Now that I’ve watched every single episode except for that April Fool’s one, I have to state that I love Steven Universe!
I love the fact that it’s about a boy with three [living] moms, including two women of color, whose closeness, queerness, and strength is celebrated.
I love the fact that Steven’s awesome superpower is basically love and open-minded acceptance, modeled not only by Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, but by his dad. I love the fact that his dad could so easily be a dull schlub, but instead he’s a wonderful, practical, down-to-earth guy who nurtures Steven’s big heart.
I love the fact that his best friend, Connie, is a super-serious, nerdy, analytical girl, respected as a character in her own right, never relegated to the role of love interest or stick-in-the-mud.
It thrills me beyond belief that the two of them fuse into a genderqueer “experience” named Stevonnie whose immediate reaction to creation is not to have some heteronormatively determined panic with sexual subtexts, but to revel in the sheer joy of dancing.
Of all the characters I watch this show for, my favorite is Pearl. As an intellectual who believes in the power of rational thought, she constantly struggles with the supposed purity of knightly virtues and the supposed messiness of emotional attachments. I identify all too much with her tendency to lead from her head [or to at least convince herself that her head is right] rather than to appropriately respect her intuition. I find her equation of devotion and abasement poignant and psychologically profound. I like how, even though she feels worthless, even though she can be rigid and snappy, she’s also capable of great love and tenderness. I think that Steven’s open-minded acceptance benefits all the Crystal Gems, as they all have reasons for hating themselves, and I hope that, in future, his love can help her see that love, equality, and self-respect can coexist.
Steven Universe has so many wonderful aspects that I can scarcely believe that it will continue such a magnificent run. I dread its inevitable devolution into heteronormative crappiness, overrun with male-coded Gems and supposedly romantic plots for Steven and Connie. It’s the only piece of mainstream media that I’ve encountered recently where I feel like myself and my imagination are represented — i.e., it’s a world where queerness is a fact of life, where women are fuckin’ awesome in multifarious ways, where kindness, honesty, emotional expressiveness, and open-mindedness are strengths, and where the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois narrative is shown for the unimaginative, boring, toxic, dull, and ultimately irrelevant delusion that it is. It’s not perfect, but it’s surprisingly awesome…although I wonder how long it can stay that way.