Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems

So, Steven Universe.

Steven Universe is an experience.

The opening episodes are generally regarded as poor, to the point of people making “How to Watch SU” Guides designed around reordering the episodes to get new people to stick around. I believe the general consensus is it takes 10+ episodes to pick up, which isn’t quite as dire as it first sounds due to them being eleven minutes long.

After it picks up, though, it really picks up!

It hits a wonderful spot where outwardly the episodes are about some silly quirk but the characterization is amazingly subtle and layered, building up slowly episode after episode. The briefness of the episodes produces an interesting effect where there’s only so much time to deal with everything and sometimes, that means instead things aren’t neatly dealt with at all. “But what about ______?” was a common fandom cry. Instead things will persist. Sometimes they’re offscreen, ready to pop back in a dozen episodes later, sometimes they’re in the background of the episodes the whole time progressing very, very slowly, and generally not in the way people are used to in shows.

And that’s what Steven Universe was good at. The first episode pair involves Steven frantically trying to fit the mold he’s expected to but ultimately finding a way to victory by doing his own thing and the second one has the day be saved due to the phrase, “If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” In neither of them are things resolved for good, many of the issues the characters have and the differences between them at the start remain at the end, but they’ve still succeeded. Things aren’t always convenient. Even more so, people aren’t convenient. The gems are alien and so come into conflict with how humans do things. The entire cast is quirky and so come into conflict with each other. Many of them have some degree of mental health issue and so end up in conflict with themselves. A number of the interpersonal trouble episodes “resolve” with someone simply running out of steam and ones attempting to face down inner demons largely resolve much more along the lines of, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize there were demons in here!” instead of the typical, “And then the demons were exorcized, forever, and you stopped being so annoying.”

This is, of course, at the cost of sometimes being annoying to your audience, which may be why things take a sharp turn at the end of the series into resolving the multitude of loose ends and people extremely quickly, intermingled with cute/dramatic/relatable scenes that seemed to be pulled from a fan wishlist. Near the start of it I described it as Steven’s fever dream and each successive episode reinforced this. The ending is Steven getting what he wants, making people happy by giving them what he wants them to have, other people making him happy by coming together for him, personally solving other people’s internal conflicts, secretly being a beloved princess with an awesome wardrobe, and everyone ultimately being okay and friends now. And in the process, it breaks a lot of things set up earlier. especially around the plots/agency of other characters.

35 Comments

  1. Hinebras says:
    Well, it was just the end of season five, but I get what you’re saying, it was the end of most of the plot threads set up since the first season.

    Indeed Steven got everything he wanted, but that was something that he had to pull through for all these seasons, but I do agree that towards the end of the season all became so convenient for him, like the diamonds sudden change of heart (being White the worst offender of this). I took it as they knew their relationships with each other were wrong, but they couldn’t escape the cycle of abuse and when a third party came to remind them that they could change how things were, they took the chance to speak out loud.
    Of course, this puts Steven as a sort of messiah figure (forshadowed in Escapism),  which does conflict with the previous ideas explored before like Steven not being his mom.

    Just curious, how you would have ended season five? Or what so you think can be improved from that ending?

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    1. Just curious, how you would have ended season five?

      We have a highly comprehensive answer to that! …Or we will, in 8+ weeks.

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    2. Socordya says:

      being White the worst offender of this

      White is such a waste. She and her pearl looked so interesting I was ready to forgive Blue and Yellow’s change of heart, and then oh wait nevermind they got over themselves instantly.

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    3. Farla says:

      Indeed Steven got everything he wanted, but that was something that he had to pull through for all these seasons

      The thing is, a lot of what Steven wants is about him pushing things on people, which is why he normally gets mixed results and we get a bunch of lessons about listening to people or about how you can’t do everything for them. The really obvious one is where Steven just hops into people’s heads and shouts away their mental illness after so many episodes about how other people can’t just fix a problem – it having to come from within apparently has a loophole for someone else crawling inside you, even if we had an entire episode about Steven’s attempt at punching away pizza stress wasn’t a viable long-term solution or another entire episode about living Lars’ life for him isn’t a viable long-term solution. And things like Lapis coming back in the nick of time are things both Steven and Lapis presumably wanted, but goes against the Lapis’ arc being about how PTSD  and depression aren’t convenient, doesn’t go away after a bit of soul-searching, and can make it so things people want and the person themselves want aren’t always possible.

      but they couldn’t escape the cycle of abuse and when a third party came to remind them that they could change how things were

      That’s actually what I was originally looking forward to!

