5 Reasons Why ‘Steven Universe’ is So Much More Than Just a Cartoon

By Isabelle Cruz
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The story begins with a young boy who is half human and half gem. He lives with the three “alien” gems: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl – also called the Crystal Gems – in the town of Beach City. He occasionally see his dad and friends, but for the most part he goes on adventures, saves the day and makes time to be himself, Steven Universe.

The series aired on Cartoon Network mid 2013 and ended early 2019 followed by a movie released September 2019. This plot may sound like an ordinary cartoon, but it has touched the lives of many fans worldwide. The overall reception of the show was 100% according to Rotten Tomatoes and 8.3/10 on IMDB.

With 160 episodes aired, fans have praised creator, Rebecca Sugar and her radical work of art. But why? The show is purely fiction, yet it showcases underlying themes that parallel with the real world. In general, it reveals that most people want to feel connected and represented in the world.

Here are some themes and concepts that justify how this show is so much more than just a cartoon.

1. The Gems Go By She Pronouns

Gems on the show are displayed as feminine or masculine or sometimes a mix of both. Because of this, some fans have argued that the the gems are genderless. Other fans have pointed out that some gems go by she/her pronouns. Why does a cartoon emphasize something like this? One could speculate that this is a way to represent and educate those who may or may not know how they want to identify or even educate those who are unaware about these identities. Regardless, it’s an important lesson to feel affirmed and represented, even in a playful cartoon.

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I have a lot of things that I want to show y'all so I'm just going to post the recent ones here and then the others on my second acc 🤘😔 _ So a little bit of explanation for each drawing :')! At first I just wanted to draw Flourite and pad because they're my two fav off colors but then this, yeah, this is also my first time drawing the rutile twins _ Also, two days ago (I think) it was the Undertale anniversary so I wanted to do something. Did a little Muffet because she was the first character that I learned to draw when the game was released :o) _ The last one was a doodle I did while watching 12forever, don't ask questions. _ Yeah [#stevenuniverse #offcolors #undertale #muffet #twelveforever #buttwitch #su #fanart #digitalart #digital #art #myart #painttoolsai ]

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2. Love is Love Themes

In this world, gems can form bigger gems or new gems – this concept is called fusion, but specifics about it will be discussed in the next segment. Because some gems identify as she/her, gems who fuse together imply the idea that love is love. An example of this is the Crystal Gem Garnet, who is a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire. They both love and care about each other and for the most part dislike being apart. They represent a healthy relationship as well as a big figure for the theme of love is love. Later in the show, other fusions are shown, even a polyamorous ones.

3. The Concept of Fusion

Gems fuse, but what does that really mean? Fusion requires consent and cooperation ( sometimes love). This idea of consent in fusion implies fusion is as intimate as sex, so anything forced is compared to the action of rape. In an episode Lapis Lazuli forcibly fuses with Jasper to save Steven and the city. When the gem fusion is uncooperative, the fusion is shown fused but disfigured which metaphorically shows the ugly nature of forced fusion (forced sex or intimacy). This is a lesson within itself.

4. Racial Hierarchy

The Crystal Gems and gems in general come from the planet of Homeworld, where gems are in a hierarchy. This hierarchy can be compared to a racial one similar to the caste system. The rulers are the diamonds, with the highest prestige and power; the court has pearls who serve diamonds, sapphires who serve the court, rubies who guard the palace and important people – the list could go on. Gems are born and do the same job all their lives. Outside of the court are the marginalized gem groups who hide in order to be themselves below in fear of being shattered where they cannot regenerate. This inequality and social order can be seen even in a fictional world.

5. Revolution

The Crystal Gems are a revolutionary rebellion group started by Steven’s mom, Rose Quartz. Earth was supposed to be a colony for Homeworld, but she and the gems refute the orders from eventually making Earth their home. Parts of the revolution are shown throughout the show. They inspire audiences and actors to fight for what’s right. Through rebellion the gems discover who they are outside of their assigned roles and they realize what they truly want out of life.

Looking at a cartoon like this, one can see there is more to the story than fiction. There are life lessons, representation and validation for this generation and generations to come.

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