We are truly living in a miraculous era of all-ages entertainment.
Last night the animated show Steven Universe, which, although it’s one of the best shows on TV and it has fans of all ages, is definitely aimed at children, aired its Season One finale. In doing so, it also happened to air one of the queerest episodes of a children’s cartoon in the history of television.
Representation is vitally important for children. Study after study and expert after expert says that when kids see people like them positively portrayed in the media they consume, they are positively impacted, and when they don’t see that same representation, it negatively affects not only them, but how others view and treat people like them. Especially when we’re still developing, and especially when we are still discovering and exploring our genders and sexuality, it’s important for us to know that we’re not alone and that we have the possibility of a bright future. One way to do this is by creating fictional characters and narratives that show that bright future for people like that.
That’s exactly what shows like Steven Universe are doing. The basic background and premise of the show already do a good job of this. Steven Universe is created by Rebecca Sugar, making it Cartoon Network’s first show solely created by a woman. The cast, both in the show and behind the scenes is filled with people of color, and especially women of color. Other than Steven himself, the three main characters — Crystal Gems named Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl — are all voiced by women of color, and it’s extremely easy to interpret the gems, as well as their fusions, as people of color. Then there are humans who fill the community, like the Pizza family and Steven’s best friend and crush, Connie Maheswaran.
As for the premise of the show, it’s basically the story of a boy being raised by three moms. This boy looks up to those three moms, and wants to be like them. He has no qualms about having feminine role models and heroes. I’m reluctant to say “female role models” as the Gems don’t exactly subscribe to the idea of human sexes, but they use “she” pronouns and largely present as women. It really is refreshing to see a TV show about a young boy who so unabashedly looks up women like this. In one episode where Steven finds out that Pearl and Amethyst have the ability to fuse together into a giant Gem, he even sings a song saying “but if it were me, I’d really want to be a Giant Woman.” The rest of the show is filled with other moments that both reject gender norms and are filled with queer subtext. Amethyst, Pearl, Garnet and Steven’s mother who had to give up her physical form in order for Steven to be born, Rose Quartz seem to constantly be battling to see who can have the gayest moment with one another.
Things took a turn for the queerer in the episode “Alone Together.” Steven and Connie are hanging out on the beach when they decide to dance together. Dancing is how the Gems fuse with one another, and possibly because he’s half human, when Steven dances with Connie, he fuses with her into a thin-waisted and wide-hipped, long-haired, short-shorts and crop top-wearing person named Stevonnie. Stevonnie goes around town and, although Stevonnie is (according to the people who make the show, Stevonnie doesn’t use either “he” or “she” pronouns) somewhat androgynous, is fairly clearly coded and read by the other characters as female. Throughout the episode Stevonnie is flirted with and admired by both girls and boys.
This concept of the Gems fusing reached critical mass in last night’s two-part episode, especially in the episode “Jail Break.” A group of other Gems, led by Jasper, was invading the Earth, and in attempting to defend it, Garnet and the other gems were captured and imprisoned on the Gem spaceship. There, Garnet was separated into two Gems, Ruby and Sapphire. This is the first time we see them apart. Up until now, the assumption had been that Garnet was a single Gem like Pearl and Amethyst. However, the truth is much more romantic.
When Ruby and Sapphire are finally reunited, they run up to each other and embrace. As Ruby cries tears of joy, Sapphire asks “Did they hurt you?” and when Ruby says “Who cares?” she emphatically replies “I do!” Sapphire then kisses Ruby’s forehead and nose as the two embrace again, Ruby lifting and spinning Sapphire until they become one again. Garnet is then so overjoyed that she sings a song (she is voiced by the singer Estelle, after all) that celebrates their relationship and how they’re not single and how when they’re together they can do anything.
When we talk poetically about marriage, we say that two become one. When we say that soul mates find each other, we say that it’s like two parts making one whole. This is what’s we were witnessing here. You would be hard pressed to take a look at the smiles on Ruby and Sapphire’s faces and say that they are anything but smiles of love. Then, last night on Tumblr, Joe Johnston, one of the writers and storyboard artists for Steven Universe received the question, “are you allowed to tell us is Sapphire and Ruby’s love is romantic or more platonic?” He answered with a very succinct “Romantic yo.”
Just like my heart, and the hearts of everyone else watching, Twitter and Tumblr absolutely exploded after last night’s episode. Artists and queer people, seeing a medium they love show people like them, leapt at the chance to say how much it meant to them. It was really quite beautiful. All of these people, just dying to see familiar stories and familiar faces in the media that they consume and love, and finally that waiting paid off.
With “Jail Break,” Steven Universe joins the ranks of cartoons aimed at younger audiences made by Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network that feature queer characters. First came Adventure Time, a show that already featured a lot of great female role models before the episode “What Was Missing” aired. It was then, way back in 2011 that Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum took the leap into the world of romantic subtext. The subtext was made thicker by several later episodes and comic books, and then the relationship between the two was confirmed by Marceline’s voice actress.
Following that, many thought that the floodgates would open. As I’m sure we all know, that’s not how it happened. We got a peek of representation when, in December, 2014, the Cartoon Network show Clarence showed that one of the main characters, Jeff, has two moms, voiced very fittingly by Tig Notaro and Lea Delaria. Then, a few weeks later, Nickelodeon took what many saw as the biggest step yet.
In the finale of their series The Legend of Korra, the hero of the story, Korra, and another female character, Asami, walk of metaphorically into the sunset and literally into a spirit portal, hand in hand. These two characters’s relationship was built up over the entire series and they pretty much did everything but kiss or say “I love you.” In a similar move to Marceline and Bubblegum in Adventure Time, their relationship was confirmed off air. The show’s creators and head writers took to tumblr to declare that Korra and Asami, two women of color, were indeed bisexual and were definitely a couple. While this move was terrific and rightfully celebrated by many, it did take place in the series finale and their relationship was therefore, unable to be explored or shown further.
That’s the beautiful thing about Steven Universe, all of this happened in just the first season. Season Two starts today. We have a whole series ahead of us and there’s limitless potential for how much they can expand on Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship (or any other queer parts of the show) in the future. If the show’s creators are willing to do this much in the first season, one can only imagine what is yet to come.
