Strong in the Real Way
July 1, 2015 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Excellent writing!
posted by Brocktoon at 10:38 PM on July 1, 2015

Huh, I didn't know this show was a thing but it sounds like I might like it based on the article. Thanks for the link!
posted by Drinky Die at 10:45 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

In particular, I related to the kindness and empathy of the character described and the emphasis on defensive powers. I always gravitated to defense when I played sports and it's something that just seems like a part of my personality. I had to learn a lot about physical and emotional self defense because boys are shitty to each other on the playground all the time as well.

I've always seen a focus on defense as something that for some men could be part of a model for a version of masculinity that re-focuses male strength on protection rather than domination. That was something I liked about the matriarchal nation in The Inheritance Trilogy. Men stayed at home rather than go to war not as a simple gender role reversal like in a lot of fictional depictions, but because the society saw the most important role of men's physical strength as an asset to protect the children.

I think a lot of men do already see themselves that way. More people join the army because they feel it is an honorable way to protect the people they love rather than because they want to go around the world fighting wars. Police don't sign up to harass innocent citizens. The reality is a little more complex, and the sometimes toxic culture can erode the original good intentions. I think it's great when culture shines a light on the positive things men can do when you strip away the toxic elements. Keep doing that and maybe men will start to shed the shame about taking on some of the important jobs that scare men away because they are associated with women. You don't have to be holding a gun to protect people.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:03 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

Steven Universe is a delight; not only because if the patience messages, but because it has some if the best, most nuanced character development I've seen in a SFF show. I would be willing to nominate it for a Hugo.
posted by happyroach at 11:12 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

I am apparently a mutant because i don't really have any great love for adventure time(especially where it's gone in the most recent season(s)) which is like some sacrosanct super progressive touchstone of my meme-encrusted generation. And same for gravity falls. I do really like bravest warriors, bee and puppycat, etc.

The first people to recommend this show to me, despite generally being cool people and my love for them, are ones to jump on whatever the next big tumblr/internet sweetheart show or comic is as teh best thing evar.

So basically... Is this show actually good? Or is it just something people watch because it pushes all the right inclusiveness buttons.

I couldn't think of a way to write that without slightly sounding like an ass, but i've definitely gotten that feeling from meme-shows and comics in the past that were suddenly amazingly internet famous.

I'm totally open to loving it, i just... don't care about MLP or adventure time and don't really want to power through 5 episodes of something else like that to see if it ever does anything for me. I'll absolutely support this show for being awesome and inclusive in the way it is either way... but like, did anyone ever talk about SheZow other than outraged narrowminded parents after the first couple months? It wasn't actually a super great show, just a great forward-looking concept.
posted by emptythought at 11:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'll absolutely support this show for being awesome and inclusive in the way it is either way...

Why don't you let yourself just be wherever you are

It's a good show, I think. It's a kids' show, and you don't have to like it. It's got its faults but it's honestly not a slog to go through a few of the short episodes. If you don't like it, well, you don't like it, and nobody can say you didn't try.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:02 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think it's pretty good. The worldbuilding is interesting, the background art is BEAUTIFUL, the character development is well-paced and interesting, the characters are loveable and flawed, and the music is pretty great. It's got a lot of fun references to other animated shows, but they're more subtle homages than anything explicit; sort of like the Totoro stuff in the first Bee and Puppycat.

I'd be lying if I said that the inclusiveness isn't a major selling point to me-- I'm dying for more good representation, especially in forms that aren't depressing as hell, and taking a break from the awfulness of the real world and spending some time in a place that's not only not heteronormative but that is wonderfully free of patriarchy and the shitty treatment of the feminine-coded makes it particularly special. But you have to be a good writer to pull that stuff off.

It's also surprisingly deep for a kid's show. It's certainly got more in common with the creations of Studio Ghibli than Adventure Time.

Also, the episodes are 11 minutes, so you don't lose out on much if you don't like it.
posted by NoraReed at 12:18 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

@emptythought: I didn't like Adventure Time that much, but I love Steven Universe. I find it much more chill and very empathetic, and the portrayal of untraditional relationships is very appealing. AdventureTime made me feel very rushed and harried most of the time.
posted by yueliang at 12:19 AM on July 2, 2015

Why would you watch multiple episodes of Adventure Time if you didn't like it?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:31 AM on July 2, 2015

Some shows take a while to get into, or they take a few episodes to really get into their stride.
posted by NoraReed at 12:35 AM on July 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

I'm in the middle of a Steven Universe obsession (having just binged the whole thing a couple weeks ago), and this post isn't helping. I have to agree with everything that the posted article is saying. I'd also like to reinforce how critically important it is for boys to have positive role models like Steven if gender relations are to improve. Unfortunately, SU isn't really aimed at children, but it absolutely points a way forward.

