Side note: Red hyperlinks will indicate media that spoils any part of the show or of the comics.
Side note 2: I know that the term “queer” is sometimes frowned upon because of historical context, while it’s a reclaimed term for others. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to use that word as an umbrella term so as not to muddle the line between “gay,” “bisexual,” and everything else in between and outside.
I’m not even going to act shy, embarrassed, or downplay it as something trivial. I know my specific experience is valid and shared. I cried alongside these people reacting to the LOK series finale because I understood that feeling of holy crap, I am seen and I have never been seen before. And for me, it wasn’t just that, but it was also the realization that this was something that I felt seen in.
A quick summary of the relationship, in case you weren’t already aware (feel free to skip over this paragraph if you already know the show well)
Korra, the main protagonist of the show, initially antagonizes Asami because they were attracted to the same guy. Turns out, Asami is cool as heck! By season 3, they’ve become best friends. Just the bestest of gal pals, nothing suspicious here! At the very end of the series (and by that I mean literally the last two minutes of the finale), they finally have a nice moment ~alone~, decide to go on vacation together, and then walk off into the sunse— ahem, spirit portal, holding hands. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely subtle if you aren't looking for it. Even Korrasami shippers at the time didn’t think that it would actually happen. The show creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino had to confirm that Korrasami is canon on their respective Tumblr accounts. So if you watch it, don’t complain to me about how you expected them to explicitly flirt (which they do, albeit very subtly) or make out or whatever.
Now, why were these last two minutes so impactful? In a general and public sense, at this point in time, gay marriage wasn’t even legal yet. The Legend of Korra was the very first American “children’s” cartoon to include a same-sex relationship, which then opened up the realm of possibilities for more cartoons like She-Ra, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe. I put “children’s” in quotes because the themes and some scenes are way more mature than Avatar the Last Airbender. PTSD? Torture? MURDER SUICIDE?! No way is this a kid’s show.
How this impacted me specifically, to quote Eve Ng, an associate professor in media arts and studies, in this Washington Post article, “For queer young people, they’re often still coming out to themselves," Ng said. “So it’s not just, ‘I want to see myself.’ It’s, ‘Wait, am I queer too?’”
I didn’t realize it initially, but Ng describes exactly how Korrasami coaxed me into further understanding my sexuality. I was so wrong about how that process of understanding worked. My “bi awakening,” if you will.
These two wonderful characters (bonus points: women of color!) went from pining over the same man, to becoming good friends, to being in love with each other. Whaaaat? Sexuality works like that? And yes, they do explicitly confess their love for each other in the comics. Thank God for freedom from network censorship, amirite?
Since then, I’ve become active in the r/Korrasami and the r/LegendOfKorra subreddits (amongst many, many other Avatarverse subs) and have paid a lot of attention to the experiences people have shared. Here I am, apparently queer, realizing that I have so many shared experiences with these people. And now my anonymous internet persona can engage in these discussions and be openly queer, too!
Admittedly (and a bit embarrassingly, depending on how you look at it), my recent vice has been fanfiction. I didn’t even know people still wrote fanfiction until I was reintroduced to them through suggestions on Reddit. I love that a lot of fanfiction stories don’t pretend that there isn’t an “elephant in the room” in regards to same-sex relationships or sexuality in general (because a world where we wouldn’t have to is such a fantasy, right?).
There’s a lot of denial, conflict, anxiety, and internal and explicit homophobia that comes with the mental and emotional labor of understanding your (non-hetero) sexuality. As if understanding yourself isn’t taxing enough as is. There are so many stories about Korra and Asami that don’t skip over the entirety of those experiences: Coming out, your first relationship, figuring out that that “friend crush” you have on an attractive girl was actually “that” kind of attraction (though, to that point, genuine friend crushes are definitely a real thing). The things that I didn’t understand and couldn’t put into context were suddenly available to me through storytelling.
Another thing about visualizing fanfiction is that it made me realize that it’s something that I want. I would be perfectly content with a hetero relationship, but now I realize that I could also be perfectly content with a same-sex relationship. Just in different ways. I don’t know that I’ll ever find any other media that can resonate with me like that. And if there is, for the love of God, please use spellcheck.
Korrasami is much, much more than just a “cute ship.” Aside from representation, the fandom itself has opened up so many doors in my quest for self-discovery. So thank you to everyone that contributed to The Legend of Korra. This show will always, always hold a very special place in my heart.
More side notes
I’m not obsessed with TLOK solely because of Korrasami, it’s also just a really great freaking show. Give it a try!
Shoutout to Madison Dong for the lovely WaPo article, if you get around to reading this! I cannot thank you enough.
As always, take care of yourself ❤️