Friday, December 26, 2014

Why Legend of Korra Matters

We need to talk about Legend of Korra.

If you are a fan, you should already know that LOK has finally reached it end with its marvelous and much talked about finale. The entire fandom and internet are going wild with its courageous ending, and with that leaving its legendary mark in the history of children's television. For many years to come, many people will remember Legend of Korra. And we can all see just why.

When I first came upon Legend of Korra two years ago, I was deeply intrigued by the Korra, the main character, heroin and also as an avatar in the show. Korra is different than a lot of cartoon shows I have come across, especially by the standard of the west.

First off, the heroin is a female, not just some stereotypical female with big boobs, dresses and all the feminine qualities that you could imagine; She is the valiant, slightly masculine, athletic and not-afraid-to-kick-ass type of female and thinking back, I couldn't even remember when she actually wore dresses in the entire 4 seasons. Korra isn't the typical female in many shows that need protection, she fights very well and isn't the type to back down from the taunting of men. And most of all, Korra has dark skin and whatever races she is in, she is not white; in which I feel that this itself is such a bold step. I mean look at all the famous cartoons, which of them actually feature powerful females as the main players and at the same time aren't whites? And it's not just Korra, most of the female characters in the entire series hold roles as important as the males and not just as sidekicks, princesses in distress or trophy wives.

Back to the finale that has stirred up quite a ruckus until the two creators themselves came out and confirmed the ending: that Korra and another female lead are now together, romantically. In short, Korrasami is canon.
I love how the creators are trying to empower the people through this representation instead of making it into just another marketing gimmick or baiting the queer community for the sake of viewership. They genuinely want to challenge the limit and show a positive expression of love to the audiences; that women and men can have platonic friendships that are both inspiring and empowering; just like the relationship between Korra and Mako.

Then there's Asami, who is an equally powerful female lead and whose friendship with Korra has developed into something more throughout the four seasons. Some people think that it's too sudden and as quoted by Bryke (the creator), that's just because you are viewing the entire show with a "hetero-lens". In other words, your mind is so closed up that you are unwilling to accept the existence of non-heterosexual people. The hints of their blossoming relationship may be subtle, but they are definitely there, displayed right in front of your eyes. And the development is gradual, not rushed for the sake of pairing two people together. It is not the major plot; it grows at the side until it reaches the climatic moment. It feels so real. However, what we never expected is that the creators actually pushed it further and make the relationship canon on a children's television! So kudos for their determination!

So why is it such a big deal? Because we are talking about children's television and to actually have queer representation in one is a very progressive move. Our lives are shaped by the society we are in, and while you can say there are many queer movies out there already, but to actually portray one in a kid's show, apart from Legend of Korra, I would say none has made it this obvious or that far. It is so important to teach our children from young that love is never wrong, whether it is happening between two person of different or same sexes so that they can start seeing things with open minds, that non-heterosexual people exist out there and it's okay if you are one of these people because ultimately, it is just two humans falling in love with each other. Love is never wrong.

And here I would like to quote directly from Bryke's tumblr:

“I’ve become skeptical of the unwritten rule that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue. Rather, I want to portray a slightly different relationship, one where the two mutually inspire each other to live - if I’m able to, then perhaps I’ll be closer to portraying a true expression of love.” - Hayao Miyazaki (a masterful storyteller and co-founder of Studio Ghibli.)

I agree with him wholeheartedly, especially since the majority of the examples in media portray a female character that is little more than a trophy to be won by the male lead for his derring-do. So Mako and Korra break the typical pattern and end up respecting, admiring, and inspiring each other. That is a resolution I am proud of.

However, I think there needs to be a counterpart to Miyazaki’s sentiment: Just because two characters of the same sex appear in the same story, it should not preclude the possibility of a romance between them. No, not everyone is queer, but the other side of that coin is that not everyone is straight. 
Legend of Korra has its flaws, it is not perfect. But what is true is that all big dreams begin with one small tiny step and LOK has certainly make its first mark and hopefully we will begin to witness positive changes in the media, children and mature televisions alike. Thank you Bryke and Michael for the awesomeness.

Did I also mention that Legend of Korra has really cool fighting scenes too?

Go check out what Bryke and Michael have written in their tumblr!

Cheers Korrasami fans!


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