WARNING this post (probably) contains spoilers.
Steven Universe is an animated kid’s show on Cartoon Network. It was created by Rebecca Sugar. (Click to see my Steven universe review.) Today I’m going to delve into the messages that are found under the surface of the show.
There are quite a few people who have talked about this, but I wanted to explore it myself as well. There are a couple of topics I’m going to talk about in this post.
How Steven Universe promotes:
- Diversity- appearance (body shapes), race, sexuality…
- Gender equality.
First, a brief outline of the show. The main characters are Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet. They are part of an alien race called Gems who have magical powers. Steven – the protagonist- is a kid who is half human/half gem. The story follows Steven and the rest of the team -called ‘the crystal gems’- as he tries to control his powers and faces everyday life. They go on missions and save the earth from other Gems, who want to use it for their own evil purposes.
The Gems are gender neutral. They are part of an alien race and their bodies are illusions, but all of them appear female and use feminine pronouns, like she, her, etc. This is like in any general conversation when the gender of a subject is unknown, so people sometimes refer to the thing in question as ‘he’, or ‘him’. With the crystal gems, this is just the other way around.
Also, all the female characters are decidedly unique, none are stereotypical. None of them have ‘perfect’ figures either, like models or celebrities. It shows young people watching this that different is good. Most people in the world are not super thin. In the UK, the average dress size is a 16, I believe. (Which is a 12 in the USA, 44 in European countries.) Even though slimmer people are considered more desirable, most people are an above-average weight.
Diversity is totally the key here. Lars, for example, is very skinny, has a Mohican kind of haircut and stretched ears. Sadie is short and stout. Rose was very tall and curvy. And of course Steven himself is a little squidgy. But none of this is a bad thing. It’s teaching young people growing up that you don’t have to be like people in magazines to be beautiful. And that beauty comes in many shapes and forms.
The 3 main female characters all have different body types. Pearl in very thin and average height, Amethyst is short and curvy and Garnet is tall with chunky legs and an athletic build.
They also have three very distinct personalities. Pearl is organised and neurotic, Amethyst is outgoing and messy and Garnet is stoic and mysterious. The message we can get from this is that you shouldn’t act a certain way just because you think you should, or because others do. Just be the way you are. Embrace differences.
I think Steven universe is teaching TOTAL ACCEPTANCE.
An important point to remember, is that three of the four main characters are female. This is a really positive move for gender equality, as well as basically everything is this show. This is probably because it is the very first Cartoon Network series created by a woman. What!? Ikr.
On a controversial issue, there are some definite romantic relationships presented throughout the show between the gems. It is the first children’s show to have included female relationships. (I know the gems are gender neutral, but they look and refer to themselves as ‘she’ etc.) Some parents are even protesting that the show be cancelled because of this. In my opinion, that is crazy. Garnet is a gem fusion between Ruby and Sapphire, who love each other so much they remain fused all the time, creating Garnet. They can’t stand to be apart. On the few occasions we have seen her unfused and seen ruby and sapphire separately, they are seen laughing, hugging and kissing (on the check, not full on kissing.)
Furthermore, it is heavily hinted through flashbacks and Pearl’s dialogue that she had romantic feelings for Rose Quartz. Some people say that she’s just a loyal knight and close friend. But this is nonsense. Face the facts! She loved her. However, I don’t think her feelings were reciprocated, as Rose obviously gets with Steven’s father Greg. The thousands of years they had together before Greg are a mystery though.
This, I think, under the skin of the show, is subtly normalising homosexual relationships. This could be due to the increasingly freer LGBT world out in society. It is representing these relationships as just another aspect of life, and they are seen positively, rather than in a negative light, which they might have been portrayed as in the past. Equality, people!
As well as body shapes, personalities and sexuality, different races are equally represented also. The minor characters in the city are not all white, like the Pizza family. Garnet and Amethyst seem to appear African American. And Connie -who I love! – is of Indian descent or somewhere similar. I think that western TV shows are usually ethnocentric, but Steven universe represents normal society. It shows the multicultural world we all live in.
To conclude under the fun, amazing world that is Steven Universe, positive messages are flying out everywhere. Rebecca Sugar is not only a genius, but also sharing the love. ❤
Do you like Steven Universe? What do you think of these underlying messages? Please tell me what you think in the comments below. And I would love any other TV show recommendations.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
Thanks for reading.