THE LEGEND OF KORRA was a fantastic show. At first, I thought it would be impossible for KORRA to live up to the legacy of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. The original show was, in my opinion, pretty near perfect. The characters were multi-faceted and endearing, the plot was challenging without being dreary, and the concluding episodes are, hands down, some of the best TV I’ve ever seen.

Yeah, I ship it.

And, admittedly, the first season of KORRA didn’t do much to change my mind. The show was good, but it didn’t live up to my expectations (although, to be fair, the first season of ATLA isn’t Emmy-worthy either). In particular, the first season felt too rushed. The creators didn’t originally plan to have more than one season, so they wrapped things up with a neat little bow. Amon was defeated, Korra conquered the Avatar State and made contact with Aang, and Mako admits that he loves Korra. Tidy, but boring.

CLICK: KORRA is ATLA‘s legacy, but what about KORRA‘s legacy? Read our roundtable discussion!

However, when fan interest prompted a continuation of the show, the creators went far beyond my expectations. KORRA became a thought-provoking and interesting show. In particular, the character development was fantastic. Over the course of three more seasons, our Korra Krew grew, changed, matured, and developed into interesting people. And Korra moved past her too-tidy relationship with Mako. What had made sense in an abbreviated 12-episode run, no longer fit the characters’ development.

Korrasami is why fanart exists. Art via Sherbies.

What resulted was a gift from the gods: the amazing Korrasami becoming canon. The inclusion of a same-sex relationship in a children’s show raised some controversy, but it was an amazing move forward for LGBTQ+ representation. More than that, it just made sense. Korrasami was the natural progression of two characters who found something in each other.

A Winding Road

In the first season, if you told someone that Korra and Asami were going to fall in love, they’d look at you as if you were crazy. Korra and Asami were definitely part of a love-triangle — but not the good part. The two ladies were fighting over the affections of Mako, who was conflicted since he cared deeply about both of them. In the end, Asami breaks up with Mako when she realizes that he cares more for Korra than he does her. It doesn’t help that he and Korra kissed — something that Mako never mentioned.

A winding road. Art via Kathryn Layno.

However, all was not happily ever after for Mako and Korra. While the first season finale made it seem like they were in it for the long haul, ultimately they weren’t meant for each other. Mako and Korra had always had their differences. Mako is too straight-laced to deal with Korra’s impetuousness.

Finally, things come to a head when Mako betrays Korra’s trust. Korra had been seeking aid without the President’s approval. When the President questions Mako, he gives in. Mako’s actions stopped Korra from starting a war with Republic City’s aid. At the same time, however, it stopped Korra from feeling like she could trust Mako. He had chosen his job over her.

Get rekt Mako.

If you’ve seen the show, you know that things are still complicated after this. Korra leaves Republic City, and Mako finds comfort in Asami. Asami is glad to have Mako’s affections back — but it doesn’t last. When Korra loses her memory and forgets they have broken up, Mako is forced to pretend he is still dating Korra. This is a harsh betrayal of Asami (the guy just doesn’t know how to handle the ladies).

Gal Pals

Eventually, Korra regains her memory and realizes that she isn’t dating Mako. She also knows that he had gotten back together with Asami. Showing maturity, however, Korra isn’t angry about this. She knows that she had relinquished her claim on Mako. Asami had done nothing wrong (can’t say the same about Mako). Korra realizes that Mako had hurt Asami too.

Men, amirite?

The two start to bond in the third season. At one point, Korra remarks how nice it is to have a “girl friend” to hang out with (wink wink, nudge nudge). Some people claimed that Korrasami was just fan service and came out of the blue. I don’t know what show they were watching because the third season is all about that Korrasami. The two are, essentially, “gal pals” (women who are definitely romantically linked but don’t admit it). The two are almost always together, whether it’s jointly destroying a biker gang, or Asami watching over Korra while she meditates.

READ MORE: KORRA isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects — like mental illness! Read about THE LEGEND OF KORRA‘s depiction of PTSD!

However, the clearest sign towards something more comes in the finale. Korra has become handicapped by the Red Lotus’ assassination attempt. Asami helps her dress and prepare for a ceremony honoring Jinora, Aang’s granddaughter who has become an Airbending Master. The poison attempt deeply scars Korra, but Asami is still there for her. She is definitely concerned and wants Korra to know that she will always be there for her. This is more than friendly concern. Asami feels something strong for Korra — she just hasn’t admitted it yet (possibly not even to herself).

Finale FINALLY

The fourth season doesn’t have as much Korrasami as the previous one (or as much as I’d like), but the moments it does have are strong. During the three years, Korra is away, the only person she writes to is Asami because she feels comfortable sharing things with her. When she arrives back in Republic City, Asami compliments her new hairstyle and Korra blushes. Asami brings Korra a cup of tea, and they talk. These are just little hints — both are busy trying to save the world. But the minor moments emphasize that, even in the midst of chaos and conflict, they still mean something to each other.

