Strong in the Real Way
August 15, 2018 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I think that the stars have really aligned. I think that it’s my team, it’s the fact that we were all so dedicated to telling honest stories and to just fighting and fighting to get this material through and make it so entertaining that you could never deny how sweet and thoughtful and entertaining it is that there’s just no way to say no. Rebecca Sugar on Steven Universe and LGBTQ representation. Stephen Universe just had a history making same sex marriage in a kids cartoon and has recently had a movie announced.
posted by Artw (30 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

What a lovely interview. And I had no idea about the movie, so now I'm excited about that!
posted by hopeless romantique at 3:56 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow, timing. :-)
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

The whole "Gem Fusion" thing was a fascinating 'alternative to human-like sex' to me, and I was semi-shocked that Steven's first Fusion was with his human best friend - who was a girl - and the fused character, Stevonnie, was the most perfect androgynous entity I'd ever seen on TV, let alone TV for kids...

Of course, the fact that Steven is half-human half-Gem is intriguing, but when his father said he had never fused with his mother, my curiosity went into overdrive and I realized Steven's conception is something this show for kids will never be able to thoroughly explain.

And the Ruby/Sapphire Pre-Fusing Wedding had one extra 'stand up and cheer' element: Ruby's role as a Guard leans much more masculine than Sapphire's as a Precog. But Ruby wore the wedding dress and Sapphire the 'tuxedo'.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:13 PM on August 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

But Ruby wore the wedding dress and Sapphire the 'tuxedo'.

From what I heard... that was a way to mess with the censors in other countries. See- in some of the countries where SU airs in translation, they have Ruby played by a male voice actor and use male pronouns so as not to be tainted by "teh gay". SO by putting Ruby in the dress it was a not-so-subtle middle finger to homophobic nations that FU these two are queer regardless of the gender of your voice actors.

That's what I've heard anyways.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:16 PM on August 15, 2018 [33 favorites]

Oh! I missed that Rebecca came out as non-binary, yay. That explains a lot about why the show resonates so hard for me. Even the cis characters like Greg are in so many ways gender non-conforming.

I love you, Greg.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:48 PM on August 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


Ruby and Sapphire have always been meant to represent me and my partner and so that always felt natural to me.

Awww that means Sapphire is Ian Jones-Quartey, right? That strikes me as super duper cute.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Sometimes when I’m having a bad day I will just whisper to myself “I am made of love” and I feel better. This show means so much to me.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:21 PM on August 15, 2018 [14 favorites]

I wasn't sure exactly what to type here, but... I am a reasonably old (my children are all well above drinking age) straight cis white male, and I unabashedly love this show. Though none of the characters are perfect they are Mr. Rogers-level decent to each other, and have a lot to teach everyone about understanding, acceptance, and love. I'm looking forward to the movie, and I hope that they continue to make the show for a long time to come.
posted by Lafe at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2018 [22 favorites]

We just got Steven Universe tshirts. Kiddo sleeps with a pink lion toy she calls her baby Lion from the show, and the soundtrack is in heavy rotation with the usual Disney. Rebecca Sugar made something beautiful. Greg and Connie are my favourites, their tender fierce loving hearts to people they don't fully understand but still love and support.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:54 PM on August 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

My 10yo son really likes the show. I’ll be honest — I have never watched an episode and don’t know a thing about it. That said, I’m down if it’s going to teach kids about non-binary gender on the dl or straight up. Sounds like the sort of show that would have caused a moral panic in my mom growing up.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:26 PM on August 15, 2018

It’s really interesting because the fantasy part can get through just fine. These concepts, which are so human, that’s the part that was difficult to include and I think that that is so strange

posted by numaner at 8:43 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a 35 year old straight cis guy and I have so many feelings about how much this show has done for me in terms of modeling acknowledgment of and respect for one's emotions. It would have been incredibly valuable to me if I'd had it earlier in my life; I can't even imagine how it must be for queer or gender nonconforming people.
posted by valrus at 8:59 PM on August 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

Steven Universe is one of the ways I got through the 2016 election. The sheer amount of time spent on how to have good relationships with other people - no matter what the relationship, just felt so affirming.

