Legend of Korra totally just Dumbledored us and I can’t help but be furious about it.
In the series finale of The Legend of Korra, we see a scene that in many ways parallels the final scene of the show that came before it — Avatar: The Last Airbender. We see our hero and the person she loves talking about how happy they are to have each other and to be able to spend time together. They decide that they want to spend some time, just the two of them, on a vacation in the Spirit World. And then, just like Aang and Katara, they embrace each other and show their love for each other.
The only difference is, Aang regularly said that he was in love with Katara and in that final scene, when the words “The End” appear on the screen, Aang and Katara got to kiss while Korra and Asami only got to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. We were told that this was one of the most subversive moments on television this year. We were told that we finally had some canon queer representation on a children’s cartoon.
Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, this isn’t quite what we got. I mean, in a very technical way, it is — Brian Konietzko, one of the show’s co-creators wrote a long post on tumblr confirming Korrasami — but in some very real ways it isn’t. If that is what had happened, it wouldn’t be so easy to dismiss them as a couple. In his post, Konietzko says “there’s no denying it,” and that he and the show’s co-creator “decided it was important to be unambiguous about the intended relationship,” but as long as there are people who don’t follow his tumblr and as long as there are still people who subscribe to the Death of the Author school of thought, yes, there is denying it and no, it wasn’t unambiguous.
Even though the co-creators confirmed it on their tumblrs, it still rings extremely hollow. It reminds me of back in 2007 when JK Rowling announced that Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay. While there are a few clues in the books (his relationship with Grindewald), it was never actually stated in the book. Rowling even replied to her fans’ positive reaction by saying “if I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago.” Well then, why didn’t she? Representation that only comes after the fact doesn’t have nearly the same impact as representation that you can see, clear as day, there on the screen or on the page.
That’s why I’m not celebrating Korra and Asami’s great moment.
I’m damn furious that six years ago, Nickelodeon was allowed to show a 12-year-old boy kissing a 14-year-old girl and telling her that he loved her, but now, that same network refuses to show a 21-year-old woman do either of those things with her 22-year-old female partner. That’s garbage. That’s not progress. That’s the opposite of being subversive.
Honestly, I really want to celebrate this. We just had two queer women of color ending up together on a TV show. That should be something we celebrate. But I can’t, because every time I think about it, I think about how people like me still aren’t allowed on many television channels. We aren’t allowed to say “I love you” and we aren’t allowed to kiss the ones we love. We aren’t allowed to confirm our identities. Both Korra and Asami were shown kissing Mako, the male character they each dated, but when the time came, they couldn’t kiss each other. That sends a pretty clear message that one type of relationship is much more acceptable than the other. And no matter how great of a message the final scene showed, this message still hurts.
This moment is supposed to be groundbreaking, but really, is this any more gay than anything Adventure Time did back in 2011? That’s when the episode “What Was Missing” came out and it seemed like Marceline did too. In the episode, Finn, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline are off chasing the Door Lord in order to get back the items he stole from them. When they get to a door that can only be opened by a band singing the truth, Marceline sings clearly queer lines to Bubblegum like “I want to drink the red from your pretty pink face” and “I shouldn’t be the one that has to make up with you/But why do I want to?/Why do I want to…” before she cuts off and realizes what she’s about to say. At the end of the episode, we learn that Bubblegum’s stolen item was a t-shirt given to her by Marceline that Bubblegum now sleeps in every night. In a later episode, we see Bubblegum wearing the shirt, smelling it and inhaling deeply before showing that she also has a picture of her and Marceline kept away in her closet.
That relationship even became canon earlier this year, when Olivia Olsen, who voices Marceline said that she had a conversation with series creator Pendleton Ward where he told her “Oh, you know they dated, right?” about the pair. So really, is this a bigger step forward than that? If we already have a canonically queer couple in a children’s (or really teen’s, let’s be honest) cartoon, the next step isn’t to move parallel.
To be fair, the scene at the end of Korra is maybe a little gayer and Korra and Asami’s relationship is built up more than Marceline and Bubblegum’s over the seasons, but not by much. And I think it’s also more than fair to say that Legend of Korra was intended for an older audience than Adventure Time is, or at least what Adventure Time was back when “What Was Missing” premiered. Or hey, why don’t we celebrate The Disney Channel’s Good Luck, Charlie, which not only was meant for a younger audience, but also straight up had a character with two moms who were shown on screen and had some lines. Now that’s being subversive.
Also, I think it’s important to note that it’s totally fine for some forms of media to have canon queer couples without needing to show them kiss or say “I love you.” For example, if the characters were 12 and 14, like they were in the original The Last Airbender series, this kind of scene would definitely get the message across. But when you have adults in a show that’s allowed to show suicide, violent murder and a whole slew of different-sex couples kissing, then this just simply isn’t enough.
Am I over the moon that some young queer girl might have seen this and seen herself in Korra and Asami? Yes, without a doubt. It’s a beautiful thing when people who are so often erased and marginalized get to see some representation and feel a little bit less alone. But just as much, I’m furious that that same girl’s friends would be able to easily argue that neither character was actually queer.
