The most anticipated weekend for geeks from fandoms of every kind did not disappoint as surprise after surprise just kept dropping, but none have been as personal or as touching as the one Steven Universe fans got. During the Steven Universe panel, Rebecca Sugar opened up and revealed herself to be bisexual, to which the audience responded with thunderous applause and most probably tears of joy.
Loving What We Really Are
Steven Universe is known for how prominent its themes such as female empowerment and diversity are, all of which are what make the show both popular and relevant today. For fans of the show who belong to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community or for those who are simply defy the conservative mentalities of their respective upbringings, the way Steven Universe tackles gender identity and all forms of love gives them a unique voice in mainstream media they never thought they would have, making Steven Universe all the more personal for them thanks to Rebecca's revelation.
After some spoiler-filled questions that were comically dodged by the show's co-executive producer, Ian Jones-Quartey, during the panel's open forum portion, Rebecca was asked by a fan what inspired her to incorporate such themes into Steven Universe's core narrative, to which she replied with:
"In large part it’s based on my experience as a bisexual woman."
When the applause and cheering died down, she further elaborated with the following statements:
"These themes have so much to do with who you are. There is an idea that these are themes that should not be shared with kids, but everyone shares stories about love and attraction with kids. So many stories for kids are about love. It really makes a difference to hear stories about how someone like you can be loved. And if you don’t hear those stories, it will change who you are."
The audience then responded with a minute-long standing ovation.
Animated Representation And Its Importance
Creators incorporating themes inspired by personal experiences in their works is nothing new, but it's only now that an animated show has a creator who is not only supportive of all things LGBTQ, but is also a proud member of the community. She may not be the first bi animator, but she's definitely the most outspoken and popular one in the business today.
"It’s very important to me that we speak to kids about consent. That we speak to kids about identity. There’s so much I have to say about this. I want to feel like I exist and I want everyone else who wants to feel that way to feel that way too."
As she explained in the previous quote, Sugar believes that acceptance and self-love should be taught at an early age to help build a child's identity early on and this is something children and even adults need.
In a time when the LGBTQ community is more proud and vocal than ever before — but is also attracting even more hate than expected — knowing a thing or two about accepting yourself and others is something everyone needs if the world is to become a better place. What better way to educate kids on these issues than giving them a cartoon they can both enjoy and learn from? Unlike before, viewers now have a plethora of characters to choose from when picking a role model instead of dealing with repetitive stereotypes and to top it all off, these characters deal with problems and specific insecurities they can relate to.
The ramifications of Rebecca's admission may seem exclusive only to the LGBTQ community and Steven Universe fans in general but these effects go beyond the walls of the show's panel. Thanks to her revelation and her phenomenal work on Steven Universe, the barriers between family shows and other forms of serious storytelling that have slowly been cracking over the past few years look like they are finally on their way down. Steven Universe may be the first openly queer show and it's unlikely that it will be the last, with many surely seeing inspiration in Rebecca Sugar's stories, art and words.
And to think Steven Universe started out with an episode where a kid thought ice cream sandwiches gave him magical powers.