Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, Steven Universe

I will probably spend the rest of my life astonished at what this show is and what it represents. This silly little show about a fat kid with magical powers and his family of gay space rocks is truly a testament that shows aimed at a younger audience can take on heavy themes of representation, guilt, abuse, trauma, and PTSD while maintaining that love is the greatest superpower of all time, words can win battles better than any weapon ever can, and that an enemy today can be a friend tomorrow.

Steven Universe and Steven Universe Future set a bar that, rather unfortunately I think, I will be holding other animated series to for the rest of my existence. When I see a television show like, say, Teen Titans Go or Thundercats Roar that just exists without trying hard just because it’s a kids show and kids are stupid, I will forever point at Steven Universe and remind them that children will always be ready to embrace complicated themes and heavy subject matter. I will always remind them that animated shows aimed at kids can be frightening as well as goofy, that they can be somber as well as silly, and that respecting your audience — all of your audience no matter their gender, ethnicity, or orientation — is something that every series should do.

To do anything different just because you don’t respect your audience is trash.

Now, I will say… it’s okay for a series to be dumb to be entertaining because, Gods know, Steven Universe could be dumb. I mean, they crossed over with Uncle Grandpa, for the cluster’s sake! But, they still respected their audience and were true to themselves which is a lot, lot, lot more than a tragic number of televisions series, for adults and children, bother to do.

And now, it’s over… in a tale of, denial, being eaten alive by internalized anger, and finally moving on with your life.

Everything’s Fine” is the denial episode. Steven, after attempting to kill White Diamond back on Homeworld, comes back home and tries to act like everything is normal even though he’s now seven feet tall and glowing pink. However, all of Steven’s attempts to get back into his role as a fixer or a helper only end up wrecking everything around him, forcing him into a confrontation with the Gems, Connie, and his Dad.

As I said, this is the denial phase of Steven’s emotional breakdown where he basically just falls back into the self-destructive behavior of putting everything else’s needs over his own as he sinks further and further into despair and yet, puts on a front for the sake of his friends; one that crumbles and falls apart like everything else around him.

It’s an unusually light-hearted and humerous episode in the middle of so much bleakness that I was about to object to because I considered it out of place, but the more I’ve thought about it, the episode itself mirrored Steven’s own dillemma: It was pretending to be silly even though, underneath, it was a horrifying journey into a man’s inner darkness.

I’ll also say… biggest jumpscare at the end of this episode I’ve seen in the show. True body horror stuff.

In “I Am My Own Monster,” Steven’s traumas and psychological damage transform him into a kaiju monster and it’s up to the Gems, the Diamonds, and his friends to save him from himself.

This episode captured the idea of how isolated Steven has become, by circumstances and by choice. He has pushed away his family, allowed them to believe he was fine so that they were not there to support him, and it has ended up making him a person who does not believe, despite everything he means to so many people, that he is worthy of love.

While it was great to see the Gems, Diamonds, Spinel, Connie, Lion, the Homeworld Gems, the Cluster, and even Greg come together for an action piece, I would have been disappointed if that was the way it ended. It ended the way it should have… the only way it could have. An outpouring of love, support, and hugs… a family of choice showing someone who had become a monster that they would always be there for him giving him exactly what he needed long past when he needed it.

Finally, the aptly titled episode, “The Future.” Steven has decided to leave Beach City and the Gems behind to strike out on his own but can’t figure out why Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl aren’t more upset to see him go.

Where Steven Universe Future was an epilogue to Steven Universe, “The Future” is a fitting epilogue to Steven Universe Future. It’s an episode that ties up loose ends, gives characters a final goodbye, and sends our boy on his way to live his life and be the person he is.

It was sad, it was funny, it was cute, and actually managed to do several amazing callbacks to the old show, the best of which being the Cookie Cat rap that actually manages to summarize the essence of the finale plot. I’m not sure if this was planned when the show went on the air all those years ago, but I like to think that it was.

It was a fitting finale and left everyone in a good place. It showed us what Steven means to everyone and what they mean to him and to us in return.

Best of all, we got confirmation that our boy is in the therapy that he desperately needs.

And that’s it for Steven Universe. Somewhere in our imagination, he’s touring the country and trying to figure out himself and, honestly, after this season showing how he struggled to deal with his inner turmoil, I don’t think that there was a more appropriate place to end it. Steven didn’t reach a destination, he simply continued his journey and where he ends up… who knows? Maybe there will be another movie, maybe there will be a continuation… perhaps there won’t.

I guess it’s time for you to believe in Steven on your own.

And now… the horror of the infinite hiatus. =(

Written by Jason Gaston

Father, teacher, writer, photographer, artist, actor, male model, and inventor of the semicolon.

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