Polymorphic sentient rocks! They're here to hollow out the Earth!
May 4, 2015 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Is your love for jewels hampered by their inability to take on humanoid forms? Do you wish Adventure Time had been (a little) more grounded in the real world? Or are you simply one of those people who constantly have boring songs stuck in your head, and you'd like a little more colorful variety in your mental music videos? Perhaps you should watch STEVEN UNIVERSE!

Previewed previously on MetaFilter, Steven Universe is the creation of Rebecca Sugar, and in just 58 episodes has already earned stellar ratings and awards thanks to gorgeous art, delightful music, and nods of varying subtletly to other media—to say nothing of the progressive cast of characters. While it normally airs at 5:30 pm EDT, the show is also available through Google Play & Amazon Instant Video, or it can be streamed from Cartoon Network for cable subscribers, Sling TV for Dish Network, and Hulu Plus. There is, of course, a video game for mobile devices, and an enthusiastic fan Wiki, subreddit, tumblr scene: beware of spoilers! Also beware of cosplayers, because there are a bunch. Not for you? Don't worry about it! If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn't have hot dogs!
posted by jsnlxndrlv (89 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I really had to restrain myself from including "MagicalTransformationAsAMetaphorForSex" among the tags for this post.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 3:28 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

When I heard this show had made an Enigma of Amigara Fault reference, I knew I had to go watch all of it. And I'm glad I did. This is the best thing.

It's like ... okay, you remember all the really good bits of Adventure Time? The episodes with awesome songs, or super-sad stuff with Marcelline's backstory, and how they don't really seem to do that so much anymore? Well, that's because every one of those episodes was done by Rebecca Sugar, and she doesn't work on Adventure Time anymore because she's running this show now. So it's all just wonderful.
posted by kafziel at 3:34 PM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]

I watched this with my best friend's three-year old at first. Now I watch it on my own and idgaf who knows it. It's really about as perfect as a show can get, and I'm a grown ass man. Like I can't recommend this show enough to anyone. It's amazing. Amazing.

(Surprised you didn't pick Lapis Lazuli as the delightful music choice. It's the best musical thirty seconds in the whole show so far, imo.)
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:39 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

If this show is anything like Adventure Time it's going to take me 3 years to understand it so see you then I guess. Right now I can't get over the way the announcer guy sneers out "Steeven Yuuuuniverse" during the hyper-annoying New Thursdays promos after Adventure Time.
posted by bleep at 3:42 PM on May 4, 2015

I've heard nothing but good things about Steve Universe and I'm planning on watching it somewhen in the near future.

I could leave it at that but I feel the need to call out even more of the wonderful things (former) Adventure Time personnel has put out:
Clarence by Skyler Page (Previously on Metafilter (and sadly it has to be this)),
the impeccable Over the Garden Wall miniseries by Patrick McHale (Previously),
the adorable Bee and PuppyCat by Natasha Allegri (Previously),
and then there's of course also Pendleton Ward's own Bravest Warriors (Previously).

It's just amazing to me how much good (animated) TV entertainment for all ages the "Adventure Time alumni" have given life to.

(Sorry for the small derail/a propos.)
posted by bigendian at 3:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

It is wonderful, just here to echo praise.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:49 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

It is a total delight and you should all watch it. Just so good-hearted without being facile or childish. Despite the cosmic elements and the sweetly cartoonish humor, it's got this core of gentleness that's just lovely to sit with. Totally punches right past any adult barriers of cynicism or boredom in my opinion.
posted by yasaman at 4:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is a super-cute show but what gets me is that the background worldbuilding is remarkably detailed and consistent. If only I had more time to watch it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Her Dad's YouTube channel is filled with her fantastic demos .
posted by unmake at 4:30 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite aspects of this show is how the creators are perfectly willing to end episodes on ambiguous, open-ended notes. Which is how you end up with striking closing shots like this, or this, or this. (None of which are particularly spoilery or even meaningful when removed from context, but anyone who's watched the whole show should instantly recognize them.)

For one thing, it's a testament to how the show really exploits the full potential of animation: conveying its themes and narrative through imagery, not just dialogue. But on top of that, it's interesting how little the show seems to be constrained by its 11-minute episode boundaries -- especially compared to Adventure Time. With AT, there are bits of worldbuilding and references to past episodes scattered throughout... but a lot of storylines are either wrapped up neatly at the end of an episode, or just dropped thanks to the show's loose approach to continuity. SU has a few episodic, self-contained segments like that, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Steven Universe seems to demand more commitment and patience from its viewers, but the reward is a much more cohesive and unified narrative. I have to wonder if the show could have been made this way if it weren't for the continuing viewer shift away from scheduled TV and toward video-on-demand.
posted by teraflop at 4:35 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, and as far as references to other media go: The Enigma of Amigara Fault is cool and all, but I geeked out even more over the blatant homages to Revolutionary Girl Utena in not one, but two consecutive episodes. ("Steven the Sword Fighter" and "Lion 2: The Movie")