Also, how do they pack so much into 11-minute episodes? Watching the arc of "The Return"/"Jail Break"/"Full Disclosure" felt like I watched a movie, despite the whole thing clocking in around a half hour.
posted by Edgewise at 12:40 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also in this vein, props to people involved with the show for nipping the nacent bronie-alogue "Gemtlemen" fan descriptor in the bud with a gentle "Something like "Gemtlemen" infers that it's not typical for a guy to enjoy Steven Universe, which is so untrue.".

I'd hate for that sort of thing to have taken root in a show like this, because this show offers so much more than performative-gender-binary support/opposition.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:50 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

This show is so good. When I went to see Inside Out, I kept thinking, "OK, yeah, but it's no Steven Universe."

It's also a perfect rejoinder to the complaint that all women in Pixar movies have the same face but male characters have a variety of faces. The female characters in SU have all sorts of different models. And all sorts of different personalities too, all recognizably feminine. The linked article isn't reaching: it's hugely apparent right from the get-go that SU does novel things with gender representation, and I find it not just refreshing, but moving.
posted by painquale at 12:54 AM on July 2, 2015

I wouldn't say that they're all feminine, though, recognizably or not-- and I think that's a good thing! I thought that Ruby and Jasper both have sort of masculine vibes; Peridot isn't really recognizably gendered at all and Amethyst picks up male-coded traits a lot when she's shapeshifting. It's nice to see that femininity isn't a requirement, you know, and the flexibility there is refreshing.
posted by NoraReed at 1:00 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

adventure time(especially where it's gone in the most recent season(s)) which is like some sacrosanct super progressive touchstone of my meme-encrusted generation

Believe me, I know what it is to not like the thing that everybody else insists is perfect. (I don't care for Beyonce. There, I said it.) But Adventure Time really is an amazing thing, stupid yet smart, childish yet adult, sweet and funny yet astonishingly dark and sad. If your friends won't shut up about it I can see how that could get annoying. But the show really is amazing. Even if it's not for you, your friends aren't just pretending they like it, or seeing greatness that's not there.

I feel like boys growing up today don't have a lot of good role models on TV or in the movies, and Finn is the kind of inspiring young male character I'd like to see more often. Yes, he is loud and brash and not too bright sometimes, just like a lot of boys, but he is adventuresome and absolutely dedicated to doing the right thing and being a hero. He has a lot of aggression, but he is all about using it for good, always. He is brave, despite suffering from some crippling phobias and self-doubt. His determination can devolve into childish stubbornness, but when he realizes he's wrong he'll readily admit it and do everything he can to fix his mistakes. He is a natural optimist and a kind soul, and he treats the women and girls in his life with complete respect. He's not the kind of boy to fry bugs with a magnifying glass. He's the kind of boy to get to know those bugs, get all involved in their biz and end up going on a crazy adventure to save their little bug village. He's like a real kid who somehow ended up in this post-apocalyptic world full of candy people and is making the best of it. If he really is the last human, we could do a lot worse.

I must admit I haven't tried Stephen Universe yet, although I've been meaning to ever since I heard about the episode where the kids fuse into one entity of ambiguous gender, and end up having a lot of fun that way. The fact that a kids' show even went there is pretty extraordinary.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:02 AM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

This show is really, really good. There's no caveat there - I'm not going to say it's "good for a kid's show", because it's honestly better than most TV shows I've seen. It's what children's media should strive to be - introducing them to new perspectives and the nuance of the world around them, without being preachy or feeling talked down to. While still being funny, entertaining and emotionally resonant, I might add. Plus, the music is amazing.
posted by Qberting at 1:22 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Why would you watch multiple episodes of Adventure Time if you didn't like it?

I actually really did like it early on, and it keeps having moments that sort of pull me back in.

I watched all of the first 2 or maybe even 3 seasons, and bits and pieces of the later ones and i feel like it's just... not the same thing anymore? Even the structure of a typical episode feels like it changed(and i know i'm not alone in that one specifically, i've heard that from other people online and off). It's like they fired the entire writing staff or something, almost a simpsons-esque shift.

A couple of my friends are animators or comic artists, and when the original adventure time sort of "pilot" clip blew up it was everywhere. Everyone i know watched it probably a couple hundred times, and i was excited for the show. I blasted through the first couple seasons. I was definitely in to it. I don't know.

One of the main reasons i brought that up as well, is that stephen universe is by a former adventure time staffer. I was curious as to whether it felt sort of like an extension of that in the way bravest warriors did*, or if it was actually something completely different that just happened to have that association.

