Steven Universe (Cartoon Network), created by Rebecca Sugar, is a coming of age animation television show that deals with representation, amongst documenting a well told developed story, established characters and enchanting scenery that provides a heart-warming, soothing experience for a viewer of any age. Steven Universe is a turn of the tide when it comes to visibility, positivity and dealing with emotion on screen and showcasing gender and sexuality in a considerate and mature manner, catering to how the television show is designed to be a cartoon for children.
The pleasure of seeing yourself being represented on-screen with a positive experience is a pleasure that, for some, goes unnoticed due to narratives and characters that are overrepresented in society and who or what is in control behind the scenes. Although characters in media do still face proposed censorship and cover ups from television and film bosses, these mediums do offer television and films that escape these barriers and become visible on screen. Their reception is met with a warm, much needed welcome for those who products matter to. Especially so when dealing with cartoons for children, representation has a lasting impact and cartoons lead as a gateway into the world and our understanding it. With shows like Steven Universe existing on our screens, discoveries of a wide variety of characters and forms representation are made possible because of a much-needed open door.
There is power in becoming a Crystal Gem, the proposed enemy of the Gem’s native planet of Homeworld, which earth was planned to be a colony of. The Crystal Gems that protect the Earth in the post-gem war, and watch over Steven are Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl (and not to forget, Steven!). Garnet, the leader of the gems makes her presence known. Behind the glasses that shield her eyes, and the presence of a resting face, looks are deceiving as Garnet is a gem that is full of adoration, straight to the point and a lot of fun. Garnet embodies patience, compassion and understanding. Garnet is a character that will fulfil any responsibility she may have and will uphold her values. Another Crystal Gem who, for Steven, is twice the fun and spontaneous is Amethyst. Amethyst can shapeshift, and what she is best at is enjoying herself. But that aside, Amethyst is full of resilience and determination even though she struggles to accept herself and the way she is. That is the beauty of Amethyst, although she shows herself struggling, it does not hold her down and define her. Strike her down and she will come back for more. Pearl is a Crystal Gem who takes on a more guiding and nurturing role for Steven. Pearl is a devoted character who will lay her life on the line, and like Amethyst, struggles to accept and cope with why things are the way there are. Steven himself shares this struggle in common with Pearl, and what holds the Crystal Gems together is their ability to know that they are each other’s family and they depend on each other to make sense of the world.
The characters in not only the Crystal Gems, but Beach City where Steven resides, are basking in rays of sun because they are characters that are free from tropes. As this is the case, the characters in Sugar’s universe are free to be what they are and who they intend to be. Nothing is shielded or hidden away, and this plays as a reminder of how precious and valuable relationships, and honesty are. Not only relationships and honesty, but how our imaginations can be so creative and acted upon to create these wonderful, thought out designs and concepts that unfold in universes like Stevens. Sugar has considered the vast variety of different personalities people possess, family dynamics that take place, the shape and colours our bodies come in and every other little detail to provide so much diversity on to the screen through carefully considered character design. By seeing who exists in our real world and lives, we can then learn to apply that to the characters we wish to create and allow to flourish.
An astounding factor is that the action in Sugar and Steven’s Universe takes form in single 10 minute episodes. And these 10 minute episodes manage to keep you entertained, explore characterisation and provide Steven with the chance to create resolutions to many of the gems and Beach City’s problems. Oh, and if you enjoy the odd sing-along, then you are in for a treat with the musical performances. More importantly, these 10 minute episodes are something that you do not want to say goodbye to. Steven Universe is everything to love about storytelling. Steven Universe is a universe that is worth stepping into, and once stepped into there will always be a piece of it in your heart forever, no matter who you are.