Archive for the Steven Universe Category


LGBTQ: Steven Universe, Season 2 (English)

September 9th, 2016

As much as I talk about Steven Universe, I’ve been remiss with reviews. With that in mind, I’m taking some time this month to get caught up on reviewing this amazing cartoon, so we can talk about things like representation and diversity in American cartoons, something I started in my review of Adventure Time.

In Season 1 of Steven Universe, we meet and instantly dislike Steven Universe, the half-magical son of carwash owner Greg Universe. Steven, his father and his guardians, the Crystal Gems, live in a small seaside town, based loosely but lovingly on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (A town, not at all coincidentally, which is popular with gays and lesbians. It’s a bit like a mid-Atlantic Provincetown.)  Steven appears and acts about 8 or 9 years old. He’s whiny and annoying, but about halfway through the first season, you start to get a better sense of him and his obviously not-at-all-human guardians.

In Season 2, Steven and the Crystal Gems develop as characters. We spend a lot of time watching the Gems not really comprehending humanity, interacting with them awkwardly – but loving them for Rose Quartz’s sake – and watching Steven struggle with nascent and unpredictable powers. Bits of their backstory starts to filter through the noise, and we get a better sense of the Gems’ feelings of obligation for Steven’s well-being, but also watch them deal with his need to be independent of their protection.

While this tug-of-war is going on, Steven is, little by little, introduced to his mother’s legacy. But more importantly, he starts to develop himself outside the heir to his mother’s legend the Gems require him to be. And when we meet his friend Connie, Steven suddenly becomes much, much more human.

I’m going to go on record that I adore Steven and Connie’s relationship and would have watched this cartoon if this was the only relationship in the series. They are terrific together. Connie’s overprotective, overachieving parents have raised a fine young woman. Almost immediately we can see that Steven and Connie genuinely care about each other and really enjoy each other’s company. They make a great partnership even this early on in the series.

One of the things I very much like about the series is the extremely diverse voice cast and characterization. Even before the cartoon gets into sexuality (which it will in a big way,) it’s diverse in other ways, including ethnicity and body type. But my perspective is that of a white woman, so any visible diversity seems, on the face of it, as a good thing. While Garnet, voiced by singer Estelle, reads to me as a woman of color, there’s some really terrific writing about Pearl as a PoC character, and why SU still doesn’t do black characters right. It’s all worth reading. I’m not the only one watching SU carefully for representation. That there is so much to parse is part of why I like the series.

We can summarize Season 2 as being about the humanizing of the characters – all of them, really. Greg gets fleshed out, the Gems start thinking of Steven as a separate entity from his mother, their leader, and Steven and Connie push each other to be better as people and friends. The people of Beach City start to develop as more than just background images, and suddenly you find yourself joining Ronaldo in his quest to to keep Beach City Weird. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story- 10
Characters – 10
Service – Not visually
Yuri – 5 Pearl’s idolization of Rose is most definitely a crush

Overall – 10

By the end of Season 2, I’d forgotten how whiny Steven was in Season 1. And by the end of Season 2, I was fully hooked, lined and sinkered. ^_^

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Steven Universe ~ The Answer (English)

September 6th, 2016

AnswerSUWell, how fortuitous! Just this morning, I was reading and sharing an article on PBS.org, Rebecca Sugar, Cartoon Network’s first female creator, on writing LGBTQ stories for kids, and lo and behold! my copy of The Answer, arrived. ^_^

The Answer is a hardcover children’s storybook, based on episode 22 of the second season of the Cartoon Network breakout hit, Steven Universe. The episode deals with the origin of Garnet, in which a powerful Sapphire and a common Ruby change fate to be together.

In the episode and the book, we are introduced to the Gems of Homeworld who are bent upon taking over Earth, opposed only by the Crystal Gems led by Rose Quartz. A Sapphire with foresight knows everything that will happen, including her own fate, but the rash behavior of one of her Ruby guards changes…everything.

The cartoon episode is absolutely grin-making, with a catchy little ditty sung by the two gems as they ponder their combined fate. I wondered how they would adapt that into a book?

They did a teriffic job. The illustations by Tiffany Ford and Elle Michalka, are swell, without trying to be the same as in the cartoon. But what really makes the book work is the border in which Ruby and Sapphire carry on a meta-textual conversation.

Artwork from "The Answer" by Rebecca Sugar, author, Tiffany Ford, illustrator, and Elle Michalka, illustrator. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sugar

The story, written by and adapted for this book by Rebecca Sugar, is everything good and right with Steven Universe. Ruby and Sapphire confront being different, acknowledge what and who they are and learn to accept it with Rose Quartz’s help. This is an epic, colorful coming out story about two queer characters in brightly colored pictures with loving and accepting language, drawn and written especially for queer kids.

I hope I don’t have to tell you what to do now, do I? Get this book for yourself and a second copy for your local library. Tell the library this is a children’s book from a very popular TV cartoon. Tell friends with kids about it and lend your copy to them. Give it as gifts to child relatives and friends. Suggest this thing until people roll their eyes, because this book is a game-changer.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters 10
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 10

I cannot imagine what my life might have been like if Steven Universe was in existence when I was young, but I like to think it wouldn’t be all that much different than it is now.  The important thing is for the next geeky, queer kid who comes down the pike will have a book like this to read. How awesome for them. ^_^

Also, I think I want a poster of the cover. (*_*)

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LGBTQ: Steven Universe Season 1 (English)

June 26th, 2015

SUlogoIn 2013, Cartoon Network ran a pilot for a possible new series that received rave reviews. As a result, it was launched for a full Season of 49 episodes that same year. In 2014, it was announced that Steven Universe had been picked up for a second season.

The original premise was described as a “magical boy” series because creator Rebecca Sugar, a former writer for Adventure Time, was looking to make something that anyone could enjoy and she was a bit fed up with the gendering of “magical” series.

In fictional Beach City, Steven Universe is a little boy whose mother was a “Crystal Gem”, Rose Quartz, and who now lives with three of his mother’s former compatriots – Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet (above, left to right.) His father lives nearby and runs the town car wash, while Steven trains to be able to use the Rose Quartz gem embedded in his body that he inherited from his mother.

This is all presented with a handwave and a declarative sentence. “Steven is….” But the whole story actually takes all 49 episodes to play out. We learn slowly, over time, as Steven unlocks new abilities and learns new facts about the true nature of the Gems, what his mother was, and what it all means to him.

Steven at the beginning of the series is rather annoying, in the time honored fashion of magical series protagonists. But almost stealthily, he starts to grow and mature. He makes friends with a local girl, Connie, and they two of them have some pretty great adventures together. With Connie at his side, Steven starts to unlock some of his abilities.

Each of the Gems has a distinct personality and skills, as well as magical weapons. Pearl is a bit of a pedant, and a stickler for the rules. Garnet is badass, and Amethyst is an Id on legs, causing chaos as often as shes helps resolve issues. It’s very apparent that all three Crystal Gems care for Steven, for himself and because he is Rose Quartz’s son.

About halfway through Season 1, we start to get an idea that the Gems do develop various levels of intimacy between them. When they are in sync, they can “fuse” into stronger, larger Gems, although clashing personalities can make that dangerous. We know right away that fusion is an act of intimacy, but when Steven  manages it for the first time, the look on Garnet’s face – Garnet, who never smiles –  is brilliant.

garnet_grin

Garnet confirmed my thoughts on fusion with her advice to fused Steven – “You are not one person…or two. You…are an adventure. Go out and make it a good one.”

We also learn that Pearl’s feelings for Rose Quartz went way deeper than just friends. This is confirmed later in the season, when she tells Steven just how much Rose meant to her.

In the season climax, we get another glimpse of fusion being an act of intimacy between gems, but I’m not spoiling that, except to say it involved a kiss (the series forums exploded trying to dismiss or deny it had any meaning, which was hilarious) and a reveal so good I completely did not see it coming at all. (If you know it, please kindly do not spoil it in the comments. If you do, I’ll delete the comment- – it was too good to spoil. ) Some fans are adamant that the Gems are gender neutral, but I’d say that’s not a fixed state, since Rose was able to have a child with a human.

Remember what I said about musicals? I lied. I guess I really like musicals after all. Maybe I only like cartoon and comic-based musicals. I dunno. I do know the music in Steven Universe plays an actual role in the show. It’s not the same kind of singing to one’s self one represented by “Bacon Pancakes”…the songs add meaning and depth, and occasionally critical expository commentary and character development. So, just on the strength of character and storytelling, I’d say Steven Universe is a must-watch. But there’s also music!

 

It takes no effort at all to see that Steven Universe is probably the queerest cartoon on American television right now.  And it’s really good.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Fun and fanciful
Story- 10 Really.
Characters – 9
Service – Not as such, no
Yuri – 5

Overall – 8

I’ve been binge-watching this series this week. It’s really quite good.

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