Steven Universe: One Of The Most Positive, Progressive, And Affirming Shows on TV [REVIEW]

  • Adventure
  • Comedy
  • Drama
NOTE: This article is a contribution and do not necessarily represent the views of Player One.
Steven Universe, a Cartoon Network original show by Rebecca Sugar of Adventure Time.
Steven Universe, a Cartoon Network original show by Rebecca Sugar of Adventure Time. (c) Cartoon Network

In many ways, Steven Universe is one of the most progressive and affirming shows I’ve ever seen. The story revolves around a sweet, outgoing little boy named Steven Universe. The titular main character, Steven, lives with three magical guardians named Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. His father, Greg, is a car wash guy who lives in his van but loves to do music. Later in the series, Steven meets his best friend, a bright and bookish girl named Connie.

The one thing everyone in Steven’s world has in common is that they love him. They love, love, love him. Even prickly Lars would never knowingly hurt Steven, and cool kid Jenny and her cool friends always welcome Steven into their circle. The Crystal Gems are devoted to Steven’s emotional and physical wellbeing, even though they don’t always understand the little half-human boy they’re raising. Greg doesn’t live with Steven, but he’s a deeply involved father whom Steven runs to for advice and cuddles freely. And Steven’s friendship means everything to Connie, who refers to him more than once as her only friend.

Jokes aren’t made at anyone’s expense. While the characters of Steven Universe may struggle with themselves, their history and each other, no one is interested in tearing other people down. This atmosphere of constant positive affirmation and emotional validation makes watching Steven Universe a really special experience. The characters of Steven Universe cherish Steven as he is, and they cherish one another for who they are, too. Mistakes aren’t damning, indelible things seared into the soul. They’re only mistakes and they don’t define you. It’s a vision of the world I really support.

I have to insert a word in praise of the show’s body diversity. Garnet has thick, strong thighs, as befits a powerful warrior. Amethyst is short and pudgy, like Steven. Pearl is rail-thin. Greg’s got a beer belly, and Steven’s mother Rose is a beautiful, radiant giantess whose glowing enormity takes up the frame without apology or comment.

There are other important details I appreciate as well, like Jenny’s family’s gentle accent, or Connie’s Indian last name and dark brown skin. Other shows might have removed the Pizza family’s accent, or made Connie white without a thought, but Steven Universe thought to do things differently. As for the Gems themselves, they all read to humans as female. This perception makes scenes like Pearl’s overwhelming devotion to Rose’s memory and the incredibly touching romantic reunion of Ruby and Sapphire very powerful.

Finally, having Steven as the show’s center keeps the show grounded and prevents it from becoming too serious as its mythology unfolds. It keeps the show a children’s show with all the whimsy and innocence of the best kinds of children’s media. The final result is an intelligent, adorable show that’s like an eleven minute tablet of sheer relief.

Steven Universe is charming, completely natural, and rewarding. It’s the first show helmed by a solo woman creator on Cartoon Network, ever. Rebecca Sugar, an Adventure Time alum, has created a show with a strong moral compass that somehow isn’t preachy, a show with both integrity and good humor that almost never falls flat. Even the smartphone game was great. I recommend Steven Universe without reservation.

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