When your girlfriend compliments you.

And then, of course, there’s the finale. So much happens that it can feel overwhelming at times, which is apt since that is how the characters themselves feel. Korra defeats the bad-guy of the season Kuvira, nearly losing her life in the process. Asami engineered the machines used to defeat Kuvira but loses her father in the process. When all is said and done, both have been through the wringer. There’s a big shindig at the end, and everyone comes together to celebrate. However, Asami and Korra feel ill at ease at the party. The two gravitate towards each other.

The moment Korrasami shippers LOST THEIR MINDS.

They sit. They talk. After being through so much, it’s nice to just sit peacefully together. They decide to take a vacation — just the two of them. Eventually, they ditch the party and head off, deciding to vacation in the spirit world. The show ends with the two of them entering the spirit portal. They hold hands and face each other, in a direct allusion to the finale of ATLA, where Aang and Katara finally kiss. Although Korra and Asami do not actually kiss, the allusion still sent fans into a tizzy.

Controversy

Of course, since it wasn’t explicit, many denied that Korrasami was canon at all. They felt that people were reading too much into it. Also, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of people denied that there was any build-up to Korrasami. A lot of this criticism stemmed from people’s discomfort about having a same-sex couple as canon.

Yeah, no build up at all.

Showrunners Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were having none of that (their statements are both powerful and well said — take the time to read them). Both came out and explicitly confirmed that the finale was supposed to represent Korra and Asami coming together as a romantic couple. As Konietzko puts it:

“You can celebrate it, embrace it, accept it, get over it, or whatever you feel the need to do, but there is no denying it. That is the official story.”

And, just in case anyone still denies the canonicity of Korrasami, Konietzko released an image depicting Korra and Asami on a date.

CANON.

Konietzko and DiMartino didn’t have an easy road making Korrasami canon. They struggled with Nickelodeon to get the creative control to include the couple. THE LEGEND OF KORRA is, ostensibly, a children’s show (though many older viewers tuned in as well). There were creative differences between the showrunners and Nickelodeon execs. Nickelodeon chose to stream the final season of KORRA online rather than broadcast it on TV. Although Korrasami is not the only reason for this, it does show that getting LGBTQ+ representation in TV is still difficult.

Impact

The fact that Konietzko and DiMartino were successful in depicting Korrasami is something that should be celebrated. LGBTQ+ representation is so important, especially in a show that young people watch. Seeing the main character engage in a same-sex relationship is powerful. This is doubly so since it’s not a big deal that Korra and Asami come together. It’s natural. Nobody calls attention to it, pointing it out with a big rainbow emblem. None of the other characters make a big deal out of it. It just is.

CLICK: Want to read about more strong bisexual ladies? Read our take on DC Pride!

Even more important is the fact that, canonically, Korra and Asami are both either bi- or pansexual. Both have engaged in relationships with men before (well, okay, just Mako that we see). The fact that they then engage in a relationship with each other shows that it’s okay to be bi/pansexual. Bi/pan erasure is a big deal in the LGBTQ+ community. Many people believe that bi/pansexuality isn’t real — that you have to be one or the other, straight or gay. The fact that these characters come together with no need to erase or excuse their previous relationships with a man shows that it’s okay to be bi/pan.

Also important is that neither of these women are stereotypes. It could happen very easily — Korra is more masculine, strong, and aggressive, whereas Asami is feminine, beautiful, and fashionable. But the characters aren’t one-note. Korra is still a girl — just a less traditionally feminine one. She still blushes when she receives a compliment and appears comfortable in dresses. The fact that she likes fighting does not make her any less female. Asami, on the other hand, excels in math and engineering, subjects considered unfeminine. She also races cars, is a master of martial arts, and invents things. She isn’t afraid to get dirty and runs her family business all by herself. The two of them are both multi-faceted, fully developed individuals with unique personalities.

What a nerd. Art via emclainable.

Korrasami is also interesting because it’s an interracial relationship. Asami is from the melting pot of Republic City, but Korra is Water Tribe. They have different cultures, different styles of dress, and there is a noticeable difference in their skin tones. But, much like the same-sex aspect of their relationship, this is never made into a big deal. No one bats an eye at the two of them being from different races and different cultures.

READ MORE: The prominence of fanfiction today is all because of a same-sex relationship! Read more about the legacy of slash fiction here!

To some people, Korrasami is inappropriate. To others, it doesn’t even matter. But to members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who identify as bi or pan, it’s a big deal. They don’t often get to see themselves represented and to have it done in such a skillful way is amazing. THE LEGEND OF KORRA was an impressive step forward, and I am excited at how well the show developed over time.

Perfection. Art via Taikova.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rewatch THE LEGEND OF KORRA.