      In practice, as soon as we start caring about the diamonds, everything else wrong falls offscreen and Steven keeps interacting with them not as a third party but with the hurt of an actual family member. For example, the scene where they’re threatening Connie if he doesn’t fall in line. Losing it because your parents keep mistreating you and you have to finally put your foot down and assert your own identity is not something an outsider does. The response to complete strangers threatening your friend is to say whatever they want to hear and get out of there, not talk about how hurt you are these complete strangers don’t respect and value you as a member of their family. The ending eats its cake but has it too – Steven isn’t Pink Diamond and she’s (somehow) gone forever, but he’s still slotting precisely into her role in the family and feeling the same things, and so we have him living out every hurt kid’s dream of getting to yell at Mom that I’M DEAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T APPRECIATE ME AREN’T YOU SORRY NOW?! …and that’s without even bringing up the broader issue that after four and a half seasons on the subject of “gems don’t have kids or understand the concept of childhood”, both the diamonds and the Crystal Gems as well suddenly get it and accept they’re adults and Steven is a kid and should act accordingly.

      There’s also the fact that White is so well characterized…but as someone who you should run the hell away from. It isn’t that you need to explain she’s hurting you. Hurting you is the point and your explanation just lets her adjust her aim. I understand why it’s such an appealing fantasy that someone you care about does care back but, especially in our culture that already tells people family is forever and your parents own you and you need to keep trying…nobody needed another round of “if you were good enough you could fix this and then everything would be better, even though she did so many horrible things I’m sure she cares about you”. And it’s so particularly tone-deaf when you’ve got a quirky fourth-wall break about telling an adult if you’re bullied followed by trying to deal with a parent bullying you all by yourself and it being a smash success.

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  2. Septentrion says:

    I lost all expectations when Steven got resurrection powers.

  3. I wasn’t super upset with the ending, but I did think it was super rushed. That’s sort of to be expected with shows that are expecting their expiration date coming up sooner than later, but I do agree that the relationships weren’t done justice for the sake of tying things up neatly. My favorite two parts of this complex layered social friction are with the Pearl/Garnet arc, when Pearl tricked Garnet into fusing with her, which Garnet (rightfully so) took as an extraordinarily intimate betrayal. That wasn’t tied up in a climactic “let’s hug it out” or even as a two-episode arc. It affected dynamics for multiple episodes and created tension that lasted a good part of the season. That didn’t go away quickly, and I really respected that.

    My other favorite part — and I actually like this more, weirdly enough — is the conflict between Amethyst and Greg. That’s a conflict that’s been going on for a long time, as evident by what was said, how Greg said he wanted to be friends with her, “but she always does this” or something to that accord. That episode was dark, but really satisfyingly so. We got to see two characters that you’ve become very attached with and sympathize with be hateful and toxic with each other. In some ways, Amethyst is as close to a “kid-gem” as Steven is, having been raised away from the dogmatic society of Homeworld, but also not having the respect and experience that bonds the other Crystal Gems from having endured and escaped it.

    Greg’s arrival shortly followed the disappearance of someone Amethyst looked up to and respected, someone who could be compared to a mother figure. And Greg, of course, doesn’t want to shoulder the blame for Rose’s actions, and there’s this whole cycle of people who want to get along, but can’t due to deep-seated resentment, guilt, and/or regrets. I don’t remember if that tied itself up neatly or not, but I really appreciated how it was portrayed that Greg wanted to be friends with her, but the two were just way too toxic for each other. It reminds me of the relationship I have with two (ex?) friends from college, which I suppose is why I like this dysfunctional dynamic’s portrayal the most.

    And you’re right, that the outwardly zany episodes that hide a truly meaningful level of interaction between its protagonists is what made me really enjoy Steven Universe. The ending was a cop-out. It didn’t handle everything the way it should have, but to my understanding, they were staring at the possibility of having no more SU episodes, and no ability to tie loose ends up, ever. I would probably freak out too, if I were in the writers’ position. Personally, the way I would have handled it would have been to address those issues as being present, while still moving forward. Lapis would show up, but be too afraid to fight on the frontlines. She might even relapse into adopting a terrified subservience to Blue Diamond.