Frankly, it’s insulting that they weren’t allowed to show twenty-somethings kissing or declaring their love. Whenever I see a gifset of the series finale or a tweet or tumblr post celebrating the moment, I can’t shake the thought that this finale means that there’re a lot of people who still think that there’s something dirty or wrong with the way I am. That there are a lot of people who still think who I am should be hidden away and denied. And a lot of those people are in positions of power.
So, while I think that yes, that was a great series finale, and an even greater moment, I also think we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and pretend this is something it’s not. We really shouldn’t still be at the point where after-the-fact, barely there representation makes us this excited. Instead, it should make us disappointed and frustrated. It should make us furious and full of righteous anger. It should make us demand something more.
Of course we should demand more representation. In a way I understand your anger, LGBT love should not be hidden away while heterosexual love is allowed.
But that is the reality of media at the moment, so shouldn’t you be happy that this is finally getting CHALLENGED?
All your complaints are the kinds of things which this groundbreaking moment of representation could eventually lead to. Everything has to start somewhere.
Your anger is warranted, yet entirely excessive.
I want representation and progress as much as anyone, and i’m firmly focused on the positives of this amazing representation, rather than wallowing in how bad things are for us. Things are improving, slowly but surely.
The author states that she has mixed feelings, both positive and negative, about the series finale, you agree that her anger is warranted, and yet her anger is “excessive”?
What is the appropriate amount of anger then?
Did you miss the conversations about how one of the large reasons they can’t explicitly show same-sex romance is because they’d get censored or banned to hell in international markets, which can mean the death of the series as a whole?
I come from one of those international markets that would censor or ban a series for something as innocuous as a same-sex kiss. Freakin’ SONGS have been banned because the pronouns were not standard. The threat is real. I know it sucks, but honestly? This is way more than we could ever dream of seeing back at home.
(Sorry, this came off a little more fighty than I intended. It’s just that I’m frustrated at people dismissing the foreign-markets thing as “excuses”, as though we are convenient scapegoats!)
I think this is a point a lot of people miss. Here’s a report on “homosexual propaganda” laws, which some countries are even trying to push for in the UN.
This is a really valid argument that I didn’t think of. I’m sorry that this got past me.
I get that it’s not enough, but that’s Nickelodeon’s doing as a whole. Do I think they could have gotten away with it being a season finale and being that it only aired online? I’m honestly still not sure. There’s a real chance Nickelodeon could have chosen not to air it at all. I was overwhelmed with surprise that they allowed the small bits that they did. It’s easy to forget when we’re in our queer spaces that most of the world does not think as progressively as we do. For many of the people who watch the show and aren’t queer, this wasn’t even on their radar until it happened. I think this was a step in the right direction. A baby step, yes, but we’ve gotta start somewhere.
Excellent piece Mey and I agree with you pretty much all the way. It’s the reason I haven’t been able to fully embrace all the warm fuzzies everyone else is having about this.
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I get what you mean. I wasn´t sure how to feel.
I did watch the finale and although I was happy I did think “Does this count as queer baiting?” because we saw moments of closeness between them during the last season or two but if it hadn´t been for them confirming it a lot of people wouldn´t have even caught on at all. Marceline and Bubblegum (who I ship also) got called out for similar reasons.
I can find queer subtext damn near anywhere as it is so I saw it straight away but straight friends of mine flat out said “when did that happen?” “When did that even start?” “You just wish they were a thing”.
I like the thought that this is being slowly introduced into children´s shows. I like it because only a while ago that would never have happened. But if it´s so subtle it´s only obvious to the queer audience and needs the creator´s to come out and say “yes, they´re a thing” it almost feels like I´m grasping at straws here.
And I don´t know how I feel about that.
It is possible to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go and to simultaneously be elated by this episode.
Watching the Korra finale made me feel validated and happy. Don’t tell me it should have made me angry and disappointed. I am a queer woman, Avatar means everything to me, and seeing this representation–which, by the way, was a hell of a lot more explicit than the Dumbledore fiasco–made me feel more at peace and overjoyed than I have in a while.
It’s upsetting to me to see this article telling me that my happiness is complacency.
I deserve to feel happy.
We deserve more than this. But we also deserve to feel happy about this.
Oh man. Amen!
Ah yes, I want to hug this comment. Celebrating *a* victory doesn’t mean we think the fight is over! Far from it (Bryan said as much in his tumblr post, too, which I really appreciated). Please, let me have my small happinesses, or I won’t survive the war.
Honestly, my parents are thisclose to disowning me for my being bisexual, and the Korra finale happened the day after my family life exploded. I am not exaggerating when I say this cartoon kept me from having a breakdown.
Yeah, I agree, especially about this being VERY far from ‘Dumbledore all over again.’ I love JKR, but she’s addicted to the attention that random reveals after the fact have brought her. In this case, I really got the sense that the creators were as explicit and obvious as they could possibly be and still get aired (esp. Internationally), and their “announcement” really had the tone of “do we even need to say this? Wasn’t it obvious?” I mean, yeah, we need the networks to be pushed to allow more, and we certainly need the heteronormative assumptions of people watching to be questioned (because honestly that is why the creators had to write their whole thing, bc some people are cluelessly or purposefully not seeing something that’s def there, because they don’t expect or can’t accept a same-sex couple in a kid’s cartoon). I just feel like, compared to all the (adult’s) shows that totally crapped out (looking at you WH13), this feels kinda huge. And yes, I’m really happy.
