Written by Ashli Trageser (Features Writer)
“Steven Universe is a show about a magical half-alien boy and his alien guardians. Despite its fun and kid-friendly nature, it deals with many serious topics such as breaking free from your parents’ shadows, colonialism, and trauma. The show also has lots of representation and good life lessons” stated Rebecca Thompson, a long-time fan of the cartoon. Steven Universe is a show on Cartoon Network that ended a little over a year ago, yet the fandom is still lively as ever. It was created by American animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and singer-songwriter Rebecca Sugar, who had to fight hard for its wonderfully diverse representation. With the majority of the characters being people of color or queer, Rebecca Sugar did a fantastic thing in normalizing people of different backgrounds to an entire generation of cartoon-watching children.
Steven Universe is the son of Rose Quartz – leader of the crystal gem rebellion – and Greg, the average human man. Rose Quartz wanted to have a human child, but in doing so, passed on her gem to him, giving up her physical form. (which basically means she gave up her life, but a part of her also lives in steven–quite literally, as he has her gem) The show follows Steven as he lives in beach city with the crystal gems, who were part of Rose’s rebellion before she gave up her physical form. Being aliens from another planet, the crystal gems aren’t really sure what to make of Steven; a human boy with their old leader’s gem and powers, which he had yet to learn to use. Watch Steven as he slowly masters his powers, uncovers secrets his mother left behind, why there are only three crystal gems left when there used to be thousands, etc.
As Steven grows up and the plot progresses, more and more characters start to be introduced and developed. Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet being Steven’s caretakers and last remaining members of the crystal gem rebellion against Homeworld, Connie being his best friend, all of the local townsfolk of beach city, gems that start popping up from Homeworld, etc. In addition, the central message Steven Universe conveys is that anyone can change. There are so many different examples of this throughout the show. For example, the character Peridot is introduced as a Homeworld gem, loyal only to the gem matriarch and dictator Yellow Diamond. For multiple seasons, she was one of the primary antagonists, always being chased by the crystal gems while they broke her stuff. However, after she became stranded on Earth without any direction from Yellow Diamond, she began to really see her surroundings for the first time. This was when she first took notice of the beauty and freedom of this strange planet. It took a long time and a lot of character development, but eventually, Peridot did a full 180 and began fighting on the side of the crystal gems. Steven Universe was able to do this with so many characters, not just Peridot, showing that anyone is capable of changing for the better.
Although this message is important, the show also had to keep it somewhat realistic by having Steven try to help certain gems who refused to change. This was their way of saying that anyone can change, but not everyone wants to. Some may say that redeeming White Diamond, the primary antagonist of the show directly responsible for the suffering of every character, was a bit of a stretch for pushing the theme of the show. I’d have to agree with this, though. Redeeming the Diamonds seemed like a very unrealistic move, along with the fact that they seemed to be telling people to forgive their abusers through this arc. Then during the movie, having Spinel (Rose Quartz’s old friend who she abandoned upon starting the rebellion) move in with the Diamonds seemed very unhealthy but was dubbed as a happy ending.
In summary, Steven Universe is a great show with good morals and amazingly written characters. Although there may be parts certain fans don’t agree with, like the Diamond arc for example,this show is definitely one to remember.