    At the end of the series, there could have been a message that addressed Lapis’ unwillingness to help out as much as she could have, but still grateful that she put the effort into attempting to move past things, while acknowledging that they’re still very much there. The end of the series could have had Bismuth talk about how she would never accept the diamonds, and how that was okay. Bismuth lost a lot to the Diamonds. All the Crystal Gems did. I wanted to see Bismuth’s reaction to Steven’s being buddy-buddy with them, and a rejection of the expected “let’s make peace and make up” trope that typically happens with shows like these, which we sort of got. I’m not really sure. That whole bathing and un-corrupting sequence leaves a lot to interpretation. Clearly Jasper was rearing for another battle, but seeing her diamonds soaking with a bunch of other gems must have been surreal to her.

    As for Steven’s being Pink simultaneously, I’ll disagree with you outright, because I really liked how that was handled. Steven has been dealing with an identity crisis for a while, leading up to the last episode. I really liked the message that, at the end of the day, he is who he is. He isn’t Pink Diamond or Rose, and he doesn’t have to be. He has a strong connection with the other diamonds, because part of Pink lives– her emotions and some of her memories– but the consciousness is no longer there. He can relate to them on a familial level because he can understand how Pink felt, because that much is left of her, but that’s all that’s left. That was my interpretation of it.

    Given all the emphasis fusion has on the show, I enjoyed the implications of Steven being a human/gem fusion. It opens a lot of speculation, but that’s something I enjoy. Being able to discuss theories with other fans even years after the show’s ending allows me to engage on the serious, thought-provoking level that might otherwise just have belonged to the time when we didn’t have the answers, and without the virtue of hindsight.

    Also– Saint mentioned a meta post being made soon. Is that up yet? I’m still not 100% sure if that’s been made yet or where on A03 it is, if so.

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    1. The AO3 meta is here, though we don’t have anything specifically on the ending yet. I keep pestering Farla to do it but she keeps writing her She-Ra fic instead.

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        1. New. It’s here if you’re interested. It’s gotten about five times as many hits and comments as my fic because SU fandom is dead ;_;

          1. ? says:
            This is only vaguely relevant, but what do the “BTF”, “rbtf”, “btp” and “rbtp” AO3 tags mean? They only seem to be on Farla’s fics
            1. Reverse/Bechdel test pass/fail. Farla doesn’t like writing them out because she says it looks too much like advertising.

              Reply
      1. Gotcha. Let me know when the ending stuff is up so I can post there.

        1. You should be able to subscribe to it if you have an AO3 account.

          You can also subscribe to my fic while you’re at it, since it’s basically the meta in story form.

  4. SpoonyViking says:

    Hmmm. I don’t know if you were trying to avoid spoilers or if you just focused entirely on the target audience of people who already watch the show, but this felt a bit too minimalistic. I would have appreciated some more development on why exactly you felt the series wrapped things up too neatly.

    1. Septentrion says:

      Yeah, more could be written on Steven’s character alone. He was never supposed to change, just get new powers.

      One the other hand, the show seems like it hasn’t been given enough care by it’s own creators to warrant a long and careful analysis. Even on deviantart, creators know the heights of their character. With that level carelessness, it’s not surprising that you get something like the zoo causally thrown in.

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    2. Sorry if I was being too vague there. I think that certain plot points were way too cool and way too complex to have been handled effectively in the short span of four episodes. For one, I have no idea why they wasted an entire episode on revisiting those stupid watermelons. If my show was being cancelled, there’s a lot more meaningful character interaction I would do than throwing back to an old gimmick with an “oh hey look how special and awesome my main character is he created them isn’t that a little bit like god, that means he can totally save the day, right?” added to it. That episode really irritated me.

      Get ready for a whole lot of guesswork and theorizing here, because that does tie into my complaint that it was too neatly done– none of this kind of stuff showed up.

      The biggest issue with its being too neatly tied up is White. White was such a phenomenal antagonist. A perfect counter to Steven, the way I interpreted it. Cold, callous, unempathetic to the core. Prone to fits of anger when things don’t go her way. She doesn’t care what you think, because other things– even other diamonds— are unimportant when they don’t line up exactly how she wants them to. It makes the dogma laid down by Homeworld rule that each gem has its own predesigned purpose and should not stray from that enforced destiny, because their leader is so absolutely controlling. Even other diamonds can’t escape it, she’s that influential and presumably strong. If a diamond is a god to a ruby, White is a god to an ordinary diamond, like Blue or Yellow.

