I have a feeling that, sometime very soon, a psychology major will be writing a thesis on this series and the questions and situations it brings up due to the trauma inflicted on the main character.
It’s never been explicitly stated until now, but a primary theme of the entire season of Steven Universe Future is trauma. Steven has seen some terrible things, been physically and psychologically scarred, and, now that he’s saved the galaxy from the Diamonds, the Gems and humans that he has relied on for so many years for stability are abandoning him to live their own lives. Lars is gone back into space, the Gems are involved more and more with Little Homeworld and living on Earth, his dad is on tour, and Connie is busy preparing for college. Everyone is moving, everyone is going on with their lives, and Steven is stagnating.
“Together Forever” has Steven finding a solution by proposing to Connie at the behest of Ruby and Sapphire who are both hopeless, stupid romantics. Obviously, with Connie and Steven being sixteen and Connie not being insane, it’s obvious that the proposal isn’t going to result in wedding bells, but I do have to say that the entire scene where Steven did confess his feelings to Connie and the subsequent failed proposal was sweet and was handled in a way that wasn’t humiliating to Steven and showed that Connie, while not ready for marriage, still deeply cared for him.
The ending scene with Garnett was also wonderful and something I have missed from this series, seeing Garnett in her role as the all-knowing, all-caring Cosmic Space Mom.
In “Growing Pains,” Steven’s increasing loneliness, isolation, and trauma begins to manifest physically, causing his body to morph and swell beyond his control, forcing him to visit a doctor for the first time in his life.
It was humorous and managed to make quite concrete the underlying issue facing Steven, namly his internalized trauma and his inability to deal with even minor issues without them seeming like an end-of-the-world senario to him. To make it simple, Steven has been bottling up all of his anxiety and it’s starting to erupt.
Steven’s trauma is a topic that is being treated with sympathy and care… you can see that the writers want this topic discussed correctly and that it is important to them.
It amazes me that these themes are being explored in a television series aimed at children but, given that this show has dealt with same-sex relationships, toxic relationships, PTSD, codependency, emotional abuse, and a wide variety of other issues, I couldn’t be. Steven Universe and Steven Universe Future has always been a show that, despite its own silliness, was never afraid to address timely and important topics and the final few episodes appear ready to take on one more that is tearing apart its own protagonist. The frankness in which physical and mental trauma Steven is going through was addressed in this episode was quite refreshing and, to see it shown through clips from the show and Steven’s own recollection made it relatable… this is a seven-year journey and we’ve been with Steven as he took every lump.
I really hope that the final episode finds this poor kid in therapy.