This movement of queer representation in all-ages media isn’t just limited to cartoons, either. Comic books like Bravest Warriors, Lumberjanes and Help Us! Brave Warrior, all from Boom! Studios (are they killing it or what?), have casts with queer characters, and are all meant for audiences of any age, including kids who are first discovering that they’re trans, lesbian, gay or otherwise queer. Can you even imagine what it would be like to be a closeted 12-year-old trans girl or lesbian or both, and to read one of these books? To see Mal and Molly going on a date and holding hands, to see Peach and Plum exchanging phone numbers, to see Leo be both a trans woman and proud and powerful warrior. These comics and shows are literally changing and saving lives.
We’re witnessing a magical new time in all-ages entertainment, and we’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come. There will be countless young people, and also plenty of not-so-young people who get the courage to find themselves, to be themselves and to come out and live their lives to the fullest because of shows like Steven Universe. This episode was beautiful and important and based on what’s been happening over the last few years, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A character that the creators refer to as they? Sold!
I could have sworn I thought Rebecca said Stevonnie didn’t use pronouns at all. Either way it’s very good!
I based my “they” pronouns on a tumblr post I saw saying that the creators confirmed those were the correct pronouns, but after I saw your comment I looked at it, and that post doesn’t link to any sources and I couldn’t find any sources for it, but I was able to find sources for Rebecca Sugar saying that she doesn’t use any pronouns for Stevonnie.
So I edited the article accordingly, thank you.
That’s it, I’m binging Steven Universe this weekend!
I haven’t watched Steven Universe because I keep forgetting, but only through Tumblr (and my best friend) do I get peeks at what’s going on… and oh god, this made my heart warm up so much.
Everything about that show just sounds like the greatest.
I just started binge watching it last month. It’s worth it! And the episodes are short. You can be caught up by Monday if you really dedicate yourself. Can’t wait to hear what you think!
I like to have them posted to my email so that I won’t miss a thing. Now I have this to watch for.
Oh it’s an absolute must! It takes every stereotype imaginable and knocks it on its head. It doesn’t matter your sexual preference or identity, Ruby and Sapphire and Pearl’s obvious love for rose are touching and heartwarming. It’s coming of age story with strong elements of rebellion, bravery, loyalty, sacrifice, acceptance, love and devotion both familial and romantic and even platonic, all wrapped up in a colorful, whimsical, fantasy/scifi package. A great watch for all ages!
It’s actually pathetically terrible.
every episode is on youtube.
Don’t forget Garnet’s fantastic happy face when Stevonnie happens
Ugh! I know! I loved it when the episode first aired and now it makes it so much better knowing that she’s a fusion!
I always kinda’ thought it was obvious after they introduced the fusion idea, personally.
In the Together Breakfast episode, it shows a close up of Garnet opening the temple door to her room. Two gems light up on the star. A red, and a blue one. I happened to be watching through the series again from the beginning with my daughter (which was after I knew about fusion), and saw that. THAT was the dead give away. And then the three eyes, and the two gems. After the Giant Woman episode and after watching the older episodes again…
Yeah, I think we all saw it coming though. Steven Universe is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen for fan service.
“It’s an experience, enjoy it”
I can’t wait to get into this show. Cartoon Network is really just brilliant, I think.
I wish I watched shows like these when I was a kid! I was always turned off by cartoons, only watching them when I was with friends. I got bored of the shows I was watching and the flat plots. Why didn’t I just watch Chowder or Adventure Time? Cartoons are so cool!
So awesome! Garnet has always been my favorite character.
So Steven Universe was able to do on-screen what Adventure Time claims they can’t do and they are on the same network.
I don’t think Adventure Time was just “claiming” they couldn’t. Clarence which is also on the same network said they couldn’t show two men on a date kiss and had to have them hug instead.
I think the reason why is that the Gems are technically genderless and don’t have genitalia as such, though I’m not sure if Princess Bubblegum would have any Genitals either, and Marcelene is a Vampire and they tend to lose interest in sex (now that I think on it, Finn got to see Marcelene naked when he and Jake were hiding in her house, so maybe he knows if Marcelene has lady parts or not). After watching “What was Missing” I did have to watch it again to be sure just what was meant by the t-shirt that P.B. had. I’m still not sure if she just really liked the shirt or if she slept in it because she’s crushing on Marcelene. Is she just friends or does P.B. sleep in the shirt because she wants to sleep in, on, or next to Marcelene? In the end I think it’s heavily implied, but for some silly reason they couldn’t make it clear, I hope someday they can and will make it explicit, move the relationship from subtext to text. It’s not like they’d be the first.
The women who writes Steven Universe was the same women who wrote those episodes for Adventure time though… (the ones that had the controversy attached to them). She ultimately left Adventure Time to write her own cartoon (Steven Universe) so I don’t think you can phrase it as Steven doing what Adventure time couldn’t.. you can best consider it as Rebecca Sugar continuing from where she left off with what she started.
That’s because adventure time is aired in countries where same sex relationships are illegal the program on the media, where as Steven universe is almost exclusive to western countries.
Ward claims to want kids even in countries with negative views of LGBT+ folks to be able to enjoy his story. Adventure Time seems to be able to air minimally altered in Russia, for example. If I’m correct, Ruby had to be given facial hair and voiced by a man so there could be no mistake that Sapphire and Ruby are hetero.
They can hide behind the fact gems are genderless
This may have more to do with the Gems lacking a true sex which may allow them to get away with more, whereas with Bubbleline (one my mightiest Ships!) involves two characters that are definitively female.
Lumberjanes, Steven Universe, and Legend of Korra are game changers. I hope other shows and comics take notes on how to do Queer representation right! (Mallory and Molly from Lumberjanes are seriously one of my all time favorite couples along with Korra and Asami and the legendary Haruka and Michiru)
Actually, Legend of Korra never showed anything like this. They said they were together after the show ended. It was really insulting to self respecting LGBT people that they hid the relationship between the two, so it was not a game changer at all. That’s like saying Static Shock cartoon was a game changer since Richie was said to be gay by the creator and his comic counterpart was gay, but it was never shown in the TV show, just like LoK.