*Although to me, bravest warriors feels like a return to form for adventure time type... i don't know... just, vibe. It's like the futurama to the simpsons that is adventure time.
posted by emptythought at 1:32 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't say that they're all feminine, though, recognizably or not-- and I think that's a good thing! I thought that Ruby and Jasper both have sort of masculine vibes; Peridot isn't really recognizably gendered at all and Amethyst picks up male-coded traits a lot when she's shapeshifting. It's nice to see that femininity isn't a requirement, you know, and the flexibility there is refreshing.

Jasper and Peridot might be exceptions, but we don't know much about them yet, and they're not really a focus of the show. I don't think the other gems are really coded as being masculine or gender-neutral, exactly. They're still recognizably women and they are coded as such, but they all present different ways of expressing oneself as a woman. They all exhibit different forms of femininity without just slipping into masculinity or gender-neutrality. That's why I say they're all recognizably feminine. I think it's neat that the show celebrates that.
posted by painquale at 2:14 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

article: It’s a show that has clearly been designed intentionally, with awareness of the fact that their audience is made up of little kids longing to see themselves as the heroes on screen. And that seeing those heroes look like them would change these kids’ lives.

I find this really full of strange ideas. - That the hero must firstly not be different from the child but yet can still "change" the child. That children cannot be inspired by a hero they don't look like, seems to suggest a very essentialist notion of body image. That I AM my body in a way that seems unnecessary. If I am skinny or I am fat that defines me, is totally unchangable. But its ok because I can still become a hero like Steven Universe. And what does being a hero entail? Attitudes? So what aspects of "me" are now open to change? Only my attitudes can be an object of aspiration.

Does this not ignore that there are serious health issues around being overweight and underweight? That not being able to exercise can actually be bad? Is not the physique of the traditional hero defined somewhat by the need for physical activity? And hence the aspirational influence of such a hero is towards the capability for physical activity.

Perhaps in a post-work society the need for manual labourers has made such body image aspiration passe. There is no need to instill in children these ideas because they will probably spend their lives at a desk job anyway.
posted by mary8nne at 2:48 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh so actually the article does address the health issue that I point out. The show does not use ideas about "weight" or "fatness" as a proxy for physicality, strength and health (which has been the case perhaps in the past). Instead its about "being beefy" or "strong". The show is for "working out" rather than "getting thin" or "losing weight". I can see that is probably a step forward.

It does make you wonder why, in the past, was "weight" such a persistent proxy for health and strength? Or was it just in the 80s and 90s?
posted by mary8nne at 2:58 AM on July 2, 2015

It's entirely possible to be female and be masculine-presenting, though, and that's definitely what I got from both Ruby and Jasper. You can be a woman and not be feminine. That's a fine thing to be if that's where you see yourself. That's the vibe I got from Ruby, and it's one I get from Amethyst a lot of the time; she seems to shapeshift to a form that'd be seen as masculine (wider shoulders, body hair, etc) on a pretty regular basis, and that's never called out as weird by the rest of the cast or played for cheap gender-related laughs in a way a lot of cartoons would likely go for. The same thing is done with a TON of gender stuff on the show, as well as a lot of body stuff. Steven is never given crap for having a pink gem. Ruby and Sapphire have a clearly lesbian relationship and that's 100% okay. Rose Quartz is HUGE-- eight feet tall and heavy-- and also clearly seen as stunningly gorgeous by everyone around her. Her relationship with a man who is 3/5 her height is never seen as weird, and it's not skirted around or something either; the way they dance has him climbing on top of stuff to kiss her more easily. Steven is fat and this isn't skirted around, you see plenty of his belly and he grabs his tummy to attempt to get his gem to do stuff all the time. No one ever gives him shit for it. He also loves food, and people aren't mean about that either.

There's a lot to be said for kid's shows that do the thing where they show someone being mean about, say, somebody being fat, and then explaining why that's not an okay thing to do; I'm certainly not in the camp that says that naming something like that and acknowledging it makes it happen more. But I think Steven Universe makes a deliberate choice to not do that, and in a way it makes that world a kind of vacation from settings that will either be moralizing and lesson-teaching, or (more often) that will perpetuate harmful social structures thoughtlessly.

The reaction from Tumblr has been beautiful. I see so many Rose Quartz cosplayers that are SO HAPPY to have someone who is fat and huge and beautiful and great, and so many other people who are saying that they never see people who look like them on TV and they are so glad to see someone to match their body types. People who are short and chubby and are so excited to see that someone like Amethyst would choose to look like that because that's how she feels she is. People who are thrilled to see someone like Pearl who is graceful and elegant and pretty and also completely flat-chested.
posted by NoraReed at 4:02 AM on July 2, 2015 [14 favorites]

Steven Universe is such a damn good show. Inclusive, beautiful illustration, and hilarious. Can't wait to watch it with the kid in 4-5 years!
posted by triage_lazarus at 4:10 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Slightly off topic, has anyone figured out what book Connie is holding in the new opening sequence?
posted by lordrunningclam at 5:29 AM on July 2, 2015

Thanks for this, NoraReed. I've been recently introduced to Steven Universe and it all makes me happy to a quite silly degree.