And have you guys noticed that the book Connie is reading in the opening credits is A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle? It's far from an off-hand shoutout -- once you see it, you can't help but notice the parallels.
posted by teraflop at 4:42 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Steven Universe is unbelievably great. It's slower, gentler and more interested in its characters than Adventure Time; I think it's actually more similar to Avatar the Last Airbender, except with a superhero team conceit instead of a world-saving quest theme - both shows start out as pleasant bits of children's entertainment before opening up into complex stories with things to say, stories that aren't afraid of nuance and complication. It also sometimes reminds me, weirdly, as a sunnier version Neon Genesis Evangelion almost -- there's a world-saving element with a mythology, but it's really about a slow reveal of how everybody's a mess. But in Steven Universe, the good in everyone isn't buried quite as deep as in NGE.
posted by Rinku at 5:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

What everybody said, plus Pearl is a complete sociopath.
posted by signal at 5:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hands-down my favorite show on TV right now. Delightful, heartbreaking, perfect.

I especially love how well Rebecca Sugar uses the fantastical elements in service of the characters and social themes, without playing out the same old stale allegories. For example, all of the gems are technically-genderless aliens who present as female, with feminine pronouns. This allows her to sneakily make >50% of the core cast gay women, with the corresponding crushes and relationships and kisses (on a kids' cartoon!).

And then there's fusion, which serves as a surprisingly nuanced metaphor for both sex and relationships. That gives us amazing episodes like the one where (spoiler) the young main characters essentially explore sex for the first time together, and it's realistically joyous and confusing and a little bit scary (but also fun!) instead of blandly moralistic. It's like Rebecca Sugar structured her universe around including the themes they wouldn't let her explore on Adventure Time.

Also: almost all of the voice actors are women of color! It may not seem like a big deal (since almost all of the characters are WoC as well), but so many otherwise excellent animated shows use mostly men as women (Bob's Burgers) or white people as everyone (Avatar).
posted by New Year at 5:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

signal: What everybody said, plus Pearl is a complete sociopath.

Pearl is one of the most loving characters on the show and I'm not sure how you managed to misinterpret things so hard to believe she's a sociopath.
posted by flatluigi at 5:41 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]

Sternmeier: (Surprised you didn't pick Lapis Lazuli as the delightful music choice. It's the best musical thirty seconds in the whole show so far, imo.)

Oh, it's definitely in the running, alongside Strong In The Real Way and this version of Stronger Than You that expands the mid-song interjection into an entire bridge unto itself—but ultimately a fear of spoiling plot elements kept me from linking it in the body of my post.

bleep, I feel like that concern is unwarranted, because I didn't have the patience for Adventure Time. I absolutely have the patience for this—besides which, patience isn't really as necessary. Episodes which seem like self-contained and irrelevant monster-of-the-week filler have a remarkable way of revealing unexpected relevance and plot significance as the season develops. I found this far more rewarding to watch.

signal, flatluigi: Pearl had probably the darkest moment in the show during Rose's Scabbard, and she definitely has her quirks. For various reasons, I suspect the upcoming episode Sworn To The Sword is probably going to reveal that she isn't "supposed" to be a fighter: that one of her core identity as someone with martial and tactical prowess is the "defect" that was alluded to.

Everybody else: Totally agree!
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 5:50 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wasn't excited about this show, initially. I was disappointed that the lead was yet another white boy, to be honest. Yeah, he had a gang of powerful women, but he was still the protagonist, so TIRED.

But this show is far, far weirder...and let's just say it, queer-er...than that. Steven is important and in a very superficial way follows the Chosen One narrative (in that you know he's going to grow in power and hopefully save the world and so on) but he's also a very sweet and vulnerable boy. And almost all the other characters are very strong and powerful women. And he inherits his power from his mother, not his father (although what he does with his father's traits is interesting) and his power seems to be much more about protection and nurturing than about attack (so far at least). And then (mild spoilers) there's the deal with Ruby, Sapphire and Garnet. And the deal with "fusion" in general, when Steven attempts it. It's just..psychologically rich, in a way that's hard to explain without watching it.

The parallels with Aang in Avatar are apt. But there's much more mystery about who the good guys and bad guys are, and what happened in the past, that means there's lots and lots of rich story to come, which is the best feeling when you're watching something you love.
posted by emjaybee at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

flatluigi: "Pearl is one of the most loving characters on the show and I'm not sure how you managed to misinterpret things so hard to believe she's a sociopath."

