Steven Universe is a show that prides itself in subverting gender sterotypes and championing non-binary displays of love, so two feminine characters dancing seems like a pretty mild thing to worry about. Fear not though, as there’s some very absurd people over at Cartoon Network UK who think that the above gif is TOO HOT FOR KIDS.
Steven Universe fans across the pond in the UK are up in arms at a recent airing of the episode “We Need to Talk” when it was discovered that a scene that sees two female characters, Rose Quartz and Pearl, dancing together as part of a musical number, was edited to remove the above moment. You can see original below, followed by a vine of the difference between the original cut and the UK edit, which instead featured an extended closeup of another character to cover up the editing:
It is, quite frankly, completely ridiculous. The moment is intimate, sure—it’s meant to be!—but it’s by no means out of the ordinary for the sort of romantic gesture you’d see on a children’s show. It’s two characters dancing and embracing... they just happen to be female (well, technically, in the show the alien Crystal Gems don’t have a gender, but have coded female appearances and are referred to as “she,” saves for the protagonist, a male human/gem hybrid named Steven). Which suddenly makes this look an awful lot like Cartoon Network UK is censoring non-heterosexual romantic scenes.
The bizarre thing aside from the completely tame nature of the scene itself is that, this isn’t exactly the first time that Steven Universe has featured scenes that have romantic undertones between two female characters. In the series, Gem characters have the power to perform a “fusion” dance that merges two or more of them into a single, more powerful persona—and that that power comes from an intense emotional bond, platonic or romantic love usually, between the gems taking part.
One of the main characters, Garnet, was revealed in one of the show’s most standout moments as a fusion between two gems, Ruby and Sapphire, who were heavily implied (and then repeatedly confirmed) to be in a romantic relationship by the show’s creators. Here’s an example of one those fusion dances, between Ruby and Sapphire in “Jailbreak”:
What makes this moment any different, in terms of its content—a moment that is arguably even more explicit, as it features an actual kiss—than the dance between Rose and Pearl? Why edit an example of one of Steven Universe’s most triumphant qualities: that it’s a children’s cartoon that takes pride in not only having a cast made up mostly by multifaceted, intriguing female characters, and is unafraid to show those characters, having intimate moments with each other? It’s a show about the power of love, in so many different forms. Censoring that love defeats the very purpose of what Steven Universe is.
But despite the backlash from fans both in the UK and the US, Cartoon Network UK refuse to back down on their edits. Here’s a statement that was released in the wake of the controversy, given to UK-based LGBT site Pink News:
The US broadcast system requires that shows are marked with a rating –in this case PG (parental guidance necessary). In the UK we have to ensure everything on air is suitable for kids of any age at any time.
We do feel that the slightly edited version is more comfortable for local kids and their parents.
We have an ongoing dialogue with our audiences and our shows reflect their preferences. Research shows that UK kids often watch with younger siblings without parental supervision.
Be assured that as a channel and network we celebrate diversity – evident across many of our shows and characters.
The thing is, the “suitable for kids of any age” rating exists here in the UK, in the classification system created by the British Board of Film Classification—it’s “U,” or “Universal,” and this is how the BBFC describes sexual content that befits the “U” age classification:
Only very mild sexual behaviour (for example, kissing) and references to such behaviour.
What’s not mild about this moment between Rose and Pearl? It definitely sounds like it fits this rating, the rating that Cartoon Network purportedly strives for in its content. So why was it cut? Cartoon Network’s answer doesn’t ring true, and it sucks that they’ve done this. How are we not past this sort of nonsense in this day and age?
[Via Pink News]