When Ruby Met Sapphire

As far as good kids’ cartoons go, it’s a pretty slim picking. Most are either geared toward very young children and frustrating for adults, or so filled with physical/vulgar humor they’re not really funny anymore.

As far as socially aware kids’ cartoons go: well, I could probably count them on one hand. It’s difficult to get controversial media marketed toward children, and most censors won’t allow anything beyond subtext.

Recently, a few cartoons have come out with LGBT characters; still, most only feature men in same-sex relationships and many only confirm the characters’ sexuality in off-camera interviews.

2014 was a victory year for female-female relationships. It began in the early months, with the popular anime/manga Shingeki no Kyojin, or Attack on Titan. The creator confirmed that two female characters, Krista Lenz and Ymir, were romantically involved with one another, and that their interactions were meant to be read as romantic.

However, Shingeki no Kyojin is not marketed toward children, as it is violent and deals with some mature themes. The main consumers of the show and comic are teenagers and young adults.

This declaration was followed by the confirmation of a previous romantic relationship involving Princess Bubblegum and Marceline in the children’s show Adventure Time.

Many fans had suspected that they had a history, but no evidence has been shown to date in the show itself. The Adventure Time comics feature brief mentions and subtext involving the relationship, but no clear explanations of the relationship.

Last December, the cartoon Legend of Korra finished its final season. Fans had been questioning the nature of relationships between the title character and a close friend (Asami Sato). In the final episode, Korra and Asami walk into the spirit world hand in hand, mimicking the marriage scene from minutes earlier.

Two days later, creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko independently confirmed that the scene was romantic, later explaining that the two were married later in life and lived happily ever after.

This is the first major instance of a female-female relationship being explicitly shown onscreen in a cartoon marketed toward children. The age range for Korra was listed for children about 7-14: significantly younger than Shingeki no Kyojin.

However, within the last month, a contender for “best representation” has entered the ring. Steven Universe, a Y-7 show from Cartoon Network, released an episode where one of the major characters, Garnet, was (spoiler!) shown to be a fusion of two female-coded characters known as Ruby and Sapphire.

(I say female-coded as the gems have been confirmed to have no gender. Both characters refer to themselves with female pronouns.)

The scene features Ruby searching for Sapphire in a prison ship. At their reunion, they embrace and Sapphire kisses Ruby’s eyes. For anyone refusing to see, the creators confirmed the nature of Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship as romantic.

Steven Universe is a quality show beyond this amazing step in female/non-binary LGBT representation. The animation is lovely, and it features a wide range of racial features and body types.

It’s done in lovely colors and portrays positive messages and relationships between the main character and his friends and parental figures – particularly his father, which is often rare in TV shows.

We’re making bold moves toward normalizing same-sex relationships: an important step in ending the stigma surrounding othered sexual orientations.