By Joe Glass
It's no secret that I am a massive fan of the Steven Universe show on Cartoon Network, by Rebecca Sugar and her team. The series is incredibly diverse, sweet, and fun.
But in what feels like a bizarre switch up of the usual scenario, Steven Universe is finding itself being censored for its queer content….here in the UK. Scenes which aired with no problems in the US, which has traditionally been a fair bit more behind than the UK as far as LGBTQ representation is concerned, are being cut up by Cartoon Network UK to make it 'more comfortable' for children and parents.
Be aware, from here on out, there are spoilers for Steven Universe.
In a largely flashback episode called 'We Need to Talk', there is a scene where Pearl and Rose Quartz, two female characters, partake in a very close, romantic dance during a musical number called 'What Can I Do For You?'. It is suggested via the subtext of the show that Pearl is envious of Greg Universe's, the father of the titular character, relationship with Rose, and in a move of jealousy (and attempt to instill the same fears in Greg, it seems), Pearl suggests and initiates the dance, which culminated in Rose and Pearl getting incredibly close, seemingly almost kissing.
In the UK, however, the moment where the two characters appear to almost kiss is instead cut to images of Greg watching them – before the characters then fuse (long story, but watch Steven Universe and it will all make sense – you can thank me later).
When I first heard about this at the start of the week, I was really surprised. The show is IMMENSELY queer. Sure, accessible to anyone and everyone, which is a big part of its appeal and wonder, but it features a character who is literally the personification of two women's love. The show is quite often about acceptance and understanding.
What's more, there have been no efforts by CN UK to censor similar scenes or actions between opposite sex characters in the show or others. So it is a really homophobic action.
CN UK have defended this action too, despite an online petition asking that the scene be restored and aired and that no future editing of this kind take place, and they are trying to lay the reason at the foot of the BBFC Universal rating, as kids will be watching. But the Univeral (or U) rating, states:
'Characters may be seen to be kissing or cuddling, and there may be references to sexual behaviour. However, there will be no overt focus on sexual behaviour, language or libido'
As anyone who has watched this scene or the show will know, there is nothing overt to be seen. There is a subtext that older audience members may take away from it, but young children just see characters who care about each other very much, and may even love each other, and there's nothing wrong with that.
What I find most worrying, is how will this affect future episodes? The recent batch of episodes that has aired in the US are perhaps some of the most queer the show has ever had, including having the character who is the personification of the relationship between two women, Garnet, confirm that that relationship is love.
The petition currently has over 6000 signatures. I suppose we'll have to wait and see if CN UK will consider it's double-standards on the presentation of love and romance in their shows.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool contributor and comic creator. He is the writer and creator of The Pride, a comic series about a team of LGBTQ superheroes. It is available here and on Comixology. He is also the co-writer of Welsh horror comedy, Stiffs, available here and on Comixology.