For example: Space Race. Though basically well intentioned, she thinks nothing of taking a man's son against his wishes into freaking outerspace, telling him not to worry as she'll return him in 50 years. That she sees nothing wrong with this is why she's a sociopath, a loving one, but still completely bonkers by human standards.
posted by signal at 5:56 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

And have you guys noticed that the book Connie is reading in the opening credits is A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle? It's far from an off-hand shoutout -- once you see it, you can't help but notice the parallels.

There's at least one episode in which Steven clearly has a copy of a volume of Sailor Moon on his nightstand.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:56 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's not that Pearl's sociopathic, she just doesn't understand time. Remember, she's been alive for millennia. For all intents and purposes, she's immortal. And, well, dealing with humans is NEW for her. (Basically Steven's lifespan + however long Rose and Greg were together before that.) So... yeah, 50 years for her is NOTHING. She just doesn't realize that humans don't quite have that luxury.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:58 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pearl is someone who followed a cause not because she believed in the cause, but because she loved the leader. That leader still exists, after a fashion, but not as the same person. I think that's hard on Pearl. Harder on her than the others, I mean.

A comic. Zero dialogue, but somehow dust got in my eye anyway.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:00 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]

signal: Yeah, I don't know if "sociopath" is the best word for it, but I think your "by human standards" qualifier is key. The gems aren't bad people but there's something fundamentally inhuman about them. And Pearl in particular -- of the original crystal gems, she's the one who's least at home among humanity. (Rose being the opposite, of course.) It's hard not to wonder how much of her failure to assimilate is rooted in a deeply-buried resentment of everything she's lost by turning her back on her homeworld.

Rinku: I hadn't really thought about the Evangelion connection that closely, but it's spot-on.
posted by teraflop at 6:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I particularly love this bit of fan-art (for/from the early episode Cat Fingers), just for illustrating so clearly what they're doing with this show with straightforward juxtaposition (And Akira)
posted by CrystalDave at 6:19 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The title of this post needed to be all caps to accurately convey the DRAMATIC TONE of how Ronaldo speak.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sternmeyer: "A comic. Zero dialogue, but somehow dust got in my eye anyway."

Yeah, don't do that. I could have been at work or some other place you're not supposed to start crying all of a sudden.
posted by signal at 6:51 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a glorious show.

I want to see all the possible fusion combinations. And hear them all voiced by unexpected musical celebrities.
posted by painquale at 7:03 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

signal, I think you're mistaking 'alien' for 'sociopathic.' The gems are all aliens, and their relative short amount of time actually socializing with people on the planet still shows in how they interact with humans occasionally. Look at "A Story for Steven" and how it flashes back just a decade or so and how all the gems are so much less used to being around humans for a good signifier of that.
posted by flatluigi at 7:09 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

flatluigi: "signal, I think you're mistaking 'alien' for 'sociopathic.' "

No, I'm conflating them.
posted by signal at 7:17 PM on May 4, 2015

Aaaah, I've been working on a megapost on Steven Universe for months. But it's okay -- it's more focused on fanworks anyway.
posted by JHarris at 7:24 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

To be clear, I'm not dumping on Pearl or SU in general, I love them to bits. I just like the fact that the show's protagonist magical-girls are deeply flawed (well, Pearl and Amethyst, at least) and alien, yet still lovable and relatable.
posted by signal at 7:26 PM on May 4, 2015

I probably should have worked on this for more than the three hours it took me: the missing conjunction in the second-to-last sentence is driving me crazy. But yeah, to echo signal, the protagonists' flaws are a big part of what makes me love them all so much.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 7:29 PM on May 4, 2015

We're cord cutters. We have Netflix. Netflix has a lot of fine and fascinating shows! Our five year old spent most of the coldest parts of March binge watching...

Jem and the Holograms.

Yes, the one from the '80s.

I wound up being OK with this:

1) You can't actually buy Jem and the Holograms toys in the stores. I'm not certain she's aware there are toys involved at all.

2) She likes all of the good guys equally, but she does have a favorite villain: "Eric Ramond! He calls all the girls darling! Jem Darling! Jerrica Darling! Pizzaz darling! He's. A. Jerk!" she belly chuckles. I mean, full throated, deep chuckles. She is wiiiiise to his shit.

(This is the only time she ever uses the word "jerk", and only after I explained to her what it meant, and why it was rude. She still uses it when talking about him.)

3) I used to watch the hell out of Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Underdog, The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, and everything else my parents were watching as kids or teens. When I was little, it felt like traveling in time, where things were stranger and more wonderful. I'm not going to deny her that.

3) Her mother asked her if she wanted to be a musician, and she cried, full on bawled, because Jem's life sucks... blown up by bikers, chased by snowmobiles, sent through time, your Dad dies, his computer is stolen by the President, you have to suck up to bad guys unless they discover you're a secret rock star... All Kinds of Nope.

