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Steven Universe Censored in the UK, Because Obviously Kids Can’t Handle Same-Sex Kissing

Ruby is ready to kick someone's ass!

ruby sapphire gif

One of the best things about Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe is that it depicts same-sex romantic relationships as a matter of course. They’re not saved for a “Very Special Episode,” nor overly-sexualized or otherwise exploited. From central characters to crowd scenes featuring a smattering of same-sex parents with their kids, Steven Universe includes LGBTQ+ folks as a part of life. You know, the way they are in real life. Well, Cartoon Network in the UK seems to think that’s all a bit too much for their children.

Fans of the show in the United Kingdom got understandably upset when they noticed a really unnecessary cut during the episode “We Need to Talk,” which you can check out in this side-by-side comparison:

That’s right, they felt the need to cut this three-second intimate embrace…


…and replace it with a Greg Universe reaction shot. (To say nothing of the fact that they replaced two ladies holding each other and dancing with a reaction shot of a dude staring at them wide-eyed and strumming something down by his crotch really fast. But what of the children!)

A couple of weeks ago, a group of Steven Universe fans created a petition protesting the cut (and possibly others like it? I can’t imagine they didn’t also cut episodes like “Keystone Motel”), which as of right now has over 3,000 signatures. It got the attention of Cartoon Network Europe, and they responded! Just…not in the way we would’ve hoped.

As reported by Pajiba, here’s what the network had to say:

Cartoon Network (in Europe) often shows amended versions of programs from US originals. 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.

O….kay? First of all, they know that PG doesn’t mean children can’t watch it, it just means that its best watched near an adult they trust to explain certain things to them, right? On Steven Universe, those “things” can be anything, from being adopted, to experiencing the loss of a parent. Has all that difficult subject matter for children been cut? Kids don’t need love and friendship explained to them, but they might need a chat and some hand-holding watching Steven talk about his dead mother.

Second, the scene that was cut doesn’t even depict a kiss! It’s an intense glance and a twirl on the dance floor. It’s not like there’s fornicating happening on a children’s cartoon!

ruby sapphire smooch

Exhuberant depiction of true love, totally not OK for a children’s cartoon.


Pepe le Pew being rapey with Penelope the Cat? Totally OK for kids to watch.

Pepe le Pew being rapey with Penelope the Cat? Totally OK for kids to watch.

But lastly, and most importantly: kids see heterosexual relationships on television all the time, and it’s not considered “inappropriate.” We shove heteronormative romance down children’s throats with every fairy tale, every Pixar movie, and every Cartoon Network cartoon. Steven Universe depicts romance at its most innocent and sweet. Why, then, should it only get cut when it’s between two female characters? We all need to get over the notion that homosexual romantic relationships are more “indecent” or “salacious” than heterosexual ones. I would ask the folks at Cartoon Network Europe: What about the children being raised by same-sex couples? The ones who see same-sex love and romance every day, but never see it depicted on the shows they watch? Is this in the interest of “protecting” them? What about LGBTQ+ children? Is your interest in training them to believe that their inherent sexuality is perverse? Are we not living in 2016?

The most telling part of Cartoon Network’s statement is the following: “The slightly edited version is more comfortable for local kids and their parents.” Because that’s really who it’s for, isn’t it? The parents. It’s not about the children at all. Children wouldn’t watch Pearl and Rose dance and think anything of it. This is to make parents more comfortable, because God forbid they be forced to acknowledge to their kids that there are different types of people, and not everyone is like Mommy and Daddy. God forbid they be asked to teach their children about the world. God forbid they be made “uncomfortable” when doing their freaking job as parents!

With this response from Cartoon Network Europe, there’s a new call to action from the fans behind the petition to (politely) question Cartoon Network Europe about upcoming episodes. As you recently read about here at TMS, the latest episode of Steven Universe, “The Answer,” is pretty much Garnet telling Steven the story of how Ruby and Sapphire fell in love. The entire episode is intimate moments between Ruby and Sapphire. It’s a beautifully told fairy tale that I would have loved as a little girl, even though I’m straight. It wouldn’t have scared me, or confused me, or weirded me out. I would’ve thought it was sweet and romantic. Chances are, kids in the UK will too. That is, if Cartoon Network airs it.

There’s a hilarious comment in the comments section of the YouTube video I posted above where a viewer named Sarah Klumpp said, “i can’t wait to see them try and edit out the full 11 minutes of ‘the answer’ with greg’s face five hundred times.” It’s funny – but also sad that this is something we even need to be concerned about.

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.