Not a fan of the subtext. Why force these issues on minds of kids who don’t know their butt from their elbow.
I knew Rebecca Sugar wouldn’t let us down!
I’m so happy for LGBT kids and kids who come from a diverse family to have this kind of validation. If I try to recall examples of representation from my childhood’s shows right now I can only think of Sailor Moon and an episode from Courage The Cowardly Dog called The Mask -although that one may not have been very positive representation, but for the young-me it was something.
Even If I didn’t live this as a child I’m having a great time with these cartoons and comics now… my newest acquisitions are the first two numbers of Marceline Gone Adrift.
Yes! I’m totally digging Marceline Gone Adrift! It’s so good and so angsty gay!
..or we could stop putting this weird crap in everything
Ok. So what about God?
What about them?
Though this doesn’t speak to queer representation, one of my favorite moments from this show is when, after being stuck on an island for days, Sadie is drawn with visible leg hair. It seems like such a small thing, but honestly, when was the last time you say any female character, animated or otherwise, with hairy legs? Where it wasn’t a joke or a way to set the character apart as weird?
Steven Universe just respects the hell out of all its characters, and it really pays off.
Oh, yeah, I know! That was so great! this show is just so great!
Oh my gosh! I mentioned this today to my boyfriend. Same line of “I know it may be small but they drew LEG HAIR.” Holy crap. What a concept, so great.
That’s one of my favourite Steven things too <3333
So cool, I had never heard of Steven Universe. I’ll have to check it out!
Just a quick comment. Sapphire wasn’t kissing Ruby’s forehead), she was kissing away Ruby’s tears which I find far more romantic.
(you can see this in the gif above if you watch closely)
I wondered what that was! On the still shot, it looked like she was kissing her open eyeball, but then in the gif she opened her eyes and I was like, “what is up with her eyelid, then?” It was a tear awwww
This is directed simply towards the Steven Universe portion, but… I really don’t see how it has any sort of gender-related subtext. I mean, essentially the show has repeatedly stated that Gems as a species don’t conform to any sort of gender despite using the “She” pronoun repeatedly. They’re aliens. I mean those other shows I can see, but that’s the only qualm I have with this article, in all actuality. And gender-relations aside, these are amazing shows, no matter what messages they do or don’t convey.
Izzy, you don’t have to see it and that’s okay! :) …But for children and adolescents exploring queer identities, this could be the difference between latching on to something that reflects them and finally feeling like they aren’t alone, and stepping out into traffic. I cried when I saw this episode, because I could see all those young children who see this and realize that it’s okay to be who they are.
That you are interpreting a specifically gender-related subtext as NOT being one is a perfect example of why this so important!
We have a lot of preconceived notions of gender that are tied into how someone choose to express it. This is absolutely not exclusive to heterosexuality, it is an issue that spans across the spectrum.
That these are an asexual race that presents in a largely femme interpreted way does not make them less relevant to the LGBTQA+ community.
As an agender panromantic cis-female who presents in primarily femme ways, I found it particularly relevant to me in a way that nothing else really has.
I applaud Steven Universe for not only taking on heteronormativity but homonormativity.
On the use of pronouns in the show:
It makes since to me that the Gem’s would use feminine pronouns for themselves when using our earth based English vs Stevonnie using gender neutral ones.
The Gems look and express themselves in largely but not exclusively in ways that would be considered feminine on earth. Reason tells me that when addressed by humans those humans would have assumed female pronouns when addressing them. Therefore they would have taken on these terms without personal connotations of gender, but rather just how to talk in regards to themselves and other Gems in this foreign language.
Even after learning about gender connotations considering why the Gems are on earth (SPOILER: they were invading) I doubt what pronouns people use for them was something they actually cared about beyond being accepted enough to remain SAFE. Gender identity is a human issue that isn’t relevant to an asexual race because gender does not exsist. It would have relevance in the context of assimilating into Earth/American society since they want a low profile. Following social conceived notions of normativity keeps them and their young charge Steven safe and/or allow them to side-skirt issue that they feel would detract from ones demand more consequential. (Trying to keep a low or quiet profile and blowing it is a common occurrence running across episodes.)
Stevonnie on the other hand is the fusion of a human cis-girl and an alien asexual-boy (considering he’s half asexual alien, with his mom had to lose her form to create him, I’m reluctant to call him cis, regardless he currently passes and appears to identify as a boy*). Both of these individuals grew up on earth, in America, with all of its preconceived notions and prejudices. So when the cis-girl fuses with the asexual-boy it makes sense that they would choose to use gender neutral pronouns to describe themself. The language is relevant to them (and their peers) in a way it will never be to the Gems.
Although the gems are “gender-neutral”, Rose Quartz had a BABY with a man. Steven refers to her as his mother. All of the technicalities aside, female pronouns, female characteristics, and female body parts point toward female. The gems are maybe refered to as gender-neutral as a way to display these queer relationships without having to place labels on them.
Yes, she had a baby, but gems are known for shapeshifting, or example, creating a digestive system.
She could of easily created a certain other reproductive organ, but her live for Greg((who I might add is an amazing character.)) was really the premise of the relationship.
Steven Universe is supposed to speak to everyone, no matter who or where you come from. It’s meant to bring people together, meant to show that there’s nothing wrong with being different, or breaking the mold.
I love the show, and hope it keeps warming hearts with its message of complete, and absolute love.
thank you for writing this! I had seen gifs of this fusion thing all over tumblr and googling “what gay thing happened on steven universe” got me nowhere.
The only thing in the article that I didn’t like particularly was that the author had to have stated that Stevonnie had basically feminine characteristics in a way disregarding the fact that Stevonnie uses gender neutral pronouns. Even though all the gems are predominatly “female” so to speak they are genderless, gender neutral, or agender, and Stevonnie is no exception because genderqueer representation needs to be a thing too.
this plus like, just because an agender or genderqueer character dresses in skirts or has long hair doesn’t mean you can say stuff like ‘female coded’, it’s really gross and it’s pretty crap to have androgynous mean you can only have short hair and wear pants.