(She's going to be an artist and also a mail carrier, because she likes the bag and the uniform and giving people packages that might be presents. Also painting.)

My sister's kids, just about a year older, are way deep into Billy and Mandy. A little too scary and mean for our kid, but maybe she'll fall in love with Adventure Time or Stephen Universe or Teen Titans or Avatar before the tides of peer pressure steers her to what's on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon or Netflix Originals today.

If not, her mother and I will binge-watch 'em as soon as we're done with the new season of Bob's Burgers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 PM on May 4, 2015

But! I can present how I was going to introduce that post, which I think works better as a comment anyway because the purpose of my megapost is more reporting fan love for the show than the show itself:

There's a wonderful cartoon on right now about a goofy young boy who lives with his three weird aunts. His mother's gone, but he's great pals with his dad. They live in a sleepy beachside tourist town in Delmarva, near the boardwalk, in a house looking out on the waves. The kid spends most of his days hanging out with his aunts and other kooky characters in town, learning life lessons and having adventures.

There's an amazing cartoon on right now about the remnants of an race of magic alien warrior women, in exile on Earth. They're thousands of years old, don't age, are almost indestructible, need no sleep, food or air, and can change their shape at will. Ruins of their race and surviving monsters from the time of its ascendancy litter the planet, and they've taken it upon themselves to protect us from them, while also raising the half-human son of their departed leader. Eventually, their native civilization returns and threatens the world.

Both of these cartoons are Steven Universe.
posted by JHarris at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [30 favorites]

Which is how you end up with striking closing shots like this, or this, or this.

All of those moments are amazing. The first, Connie has been changed irrevocably by her friendship with Steven. The second, Connie and Steven are recovering after having the experience of being magically combined into a single person for the whole episode. The third... you have to see the episode, Rose's Scabbard, to understand it. Just, wow.

This is the most amazing show on TV.
posted by JHarris at 7:41 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Pearl discussion reminds me of an interesting Tumblr post I saw awhile back, written by someone on the autism spectrum: Autistic Pearl.
posted by brookedel at 7:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

....and Steven Universe alone might make it worth buying Hulu Plus, because I was buying the episodes individually on iTunes and that gets pricey.
posted by edheil at 7:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just finished watching this show two weeks ago. I'm so glad you all are talking about it. I can't talk about how much I love this show with anyone :(
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:18 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can get half-seasons on Google Play for $20. That's for 26 11-minute episodes.

I can't talk about how much I love this show with anyone :(

We have posts on Fanfare for every episode, and Small Dollar gets new ones up pretty quickly (within a day) after airing. JOOOIN UUUSS....
posted by JHarris at 8:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, guys, how did we get this far into the thread without talking about how amazing Estelle's speaking voice is
posted by Rinku at 8:58 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pearl is the complete opposite of s sociopath, and I find her motives completely explicable.

She's someone who gave up EVERYTHING out of the love of another person- who then went and had a child, and died. She may not quite know how to raise him properly, but she loves him. Sometimes she gets a bit overwhelmed by what she lost, and it drives her a little crazy. But she gave up the stars, the beautiful beautiful stars, so who wouldn't be a little crazy?
posted by happyroach at 1:52 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can't actually buy Jem and the Holograms toys in the stores. I'm not certain she's aware there are toys involved at all.

But you can buy her the comic, with art by Sophie Campbell.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:47 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is one of the moments that “The uploader has not made this video available in your country” is at its most bitter.
posted by scruss at 4:15 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

scruss: use hola or zenmate.
posted by signal at 4:25 AM on May 5, 2015

Slap*Happy, sorry to say, but you have the wrong show in mind.

Jem & the Holograms was an 80s Saturday Morning show about an all-female rock band who also had adventures.

Steven Universe is a current show on Cartoon Network. It has to do with the Crystal Gems, a sort of super team at first glance, but really something stranger, cooler, better.

You should check the new show out. Its Tumblr presence of amazing; I've seen Steven Universe fan comics get over ten thousand notes, and it's regularly the #2 show on Cartoon Network (usually behind Teen Titans Go!, the appeal of which eludes most Steventhusiasts).
posted by JHarris at 4:25 AM on May 5, 2015

The most important thing to understand about Pearl is that she is a goddamn mess. She's an amazing character. I defy anyone not to cry at least a little at the end of Rose's Scabbard.
posted by kafziel at 4:40 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

She's a mess, but she's also badass when she needs to be. Pearl's probably my favorite character. She's the most motherly to Steven, particularly. She has problems, but she cares deeply. Seeing her helping Greg with his van this last episode was great, since she also tends to be fairly dismissive of humans.
posted by JHarris at 5:06 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pearl is great. I'm a little unhappy with how Amethyst has been handled. Two progressive features of the Crystal Gems that I liked in the beginning were: (1) they all portrayed very different models of femininity. Each has a very different character model and manner of movement, but they're all unmistakeably non-male. (This especially comes out in the way they dance when they fuse.) They show that there are a lot of different ways for a woman to express herself. (2) They all portrayed very different models of maternity. Steven had three moms, all mothering in different ways. I loved that.

