Yesterday I made a insensitive post (now deleted) in response to an anon telling me there’d be a Makorra month in August. I’ve never really paid attention to stuff like that (like, is this week Katara week or was some art that said that just a reblog from awhile ago?), took it at face value, and made a post with the intent of diffusing everything by saying how the ships aren’t in competition because the narrative put a nail in MK in 2013.
But, it was rude. Not to mention the ask was inaccurate; there’s an MK e-book being released in August. That’s the sum-total of what’s going on.
Here’s the thing: I’ve talked before about how I’m new to shipping, that Korrasami was my first ship. For that reason, I’ve never been into shipping “culture,” nor had any understanding of that. To me, it’s confusing to ship something unsupported by the canon. We saw MK in practice and Korra and Mako’s mutual decision not to pursue it further in the B2 finale. And after seeing that I (and I’d assume most casual watchers of the show) accepted it at face value. Similarly, I didn’t ship Korrasami before there were romantic cues being laid out in Book 3. It never occurred to me to pair them on the basis of “this could work and be cute.”
I instead fell into KS shipping because there were emotional notes being hit by their relationship that resonated to me on a very personal level throughout B3. It was the first time I had ever seen a relationship in media that resembled my own experience (yes, even including shows like The L Word…just didn’t resonate in the same way), and that felt oddly validating, even though I never felt that I needed it.
When the show concluded, I actually began engaging (?) in shipping culture with my metas because that seemed to be needed. I saw a lot of people confused, as well as a lot of others immediately criticizing the ship for a variety of reasons, or calling out Bryke on poor writing. Given how personally satisfying I found it, how validating it was to others, and the fact that it was a milestone in representation (though by Bryan’s own admission, not a “slam dunk”), I really felt like defending the ship was the right thing to do. And the more I defended it, the more I came to appreciate it.
And because that’s how I fell into this, my understanding of the “shipping war” was colored by the more vitriolic posts on both sides; that’s the nature of the site in some ways, as well as the dialogue that (believe it or not) I wanted to diffuse.
However, this was really a limited way of looking at shipping. Fuck, even though I talk about MK being done since B2, it’s not like anyone was stupid for thinking it would happen. I was a clearly KS shipper yet mid-Book 4, I said that MK had a 25% of happening while KS had a 4.9% chance, because of the heteronormativity of the franchise as well as typical TV expectations. I guess what confused me is why how half a year after the fact, people didn’t revisit the narrative knowing the ending and shift their stance.
But thanks to a private conversation I had yesterday with an MK shipper who was kind enough to engage with me, I learned an important lesson: “In the end, shipping is about the experience rather than the rank or canon-worth of the ship.”
It might be weird to you that I never considered this. That I never looked at shipping in and of itself. And part of that is because I’ve only truly “engaged” in shipping after the fact, and for a specific purpose. But that’s not to say the experience of creating fanwork and engaging with other shippers is invalid or shouldn’t matter. That sense of community is quite important, and the fact that we can all form it over a show like LoK is pretty cool in general.
The thing is though, in some ways the shipping “wars” strengthen that community. I think there are some people that thrive on this contention, though I doubt it’s the majority. Still, I can say personally that having a ship “attacked” did solidify my affections for it. Fuck, this is why I became a quasi-Bopal shipper since the series has ended. But it’s not a healthy or particularly enjoyable way to go about it. I’d just as soon be two ships passing peacefully in the night. And I’m truly sorry it’s taken me this long to understand what that means.
It’s not to say that I won’t defend KS and ignore particularly vitriolic posts. I wouldn’t expect MK shippers to do the same. But in general, I’m not going to be discussing “MK shipping” as some kind of monolith or discuss its narrative value. It’s all been said at this point. And the only hope I have moving forward is that everyone, no matter their ship, can find find as much fun and enjoyment in it, and this really great franchise, as possible.