Spoiler alert! Don’t read this if you haven’t finished watching the show.
I recently finished watching the cartoon Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and was pleasantly surprised by a twist at the end: Korra and Asami are in love!
If you don’t know the show, the basic idea is that Korra is the Avatar, the bridge between the human world and the spirit world. Her job is to bring balance to the world and maintain peace. Korra has been spending several years battling villains and trying to find herself, and Asami along with her two other main friends have been helping her along the way.
At the end of the final season, Asami and Korra decide to go to the spirit world for a much-deserved vacation — though I don’t know how much of a vacation they’ll have in the spirit world, seriously, so many scary spirits! — and the last image viewers see is the two of them holding hands, walking towards the portal, and then facing each other, still holding hands, beautiful music in the background. And that’s it. Right at the very end, you see it, and then it’s over. It’s really quite beautiful. It’s a little ambiguous, and you could probably argue that it was just a friendly image, no attraction at all between the characters. But the way that they hold hands, enter, and face each other implies otherwise to me.
The reason this surprised me isn’t because of the plot, although there was some surprise there, but more because bisexuality now exists in an American cartoon. I don’t know that many cartoons, so maybe it’s not the first, but I had never seen it before. This is such a fantastic, important development in American cartoons!
The best part is it just kind of happens, and there is no dramatization or announcement about it at all. They’re just bisexual, and it’s no big deal! This is so wonderful to see in an American cartoon for children. I have to say, when I saw it, I was really happy with it! Not just for the characters — which I am — but also for the societal meaning behind it.
I’ve written before about how bisexuality isn’t truly accepted. Even in movies and television, it’s not really addressed — you might see a gay or lesbian relationship, but I struggle to think of even one bisexual relationship on the screen. How amazing is it that the first one I see is in a kids’ cartoon?! And the fact that it’s not even addressed at all within the story is wonderful too. It’s exactly like it should be: it doesn’t matter.
A lot of the time when gay or lesbian relationships are on television or in movies, it’s the focus of the story, it’s highly sexualized, it’s “the gay friend,” or it’s an important event. It’s never just a natural part, an unimportant element the same way that heterosexuality is in most movies and television: Mako and Korra as a couple doesn’t surprise, and neither does Mako and Asami. But Korra and Asami do, because it’s not a heterosexual relationship.
However, it isn’t meant to surprise viewers! It’s never mentioned that Korra and Asami are bisexual, but it’s never mentioned that Mako is straight either. Why? Because it’s not a big deal! It’s not the focus, and it doesn’t matter. Exactly like in real life!
I really think more shows need to do this. I mean, it may be kind of an important plot point, but it’s totally normalized. and that’s what needs to happen in cartoon shows, especially for kids — anyone who knows anything about this stuff knows that confusion about sexuality starts at a young age, the age that (most) kids watch cartoons. It’s the perfect time to show kids it does not matter who they love. Big screen movies could use this change too — it’s slowly happening, but Hollywood can do better. And like I say, bisexuality still hasn’t been normalized in the mainstream entertainment industry.
Still, isn’t it great that it has happened somewhere?
Edit: If you like the idea of this show, you should try Avatar: The Last Airbender as well! It’s another progressive show, less about sexuality but very feminist. One of the main characters is a girl who calls her brother out on treating women like they have only one role, cannot fight, and are not strong. Happens in the first episode. It’s really good!