I’m going to take a minute to step outside my normal discussion of books and focus instead on a TV show. There are limited spoilers in this post. So if you haven’t seen Steven Universe before, AND you’re sensitive to spoilers, make sure to watch it and then come back and read my post! You’ve been warned.
- POC representation
No only are there POC in the tv show (Connie is Asian, Garnet is Black), but many of the characters are voiced by POC; Lapis, Amethyst, Jasper and Pearl to name a few. POC have always been under represented in media whether in live-action, animation or as voice actors. Even Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra both had a cast of mainly white voice actors, despite taking place in an Asian inspired world. Steven Universe takes place in our world, and possibly our reality, and yet feature performances from a diverse cast who seem to be cast perfectly.
- LGBTQIA+ representation
Many, many, many kinds of LGBTQIA+ people are featured in Steven Universe. Characters that areLGBTQIA+ in this TV show include:
- Among others
Slowly tv shows are starting to include LGBTQIA+ representation, but with the exception of Modern Family, Legend of Korra and Adventure Time, there are few media outlets featuring LGBTQIA+ people and relationships. Steven Universe breaks all these boundaries. I can’t say much more about its importance because I don’t have the perspective of being LGBTQIA+. Asking someone with the experience of being LGBTQIA+ and having watched the show, they are a better place to learn about those aspects.
- Female Mentors
The three Crystal Gems serve as Steven’s mentor for the entire series coaching him at different points. They all play a central role in his world paradigms and upbringing. Greg, Steven’s father, certainly plays a clear influence in his life (music, easy going, etc), but Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst have more of an effect on his day-to-day life. The Gems give him more and more responsibility and challenges as he matures in the series and he even goes on missions without them eventually. His development and growth, as a fighter and gem, is owed completely to Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst who have taught and encouraged him from the beginning. The Gems also act as an influence on Connie as Pearl teaches her to sword fight, Garnet teaches her to embrace challenges and Amethyst shows her how to take a break. This show has many positive female characters who act as mentors for both boys and girls; something media sorely lacks.
- Non-traditional families
Steven’s family is probably the most non-traditional on screen. Birthed by an extra-terrestrial being and raised until a young child (we’re still not clear on when Steven started living with the Crystal Gems) with Greg. Steven now lives in the Temple with Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst. He sees his father often, and Greg, Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst are all on friendly enough terms and see each other often. Rebecca Sugar said, “Steven is based off my brother Steven, and Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl are all ways I act around Steven… sometimes I’m overprotective, sometimes I don’t have to care what he thinks… I always want to be like Garnet, but I probably am never that cool.”
- It’s for EVERYONE
Although it’s a children’s cartoon, Steven Universe is anything but childish. The themes explored in Steven Universe are vast and include, but are not limited to, grief, PTSD, prejudice, otherness, xenophobia and peer pressure. Steven Universe may be be a children’s cartoon, but it tackles all these themes and more in an artful way people of all ages can enjoy and learn from, including adults.
- The Music
The music is amazing. A jazzy mashup of every instrument imaginable, including chip. The score alone is a huge feat and has a soundtrack fit for a movie. The songs express characters feelings and actions in a way that helps you understand them even more beautifully and clearly than if a monologue was used. “Music matters in Rebecca Sugar’s work, in a way it doesn’t in most entertainment, often not even in other musicals,” writes Eric Thurm for Pitchfork. “…the characters on “Steven Universe” have an intimate relationship with music and use it to structure their lives.” If you are a music lover, the least you should do is listen to the music on Soundcloud or YouTube. It’s a transient experience that will have you humming the music for weeks to come.
Steven Universe is available on Hulu, iTunes and YouTube.
Have you watched Steven Universe? What do you like most about the show? If you haven’t seen it, have you heard of it or plan to watch it?