June 16, 2017


Future LGBTQ History Month: Rebecca Sugar Brings Compassion to Animation

JB Lacroix/WireImage
JB Lacroix/WireImage

Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we are honoring Rebecca Sugar, whose innovative mindset in the animation world is just as sweet as her last name.

The Maryland native is well-known and respected for making cartoon history. In 2012, she brought the Emmy-nominated Steven Universe to life, ultimately becoming the first woman to create a series for Cartoon Network. Prior to helming the show, which is loved by people of all ages and genders, Sugar worked on another cult favorite from the network—Adventure Time.

When it comes to Steven Universe, Sugar is a woman of many hats: creator, director, screenwriter, storyboard artist, songwriter, storyboard revisionist and voice actress. Devoted fans, or the "Crewniverse," will tell you that the show is one of the most unique, genuine and inclusive cartoons to arise in recent memory. It follows the adventures of Crystal Gems (Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and the half-human/half- Gem Steven) as they protect their community from various dangers. The series is praised for both its intriguing storylines as the well-curated music.

"Sometimes something is a very simple, relatable feeling, but when you say it out loud it's really complicated—especially when it comes to themes of loss and grieving. But there's a part of those feelings that is love and longing and deep respect," Sugar told Fuse last month about Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1. "I think it's easy to say that so much better through music. There's a beauty you can express through music that you can't by just saying how you feel. We really lean into the optimism that can exist [in those feelings] even if it's just a glimmer on the surface of a difficult feeling."

Along with the fun music and interesting characters, what makes Steven Universe so beautiful is its LGBTQ representation. Those examples are seen from Steven himself embodying both feminine and masculine traits to the loving embrace between Rose Quartz (Steven's mother) and Pearl, as well as Garnet being the living embodiment of a romantic relationship. It is partly based on Sugar's experience as a bisexual woman. The creator came out during a panel at San Diego Comic Con last year, explaining to the audience:

"These things have so much to do with who you are, and there’s this idea that these are themes that should not be shared with kids, but everyone shares stories about love and attraction with kids. So many stories for kids are about love, and it really makes a difference to hear stories about how someone like you can be loved and if you don’t hear those stories it will change who you are. It’s very important to me that we speak to kids about consent and we speak to kids about identity and that we speak to kids about so much. I want to feel like I exist and I want everyone else who wants to feel that way to feel that way too."

"I thought that it would resonate like a secret message, not something that so many people had been waiting to hear. When people come to me and feel that too, I get it, I feel the same way," Sugar recently told Rolling Stoneabout the show's fandom. "It’s this feeling of, ‘You found me, and I found you. We found each other.' There was just no way to put a signal out to say, 'Here I am.' And now we’ve found each other." 

Steven Universe premiered its fifth season on May 29, 2017. The series continues to expand its popularity because resonates with people who have finally found something that isn't just for little girls or boys—it's for everyone. And with that, it's clear that Rebecca Sugar will secure a place in the future of LGBTQ history.

Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.