I agree. Posted my own comment down below.
I definitely didn’t mean to say that anyone doesn’t deserve to be happy about this, or that they’re being complacent by being so. I even said it made me happy, I called it a “great finale and even greater moment” and said I was “over the moon.” I wrote this article because I’m upset that seeing two women hold hands made me so happy. I’m calling out society for being so behind, not queer people who were happy about it.
Would it be possible to have a show that has more than one millisecond of the two female characters in a romantic relationship? Maybe the world just isn’t ready? These creators were just so brave to do what they did. OH WAIT SAILOR MOON HAD AN ONGOING LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP 20 YEARS AGO. I guess I’ll go read Harry Potter where everyone was open and affirming and gay but just didn’t talk about it.
Sailor Moon had an ongoing lesbian relationship 20years ago…in Japan. The US version turned them into cousins and cut out entire storylines that were deemed “too gay”.
True. But when I was a kid in the late 90s me and all my friends knew the edits were there and that they were lesbians. Heaven forbid American animators have the nuts to catch up to what Japan was doing 20 years ago. Oh wait, forgive me. I should be thankful for the crumbs that fall from the table of these great liberal media creators.
LOL what? “Great liberal media creators?”
Look, without even getting into how you’re trying to apply you and your friends experience with Sailor Moon to everyone I’ll say that Sailor Moon was way ahead of it’s time, even for Japan. I think the only anime that has a similar demo and has been willing to push lgbt characters and relationships since Sailor Moon has been Lyrical Nanoha, and interestingly enough, that series actually has quite a few parallels with LoK in how the title character is involved in a subtext heavy relationship with another female character. However, they didn’t get to walk dramatically into the sunset like Korrasami as the final episode of the series kept them artificially separated. It was only after the fact that the creator of the series sort of confirmed that they were a couple in a wishy-washy way.
As for being thankful, there are plenty of young viewers who’ve grown up with the Avatar universe and have been incredibly affected that a character they’ve been following for years gets her happily ever after with another woman, and for them being mad that LoK didn’t manage to break all the double standards embedded in American media hasn’t even crossed their minds. For them, maybe 20 years down the line they’ll look back on LoK as fondly as you look back on Sailor Moon, and think about how that’s when it all started.
“Great liberal media creators” refers to writers that insert minority characters into their stories with minimal effort, development, or true peril to the mainstream consumption of their product. They pat themselves on the back for their supposed minority support, never realizing it’s just lip service.
I don’t think this is after the fact representation, in the same way that Dumbledore was, nor do I think this is comparable to Adventure Time, in which the creators basically said something was canon outside of the show without showing it on screen. I know you said it wasn’t quite the same…but I honestly think this is MUCH better.
It wasn’t enough. Yes. That’s true. It’s not enough that the characters weren’t able to kiss or declare their love more openly.
And yes, we should still be demanding more.
But, I am elated. I am excited. I am almost crying that this happened.
It’s important, and it is subversive. It’s subversive because because the world is still a piece of shit, and there are still so many people who think queer love is wrong, and immoral and not as good as heterosexual love.
It’s subversive because there are people who think that queerness belongs only to white people, and here we have two women of color who are bisexual and end up together.
It’s subversive because so many people assume bisexual women only end up with men, and here two bisexual women end up together.
In addition, whilst other kids shows have had characters who are queer and in queer relationships (not enough mind, but a few) I don’t know that we’ve seen this with a main character before? Korra is the lead character, and she gets her happy ending with another woman. It’s just amazing for me.
I understand it’s not enough, and also that we are nowhere near where we need to be, but for me, as a bisexual woman of color, to see these two characters end up together, to get the happy ending, is so important, and I just almost cry thinking about how much it would have meant for me when I was a little girl, and for the other little girls who see this now.
Thank you for this. Well put.
THIS NEEDS REPEATING BECAUSE OMG:
“It’s subversive because there are people who think that queerness belongs only to white people, and here we have two women of color who are bisexual and end up together.”
“It’s subversive because so many people assume bisexual women only end up with men, and here two bisexual women end up together.”
I snapped my fingers so hard reading your comment and yelling “YAY SOMETHING REALLY GOOD IS HAPPENING FOR BISEXUAL PEOPLE (OF COLOR)!”
Also I cried ugly tears full of happy queer magic.
I definitely agree with a lot of what you said here. I wrote in my piece that I’m over the moon excited for young queer girls who will see this and feel less alone. I wrote that we should celebrate that two queer (or rather bisexual) women of color ended up together.
But I’m still mad that we live in a society where I get so excited over so much less than straight people get. And that’s why I wrote this.
