The Legend of Korrasami

The underlying homophobia in the entertainment industry


Mason Ng, Staff Writer

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Not so long ago, the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom lived in harmony. Then, everything changed when The Legend of Korra attacked. 

In 2012, the release of the sequel to everyone’s favorite cartoon split its fans into two groups: those who loved it and those who, well, didn’t. Thanks to the recent release of both shows to Netflix over the summer, the spirit of the ATLA fan base had been revived, along with the debate over whether its successor, The Legend of Korra, lived up to its legacy.

Unlike most of the show’s fanbase, I first watched ATLA during the middle of quarantine after it was released to Netflix in May. Consumed by post-binge depression (I finished three seasons in under two weeks), I sought out to learn more about its sequel, The Legend of Korra. To my surprise, the reviews I encountered were overwhelmingly negative. Fans attacked every aspect of the show, from its animation style to its rushed, thirteen episode plotlines. However, the bulk of the hate was directed toward the series’ protagonist, Korra.

The story of Korra— Aang’s headstrong, buff, female bending-prodigy reincarnation— fast forwards 70 years after the conclusion of ATLA, dropping viewers in the modern setting of a newly industrialized Republic City. Throughout the sequel, we follow Korra’s journey to fulfill her role as the Avatar, master of all four elements. 

Here’s where LoK critics start to disagree. They complain she’s either too powerful or not powerful enough, too strong willed or emotionally undeveloped; the list goes on. However, I can’t help but notice that the same traits Korra is bashed for— her stubborn nature, hot headedness, and immaturity— male Zuko and Toph (who has stereotypically male traits) from ATLA are praised for, suggesting the inherent sexism buried beneath LoK commentary. 

On top of skewed gender-based criticism, LoK attackers take issue with the development of the show’s only sapphic relationship between Korra and Asami, two bisexual women of color. Though the creators themselves confirmed their relationship near the end of the last season and in the comics, critics still love to deny the existence of any LGBTQ+ representation. Even fans who acknowledge the romantic tension between the two complain that their relationship arose from out of the blue. 

Contributing to the obliviousness in these viewpoints is the fact that straight viewers are accustomed to consuming entertainment through a lens of hetero-normativity.

Until recently, viewing audiences, especially in younger demographics, were barely exposed to anything other than straight, cisgender couples

Even in LoK, a relatively progressive show, producers admitted that the expression of romantic feelings between Korra and Asami were less pronounced to avoid Nickelodeon’s potential censorship. 

Unfortunately, the underlying homophobia in LoK criticism and struggle to genuinely portray queer characters isn’t uncommon in the entertainment industry. While the effort to represent the LGBTQ+ community in movies and TV shows certainly exists, its execution is questionable. Often times, straight writers and producers will throw in the typical femininely flamboyant “gay best friend” and call it a day. When shows successfully spotlight queer characters apart from their societal stereotypes, they endure the underlying— though sometimes blatant— homophobia from their critics. High rated shows with great LGBTQ+ representation like The Society or I Am Not Okay With This were even cancelled after a single season (I’m looking at you, Netflix). 

Hopefully in the future as the entertainment industry diversifies its content, the LGBTQ+ community will receive the representation that viewers so desperately need. After all, we can’t hyperfixate on two seconds of Korra and Asami holding hands forever.