Are you saying Stevonnie isn’t largely female coded? Characteristics like thin waist, long hair, long eyelashes, wide hips and they type of clothes Stevonnie wears are all usually clues a character designer would use to indicate that a character is a woman. Just because Stevonnie is largely coded as female doesn’t mean Stevonnie is. Coding just means that the character has traits that many people in the audience will subconsciously associate with, in this case, womanhood.
And I said in the article that Stevonnie is androgynous, so I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t think androgynous only means short hair and pants.
Okay… So all of these shows have queer women…where are all of the queer men?? I don’t think that’s fair.
The cops on Gravity Falls are very heavily implied to be in a (cute, quirky, loving) relationship.
I agree, but the thing is, men will get waaay more hate. Woman are known to be more open and closer to each other, even if they are hetero. People don’t like gay men.
To be fair to the show, they can’t exactly address all issues at once. The show features mainly females so it makes sense that the first (maybe more) queer relationship they show outright would be between females.
While these aren’t animation, there are a ton of TV shows that have had queer teenage characters who are male. Everything from My So-Called Life, Teen Wolf, The United States of Tara, Ugly Betty, Dawson’s Creek, Degrassi, The Carrie Diaries, The Fosters (where two 13 year-old boys kissed), to of course Glee.
Of course it would be great to see some shows aimed at younger audiences with queer male characters, but most of these shows are watched by largely teen or young adult audiences.
Lars is a trans male
I was saying the same thing! Why aren’t they putting queer guy couples out there? :(
It’s not fair of course. But it’s only because two women being close isn’t really something you see rarely. You can see two sisters cuddle in media but two brothers won’t. There’s no subtle way to show men being close without immediately being banned. At least that’s my hunch I could be wrong of course. But you can see that this shows can’t say out right that they’re LGBT so they have to do in a subtle way. And as soon as anyone (as far as I know) see two guys being intimate. It’s consider unnatural or gay. I think they’re doing the best we can. Let’s just hope the kids will assume this goes for guys
‘you dont think thats fair’ excuse me, but the world doesnt exactly treat women fairly or equal. Bet you wouldnt say that to another show, movie or book where the main focus is men. But when its women you get all defensive.
Well you see the thing is that having just one is nice but both is better and besides in reality Alex men are treated worse than woman in homosexual situations. A woman would “normally” be more accepted in non traditional nonhetero situations because men view being with other men affectionately as disturbing. My best friend included and I’m gay. I can’t be affectionate with my boyfriend in public because of harassment but my lesbian parents can and everyone is cool with it. The women vs men argument doesn’t apply in most socially homosexual situations. If the show was mostly male I would be still hoping for a lesbian couple because both is better than just one and you know that.
I believe it’s because the main characters are mainly feminine, and the background characters while with plenty of screen time haven’t had much to show off their sexuality or personality or romantic interests. So most of the men we wouldn’t know yet.
I realize I’m reading this article late after it was posted, and you probably won’t know I responded, but. I understand your point, although the gems have no gender. Of course, because of this, many people recognize Ruby and Sapphire’s love isn’t between two females. But, what many overlook is that Greg Universe (Steven’s father) fell in love with Rose Quartz (Steven’s mother, who is also a genderless gem). So, their romance is not a heterosexual one. Greg Universe is also queer, don’t forget that just because the couple seems to “imitate” heterosexuality!
Well even thou gems are all female per say some of them like jasper are more manly so it’ll happen. I’m sure they don’t want to make humans that are hinted to being gay not because they don’t want to but because it would be to risky for the show.
In a male dominated society, despite the progress made with female-oriented and non-binary sexuality, there is still this presence of an taboo based around male-orientated homosexuality due to what I can only assume (though probably accurately) is the feeling of “ickiness” some heterosexual cis-gender men get when they witness displays of affection between two men (I get this feeling too, mainly cause I think all men are ugly and gross and that the penis is one of natures cruelest jokes, but I tend to ignore it).
Well if you agree with the gender neutral thing, then neither gender is because their all aliens.
I agree! While I’m totally in love with the queer women couples in Steven Universe, Legend of Korra, and Adventure Time,there really is a lack of representation on the other side. As an a gay male animator, I’ve always dreamed of working on a show wherein two male characters could have the type of relationship shown in the aforementioned shows. As Naomi mentioned, I think it’s just harder for society to accept gay male love especially in media aimed at younger audiences.
I’ve been a big fan of Steven Universe from the beginning and have watched every episode multiple times, especially the one mentioned in the article. I am a 46 year old disabled Navy veteran and I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all and can’t be shocked, surprised or excited, but Steven Universe just keeps getting better, and while I had my suspicions about Garnet being a Gem Fusion, seeing it had me bouncing off the walls with excitement and sheer joy!
A few notes; the show is actually finishing the second season, with more to come, and while the Gems appear as human females and use feminine pronouns, they are technically genderless or non-binary (Steven being an exception as he is half human with an organic human body). I have come across endless discussion and debate online about the later, and to me it kind of missed the point, by making them appear female but essentially be genderless the Gems are a blank slate and the viewer can easily identify with them regardless of your gender, orientation, or self identification, even if you’re a mostly straight somewhat bi-male with a strong feminine side.
When I saw Ruby and Sapphire reunite and embrace I wasn’t thinking as male and female or Butch and Fem, I saw two beings deeply in love and it was one of the most romantic, beautiful things I’ve ever seen! I’ve watched and rewatched the episode dozens of times and keep re-examining previous episodes and everything I know about Western and Eastern Mythology, Philosophy, and Religion and how it all relates to what this episode, especially the song that Garnet sings, says about what it’s like to be truly in love and join with someone else so that the two become one, but still retain themselves as individuals, and both become more than the sun of their parts. When two people are truly in love and in sync with each other they almost become a triune, the two individuals plus the greater while they become as a couple, and this is expressed in Garnet’s eyes: one Red for Ruby, one Blue eye for Sapphire, and the third eye in the forehead is Purple for Garnet which can see more than the other two because it is made of their love for each other.