And the stuff they tackle is like graduate level relationship negotiation, like how to be supportive of a partner recovering from abuse but also maintaining your own boundaries and practicing self care. Or how recovery isn't a straight line and that's okay. Or. . . Really, any of the rest of the lapis stuff.

Plus here comes a thought is just so helpful when I'm anxious. It's almost like a schoolhouse rock for my feelings.

A good friend of mine transitioned after watching Steven Universe - one of the final barriers against him realizing himself as male was wrestling with toxic masculinity, but then he figured out he could be a boy if he could be a boy like Steven.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:17 PM on August 15, 2018 [33 favorites]

Thanks dinty_moore, now I'm CRYING.

The point Sugar makes in the interview about G ratings and 'family entertainment' is so real and important. When LGBT characters and stories are presumed to be 'adult content' in a way that straight love stories aren't, that communicates this terrible disparity to kids about who deserves love, about whose feelings are wholesome, about who gets to have and be family.

Steven Universe is the best show on television, and honestly, in my mind, it's not even close. Somehow, though, it never quite clicked for me (before reading this interview) how important it is that they managed to do all of that with a G rating. It's a colossal achievement. I can't even describe how grateful I am for it.
posted by Rumpled at 1:21 AM on August 16, 2018 [20 favorites]

Steven Universe is the best show on television, and honestly, in my mind, it's not even close.

100% agree. It frustrates me to no end that I can't seem to get anyone I know to watch this show. IT'S AMAZING AND I WANT TO GEEK OUT ABOUT IT WITH EVERYONE. Still, I'll settle for dressing as the Quartz-Universe family at Halloween... which reminds me, P.S., Greg Universe may be the best TV dad of all time and I for-real see him as a parenting role model.

This show is such a breath of fresh air not only for the amazing representations of queer love and the compassion and support these characters demonstrate for one another, but as PhoBWanKenobi said, Even the cis characters like Greg are in so many ways gender non-conforming. This show has served as a kind of "toxic masculinity detox" for me. It's not only been helpful in giving me space to assess my feelings, attitudes, and assumptions about what it means to "be a man," but it's helped me set aside reservations about silly "little" things, like worrying about what male co-workers will say if I wear my hair long, or wear fun sparkly socks, or get my face painted like a kitty cat at the company picnic.

That's small potatoes compared to the ways this show centers, affirms, and values the lives, the love, and the agency of people so often devalued and marginalized by society, but anyway, all of this is to say: wow, do I love Steven Universe.
posted by duffell at 7:18 AM on August 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

Oooh ooh is this where we show off our SU fam cosplay? Cause yeah.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


Ruby and Sapphire have always been meant to represent me and my partner and so that always felt natural to me.

Awww that means Sapphire is Ian Jones-Quartey, right? That strikes me as super duper cute."

Whoa, hold up, they're a couple? That's awesome. I have been a fan of Ian since his ancient RPGWorld webcomic back in the day. It blew my mind when I first saw him getting work in animation, and I flipped my lid when I saw he was a big part of Stephen Universe, plus getting his own show. He's great and deserves the success he's sharing.

SU is a treasure. My buddy and I started watching it because we heard how awful the fandom supposedly was and all that and wanted to see if it was one of those things where the fans are awful because the content itself is also shitty in some way, or one of those things where it's a great show but the fans are annoying. The show is incredible and we were hooked immediately, it's like one of very few things you can put on and just feel comfortable and safe and cozy. I never delved into the fandom, so I don't even really know what people were fussing about, but I'mg glad they did, otherwise I probably never would have seen it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:52 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I thought that said "SU farm cosplay" and clicked expecting to see Lapis, Peridot and Pumpkin. Was not disappointed to be wrong, though.
posted by nonasuch at 8:54 AM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Steven Universe is the best show on television, and honestly, in my mind, it's not even close.

I agree, but I think it's also possibly one of the most important, and not just because of the focus on the main characters.