This song is so stuck on repeat in my head.

Best earworm ever.
posted by jammy at 6:20 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really see a lot of Steven in my 7-yo boy: the sense of silliness mixed with wonder mixed with wanting to make the people around him happy and play video games and eat sugar cereal and watch TV and movies and hang out with his girlfriend and save the world and give precisely 0.0000 fucks about other people's gendered expectations.
posted by signal at 6:30 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

I don't watch it, but it's worth mentioning that Steven Universe is on Fanfare.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:00 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm with you on this, emptythought. Steven Universe is okay, but I do feel like it's "just something people watch because it pushes all the right inclusiveness buttons."

I don't like how some shows get deemed A Show You Should Be Watching, where it feels like the politics trumps the actual quality of the show. This isn't some "fuck the SJWs" rant, I just don't like feeling like I have to like something just because it's the "right" thing to like. I also feel that many people are willing to tolerate mediocrity if it's mediocrity in service of their causes.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:20 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

just something people watch because it pushes all the right inclusiveness buttons

This is snotty, dismissive, and arrogant. Speak for yourself, dude.

I'm not watching because it is "right" or I've been told I "should". I'm watching it because I find it delightful, imaginative, and funny - and the artwork is great.

I just don't like feeling like I have to like something just because it's the "right" thing to like.

Are you in junior high or something? Who is peer pressuring you so badly? If you don't like it, don't watch it.
posted by jammy at 7:35 AM on July 2, 2015 [24 favorites]

Count me as someone who wholeheartedly enjoys Steven Universe after being decidedly lukewarm on Adventure Time. I'm particularly impressed by the consistently high quality they've managed so far with it. Very few weak episodes and a great many really strong ones.

I'm really confused by all the accusations that people are only watching it because it "pushes the right inclusiveness buttons". Is it really that hard to believe that other people's joy might be actually authentic?
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 7:36 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Well I for one am not just watching Steven Universe because it's the "right" thing to like. I genuinely adore it. It's a deeply sweet and kind show, and like NoraReed says, it's just really nice to have a little 11-minute vacation in a fictional world where I am just about guaranteed a break from shitty gender stuff or gross patriarchy or whatever. I think the animation, music, and voice acting are all lovely and great too, so it's not like I'm turning a blind eye to defects in quality.

If you're not into it, that's fine! There are a lot of people who just aren't into animated shows or an all-ages show like Steven Universe, and I'm not judging that because I'm one of those people who got old and realized I just couldn't watch anime any more. But I for one love Steven Universe, and it's inclusiveness is only part of the reason why. For me it's a lot like My Neighbor Totoro, in that it's a gentle but not lacking in darkness slice of animated beauty.

Also, for what it's worth, most cartoons make me wince now, even the ones I loved as a kid, because they're so ham-handed and nakedly didactic. I find that the likes of Steven Universe and Adventure Time (and to a lesser extent, Gravity Falls) are lacking in that very obvious "here is the lesson!" thing. Adventure Time especially is like some sort of zen Grimm's fairy tales in terms of the "lessons" it imparts being some dark and heavy shit occasionally. Steven Universe is more on the show don't tell end of the spectrum, in that it just presents this inclusive and kind world, and when Steven learns things, it's just this very natural portrayal of a child learning more about the world and people.
posted by yasaman at 7:39 AM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

(I don't care for Beyonce. There, I said it.)

We are now friends.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:40 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Adventure Time especially is like some sort of zen Grimm's fairy tales in terms of the "lessons" it imparts being some dark and heavy shit occasionally.

And in the case of Magic Man, the moral is that some people are jerks.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:47 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm with you on this, emptythought. Steven Universe is okay, but I do feel like it's "just something people watch because it pushes all the right inclusiveness buttons."

I screened a single episode last week, because I thought that some of the ideas the show raises (gender fluidity, for one) might raise questions from my kids, and I wanted to be able to go into that conversation knowing how they were addressed. I really liked what I saw, for many of the reasons outlined in this thread, but especially yasaman's observation that the show presents an inclusive world without being heavy-handed about it.

My kids are seven. They live in an inclusive world. And I want them to see shows that portray similar environments as normal. Because that mindset not only breaks down barriers but also helps deconstruct racism, sexism and petty hatreds.

Some of us really do like shows that "push all the right inclusiveness buttons." If my kids watch tv, I'd rather they absorbed something positive from it.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's entirely possible to be female and be masculine-presenting, though, and that's definitely what I got from both Ruby and Jasper.

