Queer characters on ‘Steven Universe’ cartoon give visibility to kids

Devotees of Cartoon Network’s fan and critic-acclaimed cartoon, “Steven Universe,” whose queer representation stands head and shoulders above other children and adult programming, can relive the whimsy, love, and adventures of the animated show’s first season. 

‘STEVEN UNIVERSE’

Released last week, “Steven Universe: The Complete First Season” includes all 52 episodes and bonus features, including a never-before-seen intimate conversation with series creator Rebecca Sugar. The DVD’s suggested retail price is $24.98.

“Steven Universe,” which debuted in 2013 and also has attracted fans of all ages, follows the adventures of Steven and the Crystal Gems — Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst — in Beach City, where the foursome protect the world from evil threats. Steven is a half-human, half-Gem boy who inherited his gemstone superpowers from his mother, the former Crystal Gem leader Rose Quartz. Steven explores his super abilities while spending his days with his father, Greg Universe; best friend, Connie; his lion and, of course, the Crystal Gems.

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QUEER RELATIONSHIPS

The series, in its fifth season on Cartoon Network, has garnered acclaim from the LGBTQ community for it’s diverse portrayal of queer relationships: Pearl’s painful, unrequited love for Rose Quartz and the relationship between lesbian characters Ruby and Sapphire, who are both Gems. When they reach a state of emotional harmony, Ruby and Sapphire share an intimate experience and fuse together, creating the character Garnet, the embodiment of their relationship.

The show’s ease of inclusiveness also is shown with how it treats gender norms. 

For example, at various times, Steven deconstructs heteronormative behavior and expresses a feminine identity or cries. Also, Steven and Connie fuse — a Gem ability — and create Stevonnie, a gender neutral character whom Garnet refers to as “them.”

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QUEER VISIBILITY FOR KIDS

In a Movieplot.com interview, Sugar, who came out as bisexual at a 2016 San Diego Comic-Con panel, said her series’ LGBTQ representation is to help children understand themselves and develop their identities. Sugar went on to say queer youth deserve to see themselves in stories as much as other children and they shouldn’t have to wait until they grow up to see that queer people exist.

In fact, during a San Diego Comic Con panel in 2017, Sugar said her inspiration for Fluorite — a fusion between six Gems — came from a conversation with kids she met when she visited The Center in Long Beach.

“Steven Universe” has received critical acclaim for its art, music, voice performances, storytelling, and characterization. It has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, five Annie Awards, a GLAAD Media Award, a Kids’ Choice Award, and two Teen Choice Awards.

“Steven Universe,” the acclaimed kids’ series on Cartoon Network, has been lauded for his positive representations of queer characters and gender inclusiveness, Photo: Cartoon Network.

About the author

Beatriz Valenzuela

Beatriz E. Valenzuela is an award-winning journalist who’s covered breaking news in Southern California since 2006 and has been on the front lines of national and international news events. She also covers all things nerd, including comic book culture and video games. She’s an amateur obstacle course racer, constant fact-checker, mother of three, and lover of all things geek.