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‘Steven Universe’ creator Rebecca Sugar celebrated gender fluidity before it was cool

The hit Cartoon Network series lives on as a testament to celebrating difference and respecting kids’ intelligence on everything from trauma to acceptance.

‘Steven Universe’ creator Rebecca Sugar celebrated gender fluidity before it was cool

Rebecca Sugar’s animated show, Steven Universe, has followed its titular character and his family—three gender non­binary aliens who protect Earth from threats—through 174 episodes, a movie, a video game, 300 original songs, and seven years. Along the way, the Cartoon Network series has broken down barrier after barrier, unapologetically exploring LGBTQIA+ themes and childhood anxiety through a lens of unrelenting positivity and acceptance. “I wanted to make sure that there was this open invitation to kids, especially gender nonconforming and expansive kids, that it is for them, that [all] those lines are deliberately blurred and fluid,” Sugar says. The final season, which concluded in March, presciently addressed panic attacks and PTSD, topics which have become more acute in the age of COVID-­19, and helps viewers find understanding amid any trauma they’re experiencing. “Different personalities will handle this in wildly different ways, and that’s fine,” Sugar says. “Let yourself handle this in whatever way you need to.” In the past year, Steven Universe has won a Peabody Award, a GLAAD award, and received multiple Emmy nominations.

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