Yup, that's true. I think that's pretty standard for cartoons though. It's nothing new to have a tough female character who is presented as tough because she is presented as having masculine traits. (Leela from Futurama springs to mind.) What's amazing to me is that only the side characters are like that: the main gems are presented in a way that I think is a lot more unique. They're tough, but they're all presented as being tough in different ways that are coded as female.

Amethyst sometimes goes masculine, true, but she is more often presents a kind of punk-rock glamness. Her cool little hairflip pose in the original opening is a good summation of her gender presentation, I think. Amethyst is interesting to me because she reminds me of a lot of friends I've known in the past who I've never really seen represented on-screen before. Think of women like Joan Jett or Exene Cervenka. They're loud, brash, fun, often tattooed, hedonistic... and I don't think they think of themselves as presenting as male. They're expressing a non-traditional form of femininity. SU gets that there are many different ways of presenting gender, not just two, and that there are many forms of femininity, not just non-masculinity. That's what I find particularly revolutionary.
posted by painquale at 7:54 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Man, if you think that this show is some dry, lesson-heavy, committee-formed thing, I don't even know what you're watching. This is a show in which spitting watermelon seeds means you end up with a rogue army of watermelons shaped like you. It's extremely weird but also extremely loving--I mean, as in the characters act like people who love each other and are often put in difficult positions by that fact. It's deep in a way that I you don't see very often.

But not so deep that my kiddo doesn't like it too.

I mean, if it's not your thing, absolutely. I could never get into Adventure Time. Hyperactive little boys are adorable in their way but I don't identify with them, and the world itself didn't grab me. But I get that it speaks to other folks.
posted by emjaybee at 7:58 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

I've found myself liking Adventure Time less and less over time, but I've loved every last episode of Steven Universe. I was surprised to find that Rebecca Sugar may have been behind some of my favorite parts of Adventure Time and her departure would help explain my waning interest.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:09 AM on July 2, 2015

"just something people watch because it pushes all the right inclusiveness buttons."

I feel like the people claiming this have got some weird hangups, or annoying friends you need to hang out with less or something. I don't watch it because it's unually casually inclusive etc., although that's a nice bonus, I watch it because it's legitimately a pretty great cartoon.

It's a fairly laid-back fantasy/sci-fi monster-of-the-week show initially that kind of turns around, gets more complex, and starts punching you in the feelings on a semi-regular basis halfway through the first season. The only reason I don't recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone as the best thing on TV (which it's very close to being at this point in its run) is that some of the earlier episodes can come off as a bit awkwardly drawn and annoyingly obtuse regarding the backstory. My recommendation is still to just start from the beginning, relax and enjoy it, try to pick up on small clues, and realize the show is playing a bit of a long game from a plot/character perspective. The episodes are only 11 minutes each, it's not really a huge time commitment to get caught up, and it's quite marathon-able.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 8:11 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Question: Does anyone have a line on that dope as heck background music the show has? I love it! But all I can find are clips of steven et. al singing songs, which while good, isn't what I want to listen to.
posted by rebent at 8:25 AM on July 2, 2015

Yeah, I mainlined this show over the last couple of weeks, and now that I'm caught up I can officially join the chorus of people who are so, so delighted that it exists.

It's sweet and funny and weird and deftly balances Steven's naive point of view with the way shit is abruptly getting really really real in the background of his life. And it does all that while maintaining a consistently high quality of writing, animation, and music, and ALSO showcasing a wonderfully diverse cast where even the bit players have unexpected depth of characterization.

That's a hell of a juggling act.

(also, CONNIE I love Connie SO MUCH she is SO GREAT)
posted by nonasuch at 8:27 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Question: Does anyone have a line on that dope as heck background music the show has? I love it! But all I can find are clips of steven et. al singing songs, which while good, isn't what I want to listen to.

I think a good chunk of it the score is on the World of Steven Universe soundcloud. Not clear on how legit it all is but they've got also got Rebecca Sugar's own demos for many of the songs (which can also be found on her tumblr).
Other than that your best best is trawling youtube for videos based on the track listings on the SU wiki.

Anyway this show best show. If you're trying to introduce someone to it, try them on Tiger Millionaire. Early enough episode that not much explaining is needed, got a good balance of goofs and fleshing out character dynamics.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

i am so late on all of this! i fairly recently found bee & puppycat (OMG SO GOOD!), before that i watched a few episodes of mlp (bronies ruin everything), and before that it was probably "pepper ann" and "recess."

so! i've watched 2 episodes of adventure time and am still unsure about it - how many should i give it? it's enjoyable enough, i guess, but still feels very surface. i have loved pretty much all the tumblr and instagram art it has inspired - i know i love the universe, just trying to figure out if i like the characters in it.

should i try that next? gravity falls? bravest warriors? stephen universe? (i admit that gravity falls looks like it's going to hit that recess/pepper ann goodness and i am blown away by all the amazing art and cosplay from stephen universe)

hope me mefi!
posted by nadawi at 9:33 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Adventure Time has a mix of dungeon-y adventure episodes - these might be what you mean by 'surface'? - and more character or plot driven episodes. The fandom has a constant low-level debate over which is best and if the show has lost it's way by focusing on one over the other. Of course it's a bit of an false dichotomy; maybe try 'Dad's Dungeon' for an episode that's both or 'What Was Missing' for a solidly character focused episode (with songs!). Between the two you should get a clear idea of if you want to stick with it.

