Cartoon Network UK has decided that certain episodes of Steven Universe need to be edited in order to downplay the show's overtly queer, romantic relationships.
One of the core concepts of Steven Universe is a process called fusion where two gems perform a literal dance together in order to merge their physical forms into a larger, stronger one. Throughout the series, it's explained that for gems, fusion's more than just a physical interaction.
It can be a deeply emotional and sometimes romantic experience.
In the episode We Need To Talk, Steven's father Greg explains to his son how he met his mother, Rose Quartz, the leader of the Crystal Gems. The episode centers around the romantic rivalry between Greg, a regular human, and Pearl, another gem with a romantic interest in Rose Quartz.
Throughout the episode Pearl attempts to thwart Rose and Greg's budding romance, culminating in a scene where the two Gems fuse—highlighting the fact that Gems and humans are, on some level, fundamentally incompatible. In the UK's version of We Need To Talk, Pearl and Rose's dance is edited out.
Cartoon Network's decision to edit out the fusion dance stems from the fact that all Gems with the exception of Steven have female humanoid forms. Though the Gems are an alien species, fans widely identify them as women and their relationships as being fundamentally queer.
“We do feel that the slightly edited version is more comfortable for local kids and their parents," a representative from Cartoon Network told Pink News. “We have an ongoing dialogue with our audiences and our shows reflect their preferences."
Though the representative insisted that it was all for diversity within its programming, it also made a point trying to reason that Steven Universe, which is rated PG-13 here in the States, could be watched by kids "with younger siblings without parental supervision." This is true, but it's also alarmist, and homophobic.
Though Steven Universe does feature more adult themes like loss, war, and love, it's distinctly non-sexual. Even for those viewers who might read sexuality into fusion, the show's creative team have made a point of putting out kid-friendly videos explaining exactly what fusion is.
Cartoon Network's decision to edit out Rose and Pearl's queerness is little more than the fear that seeing two women in love with one another might turn kids gay. Not only is this not true, it's silly.
Shows like Steven Universe are exactly the kinds of things that kids of all ages should have exposure to specifically because of their queerness. LGBT kids deserve to see themselves represented in the things that they watch, and cisgender, binary, hetero kids deserve to see that their queer peers are perfectly normal.
Most important of all, though, everyone deserves to see the fusion dances in their entirety because they're cool as hell.