"The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars" and the importance of all ages LGBTQ-inclusive programming

Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, ended its four-season run in 2014 with a spectacular finale that left longtime queer fans of both shows feeling satisfied. The series ended on a shot of the show’s two main heroines, Korra and Asami, facing each other in a spirit portal of golden light while a reworking of the love theme from Korra’s parent series, Avatar, played in the background.

Fans were shocked by the ending and hesitant to truly hope that it was a confirmation that Korra and Asami – better known by the ship name Korrasami – were together. However, a week after the finale series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko each released statements on their personal blogs confirming that both characters were bisexual and that their relationship was romantic. (Read DiMartino’s statement in full here and Konietzko’s here) Konietzko acknowledged the Korrasami ending for what it was, writing, “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.”

Almost three years after the conclusion of Korra on television, things took a significant leap forward when Dark Horse Comics released the first of a three-part follow up series titled The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars in July. The comic, written by DiMartino and illustrated by out artist Irene Koh, picks up immediately after the finale of Korra and begins with Korra and Asami embarking on a date in the spirit world.

Shifting to the medium of comics has allowed Korra and Asami’s story continue in a way that it wasn’t able to on The Legend of Korra in 2014. In Konietzko’s aforementioned blog post, he writes, “We approached the network and while they were supportive there was a limit to how far we could go with it.” While Korra and Asami weren’t able to kiss on live television, in the comic they kiss, come out to their friends and family, and talk about being queer with other queer characters. Turf Wars delves into the nuances of queerness in the world of Avatar and Korra that Korra couldn’t on television. This trend of more inclusive comic books compared to their film or television counterparts is not exclusive to Korra. Despite a growing number of queer heroes leading their own books in Marvel Comics like Iceman, America, and World of Wakanda, the sum total of representation that GLAAD has found in Disney’s Marvel films are seconds-long cameos of out news anchor Thomas Roberts appearing as himself in The Avengers and Iron Man 3

Today, however, all-ages programming on TV has taken large steps towards increased LGBTQ inclusivity in the years since Korra ended. Consider shows like Cartoon’s Network’s Emmy-nominated Steven Universe, which was the first animated series to be nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in Outstanding Comedy Series and features a wide cast of queer characters. Garnet, one of the main characters of the show, is actually a fusion of two female presenting gems named Ruby and Sapphire who love each other so much that they remain permanently fused together and live as Garnet. Pearl, another of Steven's mother figures, is also queer and was in love with Steven's mother before she passed away.

Other all-ages shows are taking steps towards inclusivity as well: the GLAAD Media Award nominated episode “Attention Deficit” of the Nickelodeon show The Loud House featured a pair of gay dads; Amazon’s recently released Danger & Eggs showcases LGBTQ friendships and features several queer characters in the episode “Chosen Family”, which takes place during the city’s Pride festival.

The impact of these kinds of shows cannot be underestimated. All-ages programming with positive LGBTQ representation helps queer youth feel more comfortable being themselves after seeing characters they identify with represented on screen. Furthermore, including queer characters on mainstream cartoons in popular children’s television networks helps to introduce LGBTQ identities to a wide audience of kids and teens, helping to accelerate acceptance and create a safer environment for queer youth. Watching Korra and Asami fall in love as a teen helped me to come to terms with my own queerness, and I know that increased LGBTQ representation in all-ages programming will help other young people to do the same.

The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part One’s focus on the development of Korra and Asami’s relationship as well as queerness in the world of Korra is a testament to the demand for well-written queer stories and positive queer representation. Although it wasn’t able to delve in the nuances of Korrasami like the comic does, The Legend of Korra’s ending was a “significant inching forward” on television as Konietzko described.  Hopefully in the future, thanks to shows like Steven Universe and Danger & Eggs, viewers will have faith that a relationship like Korra and Asami’s is more than possible on television and won’t be so surprised (albeit pleasantly) when it’s realized.

The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars (Part One) is currently available in comic book stores and mass market retailers.