Korrasami is Canon

I tried thinking of a wittier title, but I just couldn’t. After two years of fervently shipping Korrasami (I’ve been on board since Book 1), I finally got the confirmation I needed, but never realistically expected. Both Mike and Bryan have posted their official statements on their Tumblrs that Korrasami is, well, official.

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I won’t rehash anything either of them said (I found Bryan’s post especially beautiful and touching), but I will try to articulate just how important it is for them to make these statements. In the afterglow of the finale, Korrasami shippers have been basking in the glory of our OTP being canon, and the queer members have been celebrating what we knew was undeniable representation.

However, there were many who still tried to deny this reality–who insisted that Korra and Asami are just friends and we were wrong for reading too much into things. For the past two years, I’ve seen every glance between Korra and Asami–every touch and smile and hair flip and snappy one-liner–discounted as evidence of romantic feelings. I was cynical because what I thought was obvious to me had completely flown over the heads of the show’s creators, especially since I felt that other aspects of Legend of Korra’s storytelling were not as strong as they could’ve been. I assumed–based on the very same paradigm that Bryan describes in his post–that the creators were oblivious to what they had built. I can happily retract such statements regarding Korrasami. As Bryan says, “I have bragging rights as the first Korrasami shipper (I win!). As we wrote Book 1, before the audience had ever laid eyes on Korra and Asami, it was an idea I would kick around the writers’ room. At first we didn’t give it much weight, not because we think same-sex relationships are a joke, but because we never assumed it was something we would ever get away with depicting on an animated show for a kids network in this day and age, or at least in 2010.”

He, at least, seemed to have it in mind as early as Book 1, and I think I can confidently say that the Korrasami interactions we do get in Book 1 easily fall into those first seeds of romantic feelings. I can hardly express how validating it feels to know that my understanding of Korra and Asami has been aligned with that of the creators basically since the very beginning. Both personally and intellectually, I’m not sure if I’ve come this close to fully grasping the author’s intent. I feel like throughout these past two years, I understood every subtlety for what the creators wanted it to be, even though I did so with assumption that I would be wrong in the end or at best have plausible support but no definitive word. I thought I would have to accept Korra and Asami’s bisexuality as a headcanon and not something that’s expressly confirmed. I mean, even in other stories where the characters are overtly queer, I’ve seen people just gloss right over that and talk about how some hetero ship with them is canon (looking at the SnK people who somehow don’t see that YumiKuri is canon, same with KLK). This is queer erasure and there really isn’t a way of getting around that in most cases.

We needed this confirmation because people have, and still will, do everything it takes to deny that Korrasami is the real, intended outcome–that queerness exists not only in headcanon, but also in canon. When canon is considered “real” and “true,” it becomes vital for queerness to exist there. For once, with Korrasami, heterosexuality, which is often the assumed default in everything ever, is clearly relegated to headcanon or AU, spaces that the queer community is very familiar with. Don’t get me wrong; headcanons and AUs are great and fandom is a wonderful thing that adds so many more dimensions to the stories that create it, but canon is still the main narrative, the one that represents the creator’s vision.

On a side note, it’s hilarious that just a few days ago, most of us laughed off that “Bryke” comment on the podcast and now most of that comment is confirmed. Also, if they retroactively confirmed Tyzula, I would just explode in feelings.

Sure, you can still invoke reader-response criticism and claim “the author is dead” as your starting point of analysis, but now with these posts out, I’d really have to question the purpose in doing so. What purpose is there in going this route to cling so strongly to Korrasami not being canon? In other words, why reach so hard for denial and queer erasure? On this point, some may think that authors/creators shouldn’t comment on their work like this and just let the audience interpret things how they want to. In many ways, I can agree with that statement, but in cases involving obvious representation of historically marginalized and oppressed groups, this clarity validates something that in reality is so often invalidated.

As I absorb Mike and Bryan’s statements, I feel a growing sense of trust, respect, compassion, and care. This whole time, they had been intentionally considering the queer community, even though they were faced with the reality of certain limitations. They really did everything they possibly could to make Korrasami explicit.

My hope is that this sparks further changes in the industry–that we will see more cartoons with relationships like Korrasami that can go even further and not have to hide in framing and colors and stolen glances.

