When I am not rehearsing or working on a piece, I have a lot of time to myself to watch Netflix, play video games or read comics. I’ve gotten back into watching cartoons lately and my latest choice has been the incredible stylings of Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, on Cartoon Network.
Steven Universe is a cartoon about a young boy, named Steven Universe, who is raised by three female, magic aliens known as Gems. The Gems (Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl) were close friends of Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, who led an uprising against invading Gems from the Gem homeworld who wanted to destroy Earth and use the planet as an incubator for new Gems. Rose and the Crystal Gems won the war and stayed on Earth as its defenders. Rose fell in love with a human and gave birth to Steven, but it is impossible for a Gem and their offspring to occupy the same space so Steven’s care was passed to the other three Crystal Gems. The four main characters go on missions to defend Earth and preserve humankind from dangerous Gem artifacts and other gems that invade the Earth.
In all, the show is incredibly creative and relatively groundbreaking. It is the first show on Cartoon Network to be created exclusively by a female producer. Rebecca Sugar did work on other shows, like Adventure Time, before starting Steven Universe but since has focused mostly on this popular cartoon.
This show is one of the most important cartoons to-date.
Not only was it created by a woman, it features strong, female characters that are warriors and mentors for Steven. These characters are flawed and face challenges and even though they are magical aliens they face real problems and teach children valuable lessons to make a better world. Steven is a kind and caring soul who looks out for his friends and the people he loves; Garnet speaks very little but is the fierce leader of the Crystal Gems; Amethyst struggles with her upbringing and the fact that she was one of the gems incubated on Earth and never knew the Gem homeworld; and Pearl acts as the voice of structure in the team while struggling with the loss of her fearless leader and confidante, Rose. These characters are multi-faceted and bring depth and ingenuity to the show.
The lessons in Steven Universe outweigh many of the stories. Lessons like consent in a relationship, what it actually means to be in love with another person, dealing with loss, the need for identity and independence and the importance of family, even when the family presented is a non-traditional one. The show also sports a canon lesbian relationship through Garnet, who is a fusion of two gems, Ruby and Sapphire, that cannot stand to be apart from each other so they stay fused together.
This show has wonderful writing, incredible characters and an intriguing story. The importance of this show is more than just one-sided; more cartoons like this one could make a significant impact on the younger generations for the better.