That’s just my two cents worth, and I wanted to share it.
don’t forget the episode “rose’s scabbard” which at the end, has pearl reminiscing on the conversation she had thousands of years ago with rose. she simulates the conversation with a hologram, lacing her fingers together with hologram rose and quoting her calling her “my pearl”. it’s very evident that pearl had feelings for rose and misses her dearly. though the show does cover everyone’s grief at losing her, pearl seemed to believe they had something closer than the other gems had with her.
i’d also like to add that ruby and sapphire aren’t halves when theyre alone, made to form one whole. garnet says in “alone together” that stevonnie is not two people, or one person, but an experience. garnet is just so, a relationship, and as she sang in “jailbreak”, a conversation. ruby and sapphire are two whole people who have chosen to make something together that encompasses them and everything they care about. that’s garnet.
i find that bears a distinction from the thing about marriage and two halves forming a whole, and its important to me because people are not incomplete without our soul mates. as romantic as it sounds, its much more romantic(to me, anyway!) and healthy to think of it as two wholes forming something even greater.
I agree 100 percent, thank you
All these are great representations for queer women. I hope someday we will start to see more queer men and trans characters in the future, but sadly I think that is harder for general audiences to swallow. For whatever reason, it seems that more people are acceptable to implied romance between two female characters, but seeing a romance between two men is totally not acceptable. With trans characters, I can see shows having androgynous characters, where their gender isn’t clearly implied, but if you had a character that presents as a gender that does not match their the gender they were born with, people will not accept that either…
but hey progress!
if you watch Beach City Horror Club episode, it subtly hints at Lars being trans
I definitely respect everyone, but I don’t think we need this in cartoons aimed specifically for children. Let children remain “innocent”.
Sweetheart, there are LGBTQI children everywhere. There is nothing wrong with portraying love like this for those children, and those who fall outside the spectrum too.
Honestly, if you think about it, if you’re going to use the statement ‘gems are genderless aliens,’ then that means Ruby and Sapphire are genderless, and not female. And you can’t change your statement to justify the lesbian act…you said it, so sick with it. Not meant to be offensive at all, by the way. Just speaking my mind…
I was thinking the same thing, too, like…one can be genderless and still be a lesbian…
Regardless of their actual gender, just about anyone that watches the show and isn’t involved heavily with the online fandom isn’t going to know they’re not female. So it’s kind of a win for both lesbian representation and nonbinary representation.
Shows like the Legend of Korra, Steven Universe, Good Luck Charlie, and many more are so important. From lesbian parents on Good Luck Charlie to two feminine gems in love in Steven Universe to bisexuals spending eternity together in the Legend of Korra to two men going on a date in Clarence, queer representation is becoming much more prominent in shows aimed at children. In a world full of hatred and fear, we need so many more shows like this that teach children it’s alright to be who they are.
That’s not teaching them that it’s ok to be who they are. It’s teaching them who to be….and it can be very confusing.
But what about us bi/gay men? Why don’t we get any representation? :(
Because that’s gay.
Just because sapphire kissed ruby on the head not even the mouth that does not mean they are homosexual because they are good friends and worried about each other. Plus that kiss might not have meant anything. Or it’s like when a mom kisses a daughter on the head doesn’t mean they are homosexual. You are a stereotype if you decide to base a kiss on the forehead as a homosexual thing. Pearl was Rose best friend, Pearl thought that Rose only confided secrets in her. If some one does that to you, you would follow them. In addition it might be sapphire’s custom to kiss on the head like the French or like Emma from Jessie kissed her friends as a fancy custom. Tops to Estelle
No, a kiss between two people of the same gender doesn’t immediately equate to homosexuality. But context and demonstrated intent does, and – as stated in this article – confirmation from the staff definitely does.
Just gonna go ahead and say that the creators have went ahead and told us they’re not best friends, they’re in a relationship.
Also gonna go ahead and say that even though gems can’s be put in the Gay/Lesbian label doesn’t make that any less LBGT because no matter what Gem they meet that gem will also not have a sex. And because Homo means Same and all gems have no sex (Gender is different), this is still technically a Homosexual relation ship.
Ya know. Cause Ruby and Sapphire have the same(Homo) non(sex) and to be in a heterosexual relationship one partner must have a different sex… Cause hetero means different… Yep.
Charles, The creator and writers of the show stated it was a romantic kiss, not a platonic one. Even Garnet references in her song lines such as “You’re just mad ’cause you’re single.”
Sounds like a relationship to me. Of course, you do have a point; the gems are not homosexual, because they do not have the same genders that Humans have. I don’t know if you ever played or know about the video game Mass Effect, but think about the Asari (if you have). They are an alien species that all look female, but can take on a male or female gender roll, depending upon the situation. No difference.
There are also some animals here on Earth that can do that, too.
Doesn’t make any of them homosexual.
Having said that, and all technicality aside, I consider the gems female, and there are a lot of homosexual undertones throughout the series, which I think is wonderful. This is one of my favorite shows on television. What makes it even better is that my 9 year old daughter also feels the same way; we are able to watch and genuinely enjoy the entirety of the show (even if she doesn’t quite understand some of the aforementioned undertones yet).
Gay? You guys are so stupid. The Gems are all sisters or cousins…I mean think about it..Rose is married to a guy and the gems have not really done anything to prove that they are gay..just like cheetahs and lions are cousins..gems are cousins or family
Actually, no. Gems are mass-produced, and they don’t appear to have a concept of family. If anything, they operate in castes. Also, you don’t call Ruby kissing Sapphire’s neck and holding her romantic?
(I don’t want to spoil anything for you, if you watch the show, but it was confirmed in a recent episode that Sapphire and Ruby are not siblings or cousins.)
