I’ve been sobbing with overwhelming positive feelings for the past half hour. Why? Because of this:
I’ve been celebrating the revelation that the Korra/Asami (“Korrasami”) relationship from The Legend of Korra is canon since it was confirmed by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. My friends, bless them for their patience, have either been celebrating along with me, or enjoying my excitement from the sidelines. But the image above finally undid me, and a rush of emotions I didn’t realize I’d been holding in check suddenly broke free and came pouring out all at once. Now that the torrent has settled into calmer eddies, I can try to channel it into words.
Korrasami is important. SO important. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first representation of two bisexual women of color in a romantic relationship in an animated series targeted at a teenage audience.
Why is a 33-year-old butch lesbian getting all worked up over this? Because inside this 33-year-old butch lesbian is the ghost of a confused, frightened teenager who didn’t understand why she never felt all that interested in boys, knew that the tomboy “phase” wasn’t a phase at all, and didn’t understand why other girls sometimes made her breathe harder and made her stomach do somersaults.
I just did not know what a lesbian (or a butch, for that matter) really was, let alone that I was one. There were no examples in the media available to me, and it was never a possibility my parents discussed. That’s not to say my parents weren’t tolerant, inclusive people. Rather, it’s an example of how hetero-centrist (for lack of a better term) society and culture was. It was always the prince and princess living happily ever after. The male hero always got the girl, or the plucky heroine got her man. Alternatives simply were not present in the stories available for my consumption, and my parents never thought to offer any, themselves.
I’ve quoted this before, but I’d like to quote it again:
I grew up without a roadmap to myself. Nobody taught me how to be a butch; I didn’t even hear the word until I was twenty years old. I first became something I had no name for in solitude and only later discovered the word for what I was, and realized there were others like me.
-Ivan E. Coyote, “A Butch Roadmap“
Korrasami changes that. It’s not a flashing neon signpost, but it’s a start. To quote Mr. Konietzko: “Was it a slam-dunk victory for queer representation? I think it falls short of that, but hopefully it is a somewhat significant inching forward.” He is so very right. It is an inching, but that inching is significant. When you’ve been unsure of where to go, that first step forward, no matter how small and tentative, no matter how terrifying, is the most important step in the world. Korrasami is one such step. More than that, it shows that other roads to travel are possible, and invites other people who may be struggling to try taking that first terrified, tentative step of their own. It adds to the roadmap that I never had, blazing a trail for others to follow. It’s also fairly mainstream, and therefore easier to find than, say, the J. H. Williams III/W. Haden Blackman run on Batwoman.
I’ve fallen into the habit of posting one of my favorite pieces of Korrasami fanart on Facebook every day (sometimes more than once a day), because the very existence of Korrasami is a thing beyond my wildest dreams, and I can’t stop celebrating it. There’s some amazing fanart out there, and I’ve already fallen all over myself to acquire prints/stickers/Patreon some of it. Plenty of it has made me misty-eyed, and I don’t love any of it any less, but “Turtle-duck Date Night” was a kind of sucker punch that I didn’t know I wanted, even when it left me curled up in a fetal position while emotions streamed out of my eyes and nose like nothing would ever make me feel so intensely ever again. Now that I’ve pulled myself (more or less) back together, I’m sorting out why.
I think… I think it’s because a picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words. Bryan and Mike could make a hundred Tumblr posts confirming Korrasami in words, but there’s nothing like SEEING the image of it. It’s the proverbial kiss that we didn’t get in the series finale because “there was a limit to how far [they] could go with it” and even though it’s still not an actual kiss, it’s far less ambiguous than holding hands while gazing into each other’s eyes (if that can be ambiguous in the first place). Moreover, coming from the hand of Mr. Konietzko, himself, that somehow makes it more tangibly “official” than all of the wonderful fanart that’s been flooding the Interwebs since December (and so much of it is so unbelievably gorgeous I just can’t get enough of it).
Analytically, while the focus of the piece is on Korra and Asami, it places them as part of the world. They fit into it naturally and comfortably. They aren’t in-your-face or overwhelming. They don’t need to announce their presence, they simply exist. They’re so visibly at peace that the beauty of it physically hurts in the best possible way.
That’s what gets to me about this particular piece. At the end of the day, that’s what so many of us who are “other” want–we want to be embraced as a natural part of the world, instead of having to fight to fit into it, or argue in attempt to justify our right to exist peacefully. We want to be safe, and warm, and comfortable, and loved. While so many of us are still fighting for that, it’s images like this that give us hope, and remind is what it is that we’re fighting for.
Thank you, Bryan. Thank you, Mike. Thank you for that significant inching forward.