Lucy writes a letter of appreciation to Cartoon Network's Steven Universe, and talks about why this show is so special and how important its depictions of love are. Beware: spoilers are discussed so if you haven’t watched all of Steven Universe, be careful!

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A Letter to...

Steven Universe

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Dear Steven Universe

 

I first decided to sit down and watch a few episodes of you after seeing my Twitter timeline rave and rave about you. At first I was charmed by young Steven’s enthusiasm, delight for life, helpful and friendly attitude, and by the pink gem stuck to his belly button. Then, as I began to watch more of your unusual world, I began to fiercely adore you, and with every further revelation about Steven, his Gem protectors/mother-figures, and about their town of Beach City, I became somewhat obsessed.

 

You tell the story of your eponymous hero, a young half-human half-Gem boy who lives with his dead Gem mother’s comrades: Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet. They help raise Steven together along with visits from his hippy human Dad. As Steven is the first ever human/Gem hybrid, no one knows how his Gem powers will manifest - the pink gem in his belly button is Rose Quartz, his mother’s, who we learn more about as the series goes on. The other Gems have their own powers – Pearl can conjure up swords, Amethyst can shape-shift, and Garnet has powerful arm gauntlets and future vision. Much of the action is set in Steven’s home town of Beach City, a bizarre and somewhat sparsely populated town peopled by supposedly “normal” humans.

 

Steven’s best friend Connie also lives nearby, and their relationship is completely adorable – supportive and giggly and hilarious. One of my favourite lines is when Connie gives Steven a new pink shirt for his birthday and he cries, “What a pretty colour!” and puts it on immediately. For you as a show are definitely, firmly progressive in terms of your depiction of same-sex relationships, queerness and non-binary gender politics. You reveal a fair way through that Garnet (magnificently voiced by pop star Estelle) is actually a fusion between two Gems, Sapphire and Ruby, who are so utterly, fiercely and irrevocably in love that they live permanently fused together in one being. A recent episode showed Garnet telling Steven the full story of how Sapphire and Ruby met and fell in love and it’s one of the most heart-warming ten minutes of TV you’ll ever see. Recently, though, Cartoon Network UK has rightfully come under fire for editing out a flashback scene between Rose and Pearl, saying the edits would make "more comfortable" viewing for children. This is a great shame and it’s ridiculous, not least for the fact that to edit out all the queerness from the show would leave it in tatters, so why they focused on this one scene is somewhat bizarre.

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You, Steven Universe, have some of the smartest, well played-out world-building I’ve ever seen. Although each episode is less than fifteen minutes long, somehow the most stunning backstories and plots are introduced and dealt with amusingly and lovingly. And it’s love that’s the overriding theme. Although the Gems are aliens, they teach Steven what is is like to love compassionately – they are there not just to protect Steven but the entire world. They have dedicated their lives to protecting people whose community they aren’t from because not only is it the right thing to do, but also because they have fallen in love with Earth and its people. As we viewers discover more about the threats to the world, and what it has meant for the Gems to sever ties from their own kind, it becomes even more awe-inspiring.

There are so many types of love on display in your show that I’m 100% sure that Plato would have this down as his number one favourite TV series of all time if he were around to watch it. Parental love, same-sex love, inter-race love, the love between friends, and love that develops out of gradually getting to know another person. You are such a positive show and it makes me feel tearfully grateful that you exist. Love, as Garnet points out to Steven, is the answer.

 

Yours

Lucy

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