We’ve all done our share of shipping before. Even if you didn’t or don’t know what that even means you’ve definitely done. Rachel and Ross, J.D. and Elliot, Jim and Pam; most people watched Friends, Scrubs, and the Office wanting to see those two characters get together as a couple. Of course, the thing with those examples is that they’re written that way. The show creators want people to want them to be together. It’s not subtle by any stretch of the imagination.
What people usually think of as shipping takes the form of non-canon ships – Legolas and Gimli, for example. Many of these are queer ships, and people often don’t believe that it would ever actually become canon. But sometimes it does happen.
When The Legend of Korra aired in 2012, a common criticism was the love triangle between Korra, Mako, and Asami. It was hackneyed and boring, added little to the story, and took far too much screen time away from more interesting character development and plot points. It didn’t take long for people to start to ship Korra and Asami together, and it took even less time for this to become a very popular ship in the fandom.
By the third season, the love triangle aspects had been phased out, and the Korrasami shippers kept finding more and more little moments between the characters, moments that seemed to signify a blossoming romance. In season four the clues became even more overt – Korra blushing when Asami says that she likes her hair cut, for example.
Then in the series finale that aired in December, Korrasami became canon. The pair were depicted holding hands and walking into the spirit world, to go on another adventure together. Of course, many took this as slightly ambiguous, so to clear it up one of the show’s creators Bryan Konietzko wrote a post on Tumblr that said, clear as day, “Korrasami is canon.”
In the post, he talks about how he wanted to make the couple canon from the start, but didn’t think he would be allowed to. In the end, he discovered he couldn’t have them kiss, but he worked around this in an attempt to make the relationship as unambiguous as possible. He recognizes that while it may not be a huge milestone in queer representation it is at the very least a “significant inching forward.”
He also addresses criticisms such as their “caving into fans” and the romance coming out of the blue. His response was, “If it seems out of the blue to you, I think a second viewing of the last two seasons would show that perhaps you were looking at it only through a hetero lens.”
I think that Korrasami is a more significant step in queer representation than Konietzko seems to believe. The Legend of Korra did what Supernatural won’t: they made a main character canonically bisexual. Even Orange is the New Black, a show with arguably excellent queer representation, refuses to even say the word bisexual (which Piper clearly is).
All this is compounded by the fact that Korra is a kid’s show. Sure, lots of 18-30 year olds watch it too, but it aired on Nickelodeon. When your show is airing on a children’s network, it’s hard to take any kind of risks, especially when it comes to queer representation.
A similar situation happened with Adventure Time on Cartoon Network. The show’s creator confirmed that Princess Bubblegum and Marcelline had once dated, a popular ship among the Adventure Time fandom. But they couldn’t have it explicitly on-screen because “in some countries where the show airs, it’s sort of illegal.”
While these shows for kids are being censored, shows for adults simply won’t include these canonically queer relationships, especially if they’re main characters. Supernatural could have Dean and Castiel enter into a romantic relationship, but they won’t. On Orange is the New Black, Piper could be called bisexual, but instead she is accused of switching between being straight and being a lesbian.
Korrasami does a lot for queer representation. It’s validating, especially for teenage fans of the show who may be questioning their sexuality. It normalizes bisexuality in a society that has proven itself to be extremely biphobic.
Sure, it’s exciting to see our one true pairing get canonically validated to begin with, but Korrasami is about so much more than that. It’s an important first step to getting these kinds of romances more prevalent on television, which is just so desperately needed right now.
Joel Wallick is currently pursuing a degree in film studies at Bowling Green State University with a minor in creative writing. He has been gaming since early childhood, beginning with Pokemon Silver. Follow him on Twitter @SuperNerdJoel.
Looking for more on The Legend of Korra? Check out Janelle’s article on how the series handles trauma and the message it holds for those with PTSD.