Written a lot about this — Korra and Korrasami with Makorra

I  actually posted a lot about this on Tumblr as fans are well, indignant or disappointed. Many are fans who are gay or who intensely love or ship gay pairings were offended by Bryan’s statement of “hetero-lens” due to its widespread spectrum implicit in the arena of homophobia. I, on the other hand, thought the comment was meh to  me because it didn’t really  feel I was in that category. This reviewer who has spent the majority of 2014 being indoctrinated into queer or even heteronormative homosexuality to the point that TPAB actually thought that all I watch is otome or queer animes is pretty much salient with the fact that I am/never was homophobic. I enjoyed some of the pairings in the otome show, saw potency in them and actually critiqued the execution of those shows.

I even wrote one of the longest reviews on this blog on critiquing and also praising Sekaiichi Hatsukoi which is a gay anime which pulled no punches.  I really liked Queen’s Blade which is a lesbian anime, though a bit directed towards guys, had all the lesbianism, no holds barred, in its glory for the whole series. I loved Maria Watches Over Us which is a lesbian anime directed towards girls. I loved Cardcaptor Sakura and thought that Tomoyo loving Sakura or even Touya loving Yukito to be very well handled. I wanted Touya ending up with his teacher not because she was female but because I liked teacher-student pairings at that time but really hated the other character liking her teacher and marrying him after her high-school graduation :/ though it was a totally heterosexual pairing. Because though it was not illegal it wasn’t to me tastefully written. I actually like Domoki liking Watanuki in xxxHolic and don’t like those other girls who fancy/like Watanuki aside Yuko Ichihara. And even that after layers of interactions and understandings comes about.  One of my favourite anime, also directed towards girls is Revolutionary Girl Utena which shows Utena and Anthy as bisexual characters and mostly lesbians, full frontal, in the animated movie retelling Adolescence Apocalypse.

So, this opinion and article will articulate most of my feelings on the series and also on the pairings that survived. It will be long, span paragraphs and I decided after half-writing it I should also push this through some pages so please bear with me. Thank you if you read all throughout the way  and Thank you for reading a bit. Honestly, this article took a long time to write — I was exposed to more material, got tired and procrastinated or cogitated a bit more. Yet I wanted this to be a comprehensive read of what I thought about Korra the series, the character and also Korrasami and Makorra. I will put briefly that I had higher hopes for the series but they were not met and as you will see this is more than any shipping or anything else.

It has to do with how  TLA was handled and how LOK was handled: both  are different shows and may deal with different things but have some core elements. It is the same way  you might judge a reboot or even the different installments  of the Final Fantasy series. It  was mostly how  LOK was written independently in itself. How  it  was budget cut a lot by both Nick and how Bryke had many problems with Nick that eventual made this an internet only show that was also facing cancellations. So much so that Book 3 and Book 4 followed one after the other. Also, though  I personally have nothing against Bryke I do think as writers and creators who were facing a lot of pressure that they did do some mistakes and mess up. Also Nick initially did not like that Korra was a girl and wanted her to be a guy because the Aang formula was pretty much potent still and in these series people  for some stupid marketing reason and cultural biases want the main protagonist being a male and not female.

The TLA team was larger, had more writers and obviously many discussions amongst Bryke and those other people so many more ideas and expansions of concepts  were apparently plausible  and executed. Bryke originally wanted Toph and Azula to be guys and also wanted a love triangle between Katara, Aang and Toph so obviously that idea was scrapped by many  others pitching in their ideas. Asami was initially also meant to be a villain I wouldn’t have minded if that happened because I think Spysami is pretty more interesting than thinly written Korrasami. Or, she may have been a double agent that would  have proved volumes about her dexterity in general. Makorra was, as I read from Tumblr,  described as the perfect pairing by Bryke themselves and how Korra and Mako were right for each other and “soulmates” — so I think Bryke’s Korrasami was done almost like a last minute thing. In fact, I don’t think they did away with Makorra either which is telling in the  finale episode. I think they were confused at what to do really and thought that keeping both pairings open but focusing a bit more on Korrasami was the only thing they could do to “salvage”  the series because before this finale  many people had heavily, explicitly, inexorably critiqued Legend of Korra both critics and fans alike.  So, LOK had a lot of problems since Book 1 that had  to do and nothing to do with Makorra and pairings and stuff.

