The groundbreaking Cartoon Network series Steven Universe has been hailed by fans and critics alike for its inclusivity, and now they’re upping the ante. In a special July 4th episode that aired this week, the series showcased a lesbian marriage proposal between two out queer characters—something that’s never been done in children’s television before.
Two characters in the show, Sapphire and Ruby, made their long-term relationship official. Ruby embarks on a journey to self-discovery, only to come galloping back on horseback during sunset to ask for Sapphire’s hand in marriage. “This way we can be together even when we’re apart,” Ruby coos.
The show’s creator, Rebecca Sugar, spoke to Variety about the importance of representation for same-sex couples in children’s programming as well as for mature audiences. “I wanted to really create an image of a queer couple that makes sense together,” Sugar said. “Usually the couple is a man and a woman. But you don’t show that love can exist between two men or two women. I wanted to create equal-opportunity love stories for children.”
The inclusive episode, aptly titled “The Question,” marked the show’s 21st episode in its fifth season. Sugar has long advocated for LGBTQ representation for children on-screen. She earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination back in Season Two for an episode titled “The Answer,” which detailed Ruby and Sapphire’s love story.
GLAAD has heralded Steven Universe for its trailblazing inclusivity. Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD director of Entertainment, told Variety: “Love and acceptance is taught at an early age [and] Steven Universe has been at the forefront of teaching everyone—kids and adults alike—that love truly is what makes the universe operate.”
A same-sex marriage proposal is inarguably a first for children’s programming—though slowly but surely, kids TV shows are finally starting to dip their toes into LGBTQ storylines. Disney XD’s Star Vs. the Forces of Evil has depicted a gay kiss in the past, while Nickelodeon’s Legends of Korra has hinted at a queer female romance between its lead and another character. And as far as live-action programming goes, Disney Channel broke boundaries last year with Andi Mack star Joshua Rush took the lead in kids TV’s first ever coming out story.
It’s beautiful to finally see queer stories being told across all platforms. It’s vital for kids to see LGBTQ narratives featured on-screen, and a same-sex marriage proposal is an extraordinary leap forward. And it’s special to watch these stories unfold in a matter-of-fact sort of way. It’s a happy ending for two already strong and lovable female characters.
It’s just like Steven Universe told Ruby in “The Question,”—You can still be a “rootin tootin’ cowboy blazin’ your own trail” and “love someone too.”