I have to say, I really agree with you. I still haven’t had a chance to watch the whole series (like I mentioned in the last post, I checked out of this show after season 1 because of Mako the Douchebag), but I watched a clip of the finale just now and… that’s it? That was soooooo platonic! Maybe there was more buildup in other episodes that lent to the Korrasami subtext, but the actual finale scene was literally two buddies going on vacation. So then I tried looking up Korrasami fanvids, and most of them barely even had any actual Korrasami scenes, they were just playing up the Mako love triangle. It really hammered home how much more attention the het couples on this show got. Both Korra and Asami were all over Mako when they dated him! It makes me angry that they were so physical with that guy, and then with each other, the ENDGAME COUPLE, it was just… super platonic! And we’re supposed to be happy about it?
The more I think about it, the angier I am that they were able to spend so much time languishing over a sixth grader’s twu wuv and depicting full-on quasi-pedophilic tongue-wrestling (not as an insult to Kataang shippers, but it has always felt really squicky for me to see young kids engaging in such a hot-and-heavy kiss), and then the two ADULTS just kind of talk to each other like buddies and the fans have to do all the stretching and imagining and filling in the blanks and we’re supposed to be like, “oh, that’s so great.” Like, I get that Nickelodeon was tying their hands about showing an OMG LESBIAN KISS, but if they were okay with the pairing enough to let Bryke put it in and call it canon, couldn’t the dialogue have emphasized more of an emotional, romantic connection than, “Hey man, sorry about your dad, wanna take a girls’ trip to Bermuda, I mean the Spirit World, or whatever?” It felt one sentence away from, “We can get mani-pedis and talk about boys!”
Am I missing something from not watching these whole seasons? Do Korrasami have Moments? Because I’m a shipper, dammit, I need to have Moments. And if it’s supposed to be a canon ship, I think that we deserve Moments concrete enough that they don’t require the fans to do some kind of elaborate fill-in-the-blanks-and-stretch-your-imagination limbo routine to turn into a Moment and not just a shipper crack theory. Especially considering how blatant it was for Kataang, and even Makorra back in season 1! Like, it’s cool that Korrasami is canon and all, I know I shipped them way back when and it’s nice to be able to say, “hey, we won,” but I don’t think the way it was handled is really deserving of a medal or anything.
What is this comment? You haven’t even watched the show, but have no problem making tons of inference about the characters and their development. I really can’t. Korrasami are not actually in a relationship yet. The final scene was the beginning. Most people took it as romantic and the creators acknowledged that this is the correct interpretation. They even admitted that Korrasami is hardly the pinnacle of queer representation. The show is about KORRA at the end of the day. The creators took the criticisms from Book 1 and Book 2 and improved the show immensely. Romance was put on the back burner and Korrasami just naturally progressed as friends and it didn’t detract from Korra’s personal journey.
That’s what I was asking, dude. The world is exploding and heaping accolades on Bryke like this was some sort of huge progress of a great canon lesbian couple, and I was saying from why I can surmise, it looks like there wasn’t a whole lot of much other than a hint and leaving it to the fans for their interpretation. That’s not a huge victory. I was asking if it was actually more than that (answer: apparently not), and if not then why is everyone acting like this is such an exciting development when it’s basically, you know, Dumbledore all over again.
I really don’t have a problem with romance taking a backseat– IMO, A:TLA severely needed that, because it was super gross to see as big an emphasis on romance as there was when the main character’s voice had not even changed yet– but it does sort of make you raise your eyebrows/facepalm that they thought it was cool to build up the romance so much for a 12-year-old, but the adults get a wink-nudge because eww lesbians. And we’re supposed to have a damn parade celebrating the progress. That’s what Mey was saying, and I agree with her. You don’t need to sit through four seasons to agree that that’s a bit shady.
Idk why I should bother to explain it when you can’t even bother to watch the show before forming an opinion about how they should have happened. They spent majority of Book 3 together developing their friendship. There was nothing romantic about them (bar a few hints like Korra blushing when Asami complimented her) until the last episode where they mirrored the same pose of the couple that got married only 5 min before. This is Korra’s last scene ever and she’s sharing it with Asami. Most knew exactly what this meant and how significant it was especially considering what Korra has been through. It is in no way like Dumbledore…like wtf stop. All JKR did was say he was gay after the series was over with literally nothing in the books that would indicate this.
There’s was plenty wrong with the writing on the show, but most of ya’ll sound like you’re mad they didn’t change the face of television in one episode. That wasn’t their goal and it’s impossible anyway. It’s like you’re purposely ignoring the limitations they had and the context of their relationship in relation to Korra’s own character arc (which I guess you wouldn’t know anything about!). It’s not perfect, but it’s something. This show means a lot to a lot of people including myself. I’m not gonna praise Bryke to the high heavens, but I’m thankful they went in this direction when they really didn’t have to. They already to go through hell just to make sure Korra was a female lead.
I think you’re missing my (and Mey’s) point. We’re not trying to disparage Korra, we’re saying that it is really freaking pathetic that the society we live in is seriously okay with portraying underage children in a quasi-sexual manner on “family-friendly” TV if they’re straight, and at the same time is so intensely homophobic that we’re expected to throw a ticker-tape parade that they were generous enough to allow us an adult “canon couple” that barely gets more than a wink and a nudge in the series itself and needs the creators to come in and clarify later on. (Which they did need to do! Maybe you understood what they were implying, but on at least 2 online forums I saw great big flame wars going down over “you’re speculating, it’s not canon, that was just platonic, they’re just friends!” And from watching the finale, I see where they’re getting that, which is why I asked if there was more in the rest of the series that made it more overt.)