Cover art by Drawnerys.
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5 Comments

  1. LF

    August 3, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Good points. Korra never really did tell Asami how screwed up she was, that she suffered from hallucinations…only that her past three years was “the toughest of her life”. Asami snapped because Korra promised to be gone a couple of weeks, which turned into 3 years. If she knew Korra was suffering from PTSD, she may not have snapped.

    As for your comment on basically the lack of romantic foreshadowing between Korra and Asami, the creators were constrained in what they could show on Nick, because it’s a same-sex relationship. They were reduced to dropping hints which was best illustrated by this post here…

    http://rcnano13.tumblr.com/post/101195046904/my-korrasami-analyses-masterpost-anon-requests

    Reply

  2. Jason Bolt

    July 3, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I’m sorry, but as a big ATLA and LOK fan, I found Korrasami to be woefully underwritten. There is very little in the series to suggest they think of each other as anything more than friends. They hang out a bunch in Book 3 – ok? What’s so romantic about that?

    Take, for example, their conversation at the start of Book 3. In one conversation, Korra brings up her ex, compares Asami to her pet polar bear dog (ever heard of puppy love? ) and says she’s never had a girlfriend to “hang out with”. Given that context, that girls used “girlfriend” all the time to just refer to friends, it feels more like Korra is *friendzoning* Asami than crushing on her. The issue isn’t that Korra and Asami’s friendship comes out of the blue, it’s the idea that they’re *romantically attracted* to each other that comes out of the blue.

    Book 4 is even worse, if the goal was to build a relationship between the two of them, because they hardly factor into each other’s stories that season. Korra turns Asami down from going with her to the South Pole. Korra writes one letter to Asami in the hopes that Asami would understand – only for Asami to show a complete *lack* of understanding when they finally meet back up Republic City. Instead, she snaps at Korra over an honest question, and acts like Korra is somehow at fault for withdrawing – may I remind you that Korra was *dealing with PTSD*? Asami has no regard for that. I wouldn’t be so miffed about that of Asami had apologized, but she never does. Instead, it’s Korra, the sufferer of depression, that ends up apologizing. This is romantic? This is the start of a healthy relationship?

    From that point they barely interact until the end of the season. They briefly talk during the clip show episode, which just shows again how Asami doesn’t understand Korra’s insecurities and state of mind. Asami is absent from Korra’s most pivotal development of the season, her confrontation with Zaheer – instead, it’s Mako who is there to support her. It would have been so easy for Korra and Asami to share a brief moment before the final battle. An exchange of looks, a quiet but heartfelt request to “stay safe out there” or something along those lines. But no, we get nothing like that. Korra doesn’t even seem particularly distressed when Asami has to eject from her hummingbird, just saying “Hiroshi’s plan worked”.

    After all that lack of meaningful interaction and connection, the writers then think Korra and Asami deserve the last scene together? Sorry, I don’t buy it. The last scene of the entire series should bring things full circle. Put a button on the themes and development the main character went through. Asami has very little part in that.

    Compare this to Kataang. No, I don’t mean just the unearned visual reference LoK makes in the final scene. I mean in the scope of the entire series. Katara played a key role in Aang’s development throughout the series. She found him. She consoled him and assured him that he and Sokka were his new family when he discovered the fate of the Air Nomads and his father figure, Gyatso. She listened as he confided why he ran away from the Air Nomads on “The Storm”, and told him it wasn’t his fault. General Fong found out Aang’s berserk button was to hurt Katara. Aang’s moral dilemma in the Book 2 finale centered around his feelings for Katara. A central theme of ATLA was of love, and Katara was central to that love spelled out explicitly by Guru Pathik: “The Air Nomads’ love for you has not left this world. It is still inside of your heart, and is reborn in the form of new love.”. Love was not a central theme of Legend of Korra, and Asami was not a significant factor in Korra’s development. As such, it didn’t fit that Asami got to share the final scene.

    Whew, did not expect to type that much. Anyways, that’s my opinion. I don’t ship Korrasami because I felt it was both underwritten and badly written, and but if it was just that I could ignore it. But no, it’s the note that the entire series ended on. It will always be disappointing to me in that way.

    Reply

  3. Derek Clinton

    June 29, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Korrasami was fanservice from Bryke because they wanted their show to be remembered for something when they saw how fast things were going down the drain (the ratings and viewership plummeting, the series being put online, etc.).

    Reply

  4. Colleen Etman

    June 27, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    You’re right! I fixed it 🙂

    Reply

  5. derp

    June 27, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    “To some people, Korrasami is inappropriate. To others, it doesn’t even matter. But to members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who identify as bi or pan, it’s a problem. They don’t often get to see themselves represented and to have it done in such a skillful way amazing.”

    How is that a problem? Is this a typo? Because in the next sentence you go on to say how wonderful it is.

    Reply

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