title of this part is “knowing when to walk away.” It is that time, and if you are in a similar situation, I advise you to do the same. No love is worth the cost of your respect, the cost of who you are. That is not healthy love at all. An abuser is not in the mental space to admit mistakes and quickly change. Sinda wanted and still wants to change… but she could not escape her pattern overnight (a few months isn’t even overnight in a lifetime). Your abuser may tell you they want to change, may insist that you stay with them.. but it is abuse.
For all Sinda’s accusations of control, I find myself just wondering what it was I was trying to control? I did my best not to guilt her about the actual decision of the breakup, but I also insured she knew exactly when and how she had hurt me. I never did this with the intention of putting her down, but with the goal of protecting my mental state, as well as trying desperately to make her aware of just what it was she was doing. As I said, I can and want to believe in Sinda as the woman with the heart of love, trying her best to do the right thing. We all make mistakes. This may even be one for me… but I don’t think so.
Sinda, wherever you are and whenever you read this: know that I wish you nothing but the best and I hope you have found all the happiness you have chosen to have in life.
Abuse can never be changed. The past cannot be changed. As said in part one, there is no gold medal for walking away and doing the right, but hard, thing. But I want to give everyone out there who is doing it a hand. You are not alone.
Fiction does not exist. By definition, it is fancy; material created by human beings to tell stories, offer escapes, entertain, or teach lessons. It can be argued that the best of fiction does all these things, with only the great examples providing insight to how to approach real life. It is in this spirit that I turn again to Avatar: the Last Airbender, a cartoon that was so much more than (I think) anyone expected. I have already written an article on the real world wisdom to be learned from the character of Iroh. Now let’s examine another character, one who provided drastically different lessons. In the Avatar universe, no villain was more complete, more fully human, and therefore more relatable than Azula.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Azula is a princess of the Fire Nation (the bad guy). She is royalty, born and raised. She is also intelligent, a perfectionist, cunning, and fiercely determined. None of these traits are innately evil, but Azula suffers from being “out of balance,” a condition that all the villains in the Avatar universe share. What this means is that Azula pursues these traits too far, and at the sacrifice of others. This makes her cruel, selfish, and extremely controlling/manipulative. It also makes her incredibly successful, at least to herself. However, in a way that is incredibly relatable to our own non-bending world, Azula’s lifestyle leads to unhappiness, first for others and then herself.
Azula’s biggest vice is her control. Everyone is a little controlling, it reflects a natural desire to feel at peace in the world around you. Some control offers security and a feeling of well-being. Azula drives it negative by turning it to manipulation. She is a character who cannot trust, and therefore cannot understand when people do. She has “friends,” but only so far as people she feels she can keep under her thumb.
The show does depict a closer friendship between Azula and Ty Lee. In the episode, “The Beach,” Azula does a rare break in character. She admits feeling jealously towards Ty Lee, namely the male attention her friend is receiving. Yet Azula cannot fully admit a flaw, as it would break from her image of herself as the perfect princess (perfectionist pushed too far). For the most part, Mai and Ty Lee are not treated as equals, but rather as lackeys. Azula does not value their opinion or often listen to their advice.
This might be evil if it weren’t so sad. Through her actions, Azula is isolating herself from other people. She is consumed by her image and perceived identity as “the princess.” She relishes in power over others, even at the expense of feeling genuine connections. These she does not trust and perceives as weakness. Rather than admit a flaw, she lashes out at all of those around her. This ultimately drives her “friends” to turn on her, leading Azula to grow incredibly paranoid and depressed rather than admit she made a mistake.
Another tragedy of Azula is her lack of growth. She is a cautionary tale of life spent too long in “the comfort zone.” Unlike her brother, Zuko, Azula never struggled with anything in her life until the betrayal of Mai and Ty Lee. Everything came easy to her. While this earned Azula respect and gained her responsibility, it meant that she was never challenged either, and never was able to grow as a person. Everyone is able to excel in conditions where they don’t feel threatened. Most don’t find out who they really are until they are challenged or broken. They will either grow, learning a new and deeper understanding of themselves (as Avatar Korra did) or they will be consumed by their own mind. Azula met this tragic fate.
Azula is the cautionary tale of someone who follows too far in the vein of who she was born to be rather than ever becoming the person she is. Every problem in her life was laid in infancy, from her non-existent relationship with her mother to an abusive father who taught her that manipulation was a way of life and trust was the path of foolishness. Azula grew in this world of propaganda (the Fire Nation being fully justified in the war) and isolation. It only really showed at one point in the show, but it was enough to show the audience just how unsuited Azula was to anything that didn’t revolve around the war.
Perhaps there is no better way to illustrate the lesson than in the perspective of Zuko. In the beginning of the series, Zuko is clearly jealous of his sister, and the favoritism she receives. By series’ end however, he regards his banishment as “the greatest thing [that could have been] done for [his] life.” A pity that Azula never was banished. A pity that she could never escape.