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Rebecca Sugar Reveals Cartoon Network Tried to De-Gay Steven Universe

Rebecca Sugar Reveals Cartoon Network Tried to De-Gay Steven Universe

Rebecca Sugar Reveals Cartoon Network Tried to De-Gay Steven Universe

"They told us point-blank, 'you can’t have these characters be in a romantic relationship.'"

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Cartoon Network's beloved animated series Steven Universehas been hailed as groundbreaking in terms of LGBTQ+ representation—so it's hard to believe that Ruby and Sapphire's epic love story almost didn't happen at all. 

In a new interview from Paper Magazine, the series creator Rebecca Sugar sat down with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showrunner Noelle Stevenson for an eye-opening interview about the inception—and near destruction—of their LGBTQ+ storylines. 

"We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships," says Sugar. "Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character."

Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen the show: "Jail Break" reveals Garnet to be a fusion of two gems who have a profound connection, but it seems Cartoon Network didn't want Ruby and Sapphire's relationship to be romantic. 

"They told us point-blank, 'you can’t have these characters be in a romantic relationship,' but at that point, Garnet was so established that audiences could instantly understand what the relationship was, the song had already been written, the episode had already been boarded so we were already in full production. I’m really proud of the patience we had and the time that we took to fully explore these characters at a time when that was not necessarily possible."

Still, Cartoon Network wouldn't allow Sugar to say the relationship between Ruby and Sapphire was romantic. 

"Back in 2014, 2015, 2016, I was told that I couldn’t discuss it publicly. They basically brought me in and said 'we want to support that you’re doing this but you have to understand that internationally if you speak about this publicly, the show will be pulled from a lot of countries and that may mean the end of the show.' They actually gave me the choice to speak about it or not, to tell the truth about it or not, around 2015/ 2016, by then I was honestly really mentally ill and I dissociated at Comic-Con."

Eventually, Ruby and Sapphire's love became stronger than outside forces. 

"I would privately do drawings of these characters kissing and hugging that I was not allowed to share. I couldn’t reconcile how simple this felt to me and how impossible it was to do, so I talked about it. The show survived in a large part because of the support from fans. I’m really proud of the choice we made and what we were able to accomplish together. I’m so proud of my team who supported me through all of this, crafted the show, and navigated this with me."

"The way they put their mental health on the line to tell stories that were personal to them. It seems absurd to think that only a few years ago and really now, that a person’s job, their ability to make cartoons, could hinge on their sexual orientation, it’s profoundly unfair and ridiculous but true. That really needs to shift and is still in the process of shifting."

Stevenson shared similarities when the production of She-Ra started back in 2016, saying the super-queer remake of the classic '80s cartoon made Netflix nervous to include a same-gender romance.

"At first it seemed like we were going to get this from the company, we were really excited about that and so we were setting things up in season one, we had the “Princess Prom” episode, then the election in 2016 happened and everybody got really scared. It was immediately, like Rebecca said, the same kind of pushback where we were told point-blank we would not be able to do this. Across the board, no romance. That was how broad it got! Let’s just be extra-safe, no romance whatsoever."

Read Sugar and Stevenson's full conversation here

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!