Why I Love Steven Universe's Revelations

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I was thinking about Steven Universe last night, and why it’s inspired such a passionate fandom.
I think part of the reason people connect to it is because Steven Universe’s narrative perfectly mirrors the experience of growing up.
One of the smartest Steven Universe episodes is Frybo, five episodes in: Steven, a small child, is being lectured by one of his parent-figures Pearl.  There’s a magical crystal loose in the house, and Pearl attempts to explain why the crystal is so dangerous to Steven, starting to discuss the war – but he gets distracted, his own inner thoughts out-narrating Pearl’s, and eventually he nods and agrees because he’s too embarrassed to admit he doesn’t understand.
Which is smart because it makes it clear that none of the Crystal Gems are hiding anything from Steven – well, no more than any responsible parent would keep away from a young kid, anyway.  They’re trying to explain to him what they think he needs to know.
It’s just that he’s too young to understand.
So Steven Universe is brilliant at putting you into the head of a young, cheerful boy who doesn’t quite Get It.  We, as adults, know there’s more to learn, but we’re constricted by what Steven’s curious about, which isn’t much.  And we’re also constricted by the way the Crystal Gems – his parents – are legitimately and responsibly trying to hide some of the more disturbing parts of their existences that he’s not ready for.
So when Steven grows, and starts to understand just how complex his family is, we grow with him.  We’re surprised when we discover that what we have taken as our mother-figures are, in fact, individual and flawed people, and sometimes the parents fight and it’s not at all funny, and they have past trauma they’ve never quite worked through but are doing their best to keep it together because they care so much for Steven and, in fact, for this world they’ve chosen to guard.
And I think the reason Steven Universe resonates is that it’s that rare children’s story where we come to revelations at about the same rate that Steven does.  In fact, I can’t recall a narrative – book, movie, or television – that unifies our understanding with the protagonist so beautifully.  (Harry Potter comes close at times, but when it comes to this aspect of expanding our, ahem, universe, Steven Universe smashes Harry.)
And we’re so eager for new episodes not because of the plot, per se – which is standard space opera translated into splashy Cartoon Network battles – but because for us, each episode is like growing up.  With each episode, we take one step into becoming a Steven Universe adult – one where we understand Garnet, Pearl, Greg, and Amethyst as we would understand another grown-up.
They’d all been simplified, once.  Now we understand them better.
As Steven grows, so do we, which is why I can’t wait.

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