I won’t  lie that I fast-forwarded to  the last scene in LOK to see what happens because by this time I was kinda bored and wanted to know what happens to Korra and by Book 3 and 4 the hints of Makorra were pretty high I wanted to see if they patch up, after some time of course because  some time even passed for Kataraang to happen. I was impressed with the spirit portal which became like the equatorial region of their world and that was awesome.I loved the  last scene music and ambience but the pairing made me very unhappy because it was just too rushed and scatterbrained to be a beautiful buildup.

So to continue, though some fans of Makorra are homophobic; most of us  aren’t. This is due to the fact we come to this show after years of watching anime shows from its infancy dealing with heteronormativity, queer sexualities (both straight and gay), performativity, and also the construction/reconstruction of identities. So, as most of us  are in our late teens and twenties or even forties we are already nonplussed by homosexuality rather accepting it wholeheartedly as a romantic-sexual outcome. We have relegated our “hetero-lens” a long time ago even before The Legend of Korra or The Legend of Aang/The Last Airbender premiered. I have criticised Korra on numerous occasions and none of them were solely on ships. As listed below:

Legend of Korra, Book 3: “Change”  Criticism

Korra Season 3 Comes to An End

I am not partial. I have enjoyed gay pairings and straight pairings with equal zeal. I am not infected with “hetero-lens” — also I have accused Korrasami of a “hetero-lens” too. That one is that of heteronormativity. As a friend of mine stated gender or a critique of gender was not established in Korra. Korra is, as Anime Live Reactions put it eloquently, stereotyped as a strong woman/person of colour becoming bisexual and lesbian to validate her strong, “tomboy” existence. Asami’s sexuality has always been a game. She is a doll, a feminine debacle, and having Korra, a masculine, pair up with her reinforces a heteronormative way of looking at things. It essentialises that the  avatar spirit is  a “male” spirit with or without past lives because Wan, the first avatar, pretty much is shown to be in a relationship with Raava, a female spirit.  Lesbianism, gayness or even straight-on  heterosexuality is not about binary images but heteronormativity and performativity does reduce it to such.

Korra cannot be alone or be in a heterosexual relationship because that also incinerates the  heteronormative way of looking at heterosexual relationships. Makorra ending in a bad note now encapsulates and also mediates on the fixation that strong men and women cannot mix. This stereotype is nothing new. If Mako and Korra could end better we would not point fingers at this rather Bolin and Korra’s chaotic end was foreseen on a lack of attraction on Korra’s part and even Bolin does not date Eska due to her domineering and inhospitable personality. Korra and Bolin are strong and do have chemistry but they end amicably, on good terms, there is hardly any name-calling and finger-pointing between them. Bolin does not  ever bring up that Korra broke his heart by kissing her brother nor that he wanted Korra to apologise much because they went through things that allowed forgiveness and friendship to happen. Ironically, even Bolin and Eska’s breakup  and later encounter seemed both comic but also reasonable and realistic. It was apparent that they both have considerably, without a doubt moved on. The way Mako and Korra interact are still as lovers even by the end of Book  4  breakup or no breakup  they just do, both context and subtext affirms it as a romance with mutually concerted feelings — it’s pretty confusing.

8 thoughts on “Written a lot about this — Korra and Korrasami with Makorra

    1. Why can’t you stand them? They are pretty natural. And if you are being sarcastic to me that’s not funny. I am pretty much into many gay/queer pairings in media. I didn’t like how Korrasami was written but I didn’t like many things about LOK that I actually did write before on this blog. Have my opinions changed? No. But now I am enthusiastic to read Korrasami in the comics. I REALLY wanna see the pairing fleshed out. I find it pretty funny you would call yourself Asami because Asami is confirmed bisexual/queer. But if you are being serious being gay/queer is pretty natural. Having queer/gay/SGA/homoerotic feelings are pretty natural no matter how you identify yourself. Do you have issues with yourself? Why do you hate media like that and can’t stand them? Hopefully, you do not gay/queer people in real life. That is just hate. Hate comes from ignorance. I have seen ignorant people do ignorant things. But ignorance is not genetic. Talk to a counselor. Read materials. Make yourself more aware. Don’t be a homophobic/queerphobic person. Trust me putting down others is not the way. Queerness, of any type, is not a threat to anyone and if you have been taught that then you have been hanging out with bigots. Don’t be a bigot like them.