But Amethyst is drifting away from exemplifying these features. She now hardly ever acts in a motherly capacity: she's more like a sulky sister to Steven. I liked thinking of her as a cool irresponsible mom (kinda like Steven's dad is a dad). And I really, really don't like when they play up her shtick as being the gross Gem. She becomes a lot like a Spongebob character at times (where the short and tubby character is of course the gross one). I like her in the opening credits, where she's got a kind of punk/glam thing that is graceful and all her own.

She's still a well-drawn character. But if they keep writing her as the gross sister-type, I'll be disappointed. She will be a lot more conventional than I had initially hoped.
posted by painquale at 6:11 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Jem & the Holograms was an 80s Saturday Morning show about an all-female rock band who also had adventures.

Steven Universe is a current show on Cartoon Network. It has to do with the Crystal Gems, a sort of super team at first glance, but really something stranger, cooler, better.

I know, I thought I made that clear in the last paragraph - my daughter's not interested in the cool stuff, but loves the old schlock is the point. Kids don't always appreciate or discern quality shows the way grownups do.

Her mother and I love CN's stuff - they consistently take more chances than other networks, and put a lot more thought into their writing. Which is amazing, as it's kid's TV. We just got done binging on Uncle Grandpa, and again, the kid's not into it, so we watched it after she was in bed.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:23 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

A month ago I had surgery to repair my ACL, which required a two weeks of laying in bed with a machine that moved my leg around to prevent scar tissue (or something), and every time someone heard about this they'd say "oh I bet you're catching up on a lot of netflix/house of cards/etc."

All I watched was Steven Universe. It's great.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:38 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

She's the most motherly to Steven, particularly.
posted by JHarris at 8:06 AM on May 5 [2 favorites +] [!]

What? No. Garnet is the most motherly and I will literally fight you on this. Garnet giving him her future sight in hopes that Steven will be able to relate a bit better to her and bring them closer. The pure joy on Garnet's face when she meets Stevonnie, she's the only one of the three who didn't immediately chastise him (which we don't realize why until later, but still). Pearl is super dismissive of Steven,Garnet is frequently the only one who takes time to listen to him. She was the only one who believed him when he saw Peridot's robots in the holostream. Your middle name is cutie pie. Or Tiny hands, my only weakness.

Pearl likes Steven because she loved Rose, she devoted herself to Rose and the relationship she has now with Steven is completely understandable. Pearl episodes are all about her being a warrior, about her and rose, etc. But Garnet loves Steven. Garnet moments are all about being a protector, her loyalty to her friends (like in her song against Jasper). Square mom is the best.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:55 AM on May 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

OK, so I love love love Bee and Puppycat and Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, so as soon as I heard Steven Universe was on Hulu+ I RAN to watch it, and ...meh. I've watched the first 4 or 5 episodes and Steven himself bugs me. He's kind of annoying, irresponsible, just doesn't get how serious things are. I love the ladies, especially Amethyst. I'd watch The Amethyst Show. Does it get better?
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:47 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, it does. I felt the same way. At some point, Steven's character shifts from ugly and oblivious little dummy to cute and sweet little boy.
posted by painquale at 9:59 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't want to say it gets better, because the beginning is still good, but the scope of the show just keeps expanding. You'll like Steven more once he starts acting as much as reacting.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2015

When I first started watching SU, I was basically on board but spent a lot of time privately grumbling about Steven being the main character, why do we have to be saddled with this dumb boy kid, etc etc etc. I could absolutely have written some version of this comment.


Haha. Ha. Ha.

Now I watch fanvids on YouTube about Steven trying to live up to the imposing legacy of his mom as he struggles to find his place in the world with tears streaming down my face.

YMMV, but uh. Yes. Steven's a good kid. This show is Going Places.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:31 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Garnet is indeed the best space mom. Her interactions with Steven are almost too sweet to deal with. Like, I couldn't handle how much sweet affection was in the Garnet's Universe episode. It reminded me so much of watching parents ask their kids "what did you do today?" and see them listen with rapt attention to their kid's hilariously nonsensical and adorable ramblings. Garnet just seems to take such genuine delight in him, and she's always the one to trust in Steven's capabilities. Garnet accepts Steven as he is. Pearl has more trouble with that, I think. It's not that Pearl doesn't love him as much, it's just that she's always so worried about him and for him. Pearl is the one who seems acutely aware of how unique Steven is, how little they know about what will become of a human/gem hybrid, of how precarious their position is as Gems on Earth. So Pearl's kind of a mess, kind of still dealing poorly with losing Rose, but man, she is always trying so hard.

