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Everyone, Including Kelly Marie Tran, Is Shipping Raya and Namaari From Raya and the Last Dragon

Now kiss?

Raya and her nemesis, Namaari, face off amid the snowy mountains of Spine. Featuring Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of Raya and Gemma Chan as the voice of Namaari, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5, 2021. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

**Spoiler Warning for Major Plot points for Raya and the Last Dragon.**

There are so many things I loved about Raya and the Last Dragon: the amazing animation, the incredible story about trust and healing, and the wonderful performances by an almost entirely Asian cast. But I also loved that I have a new pair to ship because the dynamic between heroic Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and her relentless adversary Namaari (Gemma Chan) is seriously gay.

Now, I think Disney is unfortunately still a ways away from giving us our first openly queer Disney princess or prince, but with Frozen 2, there had been a vocal push from the community to give Elsa a girlfriend, and the result was that Elsa wasn’t overtly queer, but she also wasn’t straight and had a potential female love interest, if you squinted. With Raya and Namaari, it’s even more than that.

The queerness of Raya and Namaari isn’t just in the superficial things like the fact that neither ever expresses interest in men and Namaari’s haircut and triceps are the stuff of soft butch legend. No, like any great ship, the real draw here is how complex and interesting their relationship is. The dynamic between Raya and Namaari is key to the entire film. The two begin as young friends, and Namaari betraying Raya’s trust (for reasons that aren’t really evil) is the inciting incident for the film. And it’s learning to trust Namaari again that allows Raya to make her big sacrifice at the end and (I told you there would be spoilers) for Namaari to save the world from the Druun.

Namaari in Raya and the Last Dragon.

Raya and Namaari spar emotionally and literally throughout the movie, and there’s so much to that dynamic. Namaari is not a classic villain at all; she’s just Raya’s antagonist in the sense that she’s fighting for her own people and survival in her own way. Both she and Raya are acting out of duty and love for their family and kingdoms. That’s rich soil to grow a romance or a ship in, and so wanting them to follow the friend-to-enemies-to-lovers trope that we all love so much makes sense.

I’m not alone in wanting Raya and Namaari to get together as more than friends once they work out their differences. Speaking with Decider’s Anna Menta last week, Kelly Marie Tran agreed with Menta when she mentioned she was rooting for a Raya and Namaari romance. “Listen! I was too. Yeah, I don’t know, hopefully, we get a sequel. We’ll see what happens to them.” When it comes to shipping the two, Tran is very much in favor. “Yeah, I mean, I was probably the first person to ship those characters!”

Disney has a long way to go in the area of LGBT representation in their animated films, but just the fact that their newest Disney Princess is openly and happily encouraging a queer ship is very important. This is more than an actor saying “I want people to see whatever they like” or “they can be many things.” This is an actress saying she sees the queerness and loves it as much as we do.

That’s affirming and amazing, and all of this is an important step towards one day seeing our first openly LGBT lead in a Disney animate movie. And that’s something I think we will see, whether it’s Raya or Elsa or someone new, we’re on our way and I’m happy about that. And I’m happy to have a new, awesome ship in the meantime.

(images: Disney)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.