Sweden lashes out after lesbian romance ‘censored’ in Cartoon Network show

© Lucy Nicholson
Sweden seems to have censored a brewing lesbian romance between two main characters in an episode of popular Cartoon Network show Steven Universe, leading its residents to launch a petition urging CN to take appropriate action.

Steven Universe, which premiered in 2013 in the US on Cartoon Network, revolves around the fictional Beach City where a boy called Steven hangs out – occasionally helping to save the world – with his friends, who are actually “Crystal Gems”: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and others. The interesting thing about the gems is that they can fuse to create more powerful characters. Garnet is a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, both female gems who are very much in love with one another.

The Swedish-dubbed version of the show’s episode ‘Hit the Diamond’ about a baseball match has been altered to mute the romantic tension between Ruby and Sapphire.

For instance, this particular conversation:

Ruby: Just look at the ball – Titter på bollen (Just look at the ball)

Sapphire: I'm trying, but all I wanna look at is you – Jag försöker, jag har problem med koncentrationen ( I'm trying, I have problems with concentration)

Ruby: Do not worry, you can look at me when you're running for home – Ingen fara, fokusera på segern när du springer runt (No worries, focus on victory when you run)

Despite the altered dialogue, Ruby and Sapphire’s mutual attraction was obvious and the adapted conversation prompted an angry reaction. A petition, which was signed over 1,300 times by Saturday night, saw the dubbing as “an active choice to censor the relationship that Ruby and Sapphire have…”

This happens in 2016 in Sweden, a country that is known worldwide for being progressive in its views and accepting of LGBTQ+ people,” it said.

If the two female characters are in love in the original show, there is no reason that we in Sweden would change this relationship,” the authors wrote. They “demand[ed] that Cartoon Network issues a written promise never to censor Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship in their translation or otherwise,” as well as to stop “mistranslating occasions when these two female characters show love for each other.”

CN’s parent company Turner responded, explaining that the changes have more to do with the local Swedish branch’s view and the American/European rating system differences – not the American executives.

Cartoon Network often airs edited versions of programs from the American originals due to a number of factors, including the fact that US networks use different ratings systems,” Turner’s spokesperson Emma Thelander wrote in a statement to The Local.

As a channel we celebrate diversity, which can be seen in many of our programs and characters. We do not aim in any way to censor scenes where same-sex relationships are shown and we are proud that our programs have many healthy role models for children to relate to,” she concluded.