Also, yeah, I was kind of eh on Steven at first because he's just such a little kid. But the more I watched, the more I valued that. Steven is a child, and that means he's sometimes selfish and annoying and silly. But it also means he's sweet and loving and full of wonder and always learning. He really starts to feel like a little kid you know in real life. And it helps that you start to see the world of the show expand a little and see other people interacting with Steven, which is variously sweet and hilarious and touching.
posted by yasaman at 10:42 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you've watched five episodes and feel that you might be on your way out because of Steven's character, I think I might recommend briefly skipping ahead and watching episode 38, The Test. It's a sequel to the Cheeseburger Backpack episode you've already watched, but it should endear you to Steven. (I wouldn't normally recommend skipping ahead, as the show is heavily serialized, but this episode is almost entirely self-contained, and this is a triage measure.)
posted by painquale at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

To elaborate: when I say that Steven is the "heart" of the show, I mean that both in terms of his emotional life giving much-needed depth and context to what's happening, and his personal journey into adulthood and responsibility (neither of which he's entirely ready for) providing a framework around which the arc of the show is structured. As Steven comes to understand the true nature of the challenges ahead of him, and learns through terrifying experience how real the dangers are and how much he could potentially lose, all the wiz-bang Plot Revelations are solidly grounded in the context of his point of view and made more meaningful and resonant as a result.

(And while I'm commenting again: SEE ALSO the absolutely silly and overdramatic but ultimately kind of great Run Boy Run AMV, which has some surprisingly apt things to say about his conflicted relationship with his own potential, and encourages us all to BELIEVE IN STEVEN. Spoilers, of course.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

…except Onion.
posted by signal at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2015

[Amethyst is] still a well-drawn character. But if they keep writing her as the gross sister-type, I'll be disappointed.

She's always been the older sister to Steven. She's the youngest of the Gems by a lot. As for her earthiness, she comes by it naturally. Also literally.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think I might recommend briefly skipping ahead and watching episode 38, The Test.

I'll totally do that tonight! Thanks for the rec.

Also, yeah, I was kind of eh on Steven at first because he's just such a little kid. But the more I watched, the more I valued that.

I don't particularly like children, so that probably has something to do with it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2015

I am a 33-year-old man. I went through a Pynchon phase; I've seen Breaking Bad. The Test is my favorite episode of any series ever to be shown on television.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:05 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Adorable fun fact: Steven is named after Rebecca's younger brother.

Rebecca Sugar is such an amazing talent. She's not even 30! It's ridiculous. I love what she's done with Steven Universe and the staff she's put together there. I still love Adventure Time ... but ... I think I'd pick Steven Universe over it if I had to make a choice.
posted by darksong at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I didn't mean to start a Garnet vs Pearl war, heh. At first thought that there wasn't really that much of Garnet to judge by. Later episodes have opened her up wonderfully, though. I'm still with Pearl on this though, it's not that she's best mom, as in least flawed, but she tries the hardest, and is so worried about the little guy, even though his existence is why Rose is gone (which makes Rose's Scabbard all the more powerful). I think she's the most endearing of the Gems.
posted by JHarris at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, while Reddit has large swaths of disgusting content, the Steven Universe subreddit is largely absent that stuff, and is overall a great way to find good SU Tumblr content.
posted by JHarris at 12:35 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Test is my favorite episode of any series ever to be shown on television.

I vote for Alone Together. They were shown sequentially on TV and are purchased together on iTunes as a single downloadable episode... I think that if I wanted to convince someone about the greatness of the show, I'd just have them watch that episode. Alone Together definitely jumps headfirst into the mythos and is probably more surprising if you're familiar with the characters, but I think it can also stand alone without being ruined.

I still love Adventure Time ... but ... I think I'd pick Steven Universe over it if I had to make a choice.

I refuse to make the comparison. Consciously entertaining that Sophie's Choice is downright immoral.
posted by painquale at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

The thing with Pearl is that her love for Steven is so tangled up in her love for Rose, it can make her behave in ways that are incredibly selfish. Her actions in Space Race and Rose's Scabbard are entertaining to us as viewers but pretty inexcusable as a guardian; I don't think that Garnet would ever have been so careless with Steven's life, or so quick to forget how relatively delicate he is.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If the thread looks a little different, cortex deleted the inadvertent spoiler I made a little ways up, and a couple of references to it. Thanks cortex!
posted by JHarris at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2015

