SONS N' ROSES: 'Steven Universe' Earned My Tears

I’m getting ahead of myself.

My humbling had a humble beginning.  Like most of the newer cartoons on television, Steven Universe was introduced to me by one of my children.  My youngest daughter, although on the verge of becoming an adult, has a very sweet demeanor, so it’s no surprise that she’s still drawn to cartoons. Hell, I’m in my 40s and my favorite show of all time is still The Simpsons, as long as I don’t watch any of the new ones.  So, she started watching them, and because I was in the room, I got a indirect introduction to the show.

The first thing that caught my attention was the music.  Varying from arcade-like sound effects to piano jazz a la The Peanuts, the music is purposefully soothing.  Even in the midst of battle, the soundtrack goes out of its way to be light and uplifting.  This piqued my interest in the show a little more, which led me to paying attention and picking up on the storyline: Three living magical Gem Warrior beings are the guardians of a beachtown and the young half human/half Gem Steven.  Because of his unique blended physiology, their are many opportunities to use his lack of immediate gem magic as a constant allegory for growing up.

In fact, the show is chocked full of allegories.  When I noticed that one of the town residents was constantly being taken advantage of by her co-worker, who was aware of her unrequited affections, I couldn’t help but take notice.  That particular storyline was masterfully approached, leaving the interpretation of the “all night playing together” up to the person relating to the experience, be it a kid that has been crushed by their first crush or a teenager that just lost their virginity to someone that was just in it for “the game”.  I went from being mildly amused to being genuinely shocked.  Before long I was witnessing very thorough treks through plenty of emotional nuances, like anger issues, peer empathy, acceptance of bad things and disappointment.

And then the big guns came out.  From badgering my daughter for more details, I learned that Steven was created by his mother giving up her physical form, with Steven inheriting his mother’s gemstone. Huh.  With that nugget of information, I was able to understand a lot more of what was going on. Episodes that I had casually let run without meaning were actually a lot deeper in that context.  None moreso that when Steven attempts to duplicate his mother’s healing powers for the sake of a badly damaged Gem Warrior.  His struggle to finally show his magical side when it was needed the most, as in being mature when you must be, was amazing to watch unfold.  Also, not being able to understand what he needed to do, what was going on around him or what the adults were talking about was an excellent display of childhood confusion over the mystique of adulthood.  Growing up, we all watch adults go through crisis after crisis.  Some adults go ice cold until they lose their patience and fly off the handle.  Some of them panic and make bad situations worse.  Some joke around while they are literally falling to pieces.  Steven got a baptism of fire, all without understanding even HOW to feel.  I could not have been more impressed with the episode’s perfect execution.

However, that was nothing compared to how the story affected me personally.  My mother died when I was very young, an early victim of lupus.  Hearing Steven make declarations that he didn’t know how to feel about his mother was devastating.  When he finally accepted his emotions, accepted that in order to become mature he needed to accept those strange new emotions and thoughts, the world was suddenly clearer and he was “illuminated”.  There was also a trick of light that I won’t give away here, but it tore me apart.  My heart couldn’t take anymore.  My eyes were full of tears, so happy that what I went through when my mother died was so eloquently expressed and handled gently.  Add the fact that my older sister’s resemblance to all three Gem Warriors, whom had to take over the motherly load when our mom passed (she also died from lupus after becoming a mother herself), was too much to hold back the tears.  Steven Universe has definitely humbled me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  

Wait, was that Sinbad’s voice?? This show is AWESOME.

Do you think that Steven Universe is out of this world?
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