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Steven Universe honored a relationship and broke ground for LGBTQ culture

The arc has been years in the making

Steven Universe - Ruby and Sapphire embracing after they get engaged Cartoon Network

Wednesday night’s episode of Steven Universe — “The Question” — was a defining moment both within the show and in animated television at large.

[Warning: Spoilers follow.]

The show’s new, five-episode Heart of the Crystal Gems arc follows the climatic reveal that Rose Quartz, leader of an alien rebellion to protect Earth from her invading sisters, didn’t actually shatter Pink Diamond, the godly entity behind the invasion — she was Pink Diamond. The arc finds Garnet, the warrior fusion of two other gems, Ruby and Sapphire, in turmoil, and splitting out of anxiety. Sapphire feels that Rose Quartz lied to her about their existence as Garnet. Ruby doesn’t want to lose Sapphire, but doesn’t know what to say to keep her either.

In the arc’s first episode, Sapphire is soothed by Pearl’s accounts of what happened (primarily that Rose and Pearl decided to stay on Earth because they were inspired by Garnet). Ruby handles matters a little harder. In “The Question,” she insists that she wants to be alone and goes on a cowboy-inspired adventure. Steven has a hard time accepting this at first, but when he sees how happy Ruby is by herself, he tells her that he cares about her happiness. But Ruby reveals that she’s not so happy on her own. She misses Sapphire and wants to be with her — but on their own terms, not because Rose Quartz told them to.

With a sunset billowing around her, Ruby rides a horse to Sapphire, gets down on one knee, and asks Sapphire to marry her.

Steven Universe has not shied away from depicting LGBTQ couples. The end of season one revealed Ruby and Sapphire’s long-term relationship, and episodes like “Mr. Greg” explore Pearl’s unrequited feelings for Rose Quartz. With marriage equality still lingering as a political issue, Ruby and Sapphire’s engagement is a pivotal moment in the series and the inclusive messaging in pop entertainment.

Though The Legend of Korra paved the way by having the show’s final shot depict a romantic moment between Korra and Asami, it’s still rare to see LGBTQ individuals depicted in shows aimed at audiences of all ages. While some shows like Amazon’s Danger & Eggs make specific efforts for authentic representation (Danger & Eggs featured a Pride episode with a trans character voiced by teen trans personality Jazz Jennings), representation is mostly limited to a few throwaway background shots and minor characters — there’s a few brief background shots of same-sex couples kissing on Star vs. the Forces of Evil; the two police officers in Gravity Falls; a child with gay parents on The Loud House. However, this is the first time that a same-sex couple has gotten engaged on screen in an all-ages program.

There arestill two more episodes of the arc left, so there’s a possibility that any wedding could go awry à la Batman and Catwoman. But creator Rebecca Sugar tweeted that this arc has been years in the making, so hopes are high that Ruby and Sapphire can officially tie the knot.

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