Speaking of spoilers, I think this is definitely a show that's enjoyed best blind. I would advise anyone who's convinced by this thread's nonstop praise to go watch every episode of the show before dipping a toe in the fan community, because there's a lot of slow-reveal stuff that happens gradually, and getting the whole story full-blast and second hand would be a shame. Go watch it.
posted by Rinku at 3:23 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here's some alternate universe cartoons from fans. Note: the fandom cares naught for spoilers, indeed some particular characters are the focus of much fan enthusiasm, I've tried to mark as such though:
Lapis in Wonderland - Lapis Through the Looking Glass (THESE ARE SO GOOD, but spoilers)
Kate Beaton Homage 1 (Verne and Poe) - 2 (NEMESIS) (minor spoilers)
Naruto (I liked it and I've never watched Naruto!)
"My gemsona is Crystal Meth"
Reverse (a scene from an AU where Rose is a kid who Steven gave up his physical form for)
Beeven Universe (wat)
Lazytown (adorable)
Bob's Burgers (NSFW sidebar though)
Haunted Mansion (the ride itself, these are very nice, spoiler characters though)
Adorable "behind-the-scenes photos" (also very nice, heavy spoilers here in particular though)
Cars (spoiler)
The mandatory Team Fortress 2 crossover
Cartoon stars
posted by JHarris at 3:26 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I just wanted to say that Steven Universe is probably my favorite thing running on TV right now. If you'd told me that early in Season 1, I'm not sure I'd have believed you. For anyone who starts watching it and finds Steven kind of annoying, some of the character art awkward, and the show's reticence to explain anything about its world mildly infuriating, I would definitely just relax and keep watching if you're enjoying it at all. Try to see how much you can pick up from context before they actually start revealing things around the mid-season two-parter. It has long-term planning that puts the vast majority of television to shame.

One thing I don't see discussed much that I was kind of startled by when I realized it is that the show never cuts away from Steven's viewpoint. He overhears and stumbles across things that aren't meant for him occasionally, but there's never any god's eye view of characters, locations, etc. elsewhere. The closest the show comes is showing Connie's side of their phone conversations, but that still has a tether to his perceptions. This makes the overall effect much like actual childhood- there's a bunch of things going on that you don't really have context for or full understanding of, and you just kind of deal with it as it comes, and gain knowledge of the world and people around you gradually (which applies to both the viewer and Steven).

Also, if it doesn't make you cry at least a couple times by the end of the season, you're an unfeeling alien android.

(Quick note for anyone watching it through legal streaming services, several of them have episodes out of order and weird labeling for the sets- I believe Youtube has season 1 divided into 2 "volumes" that it also calls "seasons" on some screens. It's probably best to have an episode list handy, the episode descriptions tend to be [infamously at times] fairly innocuous and non-spoilery)
posted by Wandering Idiot at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Quick note for anyone watching it through legal streaming services, several of them have episodes out of order and weird labeling for the sets- I believe Youtube has season 1 divided into 2 "volumes" that it also calls "seasons" on some screens.

iTunes is like this too. I downloaded the episodes on iTunes where they also carve the first season into two volumes. For some reason, they pluck out episodes 41-44, show the final four episodes of season one and then four episodes of season two (which were originally intended to be part of season one), and only then do they include episodes 41-44. Luckily, except for episode 44 which really should be seen in its proper place ("Marble Madness") , this mostly does not matter.
posted by painquale at 5:46 PM on May 5, 2015

Also, I wrote this up for when Cartoon Network ran its #StevenBomb about a month or so ago, but in case folks are interested but might want a bit of a crash course, it might be useful?

Four of the five of the episodes on the list ("On The Run" is the odd man out) are also available on Hulu too. If you might want a few to hit before you decide to pull the trigger and just binge watch the entire series.

And you WILL do that.

It ain't an if, it's a when.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:54 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Late to the game, I know, but this AMV mixing Steven Universe with Janelle Monáe's "Dance Apocalyptic" captures the spirit of the show perfectly.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 9:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I see that, and raise you a symphonic metal tribute to Steven Universe.

Here's Rebecca Sugar singing an extended version of the theme song, with spoilery lyrics referring to unknown things excised.

I have so many fan comic links saved up that I'm tempted to spill them all out into this thread. How about just one (not good for kids because cigarettes).
posted by JHarris at 12:31 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

...dooooo itttttttt.....
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 8:34 AM on May 6, 2015

There may as well be an infinite number of astoundingly gorgeous pinups and hilarious comics and weird fan memes in the "Steven Universe" tag on Tumblr, but I dive into it from time to time. And since I run in animation/comics circles, a lot of great stuff is handily deposited on my dash.

