The Fear of Queer Narratives

I finally got round to watching Avatar, The Legend of Korra recently (warning, if you haven’t finished it, this post contains a few spoilers) and, aside from one or two qualms I have about the fight scenes, I consider it to be one of the best kids TV shows I’ve ever seen. It’s funny, it’s honest, and it’s not afraid to show ‘adult’ issues such as dealing with failure or relationship problems. In fact, the first two seasons’ sub-plots were pretty much dominated by the love triangles of ‘Team Avatar’. This show is clearly not one to shy away from romantic storylines, and so I was a little surprised by the ending.

One of the many romantic scenes in Legend of Korra
One of the many romantic scenes in Legend of Korra

For those who haven’t seen it, the season finale ends with the two lead female characters, Korra and Asami, walking away holding hands. Most people watching would assume that they were just good friends. After all, we never see them kiss or express romantic feelings for each other (which we do see with every other relationship throughout the programme). But, as it turns out, these two characters were supposed to be a couple. The producers confirmed it, and they’re even listen as being in a relationship on Wikipedia.

My first reaction to this was, “FINALLY! Some queer representation in a kids’ TV show!” but that slowly turned into, “… why wasn’t their relationship given any proper screen time?” Some people may shoot me down here and say that they get together right at the end, and so there was no time for that. BUT, two other characters confess their love for each other in the final few episodes, and we see them GET MARRIED.

I don’t want to berate the Avatar franchise for not being inclusive enough because, in the grand scheme of things, they at least tried to show some LGBT representation. I am pleased that they included this. However, it’s still not enough.

I mean, come on, it’s 2015! Marriage equality has been legal in the UK for over a year, and America recently amended their laws too. More and more people are accepting that LGBT folk are actually real human beings with an entitlement to the same rights as everyone else. So why is it still too taboo for kids’ TV? If we can show a man and a woman kissing, why not two men? Or two women? Or a transgender character in a relationship? Why are we hiding queer characters from children? They’re going to find out that the LGBT community exists one day – so why not let it be through a positive storyline in their favourite TV show, rather than an insult someone throws across the playground?

Another straight romance subplot
Another straight romance subplot

And for the people who say that romance doesn’t need to be part of kids’ entertainment, just step back and think about all the films you watched as a kid. Think of all the fairytales you read. Can you name a Disney film that doesn’t have a heterosexual romance in it somewhere?

More to the point – there’s a very logical reason as to why we should be including characters with more diverse sexualities. You see, if you raise a generation of kids who have had no exposure to the reality that queer people exist, the chances are that around 1 in 20 of those kids will wake up one day wondering what the hell is happening to them. But, if we stop hiding real life from them, and stop treating LGBT issues like some kind of dirty secret, maybe the stigma around our lifestyles would fade away a lot faster. Children are very accepting of these things. Nobody is born homophobic or transphobic – it’s just something we pick up along the way.

Essentially, we need more LGBT characters in the media. We need them in books, TV shows, films, adverts – anything. Not only that, but we need to treat them as we would do any other straight or cis characters. And I guess, in a way, The Legend of Korra manages to do that. It doesn’t make Korra’s and Asami’s relationship into a big deal because, well, it isn’t. It’s just two people who have connected.

Maybe next time, though, we could give the same-sex relationship the same screen time as one of the straight ones. Just a thought.

Image credits: article image 1, article image 2, header image

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