Steven Universe and Gravity Falls are also excellent and worthy of obsession! I dunno if it's down to the Disney-backed budget but the backgrounds and general art in Gravity Falls are amazing. SU and Adventure Time are fine in that regard too but Gravity Falls' backdrops and lighting are just so lush.

Bravest Warriors is alright but to be honest it feels like any given Adult Swim cartoon redrawn in Adventure Time art style.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 9:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

i watched the first two episodes of adventure time so i'm fully ready to hear i need to stick with it. i'll try out those 2 episodes you suggest. thanks!
posted by nadawi at 10:12 AM on July 2, 2015

Regarding the gender/sex representation of the Crystal Gems: Amethyst switches her gender and sex (assuming her sex is female) when she joins Steven's wrestling team. She is able to change back and forth at will. Maybe this ability doesn't seem that amazing on the surface, but from my perspective as someone with Trans family and friends, it certainly is. How amazing it would be if humans could do this. I can't think of any "super power" that would have more of an impact on human existence.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:36 AM on July 2, 2015

I just can't possibly recommend Steven Universe any more strongly than I do. It is, no kidding, one of the best shows I've ever seen, and it handles complex and morally fraught issues with a deftness and sensitivity that I don't expect from anything, much less a kids show.
posted by Myca at 10:38 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Steven Universe got to me when they had a couple of fairly explicit call-outs to the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena, which was the playing-with-gender cartoon of my heart when I was a teenager, and said sure, yeah, you can TOTALLY be a girl who wants to be a prince, and then goes on to problematize the whole idea of anybody needing a noble prince to rescue them.

But here's what I love about SU: it understands that good people hurt each other, and good people have emotional pain that they have a hard time getting past, and it does that at a level that's somehow gentle enough for children and harsh enough that I've had a couple of "WHOA, they really went there?" moments (Amethyst in "Maximum Capacity," Pearl in "Sworn to the Sword", Pearl in general...) People get to make big mistakes that don't have easy solutions.

In the fannish Tumblr crowd, I definitely think that there are times when talking about representation, or talking about a show's social justice cred, feels like the most important thing about the show. But I also think about Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Sailor Moon, and how much I needed to see those models of femininity -- how big a deal that was for me, back then.
posted by Jeanne at 10:51 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

lordrunningclam > has anyone figured out what book Connie is holding in the new opening sequence?

I'm assuming it's a volume of that 'His Dark Materials' parody series she's a fan of. Though in digging for the name of that series I ended up on a SU wiki page for her that claims she's holding 'A Wrinkle In Time'.

This thread is reminding me that I really need to get around to watching the second half of Utena. Because I am totally caught up on the show right now.

Also oh god Pearl is so broken. So, so broken. Even aside from the 'Pearl is a high functioning autist' kinds of broken that was obvious in the early episodes. I really loved the little lesson in 'Sworn to the Sword' about being careful what you take from your teachers - because they try to teach you to obsessively pursue their craft for the same reasons they do, which may not be very healthy.
posted by egypturnash at 12:33 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I kept trying to get into Adventure Time and couldn't manage it for a long time, until I skipped head to around season 4 or so. I know some people have the opposite tastes, but for me the last three seasons, especially 5 and 6, have been really quite wonderful. I found the earlier episodes charming but often too slight, especially after you had seen a few. But the more recent ones have become more ambitious both on the through-story and in the one-offs. Some of the stand-alones in particular are quite wonderful, but almost every episode in the last couple seasons has had some lovely bits, both imaginative and often moving in an oblique way. Existential narratives about Jake-as-a-brick or Jake's tail aren't for everyone, but speaking as someone often disappointed with their imaginative literature, I find it both creative and engrossing. But there are still a lot of slight episodes still along the way -- if you're impatient with such things, I found that Graph TV was very useful if you stick with the above-the-average shows. But what started me on it all the first time was happening to watch a couple episodes on the plane by chance, the two-episode "Lemonhope" sequence from Season 5, which is a pretty good place to start if you like somewhat baffling in-medias-res narratives with lots of unexplained backstory (which I very much do).
posted by chortly at 1:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Question: Does anyone have a line on that dope as heck background music the show has?