From the way that sites like HuffPo and Vanity Fair were crowing about what a huge deal this finale was, I was expecting to find a huge plethora of canon moments, not just a last-five-minutes “now it’s implied they started liking each other romantically.” This isn’t about the show itself, it’s about the reaction of the media and the public. If we’re supposed to start handing out Trailblazer of the Year awards for such infinitesimal achievements coming along once every seven years, then we’re going to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of nationwide constitutional marriage equality before there’s an actual gay couple in a cartoon show. That’s pathetic, and it should not have to be that way! I get that that’s “the way things are” in the world right now, but the power of complaint is what enables societal change. If we all have a damn party every time something minute like this happens, the status quo is going to think things are great, continue to pat themselves on the back about it and nothing will ever change. That’s all we’re saying.
Korra and Asami do have some Moments…but not as many as I hoped for. The show does get better after the first season, and I guess I’d say it’s worth coming back to, but it never approached the first series for me. It keeps raising incredibly important serious issues and then failing to address them in any real way, and I don’t actually like most of the characters. I don’t know if it’s because AtLA is SO good, but I found Korra to be a really frustrating show. The definition of so close, and yet so far.
That’s how I felt after Book 1, and why I hesitated to watch more, because I felt like it was never really going to get there. It was SO CLOSE, but that little extra bit of not-quite was too frustrating. Even when people were going, “OMG, Korrasami!” I was like, “Yeah, but does it do it in a satisfying way, or is it going to feel lacking the way everything in Book 1 did?” It was sad, because premise-wise, I thought I was going to like Korra even better than A:TLA and that was a letdown.
Yep, if I had to describe LoK in one word, it would be “frustrating.” Not frustrating like watching something unequivocally awful, frustrating like ARGH this is so close but really just not working for me. The premise was so good, and the execution was just not what I wanted. Maybe my hopes were too high?
Hey, please read my comment and about what Korra means from my perspective…
Thank you for watching the finale so we can have this conversation! I think it is important, however, to consider the following.
I would say you are missing something from watching the whole series and understanding because you’re missing context. For example, the Legend of Aang was on cable TV, where as this is through the internet. That fundamentally changes who watches it and where it goes — it’s global now. That means they can ONLY speak through PAINFULLY OBVIOUS subtext for viewers and CANNOT BE EXPLICIT or they will be censored. Watching the entire series is also just important to other themes make sense. Keep in mind, fan fiction is about to EXPLOOOODE in the coming days with alllll of the really explicit stuff we want. I’m just so sad I don’t know how to draw or program or anything useful to do this :'(
But I totally agree that in the future, we completely need all sorts of genders and bodies making out and doing other things as well
Thanks for the heads up, I was looking to know if the context of the rest of the season made the finale more clear, because from looking *just* at the finale, it’s so easy to say, “no way, they’re just friends,” and that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment to me.
I do eventually want to get a chance to watch the whole thing, hoping it will pop up somewhere like Netflix so I can watch it on my tv as my computer crashes when I try to stream shows on it. I was just hoping someone would say, “yes, there’s more, you need to check it out,” or, “no, that’s about it, don’t waste your time, it’s not as exciting as the media is making it sound.” So you answered that, thanks!
Also, it’s important to note that, although Korra and Asami aren’t PDAing, they are doing more than having sex… they’re literally combining their energy together through a spirit world portal. That context makes it more powerful, because that combination of energy is more powerful than simply kissing or sex.
There’s also the words from the writer: http://bryankonietzko.tumblr.com/post/105916338157/korrasami-is-canon-you-can-celebrate-it-embrace
Hi Lyssa! The short answer is YES. You are missing a lot of buildup from the seasons, mainly 3-4. It’s a shame so many people (including me) jumped ship after season 1, because season 2 was a little better, and seasons 3 and 4 were pretty amazing. I’m so glad one of my friends persuaded me to start watching again in early season 3!
I could hash out every interaction Korra and Asami have, but people have already done that, so I wont reinvent the wheel. Here’s one list:
The big things for me were:
-Asami protecting Korra’s body while the latter is in the spirit world… twice in as many episodes. Only current or future significant others do that, and another romantic couple actually did it in one of those episodes!
-Asami was distraught, her hands over her heart, when Korra was dying from mercury poisoning.
-Asami later refused to leave Korra’s side, even offering to abandon her entire life/company in Republic City to stay with Korra indefinitely in the Southern Water Tribe.
-Asami’s letters were the most personal of any Korra received. “I miss you! Republic City isn’t the same without you. How are you feeling?”
-The only person Korra wrote back to while she was recovering was Asami. Asami was also the only person who knew about Korra’s darkest secrets– not able to go into the avatar state, having severe flashbacks, etc. Korra didn’t even tell her parents about those things.
And so on. And if you’d prefer a quick 3 minute recap on a lot of the cute glances and interactions they have before the finale, here’s one of my favorite videos:
I also shipped them hard back in book 1, so I promise that it was set up well enough that I was highly satisfied (to put it mildly). I hope you’ll consider pushing through book 2 to get to the shippy goodness that is books 3 and 4! :)
It’s not enough, I’ll give you that, but I will dig my heels in to the core of the earth before I give up that this was a victory.