I know the article describes it as “Sapphire then kisses Ruby’s forehead and nose”, but I’ve watched the episode dozens of times, and that scene and Garnet’s song close to 100 times, Sapphire is clearly kissing away Ruby’s tears, she placed mouth on Ruby’s tears and we hear a kissing sound and when she pulls her face back the tears are gone. As for what this means, the people who work on the show have confirmed that the relationship is romantic. To me, the great thing is that exactly how romantic it is and just how gay their relationship is remains open to us. I think it’s pretty clear that they are deeply in love and stay fused because they can’t bear to be apart for too long, but it’s more implied than explicitly stated, so if the thought that Ruby and Sapphire are major Lesbians constantly making out with each other bothers you then you can just interpret their actions as more platonic. Personally, I think they are the most adorable couple in the world, a couple of cute as Hell Gaybies that are spending every spare moment dancing and hugging and laughing and smiling, and kissing, and looking lovingly into each others eyes, and whatever version of crazy monkey sex that Gems engage in. Every time I see Garnet now I can’t NOT see Ruby and Sapphire too, and it makes me smile from ear to ear.
I’m just wondering how long till some R.W.N.J. comes across this and goes on a Crusade to expose the “Secret Agenda” to indoctrinate children that being gay is okay via (what they see as) “children’s cartoons” like Steven Universe. I hope I’m wrong and that never happens, but then again there’s a guy who’s convinced that Rachel Maddow is a Vampire because she has “bite marks” (which are actually moles, and in the wrong spot and too close together anyway) on her neck.
i love them so much
All of this is very wonderful! But I’m getting tired of it always being lesbians, when will they portray a gay male couple like this? Really no progress is being made when you constantly show favoritism to women.
I watched Steven Universe with my agender child the other day.
I think I will never forget him singing a song about wanting them to become a giant woman. What a trip!
It’s difficult for me to follow artistically, but it is lovely and I am glad it is there.
Really? I find the attention to details like the washing machine on the palm of the statue’s hand, the entire temple and the creative beauty in all of the other dimensions shown, like that crystal island, it’s fantastic! As an artist, I wish cartoons had been this beautiful when I was a kid. Spongebob never satisfied me as visually as SU does!
I think this episode has set a bad example for kids. Showing that its okay for 9 year olds to have same-sex relationships
I don’t always feed the trolls, but when I do, I feed them Golden Girls gifs.
This episode is the Best!!!
Not trying to be a jerk but when it comes to the Bubble gum and Marecline romance I would take it with a grain of salt because it’s coming from the voice actress and not the person who made it
also didn’t a ad company get it trouble for saying they are gay so ya I don’t think they are
Steven Universe is one of the best things to ever happen. I mean, Garnett is the physical manifestation of lesbian love so pure that they would rather exist as one being rather than live apart! How adorable is that?
OK… I’m a very liberal person, somewhat of an alternative feminist, but, some of this is ridiculous to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m proud that society is becoming more accepting, but, with all this queer gender bending sexuality exploring, some kids will definitely get the wrong idea.
For example say being gay or bisexual becomes a trend, kids would adopt this and no it wouldn’t make them “accepting” it would just make them gay. Kids are cruel they don’t have the capacity for understanding each other.
However, in the long run I suppose exposing them to this could be beneficial in they’re adulthood. For example being cultured and having alot of good and bad experiences. So i guess this contradicts what i first said but think about it. Also dont forget about average people average girls like masculine guys and average guys like femme girls no way around that. Just regardless guys look at this with unbiased eyes and be realistic.
Growing up with only straight representation did not make the “cool” thing to be straight and children aren’t cruel, their parents are. On multiple occasions as a child I dealt with a friend liking something unusual about me, then after speaking to their parents about it, coming back into school and making dub of me.
Representation of African Americans on TV also paved the way for more respect and equality for them as a whole. We have a long way to go with fighting that ignorance as well, but thankfully we have shows like Steven Universe to teach tolerance of all groups of people.
Actually, growing up in a small town, frankly it was the adults that gave the gay kids the most shit. Even the hicks tended to let the gay kids at school alone (at least for being gay, you know there is always something else). What this says to me is that my generation and those that come after, are not evil little shits, they learn that stuff from adults. I had a long beautiful set of conversations with my younger siblings 14 and 8, both are very comprehensive about Sapphire and Rose’s relationship and understand it simply as two people in love. Didn’t make either of them gay.
Okay, DJ, but it sounds like you’re implying that there’s something wrong with kids figuring out they’re not straight. Or… More kids figuring out they’re not straight?
I love these things, I really do. These cartoons, whether intended for children or not, have touched me and I am not ashamed to admit they have made me cry like a baby. As a gay man it really hits deep to see representation of any form of the LGBTQ community in the media, but when you see it in such a basic, endearing level, it brings tears to my eyes.
However, I’m still waiting for a solid representation of gay men that aren’t what anyone expects. We may have modern family, but mitch and cam are hardly representative of the average gay male. It feels like at this point in time people are becoming more comfortable with gays, lesbians and trans folk… But they still only see gay men as flaming. Oh well I guess.
OKay, so I think all of the genders are genderless, but are pronounced as she or her. So technically they are not gay, but we might see it as that because they both look like females.
I was just introduced to Steven Universe by a 14 year old and I am sooooo happy. I love love love this show. It is just so freaking adorable and silly. And the queerness! Oh, the queerness! I just watched today’s new episode and Ruby and Sapphire actually kiss and say some cutesy stuff to eachother.
I agree that children and adolescents of all sexual leanings and races definitely need and deserve representation and exposure. However, I think you do a disservice to the many, many, many books, animated series, comic book heroes, comics, etc. that have been exposing us to and representing the LGBT community in a very real (If not always confirmed) way since, well since human sexuality was a thing.
Let us give thanks for: Doonesbury (Andy Lippincott, 1976, etc.), For Better or For Worse (The son came out when I was kid), Bert and Ernie (we all knew it even as kids), several characters on The Simpsons, Mystique, Northstar, and Destiny of Marvel (In fact, if you go on Marvel’s wikia, they have approx. 9 pages of characters who identify as homosexual from the 70’s to today and DC comics has 8 pages), friends tell me plenty of folks from Sailor Moon, etc.