Having scrolled back through a few months worth of "likes," a few things that made me smile:


Labeled "sketchdump of cuties"
Greg and Rose, beach babes
High School AU 1
High School AU 2
All cats are the same.
Connie's Gemsona
[Redacted] holding Rose's sword.
Pearl's not great with babies 1
Pearl's not great with babies 2
Maybe none of them are good with babies...?
They are also maybe unclear on the uniqueness of Rose's baby-making experience....
Nevermind, all Gem Moms all the time.
Grownup Steven has enormous Rose Quartz hair 1
Grownup Steven has enormous Rose Quartz hair 2
Grownup Steven has enormous Rose Quartz hair 3 (with bonus Lion)
Grownup Steven has enormous Rose Quartz hair 4 (with bonus Connie)
Grownup Steven has enormous Rose Quartz hair 5 (more Connie AND a ukulele)
Steven wants to build a healing fountain.
Rose explains how sex works (it's crazy!)
Amethyst will accept her hugs and like it
Underestimating the power of rose quartz
Rescue attempt: thwarted
Gems in gowns
The ideal redemption.
Speaking of which, basically everything in this artist's SU tag is fantastic, and much of it involves the possible redemption of [redacted], a recent Villainous Character.


yeah okay I could literally sit here and do this all day, SO!!!!

Hope some of that's entertaining!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I just read through every FanFare discussion on SU I could find, so thanks for the hours of entertainment over the last couple days. And sorry once again for sniping your FPP, JHarris! I've just never encountered a show I so quickly fell head-over-heels for, and after buying every episode & the mobile game, the prospect of the hiatus made me increasingly desperate to support the franchise in whatever ways I could think of. I guess I need to track the comics down, next!
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 3:33 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

So that's how it's going to be, Narrative Priorities? Very well!

All these are spoilers, involving, um, lesser seen characters, who I am going to whimsically call Blue, Green and Orange --
What if someone just took Green's finger?
Orange and Green lifting weights.
Related, Green trying food. (I really hope she becomes friendly and a regular cast member. The finger thing has too much comedy potential.)
Here's Green with Blue.
Hey Orange, got your nose!
Blue and Green make "Loser Ls" at each other. It escalates quite far....
Steven introduces Orange to the joys of reading. Alternate ending.
This is a favorite, Green has trouble improving herself, because Amethyst.
Green is not enjoying Earth.

Minor ones:
Green's plight has attracted a lot of fan sympathy.
Green and Blue (with Orange)
Before it was established that Green ended up in the cornfield, fan speculation was that she was in Canada.
You know who would like Green? Ronaldo.

Actually you got a few of my links there. "Maybe none of them are good with babies...?" is great fun. I'll say about "All cats are the same," that this is borne out in real life, too.

The great thing about the High School AU is that it's semi-official, one of the storyboarders sometimes makes promo art with the gems in high school and Steven as principal, the fans just play off of it.

More later, I think I'm just going to post my finds here instead of making a FPP, I think they'll work better that way since they're fairly inside baseball for a general audience.
posted by JHarris at 9:57 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

107 facts isn't bad, but it uses Bee & Puppycat music for the prologue, and that got me wondering when is B&PC continuing???

We're moving on in my listing of saved up comic links, to the folder I had labeled Slice Of Life. Fortunately this is pretty light on spoilers overall. The two major kinds of spoilers I'm going to obfuscatorily call types G and type H.
An alternate view of the events of Fusion Cuisine, from havesomemoore's silly Tumblr. (Tumblr contains spoilers type G and H, and my additionally be a little NSFW in places.)
Steven carrying on after Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl get poofed.
"Connie, why does your friend not have a belly button?"
A teenaged Steven asks the Gems about kissing Pearl: "AMETHYST, GRAB THE CHARTS...." (spoilers type G)
Steven asks Greg & the Gems how he was born
Pearl and Garnet sent Steven off to school
Steven plays Red Light, Green Light with the Gems
Pearl and Amethyst make "tea"
Steven plans his own healing fountain
Human teeth are weird - The Gems panic about it as usual - Referencing Calvin & Hobbes, "They're all just jealous"
"Sorry, I panicked." (spoiler type G)
Garnet performs "the brick trick."
I think Narrative Priorities may have linked it, but it's funny enough for a second link: Adult Steven and Connie tell the Gems they're having a kid of their own
Just a silly picture of Steven and Pearl play swordfighting
Opal's Day Off: This lushly-illustrated short comic actually comes from the comic book, and was posted by an artist
Magic space rocks aren't good at furniture
Steven & Connie encounter internet fandom
"Garnet, throw me!"
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

io9 has an interview with Rebecca Sugar about the Crystal Gems guidebook coming out later, which mentions a couple of new facts. (Spoilers of season ender in interview.) It does mention that the Crystal Gem Steven knows the least about is Pearl....
posted by JHarris at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wish this summer hiatus would end!
posted by painquale at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey, remember in the first episode where Amethyst stole a bunch of Cookie Cats for him, and Pearl went back and paid for them? Ever wonder how that went down?
posted by JHarris at 6:28 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hiatus is over in June! Yaaaaaay!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:09 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have been playing the SU game Attack the Light on my phone this afternoon in gleeful anticipation.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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