Cartoons are hard, man. It doesn’t matter how progressive we tell ourselves we are, there’s this teeny, tiny voice in the back of our heads saying “Cartoons are for kids.”
Add to that the fact that the show at hand airs on Nickelodeon on Friday mornings and you’ll see why Legend of Korra wasn’t an easy sell.
I don’t remember who told me, “Korra is a great show, the hero is a female, and it’s quite feminist. But you should really start with Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s really great and Korra is its sequel.” Though I can’t recall who it was, whoever you are, I love you.
Originally I thought, “watching a whole show just to get to another show? Sounds like a complete waste of my time.” Then, I finished Avatar (a wonderful show indeed, also full of female empowerment), but eyed Korra with suspicion and doubt. The kind of suspicion and doubt parallel to how I eyed Matt Smith after he regenerated straight out of David Tennant’s Doctor Who.
The world of Avatar is similar: One Avatar dies, his/hers incarnation moves on to someone else. So for Korra to come to existence, Avatar Aang had to die.
When Korra starts, all of your favorite characters from Avatar are dead or old. Your cartoon crushes (let’s face it—we all have those) are maybe not so crushable anymore if they’re even around, and the nice, kind Avatar boy, the last airbender, is replaced with a smug teenager who is way too talented for her own good, and she knows it.
The transition wasn’t easy, but today I can hardly remember it as anything but love at first sight. The loveable Avatar gang from the previous show was replaced with a newer version, under different circumstances and political reality, and it was lead by a girl with superpowers. Cartoons, man.
The world of Avatar was always complex in the best way possible. Just like Disney films tend to do, there are some things that go above kids’ heads. It’s the same way with Avatar. The kids will see lots of cool action and people using the four elements as super powers. The older kids might ask questions about power, dictatorship, co-existence, right and wrong. And us? We’ll see lesbian subtext. Because that’s what we do. And then, later on, we’ll vow that it wasn’t subtext at all. So, yeah, the world of Avatar is a beautiful place, even if dark at times.
Let’s talk about this Korra person and how she changed the world, a lot.
Korra’s Avatar-ness was discovered relatively early on. People were skeptical, but when they found a four years old Korra bending water, fire and earth, saying, “I’m the Avatar, you’re gonna deal with it!” They had no choice but to believe. Air mastering that was her biggest challenge and that led her at a much older age to Republic City, where the airbenders lived.
Republic City is where she met those who came to be known as “Team Avatar.”
We’re talking about Mako, Bolin, and of course, Asami.
When you meet Asami for the first time, you think, “Damn, she’s gorgeous, she should just be with Korra.” Then, Asami opens her beautiful mouth and you’re like, “Damn, she’s smart. She should just be with Korra.”
But instead of the above, we had to endure some angsty stupid boy drama. Now, to be fair, I’m not saying the boy (Mako) is stupid; in my bisexual mind he’s even pretty dashing for a cartoon (my heart will always belong to Goku). I’m saying it’s stupid, because of the angsty drama part.
It created some sort of understandable animosity between Korra and Asami in the first season (and occasionally later on), but they had one problem with said animosity. Korra and Asami always liked each other. At first, it was, “Great, she has to be this amazing person, I can’t even hate her! How inconvenient!” But it grew into, “I’m in love with this best friend of mine. Oh wait, did I say in love? Yeah, I think that’s what I said.”
It was no surprise to anyone that the strongest person in the world, and a brilliant sexy technological trailblazer, ended up admiring each other and learning to put aside the fact that they liked the same guy.
Korra and Mako broke up, and it had nothing to do with Asami and everything to do with people growing apart. What it did was pave a way for Asami and Korra to grow even closer to each other. There was real tenderness there, genuine care, that some fans (this one included!) started viewing as more than just friendship.
Some would argue (and some did) that it was all platonic. But I’m telling you, from my point of view, this was no Rizzoli and Isled ballpark. There were too many touches, and longing looks. There were blushes, and intimacy. When Korra was in a wheelchair for three years following the fallout of the Season 3 finale, it was Asami she wrote to on a regular basis. She even asked Asami to not tell Bolin and Mako about the letters, explaining it was easier to talk to Asami. Asami for her part, always had her eye on Korra to make sure she was OK.
You can argue that things escalated on the last season because of Korra’s new haircut (a very valid argument), and you can say this was forced. But I believe it wasn’t. This is why many people have been shipping these two since very early on. They always had an incredible chemistry.
Korra had it hard in season 4, trying to get back to her old Avatar self after her body and soul went through a trauma. But fear not, for Asami was always there to bring her tea.
Via ImgurAsami brought her tea, Korra reaction? “You’re so sweet.” Fan reaction? Well, this.
As the series drew to its end, there was something in the air, like a voice whispering “Korasami is going to be canon.” I understand the divide among viewers. I get people thinking “this could just be two best friends,” but for me, in terms of subtlety, it was very clear what was coming. Yet I didn’t dare to hope. After all, cartoons are for kids, remember? Will Nickelodeon actually do the thing (this is a Korra inside joke) and let us have a lesbian couple on a kid’s show?
To many, it seems like the answer to this question is yes. They took that leap, and by that, basically established two female bisexual characters on a Friday morning show.
I’m going to let you decide on your own, based on some facts I’m going to provide you with.
The last scene has Korra talking to Tenzin. Cue Asami, joining them, sending Tenzin away with some silly excuse. The music in the background is very romantic (some fans noted it resembles the music that played at the very end of Avatar, when Aang finally got a kiss from his special lady friend.) They share an intimate moment, a hug, and then decide to go on a vacation together, just the two of them. The end has the two of them walking hand in hand towards the horizon, err… portal to the spirit world. They stand there, looking into each other’s eyes, and that’s that.
I swear, it’s all very romantic. (You can watch it here.) While some call this unsatisfactory, there’s no denying this is huge in terms of how much progress lesbian/bi visibility made over the last decade. Luckily, we always have fanart to provide what’s missing.
One of my favorites was this beautiful one, by Drakyx (who does amazing fanart in general).
Some very awesome people voiced characters on the Avatar world (did someone say Aubrey Plaza?). Cartoons are definitely not just for kids, and if you want to be part of the fun, you can watch the last season of the Legend of Korra series on Nickelodeon.com, because when it comes to lesbian ships ( like other important subjects,) it’s never too late to jump on the wagon.