  1. Thank you so much for articulating this! I absolutely hate it when (typically heterosexual) writers shoehorn shallow, heteronormative, stereotyped or unhealthy LGBT relationships to signal their virtue (Once Upon a Time is hugely guilty of this by crack pairing Red Riding Hood/Dorothy Gale in one episode and then writing them out of the show, despite the Philip/Aurora/Mulan and Swan/Queen relationships being far more popular and developed) or appeal to disgusting yaoi fangirl fetishes (the boy/boy relationships in Dragon Age and Mass Effect suffer a terrible case of this, and the straight relationships are even worse because all the love interests need psychiatric help). There’s throwing a bone and then there’s being completely tone-deaf to basic human psychology, nevermind politics and media influence.

    At least when Joss Whedon killed Tara it followed the previously established rule of the series that every single relationship eventually falls apart. Except, oddly enough, Angel and Spike (at least one interview confirmed they were lovers in the past, they’ve both died and gone crazy multiple times, and they have a pathological ambiguously platonic love/hate relationship).

    1. I am happy that I got to articulate this. Though I know by no means my views and understanding are a popular one. We are age driving by policies and social etiquette not really emotion, rationale and logic. That is why our passions tend to get flimsy and our romances cheap rhetoric. I do not care that there are yaoi fetishes. Yaoi can help straight and queer women alike and it has. I liked many yaoi, if not all, for similar reasons. Men’s sexualities in terms of aggression, passion and assertiveness is given more credence and acknowledged than anything. Lesbianism or bisexual women in mainstream narratives are meant to titillate the straight, usually White, man. For women, imagining a gay/bi-male relationship sometimes offer many possibilities especially when lesbianism is considered scopophilic and been fetishised so much. Also being “male” or reading through a male lens can be empowering for some people feeling the same social double standards and coercive practices put on women will not be put on men. This is more or less, to an extent true.

      However, this does not mean I support ever yaoi portrayal on TV and I notice anime fanservice nowadays are pandering to fans rather than actually working on a narrative that seems realistic and plausible. By entering queer representation as such the shows make the queerness another form of “entertainment”, a theatrical display of drama that is meant to work as some perverse catharsis. Eve Sedgwick Kosofsky had already articulated that if queer relationships are harmed by their absence in media and discourse then straight relationships are equally, or more or less, hurt the same way by having grand narratives such as Romance Archetypes/Stereotypes, History and how Love is constructed. Overexposing the heteronormative matrix/gender normative matrix in both straight and queer relations equally so (in one way or another) actually hurts our sense of self. Most animes do this too. I was lucky to see many without it but that does not mean there aren’t stupid animes like there, such as “Highschool of the Dead”, to show nothing aside cheap sexual kicks that make no sense and characters as flaccid (all puns intended) as a squishy debacle.

      Thank You for taking the time to read my work.

      1. I did not mean to imply that I had a problem with male/male relationships. I have a problem with Japan: it is most definitely not LGBT friendly (gay marriage isn’t legal, there’s no legal protection against hate crimes, no politician wants to touch this with a ten foot pole) and this is reflected in their media. The Japanese genres of Boys Love, Girls Love and so forth typically never portray realistic relationships and rely on silly stereotypes like “all relationships exhibit a masculine/feminine dynamic”, “it’s a phase they will grow out of”, “everyone is straight yet bi-curious.”

        I totally agree with your critique of romance writing in general. The reason why, say, SwanQueen is so popular with fans (of any sexuality) is because Swan and Regina were written as characters with their own quirks and foibles, who are complex enough that they don’t fit into traditional gender molds, and who aren’t defined by their endless cycle of dying boyfriends. All too often relationships in general, much less gay relationships, are written to fulfill media’s unhealthy obsession with romance (or worse, a diversity quota) and forget that characters need to be interesting and complex outside of their romantic relationships.

        Every relationship in Bioware games is awful. The straight relationships feel forced or end badly, the gay relationships are loaded with stereotypes, and every single love interest has severe psychological issues that they never receive treatment for and which present a danger to themselves and others. These are not healthy relationships!