      Everything from her design to her voice screamed “This is someone you cannot sway. This is someone who does not want to understand. This person is a threat to everything you hold to be valuable and true.” So for Steven, someone who has always tried to talk things out, this kind of antagonist is the perfect foil. I really wanted to know how they’d explore that dynamic, and that’s the sort of thing that needs its own season, maybe on homeworld for a large part of it, with Lars returning to lead another rebellion.

      What we got was Deus ex Machina. Steven’s diamond powers saved the day. The thing is, I can actually understand how that could have affected the story and made perfect sense, they’d just need more time for it. My take on the purpose of the diamonds is that they’re not just symbols of authority, their very presence affects gems. Blue was very explicit in her ability to broadcast sadness. It might explain why gems under Yellow’s control are so obsessed with war-like properties like authority of command and aggression, while Blue-aligned gems are much more sensitive. Without even one of the diamonds present, it could be explained that a core part of their being could be missing or no longer there.

      Pink’s diamond could represent empathy or inspiration, self-expression. Steven’s very presence on homeworld could inspire gems to feel and rebel against their order. By the sound of things, when Pink was around, White did actually care. The show could have displayed a gradual instability in White as Steven’s presence near her causes her unfeeling, uncaring perfect demeanor to crack, which puts even more pressure on her to find Steven and assimilate him. Because just as Pink Diamond’s thing is self-expression, creativity, etc., White’s thing is conformity. They’re natural enemies in that sense, but the way the diamonds could work is of balancing each other out. It’s kind of like the various aspects of humanity were emphasized in each diamond, and the absence of even one of them can throw the system out of whack.

      Pink’s birth could have been in response to an imbalance within the gems’ society. And her departure only threw things even more out of whack, because they know what they’re missing– Pink was a celebrated and beloved figure on Homeworld. That void turned to regret and guilt for Blue; it hardened Yellow. It could have had a similar effect on White, and Steven could have even managed his typical brand of talking it out, rather than fighting it out, but only after talking failed, and they had to resort to war. I would have really liked to see Steven’s further breaking down in the wake of failure, and what he could learn from that, with everything else going down.

      Or something like that. Most of what I said is either bullshit or speculation that has just a little bit of promise to it. The point of it all was that we didn’t get anything like that. There was no justifiable reason for Steven’s suddenly saving the day, and the victory felt less valuable for it. I don’t fault the show for this because they deal with factors like deadlines and the looming threat of cancellation. I appreciate the ending for trying to tie up loose ends, but it comes off as rushed at times. How could it not? And we still didn’t get to see why Pink/White Pearl has a massive crack through her– evidence of one of White’s tantrums, or if the crack in their planet was caused by White.

      There’s so much that needed to be handled delicately, and so much that’s still left unanswered that it would have been impossible to make an absolutely satisfying conclusion within four episodes. Deus ex Machina saved the day, and we’ll never know if White Pearl has to live with an abuser who may have shattered her freakin’ face for the rest of eternity. They were all happily splashing it up in a pool, and there wasn’t enough (or any) emotional validation from people I would have really liked to hear from! Jasper and Bismuth, particularly.

      Ultimately, I don’t fault the show for any of that, but most of that is from meta knowledge, from knowing or thinking that SU doesn’t get a chance to really flesh things out, so I’m judging it by that standard, rather than if they had unlimited time, money, and a television station willing to broadcast it. Kind of like a teacher grading a timed essay rather than one they’d had a month to do.

      TLDR; My complaints are that everything looked like it was going to be okay in the end, but it didn’t properly earn that right to a happy ending just yet, which could have been out of SU’s creators’ control.

      Let me know if I’m being vague again. I could have gone on one too many tangents to properly satisfy your response.

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      1. Sorry Reeds, but I’m gonna have to disagree with you on giving the awful resolution a pass because of cancellation panic. There were other ways they could have rushed an ending that weren’t a complete betrayal of everything that came before.

        I mean, they had Lars’ ship en route to Earth already. They didn’t need the diamonds to transport them and they therefore didn’t need the RQ=PD bailout. They could have just had Lars show up with the diamonds in hot pursuit or something if they needed to rush the plot to Homeworld. I would even have accepted hugging it out with the diamonds just as long as they were hugging it out with a commoner gem and thus actually rejecting the harmful caste system.