The two people behind the show's background music post their stuff up on their soundcloud page.
posted by tealNoise at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I feel like the "you only like it because it pushes the right inclusiveness buttons" is not only kind of offensive, but kind of dismissive and ridiculous. I mean, when you spend your whole life never seeing people like you on TV, it is SUCH a breath of fresh air to see people like you-- so much that people will reach for ANY representation, even if it's really shitty and villainous or whatever-- so to have a show that not only shows people like you but does it RESPECTFULLY and WELL is fucking AMAZING. Watching Steven Universe, for me, releases a tension I didn't even know was there as I brace for patriarchal bullshit and then it isn't there and I can loosen my muscles.

And the root of showing all that on the show is that it's really, really loving, and that carries out through all of it. It's wonderful to watch a show that is silly and ridiculous without bracing for something that's gonna depress the shit out of me. They can do better, go further, by avoiding bigotry; shows that are worse on social justice issues are inherently limited in what they can do because their messaging is off-kilter.

Steven Universe manages to be deeper than any kid's show I've seen because it isn't hung up on broken social constructs. Its worldbuilding is brilliant and fascinating and also doesn't have a bunch of the kind of holes in it that you get when you're trying to figure out why the all-female race of space aliens conform exactly to a very specific and highly modern white, male gaze-y view of attractiveness, which is something that always draws me out of sci-fi works that use the "race of all female aliens" trope. It can go to very dark places, and it doesn't soften the blow of these by euphemising them or making "haha dark" lampshading punchlines, but the optimism and love that's at the heart of Steven's character makes it so that those dark places are something you can come back from.

Pearl in particular is the kind of character I've never seen on a screen before. She's deeply, deeply hurt by Rose Quartz' "death", and not just her absence, but how she apparently chose Greg over her. She loves Steven, and even though it clearly breaks her heart sometimes to see Rose in him, she doesn't resent him for it. Her feelings toward Rose clearly create rifts between her and Amethyst, and the relationship between those to is consistently fraught in a way that feels real but is still, as everything in the show, rooted in love.

And it's clear that her relationship with Rose wasn't healthy. In most kid's media-- most media in general-- this is the kind of thing that you'd slowly realize after the fact, because it would show an unhealthy relationship but portray it as normal or okay; it would require some critical thinking later to look at the show and say "hey, actually that was kind of fucked up." Steven Universe makes this explicit, though. Pearl attempts to reflect the screwed up dynamics of that relationship onto Connie, and Steven steps in to say that it isn't okay, and Connie and Steven are stronger together, and Pearl learns something, and that's all implicitly shown instead of told.

I feel like there are really great strides being made in books (novels and comics both) right now for doing this kind of thing well, but television tends to swing so conservative on social issues and inclusiveness. I think it's taken a lot of TV-adjacent stuff to show that there's a lot more wiggle-room for artistic expression on TV-- not just in regards to minority representation, but just for doing weird stuff. It felt, at least to me, like there wasn't a lot of that on the air after Nickolodeon pulled with Invader Zim what Fox would later do with Firefly, but there was a clear market and appetite for that, and it got filled with Homestar Runner and Weebl's Stuff and a LOT of more experimental webcomics, especially Homestuck and Dinosaur Comics. And Adventure Time came along, and it spun off a lot of great creators doing their own projects, it feels like Steven Universe is picking up where all of those things left off. It's not relying on the "randomness" trope that props up stuff like Zim and that I had gotten kind of disenchanted with after I left my early teens; it also isn't doing the "haha we covered a dark thing but we are making a joke out of it" thing that Zim did. But it really feels like it could be the vanguard of a new era of children's programming and cartoons in general, and it's standing on the shoulders of giants that seemed to promise that era was coming back when a lot of the people who are fans of now, who are in our twenties, were actually in the target demographic for that kind of show, a decade or more ago.
posted by NoraReed at 2:52 PM on July 2, 2015 [17 favorites]

emptythought not to hop on the whole NO REALLY train but i'm lukewarm on bee and puppycat and adventure time and all that memestuff and i am completely down the gay rocks rabbit hole for Steven Universe. it's more Correct in ways i cannot explain good. but it is a Good Show. there is a wrestling. idk. it's good. i also stay the fuck off the web discussions about the show which might help? iiiidk
posted by beefetish at 2:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

NoraReed, why aren't *you* writing articles about this show? Maybe you are?

If not, please do. You most definitely have the chops.
posted by jammy at 3:04 PM on July 2, 2015

I'm planning on turning this into a blog post! I often hash out the bones of those in comment threads here. (Though if anyone has any connections somewhere that would pay me to do that, I would TOTALLY BE DOWN.)
posted by NoraReed at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

i'm lukewarm on bee and puppycat [...]
posted by

Really? I'm a bit surprised, I'd have thought that if anyone you'd be all over that one.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:10 PM on July 2, 2015

I guess it's a portmanteau of beef fetish.
posted by painquale at 4:38 PM on July 2, 2015

Bee and Puppycat to me seems like just kind of a cute, okay-ish show, except with a fantastic lead voice. Aside from the pilot, which was pretty great all around. I'm not even sure I really like the subsequent episodes, but I'm sticking around for Bee's enjoyably weird line delivery.