We need to let children know that they belong in this world,” she says. “You can’t wait to tell them that until after they grow up or the damage will be done. You have to tell them while they’re still children that they deserve love and that they deserve support and that people will be excited to hear their story. When you don’t show any children stories about LGBTQIA characters and then they grow up, they’re not going to tell their own stories because they’re gonna think that they’re inappropriate and they’re going to have a very good reason to think that because they’ve been told that through their entire childhood.

I think children set their expectations about what "normal" is at very early ages. Seeing this young helps not only those who are directly wrestling with the issues of identity and sexuality, but also models behaviour for their more numerous peers. There are lots of examples in SU of kids (and adults) who interact with the gender-fluid gems, and their behaviour and acceptance is really, really an important model. Steven is just another kid to the folks in town most of the time. It doesn't matter what Steven wears, what he looks like or even who he's mixing with, he's still accepted by Petey and Sadie and Lars for what he is.

Those minor characters are really important proxies for the audience. Were the show to just focus on the crystal gems and a few supporting characters, like 99% of the other kids cartoons out there, i do not think it would be as important. The gender-fluid kids would still be off in their own little world. All the space/homeworld stuff has little relevance to most poeple's live and so easy to dismiss as "just a tv show about aliens". The focus, continued and clearly deliberate, on Beach City, and how Steven and friends interact with "regular" people is, in my view, one of the most quietly radical and important parts of the show.
posted by bonehead at 9:04 AM on August 16, 2018 [19 favorites]

I am so glad I finally started watching Steven Universe. It's just a delight, and it's so full of compassion and empathy across the board.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Count me in as another middle-aged straight white man who absolutely loves this show, and whose family dressed as Universes for Halloween last year. Daughter was Steven, teenage son was Pearl, wife and I were Rose and Greg. We went with another family who went as Amethyst, Lapis, and Jamie the mailman.

I'm with duffel about this being a toxic masculinity detox. We watch a couple episodes before bed each night (we're in the middle of season 3) and it's just so calming and sweet. Rebecca Sugar has made something truly special and she (they?) deserves all the recognition she's getting.

(Also, can we talk about how obnoxiously talented Rebecca Sugar is? In addition to creating the show, she writes all the music and even performs some of it. And it's GOOD.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:23 PM on August 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

Rebecca Sugar is one of those people I'm delighted I get to share a world with. She's a remarkable talent who uses that talent for good. We are lucky to have her.

(By the way, as far as I know -- and from what some interviews have specifically pointed out -- Sugar is still using she/her pronouns currently. It's possible that may change in the future, though.)
posted by darksong at 6:47 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was Steven last year for Halloween, and if there was any costume that would garner even less recognition in Japan than Finn the Human (two years ago, ask me about the working backpack I made!), sadly, it would be Steven. It's on Cartoon Network here, but as far as I can tell, I might be the only person in Japan watching the channel, let alone the show.

I love the show, and the stories it tells. I love that it tells stories with characters that haven't been on tv much, let alone in non-very-special-episode ways. It's the kind of show that gives me hope that somewhere around the corner there will be more shows this inclusive, and *that* will be the normal state of things.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:30 AM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I talk about how shockingly beautiful the closing theme "Love Like You" is? The tune is sweet, but the lyrics, which are more evocative of the mood than literally about the plot of the show, absolutely wreck me every time I hear them.

When I see the way you look
Shaken by how long it took
I could do about anything,
I could even learn how to love like you

posted by elsilnora at 7:54 PM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Full version of the end credits song.
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I legitimately think that "Love Like You" should join the Great American Songbook. It's gorgeous. It really should become a new Standard.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 2:15 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

the same youtuber put together this extended version which combines all the endings in seasons 1-3 and it's fantastic, I prefer it to the original
posted by numaner at 10:33 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Panel for the first Crunchyroll original High Guardian Spice.
From what I can surmise so far:

- botany-themed magical girls show
- high school girls finding their 'friend family'
- at least one angsty boy
- lesbian witches
- transgender/POC characters VOICED BY TRANS/POC PEOPLE

posted by Artw at 6:31 PM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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