I still reserve many of my other critiques about other aspects of Legend of Korra, but knowing that they were this intentional with Korrasami makes me wonder if I’d now have a different perspective on my criticisms.

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5 thoughts on “Korrasami is Canon

  1. Found your page while browsing some deep socio-political Kill la Kill stuff (yours was very good!). I just wanted to say that I found all of the points you touched on in these posts about Korra and Asami to be deeply gratifying, and that you are completely right there was a need for the authors to defy normalcy by canonizing the speculative moments as their conclusion ‘fades to black’, normally left to the imagination of the reader/viewer. In the wake of the Korrasami Quake of 2014, the reaction of a group that we’ll kindly refer to as ‘bigots’ was, of course, loud and screeching.

    After they navigated Nickolodeon’s restrictions and the ship had already sailed on the episode being aired, the proverbial yoke was off and they finally had the chance to go “Nope, gay love. Deal with it.”

    It’s not the same for me, being white, male, straight, and middle class in America, but the virulence of the underlying racism and homophobia in our nation and the unwillingness of people to face up and fess up is…fatiguing. It can be painful at times to cope with the reality of injustices even as they are not visited personally on me, and moments like this bomb by the LoK creators are as uplifting as the recent decision by SCOTUS to finally give marriage equality to everyone.

    Great blog! Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks for reading! I feel like Korrasami’s long-term impact has yet to be seen in some ways. The fandom itself is still going strong and I still see people posting about how stunned they still are that Korrasami is canon.

      Since stories have such a huge role in informing how we view/relate to different groups of people (right, wrong, or indifferent), I really hope that it’s the start of a visible shift in Western animation toward more comprehensive LGBT+ representation that guides audiences to hopefully not be so afraid or shocked at the existence of queer people anymore. Korrasami is also transgressive in many ways and I just might elaborate further on that since I’m reading an interesting book right now that focuses on how certain Christian institutions are “queer/transgressive” by nature (e.g., celibacy) and how queer people have “queered” these institutions more recently. I think there’s enough about Korrasami to further articulate how they queer (academically) heteronormativity, bisexual erasure among non-het people/spaces, oversexualization of queer people/stories (and bisexuals), and the whitewashing of the LGBT+ community in general.

      Obviously, the work isn’t done, even with the SCOTUS ruling, but since fictional stories are often the most palatable ways to examine and learn about all of these sociocultural things, it’s really encouraging to have a pairing like Korrasami to point to!

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      1. I agree that fiction is a great vehicle for exploring the complexities of the nonfiction we all live on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to run into a confusing reference to one ‘Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack’ as a nine year old watching the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, who – in spite of being what one might generously call a stereotypical portrayal – inadvertent challenged my understanding of icky grown-up relationships, leading to brief conversations with my mom and later my dad on the topic. Their viewpoints, which basically amounted to “Sometimes men or women marry other men or women because that’s who they love”, and “People can pretty much do what they like if it doesn’t hurt anyone” respectively, made perfect sense to a nine year old, and engraved themselves on me, as so many good and bad qualities of a nine year old’s parents do.

        So but for a passing cameo of a fictional gay couple in a film, I may have missed out on a major positive affirmation of egalitarianism as a kid. It wasn’t until a lot later in life and my personal experiences with queer friends and loved ones, that I started to really -care- about LGBT equality (it’s amazing how a girl you are courting coming out as trans makes you really examine yourself), but I see Korrasami as a much greater step forward. The popularity among adolescents and young adults is a great way to present a LGBT relationship in a positive light to a -lot- of kids, through a vehicle primarily designed for them.

        Also, it takes that necessary ‘first step’, like Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus, or Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay American athlete in the “big 3” sports, or more recently someone scaling a flagpole in South Carolina in an act of civil disobedience to try to take down a Confederate flag that was put up in direct defiance of the Civil Rights Act half a century ago.

        Someone’s got to blaze the trail, after all, to make it a bit less scary so the next people can take a deep breath and plunge down the path after them. Now I’ve just got my fingers crossed for WeissRuby. Hear my thoughts, RoosterTeeth!

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      2. Oh gosh I feel you so much on Weiss x Ruby/WhiteRose! I just have a thing for pairings where one of them is a prissy rich girl (or seems to be prissy but then actually isn’t). Blake and Yang are practically canon though. Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

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