I know there are more because I remember as a kid thinking more than once, “Oh, that man and man [or] woman and woman are probably married.” I definitely thought Bert and Ernie were a couple. It never occurred to me that other people didn’t. I thought it was sweet, because I’m a hopeless romantic, and then I kept going. I grew up in the 80s and 90s.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be better, more clear, and positive representation, just that it wasn’t non-existent, even when those who hold the power tried to stifle creativity. We should not forget and praise those artists who pushed boundaries and injected a bit of whatever they could to make everyone feel included, to make themselves feel included. I do wish for a bit more representation for people of color, trans, and cultural differences. There were so many more people of color in cartoons in the 80s and 90s than now.
That’s all awesome, but the shows in this article are on Cartoon Network and I think likely to reach a wider audience of kids than comics and anime do (also, the gay moments in Sailor Moon were edited out in the English 90s version of the anime, so that wasn’t aired on TV here in the US). I just think it’s a bigger deal to have queer moments on a children’s television network.
I always come back to this article because it’s one of the only pieces on Steven Universe that really gets how important this show is and how lacking LGBTQ+ representation is in kids media. The most recent episode “Keystone Motel” brought Sapphire and Ruby back and completely put to rest any of the naysayers who brushed off their first introduction as non-romantic. Their relationship is now irrefutable canon. Now, where are the Steven Universe recaps?!?
Okay we have lesbian represention in a kids show and that’s great and all but what about queer men? Trans people? Aseuxals? Seems like most of the represention is queer women. You can’t claim progress if your just showing favoritism to queer women and the rest of us get left out.
1. Yes, you can claim progress for queer women being on a kids show when historically kids shows have never shown anything but straight characters/relationships and have claimed that doing otherwise would be near impossible for them to accomplish. Steven Universe is one of the first. It doesn’t mean their can’t be representation for queer men or trans people, etc. That should go without saying. It’s just that this is a first step in the right direction. If other types of queer representation other than lesbians is something you are looking for you should definitely bring up the topic with the writers on Twitter. They do tend to listen to fans.
2. This is a website aimed at queer and trans women so the articles tend to focus on topics relevant to queer and trans women. That is why we are particularly excited about Steven Universe being one of the only kids shows to feature a queer couple on it. That doesn’t mean we would have a problem with other types of representation. And having been on this website for years I can you tell you that I bet if Steven Universe had featured a trans character or a gay male character someone on staff likely would have written about that too. That said, and no offense intended, but I don’t go to websites aimed at gay men or trans people and ask them why they are only showing favoritism to those groups of people. That is what their site is for. I, as a cis lesbian, am obviously not their target audience and that’s fine.
So far, there’s only been, like … two official couples in Steven Universe, where I’m guessing Ruby and Sapphire’s only counts as … heteroromantic?? since they’re both genderless and all as far as I know, as I was informed by the Steven Universe wiki that all gems were genderless (except Steven since he’s half-human, of course).
Guessing on the kind of surprise-maker of brilliance that Rebecca Sugar is, I think there might be more on the show some time so there might be asexuals and etc., there might already be, you never know. ^^ The reason most gem-characters of the show refer to each as she/her is because that’s just plain what they use to call each other despite all of them being non-binary, really. The other reason is that Rebecca Sugar saw that too many heroes today were being treated as masculine figures or something like that, so I guess she kind of went hipster and overall just wanted to be innovative with the show she made. ^^
Agreed. It’s really not fair. Its okay to show queer women in kids TV but not queer men? Talk about a double standard. It’s great that they did this don’t get me wrong but it does seem like they’re catering to lesbians. Other people in the lgbtq community deserve representation too.
Actually Gems don’t reproduce like us (they’re made, not born) so it’s very likely that the Gems are asexual as well, since they would have no need for sex. If you take everything the Gems are (genderless, queer, ace) there’s actually quite a bit of representation going on, not simply catering to queer women.
There is representation for queer men, trans people, aces, etc. For example, Amethyst, one of the gems, has experimented with male forms, most prominently in “Tiger Millionaire,” and, while it’s not as big a part of the show than some of the F/F couples, an in-universe TV show that Steven and Peridot like, Camp Pining Hearts, includes an M/M couple, Percy and Pierre. Finally, Garnet as an individual (not Ruby and Sapphire) is heavily implied to be asexual and aromantic, as she already IS a relationship in and of herself. For example, the episode “Love Letters,” where she states “3’s a crowd” and tries to break the news to a person who has a crush on her that she is simply not interested in any romantic relationship with him.
It’s all pure evil and every bit of it needs to be removed from the cartoon watching list that our innocent children should not be watching.
Shut the hell up.
It’s nice and all that Females have shows like this, but While it’s always presented that two women in a relationship is beautiful, Two men is still something dirty. As a gay man, I still don’t find this relateable.
Then get off autostraddle – a website founded for primarily queer women. if you can’t respect our space then leave it.
Cartoon Network has really dropped off a cliff in terms of quality…
SJW pandering =/= progressive. Not by far.
lmao nah pal ‘pandering’ in a show is when they have an all-heterosexual cast because people can’t handle even one same-gender relationship
I’m extremely excited to hear all of this. I’m glad that more TV shows and comics (and others) are showing queer characters. I think it’s wonderful that Steven Universe shows songs representing queerness (Giant Woman, Stronger Than You, etc.). Also, the relationships are believable and sweet, and the romance isn’t rushed. The creators did so much for the first season, and I can’t wait to see what happens for the next season! I’m sure they will go even farther as to represent queerness.
Also, if you think it’s a bad example to show kids this, in my opinion, you’re wrong. It’s good to show kids relationships like these so they don’t grow bitter toward queer people. Just like if you don’t interact with a young child, they won’t develop as strongly as kids who are talked to and played with. You need to introduce these things to young children so they can grow into understanding this kind of relationship. It’s not inappropriate or anything because as we all know, hatred led to wars and death, for example the killing of homosexuals in WWII. Just a reminder that we should introduce kids to these new ideas or they will oppose them when they grow up, and hatred is something we don’t want to see in the face of a person when they look at a same-sex couple or a dark-skinned person.
