The Legend of Korra

The Avatar series currently consists of two animated TV shows: Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Each series features “benders,” who have special powers tied to an element, such as fire or air. The protagonists of the shows are Avatars, who can master bending all four core elements. They have supportive friends and go on adventures, battling enemies and often saving the world; however, this standard format for children’s animated action shows ultimately proves to be groundbreaking with its gender bending. Avatar: The Last Airbender aired from 2005 to 2008, and won 11 awards along with critical and consumer acclaim. The high quality animation and humor carried on to its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which won 15 shows and garnered similar critical acclaim.

Both shows aired on Nickelodeon, a children’s network with a target audience of children ages 6-11. The exceptions were the last two seasons of The Legend of Korra, which were released via streaming at Nick.com. Television viewing had declined to 1.5 million viewers from the average 3 million per episode, but with a large portion of viewers being outside the target audience for Nickelodeon, the show was more popular online.

Seasons one and two begin with very typical children’s humor, blatantly reinforcing some gender stereotypes:

Ending a relationship is like pulling off a blood sucking leech.”
-Mako (a man)

“Nothing [can save our relationship], that is, except marriage. We will wed at sunset. You may express your joy through tears.”
-Eska (a woman), while horror music plays

The show gets subtly more progressive. It makes light of anime style and how it can portray males and females as exact equals aside from adornment, which is necessary for distinction between them:

By portraying a set of mixed-gender twins by the same art but with eye shadow and hair ties on the girl, it introduces uncertain gender roles. Although this could be construed as perpetuating the idea that women must beautify themselves artificially, Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan humor as the female in the pair almost creates a parody by proving the twins to be far more similar to each other than to their prescribed gender roles. Season two continues the seemingly heterosexual nature of the show by revamping the love triangle among Korra, Asami, and Mako; Mako goes back and forth a couple of times between the women, causing discontent. Friendship proves stronger than the awkward love triangle, which ends with the season.

It becomes clear by season three that although there are strong male support roles, the leads and true heroes of the show are actually heroines. The most evident is Korra herself, who is a physically strong woman who fights in a team sport and in individual sparring matches to help her gain the stamina and willpower to save the world. Even the ever-submissive female, Julie, is lauded by the man who orders her around because he openly acknowledges that he cannot go anywhere without her. When they are separated, he misses her and her various talents dearly as he strives to do things for himself.

By the last season, we see a man who desires a job in which he would have a female superior, a woman being extraordinarily successful in business, a woman who, although she is the “bad guy” in the season, has essentially managed to take over an entire kingdom, and elderly women with mentoring and Yoda-like roles. Things that we don’t see are unrealistically heavily muscled men, women without useful roles, and damsels in distress, which are frequent in other children’s programming. We do see an entire episode of a woman recalling her heroic journey as a man recalls his romantic past, which is a refreshing gender role switch, and not very subtle. We also see a woman, Julie, standing up to her boss by demanding fair and equal treatment; she is no longer happy doing his bidding without his full respect. She gains this respect, and with it, an engagement ring. The most poignant moment in the entire Legend of Korra show, however, is the last scene:

Mimicking the final scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender, this finale launched The Legend of Korra into cartoon history. In the former show, the Avatar and his romantic interest kiss; however, the other parallels between the scenes allowed the fans to fill in the lapse themselves by creating Korrasami via fanart. Thus this children’s show features two women whose sexuality is fluid, even though it is not blatantly stated, which I believe earns The Legend of Korra a spot in this archive.

Miss Coco Peru- Comedian, Actress, World Savior

“We gender benders understand that if you have the balls to change yourself, you have the power to change the world.”

On any given Friday night, you are likely to find one Miss Coco Peru giving a stand up routine to some crowded theater, maybe throwing in a signature song or two to get her audience laughing. For over 20 years, Clinton Leupp has been putting on his infamous wig and becoming Miss Coco Peru.

During the week, you are more likely to find Coco volunteering at one of LA’s many LGBTQ help centers. Often still donning her red hair, she dedicates her days to making the world a better place. Although for many drag is only an avenue for entertainment, Coco has embraced the role of drag queen in a larger way. 

During her speech at the 38th Gala Event for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Coco shared why she got started in drag.

“Drag for me was born out of a calling to be an activist. I was living at home in the Bronx, and although I was fortunate to be out, it was the late 80s and it was a scary time for a young gay man in New York City. It was a time when walking down the street you could see the effect of AIDS on people walking towards you. People you knew were suddenly unrecognizable, and it scared the hell out of me. It also made me feel like I had to do something.”

Miss Coco was inspired to become and activist and help her community. However, she knew that in order to make an impact, she had to be visible. She empathizes storytelling as one of the best ways to educate people on issues that are unknown or controversial. The personal impact of someone’s own story is more likely to resonate with people. Coco employs gender bending as a way to help vocalize her story and the larger story of the community. She takes all the negative that is thrown at the LGBTQ community and throws it right back by celebrating it.

“I always felt the way to educate people who didn’t understand me was to tell my story, but I took it a step further, and I made the choice to embrace everything I had ever been taught to hate about myself and instead glorify it, celebrate it. I would embrace my two spirit nature with the intention that if people could listen to my story and forget all this (gesturing to her full drag), they would realize that despite appearances, it is what is on the inside that matters. And that what every human being wants and deserves is love, respect, equality, and justice. With that in mind, I created Coco Peru, and it became my mission to empower my community while letting the world know that drag queens empower a powerful law of mama nature’s. And that is, if you transform the outer, you can transform the inner, and vice-versa, if you transform the inner, you can transform the outer. Yes, we gender benders understand that if you have the balls to change yourself, you have the power to change the world.”

And so Coco began a long acting career both on screen and on stage. Notably, she starred in “Girls Will Be Girls”, “Trick”, and even “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar.” You may remember her as the angry drag queen who missed the opportunity to take the trip to California.

However, the majority of Coco’s career has been her stand up routines. For almost 20 years she has been both empowering and inspiring her audiences, while almost making the laugh out loud. Take a look:

Coco continued her activism work alongside her acting work. She helped create the bullying documentary “Teach Your Children Well” and she spends much of her time volunteering for organizations like the Trevor Project and Aids for Aids. Visibility is a big thing for her, so she shops and goes out in drag. She says this is how she feels most comfortable, and it creates an awareness of the community. You can see one of her shopping experiences here:

Miss Coco Peru just wants to make the world a better place. She says she follows a long history of drag queens making a difference. She recognizes the work that many of the queens have done for the community, which is often overlooked in queer history.

“I want to recognize all the drag queens out there in the world and in the worlds beyond, who despite being the first to start the queer movement at Stonewall and who were also among the first to respond to the AIDS crisis by organizing fundraisers, are often dismissed and their contributions rarely recognized.”

If you would like to listen to her empowering speech, you can find it here: