‘Steven Universe’ Is a Miracle You Should Watch
Cartoon Network’s lovely, progressive animated series is truly what the world needs right now
There’s very little that’s perfect in this life. Careers, relationships, snack foods — all have their share of disappointments. But once in a while, you’ll encounter something genuinely sublime. Something so good it seems unreal that it actually exists, or that human beings, flawed as they are, could have possibly created it.
This is how I feel about Steven Universe.
The animated series is getting its first TV movie on Cartoon Network on September 2, Labor Day, so now is as good a time as any for people to learn about this little miracle, created by Rebecca Sugar in 2013. It’s about the titular Steven, who lives with and helps the Crystal Gems — Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl — three otherworldly beings who have sworn to defend the Earth. It’s a very basic premise, and when the show started, it was seemingly much more interested in comedy than action, which was fine because the show can be riotously funny. (I present exhibit A: “Watermelon Steven.”)
I say “seemingly” because Sugar had something else in mind for the show from the very beginning, starting with a robust backstory that was slowly and strategically revealed over the years. It started with the revelation that Steven is half-human and half-Gem, and his Gem mother Rose Quartz knowingly let herself die so that Steven could be born. Then we learned that the Crystal Gems — Rose, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl — are protecting the world from other Gems, and rebelling from their empire to save Earth and its inhabitants from destruction. Eventually, Steven discovers his mother might not have been nearly as good and noble as people had told him.
But more important than the show’s plot are its themes, which I think are best summed up as “what is noblest in humanity.” Acceptance, tolerance, love, and empathy are built directly into the show’s DNA. While the other Crystal Gems may do battle when necessary, Steven always tries to resolve conflicts through mutual understanding, whether he’s dealing with a mindless monster or giant gem emperors who want Earth destroyed. (It’s worth noting the Crystal…