Nickelodeon struck storytelling gold with their series Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated show that followed the trials of a young boy named Aang who was the current reincarnation of the Avatar, an entity who possesses the ability to manipulate – or "bend" – the four classical elements and is charged with keeping the world in balance.
The series sequel, The Legend of Korra, continued the epic story by moving forward in time to Aang's successor Korra, which was a subsequent shift to an older protagonist and was accompanied by some slightly more mature themes, plots, and character developments. Some of the pervading themes through Korra are compassion and equality, the latter of which touched on the LGBT community with the final episode of the series last week.
In the interest of avoiding spoilers for anyone who has yet to see the finale, the full who/what/where/huh will be covered AFTER THE JUMP…
With the world saved and villains dispatched, The Legend of Korra ends at the wedding between morally-flexible genius inventor Varrick and his stalwart assistant Zhu Li, where an exhausted Korra and equally-exhausted series-long friend Asami decide together to get away from it all. Asami tells Korra that she's always wanted to visit the Spirit World, the parallel sister dimension to the material world, so the women pack their bags and set off, just the two of them.
An innocent enough setting that seems no more out of place than two male protagonists stepping out to see the world. But then the camera shifts behind the women as they approach the portal to the Spirit World…
And lest there be any ambiguity, when they step through the portal the two turn to face each other with a gaze that is clearly more than that of friendship…
Korra and Asami are starting their journey as lovers. Should anyone be of the opinion that this is reading too much into a kid's cartoon, series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino have both confirmed that "Korrasami" is canon:
Our intention with the last scene was to make it as clear as possible that yes, Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other. The moment where they enter the spirit portal symbolizes their evolution from being friends to being a couple. Many news outlets, bloggers, and fans picked up on this and didn’t find it ambiguous. For the most part, it seems like the point of the scene was understood and additional commentary wasn’t really needed from Bryan or me. But in case people were still questioning what happened in the last scene, I wanted to make a clear verbal statement to complement the show’s visual one.
This is a brilliant moment for television, where animated shows that are aimed at a family audience tend to do their best to ignore any existence of LGBT persons. It's also wonderfully subversive. Much like J.K. Rowling allowed her audiences to become fans of Professor Dumbledore before revealing that he was gay, Konietzko and DiMartino created strong protagonists that viewers came to love before revealing that, incidentally, they are lesbian or bi. Even better is that the LGBT characters aren't side stories or background characters, but the series hero and one of the three other primary protagonists.
Best of all is that LGBT youth now have two more solid, strong, complex heroes to look up to, leaving the days of The Celluloid Closet even further behind us.