Thank you for reading this comment, and I hope my opinion makes a mark.
Exactly. All the representation seems to be queer women and that’s fine and all but as a queer guy I feel like it it’s not fair. When will I get to see two dudes loving each other on a kids show? A romantic relationship between two men should not be considered “dirty” while a relationship between two women is perfectly fine. Double standards much? Same goes for others in the LGBT community such as trans people, pansexuals, asexuals etc. *sigh*
Uh, This is a website for queer women so naturally that is what this article about.
Guys, stop. They are in a romantic relationship. They DO NOT have a gender. Get over it. Also, I find it extremely annoying that nobody even mentions gender fluid as an option. You don’t need a physical gender to be gender fluid. But they were made with no genders specifically so we could interpret them as we wish.
I dunno where you got that all three gems are voiced by women of color… Deedee Magno Hall (Pearl) and Michaela Dietz (Amethyst) are both Asian…
Correction: Deedee is Filipino.
They actually consider Asians as people of of color, they naturally come in as many shades as Blacks do. (I actually learned this myself couple years ago.)
Why is it the first thing you jump to by ‘color’ is race?? They meant personality wise, as in they have ‘colorful’ personalities.
Sorry man, but they were not taking about their personality, they were talking about their race. That’s why the voice actors race was mentioned.
hello moderators? where ya at?
When your “opinion” hurts another person, then it’s not an opinion. It’s hate speech. You are obviously not gay so you obviously wouldn’t know what it’s like to be gay. So, you don’t have a say in if it’s right or not, because it’s not your life and has nothing to do with you. How bored do you have to be to come into an article promoting a children’s carton for positive attributes, and hate on it. Your “opinion” is hurtful and no one asked you for it. So please keep it to yourself unless you have something nice to say.
I have no problem with queer relationships being portrayed on tv shows, cartoons, and comics, but why is it all of the examples mentioned are all female/female? (And sure you can make the argument the gems are technically gender neutral, but they are without a doubt interpreted as female) Is there just something about male/male relationships that add an extra layer of uncomfortable so they haven’t done it yet??
Well, if it helps, Cylde McBride of The Loud House has two dads.
Did this article get linked in some Steven wiki or something? The comments blew up with almost as many dudes as are currently residing in Heather’s Fox article…
it actually is linked to in the wikipedia page for Steven Universe! (that’s one of my proudest accomplishments) but i think it was also mentioned in some recent articles on other websites, that’s why there are some recent comments.
Oh that’s awesome Mey!!
Hey we must not forget the single dad who really raised Steven as confirmed in the new episode , father Universe said the gems weren’t around to care for Steven as a baby. Non traditional role for dads it’s important to remember. I could care less if they are gay or straight, I just love how this kid is happy to be alive each and every day. My wife is dying from MS and I from a rear disease named Dercums Disease and these shows on CN make us happy the world of tomorrow will be better then the world we leave behind for the kids who watch this show. Thank you CN
My son made me watch this show after falling in love with the videos shared virally and I’m so glad he did. It is just a great show first and foremost which makes all the rest so much sweeter. The fact that he doesn’t see anything but that and takes the rest for granted gives me hope. Thanks for the background information, I hadn’t realized the cast and production team were so diverse. Makes so much more sense now.
Gay? You guys are so stupid. The Gems are all sisters or cousins…I mean think about it..Rose is married to a guy and the gems have not really done anything to prove that they are gay..just like cheetahs and lions are cousins..gems are cousins or family
Lyra and Bon Bon from Friendship is Magic, too.
While not as expressly stated as in Steven Universe or The Legend of Korra, it is still cheekily implied.
I’m so glad that more TV shows and books are starting to represent queer people of all ages. I agree with some of your comments: yes, many people are very cruel. But I also agree with India Jones… It’s important to teach kids it’s okay to be different and it’s okay if OTHER people are different, too. There’s so much more that I could say on this subject, but my message is hopefully clear… Be yourself, even if other people think you’re weird. You are you, and don’t let anyone else tell you anything differently.
So the next time you make a blog or article, be wiser.
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Moderators please remove this comment
No more steven universe for me
This post is so amazing! Can you put a spoiler warning at the top?
Moderators, request comment be removed.
I think you all are a bunch brain washing jerk that can’t help the fact that the world isn’t crawling with your kind of gay loving stupidity you all should just go and leave kids alone and let them decided what they want not what you wish them to decide we are all given free will and with things like this you are basically taking away there right to choose while you say that it is not using TV shows and comics are a form of brain washing through the process of persuasion it not right nor fair to children and it make you no better than Hitler who used brain washing techniques to help push the Nazi regime
Wow. That is one really, really, really long sentence
Loved the article!
The embedded video from YouTube is no longer available. Is there another source of whatever footage was featured in that video? I’m very curious about what was there that added to the article.
First of all having garnet as a permenant fusion was just awful. Especially since it was so inconsistent with the nature of the first two fusions; pearl and amethyst/amethyst and garnet… who quadrupled in size and in a way became less “human.” Kind of like when a saiyan becomes a giant monkey in dbz. It’s clear that fusion is not meant to be permenant. Also I don’t know how this shows unique alchemy is supposed to work and am not an expert in geology but ruby+sapphire=garnet seems pretty dumb. The thing was just an excuse to show another gay relationship and sacrificing garnet as a cool single minded character was the price for that. And let’s not forget how stupid the pearl garnet fusion was. Honestly after the show started pushing the lesbian thing hardcore (almost every episode after season 1 finale) the whole thing is just falling apart. The worst is Pearl who went from being a sophisticated level headed woman to neurotic needy mess.
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First of all having garnet as a permenant fusion was just awful. Especially since it was so inconsistent with the nature of the first two fusions; pearl and amethyst/amethyst and garnet… who quadrupled
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Game-changers include Lumberjanes, Steven Universe, and Legend of Korra. I’m hoping that other shows and comics take note of how to do Queer representation properly! It is more likely that we should play soul knight on pc or read Soul Ark: New World – Download & Have Fun Playing This RPG.
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