        None of the awful un-twists were necessary, even if they had to rush it. The writers chose to take a story about caste rebellion and turn it into a story about how the runaway princess’ feelings are the only ones that matter. That’s something I can’t forgive.

        1. The Reeds of Enki says:
          I could actually get suspicious vibes from Rose Quartz before she was PD, but even that was with Rose as the leaser of a rebellion, a lowly quartz who shook the foundation of gem society. Inspiration to any common gem who dreams of being more.

          The PD thing was a spit in the face of that theme, totally. That was and is galling. I don’t think it contradicted the show’s setup though, necessarily, it’s just that they baited people into thinking one thing about Rose in the beginning and the rest of the show is about realizing the flaws of the idolized Rose Quartz. I think it was focused more on the characters left behind as a result of Rose’s actions rather than one of caste rejection. People predicted the PD reveal, and there was some foreshadowing, but you’re right, it wasn’t necessary. Rose Quartz as a complicated character who made some questionable choices is a lot more interesting than spoiled princess leader playing undercover rebel!princess leader.

          Ultimately, the show shaped itself as a character-driven drama that followed the wake of Rose’s actions. Y’know, the more I type this out, the more I appreciate your ire. That aspect of the show only really works in a non-problematic way if the person whose legacy impacts the plot of the show was from someone other than from one of the 4 gems whose opinions were allowed to at least sort of matter to begin with. It’s totally a slap in the face for everything Rose stood for.

          And even that could have worked, dammit, if they just showed enough hurt and betrayal from the gems. Garnet, a fusion of a super common gem and a fusion, period, leading a proper resistance would have validated themes of caste rejection. The ending could have been a compromise made to the leader of the Crystal Gems– Garnet. Not Steven, who would in that case be of lower authority to Garnet. That would have been a satisfying scene, the diamonds being forced to accept Garnet as their leader and a lowly pearl as her second-in-command, probably. The entity they think of as a diamond would be tertiary at best  in the hierarchy of command there– he’s just a fourteen-year-old kid!

           

          So yeeeaaah, I can get where you’re coming from. I still enjoy it and will likely continue to enjoy it, but it was handled much more poorly than it should have been.

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        2. Hyatt says:
          You talk about RQ=PD wasn’t planned, but why? I’m pretty sure it was planned from the beginning. There’s symbolic foreshadowing starting from the first episodes, Pearl’s mouth-covering quirk goes way back…

          The writers chose to take a story about caste rebellion and turn it into a story about how the runaway princess’ feelings are the only ones that matter. That’s something I can’t forgive.

          Except it didn’t start out as a story about caste rebellion. It started out as a story about a human-magical being hybrid trying to fill the shoes of his illustrious mother with a group of other magical beings who protected humans from magical monsters. We only slowly learned that there was even a rebellion involved, even later that it against a caste system and not just to protect Earth. It started off being about feelings and expectations and trying to fill a role you just don’t fit, and it ended on resolving that.

          1. illhousen says:

            “RQ = PD wasn’t planned” is giving the show the benefit of a doubt and assuming the writers just burned out and didn’t notice or care about narrative problems it created.

            If it were planned alongside the caste revolution, then, well, it’s a pretty tone-deaf and thematically incoherent story beat.

            If it were planned while the caste revolution was later development and not a part of the original plan, that would be more understandable: it would be hard to scrap your old ideas and rework the very direction of the show. But, well, that still produced thematically incoherent story, which is worthy of criticism. (It would also mean that a large part of what I liked about the show was incidental to it, which does not exactly endear me to it.)

          2. Except it didn’t start out as a story about caste rebellion. It started out as a story about a human-magical being hybrid trying to fill the shoes of his illustrious mother with a group of other magical beings who protected humans from magical monsters.

            There is no contradiction there. Those are the exact same themes: struggling with the expectations other people and external forces place on you, and fighting for your right to be seen as your own person and make your own decisions.

            You talk about RQ=PD wasn’t planned, but why?

            Already talked about this.

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      2. CrazyEd says:

        For one, I have no idea why they wasted an entire episode on revisiting those stupid watermelons.

        After all the slice of life detour episodes that happened when there were far more important things they probably should’ve been focusing on that felt like the writers getting bored of conflict and just wanting to write fluff fic for a bit, are you really surprised?

