Controversial Gems – A Look at Steven Universe

Ever growing in popularity, Steven Universe is a Cartoon Network show that follows the adventures of a half-human, half-gem boy named Steven. Gems are magical beings that would otherwise be called aliens, and Steven lives with three of them. Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl make up the Crystal Gems, fighting corrupted gems and gems from their home planet. However, many adults and parents dislike this show, because of their concern that the show features same-sex couples, has poor representation of males, and has characters that identify beyond the binary of boy and girl. 

People need to accept that portraying sexualities and genders in a positive way is not bad and representing things outside of what many people consider the norm helps people who haven’t been exposed to such things yet, but can relate to them themselves.

Parents and adults who complain mainly base this on morals, the idea that a non-traditional relationship is gross, or the fear that their children will become gay. LGBT characters on TV have increased in the past decade, as seen in GLAAD’s annual ‘Where are We on TV’ report. However, Steven Universe is one of the first children’s shows to have LGBT characters, and present them in a positive manner. Garnet, one of the main characters, is a fusion or combination of two different characters, who are a same-sex couple. Pearl, another main character, has feelings for a former team member that obviously extend beyond admiration. There is also a recurring background couple of two women and their child. These characters are important because after decades of only seeing heterosexual couples, there is finally something for kids who never felt like they fit in, and kids who watch this show won’t have to. Seeing gay characters on television can’t make a kid gay, but it can make a kid who is feel 10x better about themselves.

Photo from:
Ruby and Sapphire from their first episode appearance. (Click photo to view GIF) Photo from:

Some people dislike that Steven is the only male member of the Crystal Gems and gems outside of Earth shown so far. However, this reverses a common trope known as the Smurfette Principle, which is the common representation of having one female among an all male group. Whether it’s the one Pink Ranger from the Power Rangers or Black Widow in the Avengers movies, female representation is often only one to a group. Not to mention, most female characters don’t get as much screen time as their male counterparts, and Steven is the only character in the show to appear in every episode aired so far. 

Black Widow as the only female character in Marvel's The Avengers. Photo by:
Black Widow as the only female character in Marvel’s The Avengers. Photo by:

On the same topic of gender representation, many people dislike the representation of more than two genders on the show. The gems aren’t necessarily female, and are sexless space rocks that simply present as what we would call women. Also, one of the minor characters, Stevonnie, a fusion between Steven and his friend Connie, doesn’t necessarily have a gender as well and uses pronouns like they/them. Many people think that there are only two genders, male and female, and having more than that represented in the show makes people uncomfortable. However, having characters outside the binary is an important step towards acceptance, and can influence people to learn more about those who don’t fit in and understand that it’s fine not to. 

Stevonnie, a fusion of Steven and Connie. Art by Julia Rash
Stevonnie, a fusion of Steven and Connie. Art by Julia Rash

Adults often argue that it’s their choice to choose what they want their children to see, in which they do. However, Steven Universe is not a show that is trying to harm anyone; rather a positive outlet of representation for people who haven’t had strong representation before.

Even if adults simply dislike the fact that characters don’t fit the traditional ideals, people should give the show the chance, or just leave it be. People shouldn’t boycott the show or try to get it cancelled because as long as people who dislike it simply avoid it, it won’t affect them. In order to try and make people understand this better, Cartoon Network could help Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, explain to viewers that the show is an admirable effort to give kids a broader view of what people in the world are actually like.


Steven Universe just went on hiatus, however if you want to check some episodes out, here is Cartoon Network’s official site: Cartoon Network

If you’re also interested in learning about other shows with LGBT representation, check this out too: Represent Me

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About Julia Rash

Hi there, I'm Julia, the editor-in-chief this year at Brahma News. I am in charge of editing news and feature pieces, but I also tend to stick to writing them as well. I have a lot of fun being a part of the Brahma News and I hope you enjoy what we post!

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