Steven Universe, which wrapped up earlier this year, was a watershed series, presenting nonbinary identities and lesbian love with a forthrightness unheard of in mainstream tv animation. Its influence was bolstered the public profile of creator Rebecca Sugar, a bisexual nonbinary woman who has spoken openly about the themes she was addressing and the ways she coded them in the show.
To begin with, Cartoon Network, the series’s producer, didn’t want any of this. As Sugar revealed to the magazine Paper, studio executives attempted to halt the depiction of gay love. When they eventually relented, they still tried, for some years, to stop Sugar talking about this aspect of the show in public.
By 2014, Sugar says, the executives understood that the characters of Ruby and Sapphire (pictured at top) represent a lesbian couple. “They told us point-blank, ‘you can’t have these characters be in a romantic relationship.'” But Sugar adds that the characters were too entrenched, the production too far along, for this to be changed.