It's like the opposite of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, which is a fun, beautifully-animated cartoon with an annoyingly miscast lead voice.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 5:08 PM on July 2, 2015

God i really fucked this thread up didn't i sorry people

I feel like the people claiming this have got some weird hangups, or annoying friends you need to hang out with less or something. I don't watch it because it's unually casually inclusive etc., although that's a nice bonus, I watch it because it's legitimately a pretty great cartoon.

I didn't mean this about this show. At all. I haven't watched this show. I wasn't even making some dumb uninformed preloaded assumptions about this show.

I was saying that about shows that have been popular in the past that just... weren't that good(TO ME) that i've gotten that vibe from with the fandom and from friends. Like, no one really super thought it was an amazing work of art that much, but they wanted to support it on principle.

This was obviously taken too far and not the right way. This wasn't some dig on people or "SJWs" or whatever. It was more like people who buy coffee from that one shop next to their work that isn't that great just to avoid going to starbucks and support local businesses.

Some local places are amazing. Some people just go to because it's Not A Chain(which is both legitimate, and fucking absolutely a political act/statement). "I want more things like this to exist so i'm going to rep this" is not "this thing is good", it's just "this is a positive thing to have around in the world.

Do you get what i'm saying?

Sorry for the absolute threadnuke though, again.
posted by emptythought at 6:07 PM on July 2, 2015

I was saying that about shows that have been popular in the past that just... weren't that good(TO ME) that i've gotten that vibe from with the fandom and from friends.

If you were talking about Adventure Time, that's still weird and likely incorrect for the vast majority of fans. I never even thought of it as super-progressive in an obvious way, unless making doing mushrooms redundant to the future lives of the current generation of 8-year-olds counts as a progressive virtue.

I mean, I guess I can see where the thought is coming from, since this particular post frames Steven Universe in terms of its valuable cultural lessons, even if the show itself is decidedly non-didactic.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 6:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: completely down the gay rocks rabbit hole

(sorry, sorry. Seriously, though, watch Steven Universe.)
posted by nonasuch at 8:12 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am used to people talking about it being a show about "gay space rocks" from Tumblr but my meatspace friend was v. confused when I called it that in real life. Apparently he didn't expect "I like it because it is about gay space rocks" as the response to "are you watching Steven Universe", which is odd, because he has met me before.
posted by NoraReed at 12:51 AM on July 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

I love the heck out of Steven Universe and hadn't given a moment's conscious though to its inclusiveness/gender-norm-breaking whatever until maybe two thirds of the way through season one. That's not to say it's not there. It is, in retrospect.

But this is also a fun, zany, sweet kid's adventure show with catchy songs and funny jokes and there is no reason at all that a person can't just enjoy it on that basis. My family sure does.

Steven Universe has some of the most interesting and intricate world-building this side of long-running grown-up scifi shows. And it's fun. It's just good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:05 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I don't think Adventure Time is super progressive in any obvious ways either, though one of the first things that stood out to me as being subtly progressive was its hilarious escalation of princess-ification. When I first watched the show, I thought "okay, Princess Bubblegum, nothing surprising there," and then the show continued with "Also Lumpy Space Princess!" "...lumpy space? okay, whatever." "And Berry Princess! And Flame Princess and Slime Princess and Turtle Princess and Doctor Princess and Breakfast Princess and Cookie Princess and Lamprey Princess and...."

The glut of princesses is funny and absurd, sure, but I also think it's great to show that there are a lot of ways to be a princess and those ways aren't necessarily predicated on traditional femininity or princess-like attributes. (Real talk though, I want to be Breakfast Princess. Her kingdom just looks so delicious...)
posted by yasaman at 5:46 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I could, and have, written many many pages on Steven Universe over on Fanfare, where for early episodes I would compose what I call "geeklists," obsessive details observed from each episode, often by freeze framing. Suffice to say there's a lot going on in the background in Steven Universe. There's so much awesome about it that I don't think I could point to any one thing being best, really, it all fits together as a complete whole.

This frankly blows MLP (a show I have a good bit of fondness for) out of the water. When I started watching it I didn't mean to binge, but I ended up staying up all night watching all the shows at the time in order (up to Lion 3) in one long run, and when I was done it was two in the afternoon. It and Gravity Falls, I think, are two of the best things on right now. (And the fandoms of those two shows have a lot of overlap.)
posted by JHarris at 5:06 AM on July 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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