      2. Of course, I know that you did not mean you don’t like male/male relationships. Well, yes, that is not only for yaoi genre but it is also for romance het genre as well. There are problematic dynamic in those shows that do make me unhappy. I don’t know much about bioware games to really comment about but I liked the queer relationships of Fallout 4 as whether you play Nora or Nate and whether you are having a relationship with a guy or girl the story is the same and means a lot. I think the “everyone is straight bi-curious” trope happens because people can call themselves straight but in modern times they do exhibit a lot of queer attitudes. Yes, the trope is comical but it is also based on some realism. I think many shows have fanserive. It is hard to write actual romance of both het and queer quality because it will not always be aesthetically pretty and will have ugly truths in it and also people aren’t perfect and will have flaws, foibles and make mistakes but most people wanna zone that out when watching media. I can understand that but true representation is hard to write when you want only the frills and not the flesh.

      3. The blog “kissmyanime.wordpress.com” has a more articulate tackle of the subject of Japanese media (including Boys Love/Girls Love) being politically incorrect. I feel my flailing attempts to explain it would only mangle the message.

        In my experience the term “fanservice” most commonly refers to risque content like jiggle physics and skimpy clothing. I think what you mean is “pandering”. Pandering more accurately refers to things like the Korrasami debacle, where writers signal their progressive political views in a way that exploits and marginalizes gay rights.

        Retconning Korra to bi or gay after already intending her to be straight isn’t just an example of the show’s already bad handling of relationships, budget cuts, etc getting that much worse. It might have turned the Avatar world into a fantasy ideal where gay relationships are so normalized as to be unworthy of comment by Korra. Korra, who is a messianic figure raised in a convent in a world styled after an Industrial Age China. A nation which in the real world was extremely conservative and heteronormative.

        What are we supposed to take away from this? I wish we could just write in gay relationships as easily as we right straight ones and without resorting to tired stereotypes. Homophobia, as it pains me to admit, is alive and well everywhere today and media is clinically proven to affect people’s beliefs. An ending that boils down to a vague “two girls love each other” message (much less two boys, non-cis, etc) isn’t going to magically make homophobes disappear or convince anyone to question their social constructs. Is the Avatar world a fantasy ideal free of homophobia or will Korra and Asami have to conceal their relationship from their friends and family? Is Korra sexually fluid or transgender because she has vague memories of being (and having sex as) a man and a father? Will the nonexistent sequel explore that I wonder? This could have been an excellent opportunity to deconstruct the concepts of sex and gender, but instead we got “look at me I’m so progressive” subtext that most of the audience missed.

        What irks me about this is that the progressive media codones Bryke’s behavior rather than demanding better writing. There are a lot of constructive ways that media could tackle the subject of convincing people to stop being heterosexist and to assuage the alienation experienced by non-straight non-cis teens. Did we learn nothing from the baby steps on Touched by an Angel or Glee? Writers who are bad at relationships in general, script changes, budget cuts, and censorship are not a constructive way to tackle this. I totally support Korrasami in the abstract but I hate the writers and producers for strangling it.

      4. This is an excellent answer filled with rich analyses. My good friend, if I may call you, I completely love you reply. I do not always think that immanently BL or GL is non-PC as in the convoluted politics of PC Korrasami/KS/KA is also pretty “progressive” but that is another topic. I do agree that BL and GL can be, as het romances, as harmful and gender normative/heteronormative. Even in the abstract Korrasami feels dull. It is a fanservice crack ship that became canon. There are many types of fanservice and one is just “giving fans what they want” in the modt basic and reductionist level. To me most cultures are heteronormative not heterosexual as heterosexist can be taken at times in a “positive” light. The fact is even if there was no problems in the Avatar world in queer relationships, as apparently Kaya is also queer, it just does not happen. Like Makorra did not just happen. Korra was also pretty demisexual and gender queer and she was already queer. Making her in a femslash relationship without any background between the two characters is literally fanservice and pleasing straight, cis men. Korrasami feels forced and written for them. Bryke’s “hetero lens” comment was unethical as it gave ammunition to trolls and bullies alike to give patronizing lectures to MK people and people in general who disliked Korrasami. It also pushed aside the queer people who actually disliked Korrasami. There is going to be a comic soon and it just seems to be a cash grabber though I hope it delineates fairly Korra and Asami though I doubt it. Korra was already queer; she was non-gender normative, interested in one person and she was very apolitical in some stances. She did not need a relationship with a stranger to validate her queerness.

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