And it’s absolutely NOT a J.K. Rowling ally-cookie-grab. It was an explicit intent over the course of half the series, and it was the censorship imposed by the studio, not the self-censorship of the creative team, which denyed us equality of representation.
Like, you want to see impact, please dig into the korrasami tag on tumblr, on youtube, on whatever you please and see queer teenage girls, particularly queer teenage girls of color, seeing themselves represented in a thing for the first time ever. The queerness is there. The tears of joy are real. We cannot overlook that from the jaded posture of our 20’s and 30’s and beyond, be real, teenage you needed something like this right here.
And more, yes! But more is coming. More WILL come. And right now, a good thing has been done. Here we have two bisexual women of color in an all ages cartoon show, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that it won’t take longer than the next couple of years before we see two girls kiss in a cartoon, and when it happens we should absolutely thank Korra and Asami Sato for paving the way with their loving gazes and clasped hands. <3
I mean, I did say that I am “over the moon that some young queer girl might have seen this and seen herself in Korra and Asami.”
I just feel like we were having this same conversation in 2011 when “What Was Missing” came out and then again when “The Sky Witch” came out. And then we’ve barely gone forward since then.
Korrasami definitely made me elated, especially because it was bisexual woc (who are basically invisible in media), but I’m mad at society and the people in charge who make it so that blushing, compliments, hand-holding and looking into each other’s eyes are all we get when freaking 12 year olds get to make out.
Mey, this article was everything!! Youre right, this wasn’t enough, and I’m really bummed with the state of our media that these teeny tiny little scraps of whatever make us so happy. Like we are so thirsty for that queer representation y’all…we shouldn’t have to be this thirsty?
Also, I did appreciate that one of the creators acknowledged that it wasn’t enough. That felt affirming in a way that we didn’t (/still aren’t becaus JK won’t shut the fuck up) get with Dumbledore.
This whole post is kind of infuriating especially the obviously lack of understanding what the show is about and how these characters have grown. The writers should not be exempt from criticism, but they are definitely not on the level of HP or AT. Dumbledore was gay after the fact and to my knowledge Adventure Time has yet to canonize Bubbline in show. Neither of these examples are the main/titular character like Korra is either.
If someone wants to deny Korrasami then that is their own problem and they will never be helped. Before the creators went to tumblr, most fans and media outlets understood what the last scene meant.
It wasn’t enough. But that representation rings just enough to send a wake up call to that scared queer girl that such good female characters are not only greatly shown in the show as heroes but also are canon bisexuals. I’d give so much to see a book 5: scissors. (Or at least something more intimate than simply holding hands) Bryan explained that it mirrored the wedding scene but c’mon, they are adults.
Your anger is justified, but I do not think that you get to tell those that are happy about it that they are just sheep for being so.
Some of us have very limited mental resources and cannot be loud activists even if we wanted to. For those like myself that are both trans and queer in the south, to demand more representation from this show and to be out might actually get us killed. I have worked tirelessly for queer representation in media, and continue to do so to this day. I am happy about the fact that Korra and Asami are canon, and don’t appreciate being told that I basically am a mindless drone for feeling that way. For some of us, demanding more would take the last of our limited mental reserves that we are using to create positive change in other areas that affect the lives of MOGII youth everywhere.
Was it enough? No. It wasn’t. Could it have been more? Absolutely. But please don’t use your content platform to shame others into feeling sorry for their own happiness. For those of us who cannot be out in public or have less-than-savory home lives, this is a small glimmer of joy during the holidays.
Well, I’m a queer and trans Latina living in a small city in the state with the fifth most hate groups per capita, so I don’t exactly live a life of safety either. I don’t really know what my “content platform” is.
And I definitely don’t think anyone is a mindless drone for being happy. I repeatedly talk about how happy I am about the pairing, saying it’s “great” several times, saying I’m “over the moon” and saying I want to celebrate. I’m not criticizing or shaming people who were happy about it, I’m criticizing and shaming the people who make it so that when we see something that’s so much less that what we see for a straight couple we get this happy.
So what I’m getting here is that you’re shaming people that thought this was ‘Good enough?’ or don’t want to fight for things to get better? Just trying to clarify here.
It was less than what straight couples get. Thus is the sad state of media these days. As countless others have said on this post, the show couldn’t have aired in some places if it had a kiss between Korra and Asami in it. Did I want to see one? You bet. I understand that under certain countries acceptable viewing and censorship laws, they weren’t allowed to have one. Might they have? I don’t know, I didn’t see the storyboards.
I am glad that you are happy about it. I know that there is more to be asked for of our media, and for all queer and trans people we must get to a point where we say that, “Good enough.” isn’t utter perfection. It’s passable. It’s not perfect. It’ll do. Is it the entire cake? No, but it’s a slice. Should we settle for the crumbs we were given with Dumbledore? Hell no, but this is a small step in the right direction.
