Why Steven Universe Matters and Why You Need to Watch It.
Now I know my posts up to this point have been about stuff that shits me. I know I'm often dark and depressing and so far I've focused on the things that irritate me like the "individuals" in the world and that poem about how my current film is going. But we all have something that takes us away from the crap. Steven Universe is mine.
Steven Universe is a cartoon created by Cartoon Network artist Rebecca Sugar, who due to her efforts on Steven Universe is currently Cartoon Network's only female creator. Inspired by the events of her life and her little brother Steven Sugar, Steven Universe follows the adventures of a boy named Steven, who lives with three alien life-forms called "The Crystal Gems". The Crystal Gems are the guardians of earth and their late leader Rose Quartz is Steven's mother. The story follows Steven's growth as a human, development of his powers and quest for truth behind his mother and how the Crystal Gems came to be the guardians of earth.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that Steven Universe is currently my favorite show, and now I'm going to tell you all why.
Steven Universe's universal theme is that nobody is perfect. Steven and the Crystal Gems Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl are all essentially good, lovable people. But every single one of them has flaws, imperfections which at times get in the way of their better nature. This causes tremendous amount of unjustified hate towards certain characters within the fandom. Indeed I am guilty of this too, but the point of Steven Universe is that we are made to take the good with the bad, because ultimately, the characters reflect us. Through The Crystal Gems we are forced to look into a mirror of our own faults. We are made to see a side of us we might not know we have or something we don't want to see. However while we might be inclined to despise a character for something that we perceive as unforgivable, it never takes long for the innate humanity within that character to take over. To show us how and why and suddenly through understanding, we might not be able to forgive entirely, but we can still love that character, and through it, love ourselves. This is a kind of magic I've not seen with cartoons before. Not only that, but the character's personalities are so varied and diverse that there is literally something for everyone within.
Steven Universe is essentially a coming-of-age story, but it's the most truthful one I've ever seen. Normally protagonists are made to grow up through life lessons that are slowly introduced and then suddenly culminate in an impressive finale. However Steven Universe doesn't work that way. The story is a sequential series of events that all happened. It's not like Spongebob Squarepants (which is a great show in it's own right) where something irreversible happens and we are made to accept in the next episode that it has somehow fixed itself. No, the world is not so forgiving in Steven Universe. The events that happen, happen. Time is irreversible, characters must deal with the consequences of their actions, and there is no quick fix or easy way out. It's impressive because the writers need to take the continuity of the world into account when writing, and little references to past episodes round off the world and make it feel real and tangible. It builds a magical reality that the viewer can become a part of and it's beautiful. Not only that, but the fact that the world is like this means Steven's growth is real. Its something that can be watched, felt, admired and reflected on. Things happen that Steven isn't ready for yet, and he has to grow up to face them, time and time again. It's amazing that something so far-out can be so realistic.
As I said before, the main theme in Steven Universe is that no-one is perfect, and that's okay. Characters often screw up, do something wrong, or just blatantly act stupidly. And they often need to pay the price, but just as this happens, so too are others willing to accept and forgive the mistakes they make, appealing to the better nature of the offender. Through Steven's innocence and cheery nature, there is an overall suggestion of the world being a simpler place than we make it out to be, and the theme of no body being beyond redemption is a recurring concept. Love is heavily explored, with the nature of romantic attachment being blatantly and obviously explained as something that takes "work" and "time" to achieve. It's admirable in what it teaches children, and the way in which it teaches. Indeed, I'm 22 years old and I've learned more from Steven Universe than I've learned in all my 16.5 years in the education system (6 primary, 6 secondary, 1.5 TAFE, 3 tertiary).
The world of Steven Universe is huge, deceptively so. There is an entire back-history to the current series that goes back literally thousands of years, and like a diver with the bends, is slowly being brought to the surface through Steven's journey with the Crystal Gems. It's interesting, mythic and keeps the audience coming back for more.
Steven Universe often uses music to tell the story, with songs being a frequent occurrence. The music is often funky, emotional, catchy and really entertaining.
The show does something a lot of cartoons don't. It deals with the nature of multiple kinds of love. Close to your siblings? You're in Steven Universe. Got a love that will never die? You're in Steven Universe. In love with someone but too afraid to say? You're in Steven Universe. You a parent? You're in Steven Universe. There is no kind of love that the show doesn't cover. Unless you're into that freaky stuff, in which case the show doesn't cover that.
The show consists of two races. Humans and Gems. Humans are...well...human. Gems however, are female-appearing sentient gems that refract light to form a solid hologram of their desired form. All gems are gender neutral, but choose to form female bodies (which suggests that "male" gems exist but are merely a rarity). However because of this gender neutrality it gives the show freedom to explore the nature of sexuality, with the foremost romantic relationship in the show being between two gems who appear (and I use appear because they look like women, not because I refuse to recognize the romanticism of their relationship) to be in a lesbian relationship. Like I said, this show deals with some heavy stuff, but in a way that kids can understand and love. Not only that, but because they are gender neutral it means homophobic assholes can't beat down on it with their limited logic.
I could literally go on and on about the show for hours, but I've got stuff to do. The only downfall is that Cartoon Network releases it in these annoying little segments that last one-week called Steven Bombs. I can understand the usefulness of Steven Bombs but it's been three weeks since I've had a new Steven Universe episode and I'm finding it difficult to contain the ticks. Watch it. If you don't love it, I'm coming for you. *eye twitches*.