  5. Nerem says:
    I wonder if CN had been on the fence with renewing SU for a while and it spooked the writers. Or just the general… poor scheduling CN has gone with made them feel like cancellation was imminent. And then CN was like “Actually there’s going to be a lot more SU to come! :D” after they finished everything.
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  6. Keleri says:

    I really feel and respect the disappointment here because “A common soldier becoming a general who struck down an untouchable queen is the perfect apotheosis of that.” GAHHHHHHHHH

    That said I did end up liking the finale because, well. But more seriously, I valued Steven’s transformation and realization of his identity more than I valued gem society and White Diamond being untouchable and frightening antagonists. The song “Change Your Mind” was basically everything.

    I am sad about losing Actually the System Is Bullshit and You Can Be Anything, but I do still appreciate “Princess Repudiates Her Privilege” even if the allegory kinda breaks down because you’re dealing with people who really do have more elaborate magical powers than those “lower” in the hierarchy. The parallels to being a gifted child and/or a cis heterosexual who doesn’t meet their “potential”/”gives up” their cis-hetero-ness in favor of doing/being something that matches their identity better are way too real. That terrible desire to please your parents/”parents” and do what they say even as it breaks you is uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh pretty personal.

    I do think your AO3 meta is right about the show [so far] failing to confront the reality of the shattered/killed gems in the war and the diamonds’/leadership’s responsibility for that, and I’m curious if that will be a theme going forward. I think the writers are really good at the personal interaction storylines, but how that expands to war/genocide/societal level problems hasn’t been tackled in quite the same way.

    I guess I would say, how do we know that the diamonds’ story is over, given “Instead things will persist. Sometimes they’re offscreen, ready to pop back in a dozen episodes later, sometimes they’re in the background of the episodes the whole time progressing very, very slowly, and generally not in the way people are used to in shows.”? SU is often frighteningly on-point when it comes to abusive families, toxic relationships, etc. and the big tearful hug-it-out moment where everyone makes promises and goes away knowing that everything is fixed… only for nothing to actually change, is suuuuuuper on-brand for that type of conflict.

    Anyway tl;dr I disagree about the finale being bad but understand the disappointment in the House of Farla

    1. That terrible desire to please your parents/”parents” and do what they say even as it breaks you is uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh pretty personal.

      I get this, but the thing is, there are a lot of different ways that situation can manifest. The story told by the finale isn’t the story told by the rest of the show. Even just looking at Steven’s arc, the issues he faces are totally different. Steven Universe really isn’t a story about abuse; we touch on it briefly with Lapis and Jasper, but that’s a very different scenario from familial abuse. Steven’s real family is good, loving, and supportive, even if they are flawed and sometimes hurt him with their expectations. I see his narrative as one about imposter syndrome, not about growing up gay or trans in a family that rejects that. Those experiences have similarities, but they are fundamentally different.

      If this was the narrative they always wanted to tell, RQ=PD should not have been a last-minute surprise twist, Pink Diamond should have been the protagonist from the start. Nothing else makes sense. Steven is not Rose and this is not his family; we are required to completely throw out the character dynamics established through the entire rest of the show to accept a completely new one that comes out of left field.

      (And ennh I’m really sorry but I do not like the song “Change Your Mind”. Not in and of itself, the sentiment is great, but the show/tell disjunct is appalling. “I don’t need you to respect me,” says the boy who moved Heaven and Earth and risked the lives of everyone who already loved him just to make his evil mom respect him? If he really believed what he was singing, he would have cut ties and moved on like you should do with anyone like White in real life.)

    2. CrazyEd says:

      I am sad about losing Actually the System Is Bullshit and You Can Be Anything, but I do still appreciate “Princess Repudiates Her Privilege” even if the allegory kinda breaks down because you’re dealing with people who really do have more elaborate magical powers than those “lower” in the hierarchy.

      Steven Universe, in general, seemed to have a huge problem with allegories breaking down, getting muddled, corrupted by interactions with other allegories, or just plain not showing what they’re telling.

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      1. Yes; it seems like it was a story that just tried to do too many things at once. It wanted to be a story about nonviolent conflict resolution but also systemic oppression; it wanted to be about humanity but also about aliens; it was a coming-of-age story but also seemed to be deconstruction of that but also it wanted to celebrate childhood and childishness; it was about grief, and queerness, and mental illness, and disability… I actually thought it did manage to juggle everything well for a long time (the short episodes actually work well for that, they could touch on one theme quickly and then move on to another), but I guess once it came time to collapse the wavefunction they had to choose some over others.