I live in Texas, so I know how it is here. I’m forced to present as female 24/7 despite being bigender, and can’t act how cishet people do in public with my partner. That being said, I’m white and in an interracial relationship, so yeah.
Anyway, thanks for responding with some clarification points.
No, by “the people who make it so…” I mean the executives at Nickelodeon, the governments and censors around the world and the basically The Patriarchy and Global Capitalism. I’m mad at the people who didn’t allow Bryke to show a kiss or an “I love you.” I’m mad at society for saying that when we get a little bit, we should be content.
I feel EXACTLY the same way, Mey. I was so, so glad to see this article here. The thing that really grates my cheese is the expectation that I be grateful for what I see as minimal, queerbaiting ambiguity. I’ve had straight friends expect me to be SO EXCITED for things that really don’t feel like victories to me, and be confused and upset when I’m not. For me, if a homophobic someone could argue that these characters are not a couple, then it’s too ambiguous.
I get that it was a really important moment for a lot of people, and I totally respect that. I don’t think there’s one single way we should react to that level of ambiguity. But it’s not enough for me, and really left me feeling hollow, in exactly the same way that Bubblegum, Marceline, and Dumbledore do.
I think discussion of the finale also needs to take into account the creators’ admission that this was by no means a complete win. From Bryan Konietzko’s blog:
“Was it a slam-dunk victory for queer representation? I think it falls short of that, but hopefully it is a somewhat significant inching forward.”
The show’s creators acknowledge the flawed framework within which they were forced to work. I still believe this was a watershed moment, or at least the beginning of a shift towards towards LGBT inclusion in youth programming. As a queer woman of color who watched the show, I think you can enjoy the ending we got AND be cognizant of the fact that it was hampered by restrictions stemming from non-acceptance of queer people. For me it was a lovely, beautiful, gentle ending that gave me hope for the future.
I’m really surprised that this was written by a regular contributor because it reads like a first year GWST paper, as in it’s impatient, american centric and a completely lack of knowledge about economics.
Yes, I know you want perfect queer representation right now, but that is not how the world works. Progress is a slow process, especially on a global scale.
Yeah, america’s cultural climate could accept a f/f couple, but most other places in the world it would not be aired. If it doesn’t get aired then it doesn’t make money. If no money is made then what network is going to want to work with Brkye to make another even more progressive show? Money is the bottomline for any commercial product, which Lok is.
Im surprised so many other people in the comments are also upset by this ending. Please take a step back from your own wants and look at this from larger scale.
This happened in CHILDRENS tv! This is huge! Just recently we had creators telling us that x character was gay interviews (ex Frozen, Harry Potter) and now we have moved to holdin hands and gazing at each other.
I still can’t not even that the creators were allowed to do that ending. With most queer characters still being side characters or queer baiting. This is unprecedented and our community should be allowed to be happy about it.
Please take a step back from your own expectations and look at this from a much global perspective. It’s an amazing they got to do what they even did.
Next time will be better, but this is how progress works. Its step by step, not from nonexistent to prefect.
Excellent comment! (Also, I still maintain that you were the rightful Fire Lord ahem but I promise that isn’t coloring my opinion at all, haha.)
Thank you for your commentary and pushing us farther for future queer representation. Because we do and will need non-censored queerness in the future to be fully seen. Stu
But I think a lot of the comments show you have to check your privilege… I don’t know really know the identities you have but, this is why the finally was important to me: (by the way, stuff on my identity is at the bottom)
1a) I’m a Buddhist. If you’re a Buddhist, you realize that the symbolism and themes are awesome, with references to the middle path, “enlightenment” (in quotes because “enlightenment” is the English/Western translation of the concept), and other things, and they have from the beginning.
1b) Korra is the avatar of identities if you read the subtexts of the series and the finale: she’s a queer, woman of color, who’s a Buddhist, who has these “east and west” themes (in quotes because I know this dichotomy is problematic, and Korra is destroying that dichotomy).
2) I grew up in a rural, completely white, homophobic, Christian town. And I watched Avatar. So all of these kids, teens, adults — who may be in very isolated areas — are being exposed, consciously or subconsciously, to queerness, race, and other religions. It isn’t perfect, but it’s huge. Why? Because we’re so isolated, and our only connection to “the other” (again quoted because problematic) is through media
3) Not entirely relevant to autostraddle issues, but it was just an AWESOME ending. The fact that they took the robot thing down by essentially chi-blocking it through NEW bending forms is a theme that resonates throughout the entire series. So when it ended we said “HELLLL, YES YOU CHI-BLOCKED THE FUCK OUT OF THAT ROBOT, BECAUSE CHI-BLOCKING HAS EXISTED THE WHOLE TIME (google: Ty Lee).
About me: Hi, I’ve had the distinct and confusing experience of being and growing up as the following: a queer*, white, rural, male, middle-class born/raised until 21 (when my family became rich via wealth inheritance), mentally “ill”**, buddhist***. I was raised by a single-mom and my older sister until 8/9ish, one of whom is physically disabled and struggles with mental health, another who has a “severe mental illness” as it’s called. I grew up in the 90s and 00s in a rural, 99% white (literally), Christian and traditional, blue collar, sometimes conservative town of 2,000 people in rural Michigan. I moved to the “liberal”, gay, and white oasis (for me) of Ann Arbor MI for school, went to Cambodia (where my Buddhism began), fell in love with my man (who happens to be black/latino/mixed, elite educated but grew up in “the hood”), and moved to the “diverse” but incredibly segregated, Chicago to get a master’s in social work. If this means anything to you, awesome. If it’s confusing, that’s because it is, and that’s why I’m confused and will make mistakes and have assumptions about other identities. Feel free to ask curious and respectful questions
*for me, this means I’m somewhere between gay and bi. It also has to do with my philosophies. It also has to do with the fact that I’m into dudes, where they are cisgendered or trans, or occasionally women, cis or trans. Currently in a same-sex monogamous relationship of 1.5 years
** Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but because of my thoughts on mental health, I don’t really accept the label. I also don’t want to say “disabled” because I have a lotttt of abelist privilege.
*** Took the precepts (akin to being baptized, sort of) on July 4th, 2013, from a American-Korean zen temple (www.zenbuddhisttemple.org)
‘But I think a lot of the comments show you have to check your privilege…’, said the cis white man.
I’m sorry if the way I phrased that (which definitely was not the best) and my cis white male identities have changed the space to not feel space and open (I mean that seriously, not sarcastically).
Just know that with an intersectional lens, while I still receive the enormous amount of privilege for being a cis white male, I’ve had a number of marginalized identities as well. That’s not to say I think that those marginal identities erase or negate the most visible of privileges, but as a: survivor, man who was raised by a disabled single mom and mentally ill sister, a queer man who has been traumatized by gay male spaces… partriarchy’s ripple effects is something I want to dismantle for my own benefit.
I was trying to say that a lot of people don’t realize that the show that clearly uses Buddhism just like the Chronicles of Narnia uses Christianity. So if you don’t recognize that or have an understanding of that, that privilege is going to make you see the show in a different way, just like my male whiteness is something I need to constantly check in the way I see social justice issues.
I’m a straight white male, so my perspective on this may be different. Before I start, I obvious don’t want to imply that my views on this should be how you feel. You have every right to feel how you do, and nobody should tell you anything different.
But here’s how I feel. I loved the ending. I saw the hints in earlier episode and knew that the writers saw an attraction between them, but never thought they would make anything as un-ambiguous as the ending was. I was surprised, and really happy with it.
If you told anyone whether gay or not before the finale would show Korra walking off into the sunset with a woman, turn towards each other, holding each others hands and looking into each others eyes. I can’t think many people would believe you. Not because it shouldn’t be allow, but just because nobody would think a company like Nickelodeon would let that happen on kid’s TV. The fact the it did is a step forward.
Next, I understand why you would want a kiss, and I agree whenever a hetrosexual kiss is allowed a homosexual kiss should be allowed. But, the scene was just beautiful. And I really wish more shows when representing hetrosexual couples would do something more like this. Creatively, a kiss has been done so often it’s almost a creative cope out.
There’s a lot that you have every right to be angry of. But that’s always going to be the case. If Korra and Asami kissed, you’d have a valid right to be angry that in this age it is such a big deal. For every state or country that legalises Same Sex Marriage you have a right to be angry that there’s so many places where it is still illegal.
But each of these things are achievements – some big and some small and they will lead to more change. And if you don’t take time to reflect and be happy about how much things have changed, I think it’s hard to stay motivated and keep the fight alive.
This is an extremely well-thought-out comment, and I like your analogy about celebrating same-sex marriage rulings while still fighting for more. Flameo, hotman.
“My eight-year-old daughter and I watch Legend of Korra together. Sometimes after certain episodes aired, we would discuss what happened. I often helped her understand why characters acted they way they did – Lin’s resentment toward her mother, for example, was something I needed to explain. I’d like to believe this show is helping my daughter learn empathy for many different kinds of people, even villains.
I didn’t really need to explain Korra and Asami’s bond however. Since season 3 she’s been saying “they’re best friends now,” when she knows they could have been enemies because of their history with Mako. When I asked why Korra would write to only Asami when she was crippled, my daughter said “because they love each other” like family. But I don’t think she really understood until the finale that two women could be together romantically.
This prompted a nice discussion about why girls may like other girls, and that it’s somewhat uncommon but normal. Even heroes feel that way sometimes. And some people like boys and girls. She agrees that Asami is really nice to Korra, and that they will be happy together.
She then asked if it’s okay for boys to like other boys, because Prince Wu obviously likes Mako. (I kind of died inside because I ship Wuko so hard.)
Thank you, Legend of Korra, for allowing me the perfect opportunity to explain homosexuality, with fictional characters she knows and likes. I think this made it easy for her to understand.”
I’ve been over this in my head a gazillion times, and my conclusion is this: I like what the moment is canonically, I loathe the fact that it’s feasible to argue against it on account of canonicity being WordOfGod (and future generations may not be aware of context and lose access to said Word), and I PRAY that something unambiguous comes along, be it a limited edition director’s cut or a comic or radio drama or web cartoon or SOMETHING, so that future generations don’t need context for canonicity and bigots everywhere are flipped the bird.
Same goes for Adventure Time too.