        …What still grates me, though, is that still would have been fine if only the theme they chose to preserve was one that was actually present the whole way through. Steven was never a trans narrative. A trans narrative only works if you literally are the person, while the imposter syndrome narrative the whole story was building up to that point only works if you’re not. They’re mutually exclusive. They didn’t just let one of their allegories cannibalize the others, they created a completely new allegory to do so.

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        1. CrazyEd says:

          Yeah, and not being able to do a lot of those things well at all didn’t help its ability to them at once. Look how many things fusion was supposed to represent at once… and look at how many of them even manage to succeed on their own, let alone when interacting with each other.

          Sorry, Rebecca Sugar, Ruby and Sapphire aren’t cute. They’re codependent. They can’t stand being apart to the point where they can’t stand not being literally fused into a single being, and the first time that was disrupted (by an outside force), Ruby cried out in physical pain. That’s terrifying. It’s no wonder Peridot thought it was disgusting they were constantly fused.

          Steven Universe actually had a lot of interesting, if horrifying, ideas, but not only did they not interact with them, and not even did they refuse to acknowledge them, they tried saying that they were doing the exact opposite of what they actually presented.

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          1. The Reeds of Enki says:
            I wouldn’t say that’s a fair example of codependence, though. They’re lovers. They like being together. That’s natural and, I’d argue, a good thing. They don’t have to be together, but being forcibly unfused is bound to be painful, emotionally and physically. Ruby even set out to be her own person in one arc, but they discovered that they just like being together. I don’t like being apart from my S.O. for very long, that doesn’t make me codependent. Same for them. People in a relationship happen to like being together. I don’t get how that’s a bad thing. For those two, who are gems, their fusion is like a metaphor for the quality of their relationship. When it’s not troubled, they’re Garnet. They have proven capable of not being Garnet before as well, by choice, like when they let Steven in on the secret. And I think Peridot was horrified at their being fused because she was conditioned to believe fusion was purely for practical purposes, and to be disbanded the second a mission is over, and only with same-gem pairs. The very idea of self-expression, anything beyond what you’re allowed and supposed to be, was horrifying to her. That was her whole arc, unlearning that negative conditioning.

             

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            1. CrazyEd says:

              Except she also has very valid reasons for thinking it should only be for practical purposes and disbanded once that purpose was over, such as how prolonged time in a fused state was stated to blur the line between the consciousness of the participants, and how that effect was magnified by cross-gem fusions.

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            2. prolonged time in a fused state was stated to blur the line between the consciousness of the participants, and how that effect was magnified by cross-gem fusions

              Where is this stated? I don’t recall this.

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            3. The Reeds of Enki says:
              Their identities weren’t fused together in some horrifying amalgation kind of way. They were still themselves, as annoying to each other in their own ways and compassionate and with their own, individual good qualities as well. Ruby evaporated an entire pool because she thought Sapphire was being too cold and calculating, while Ruby was being super, super passionate. We even get to see an inside Garnet-scape in the show, if I’m not mistaken, where it’s like Ruby and Sapphire each have their own selves shown within the fused identity they create as Garnet. They like being fused together because they’re gems, and fusion is intimate for them. Not inherently romantic, but there are parallels. It makes sense that they’d want to be fused together most of the time. But again, they never show themselves as having to be. They don’t trick each other into fusing with the other. The only Crystal Gem to ever do that had an arc about how very wrong and unacceptable that was. On mobile, there might be spelling errors, sorry in advance.
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            4. CrazyEd says:

              I wanna say it was the flashback episode that showed Garnet fusing for the first time.

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            5. I don’t see anything like that in the transcript. The closest is Ruby saying it feels different than homo-fusing.

              Even if we are told that somewhere, it’s patently obvious it’s Homeworld propaganda with no basis in fact. Ruby and Sapphire clearly maintain their own identities enough to have arguments with each other while fused. There doesn’t appear to be any actual downside to fusion.

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          2. I think fusion works if you take it to represent relationships in general. People can in a sense change who they are when they’re with other people, especially in a long-term relationship.

            Ruby and Sapphire in particular are a good example of this, I thought. They don’t function well on their own because no gem functions well on their own. Garnet is an extension of the greater theme that no man is an island and that people are made better by their connections with others.

            I never really understood the argument that they were codependent, honestly. They’re not any moreso than any other gem, and Garnet as a whole seems to have it much more together than the other gems. That’s a bad thing… why, exactly?

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