Rebecca Sugar on Steven Universe, Video Games, and the Power of Cartoons
June 1, 2017 10:36 AM   Subscribe

The Verge: "Steven is really going to have to turn inward and face himself... He's got to accept that it's impossible to fill the shoes of his mother, Rose Quartz. She was always barefoot."
Polygon:"And I just remember sitting on the floor, playing Link to the Past ... the loft, with the TV on the floor in front of Steven's bed, is a very specific reference to that summer, and the feeling of just hanging out and playing games together during a thunderstorm."
posted by Sokka shot first (28 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
According to the first article, Rebecca Sugar is the first woman to run a show at Cartoon Network, and I wish that had surprised me for more than about two seconds.

That aside, I love this show so goddamn much, and I love how thoughtful and intentional Rebecca Sugar is about making it. So many of the things I love, I kind of have to love around the broken bits-- the places where the writers didn't plan ahead or think the implications through or ran out of special effects budget or whatever. That's never happened yet with Steven Universe, and a big part of that is because the people making it are working really hard to keep it that way.
posted by nonasuch at 11:05 AM on June 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


I love this show so much, and I guess if I was trying to convince someone else about its wonderful queer musical goodness, I'd show them Pearl singing It's Over, Isn't It.

I recognize the video game references (some of them) but I was never much of a gamer so they are more like extras, not essential to my love of the series. But it's clear they mean a lot to the writers, and the loving way they write about videogames (and food, music, fantasy books, action movies, etc. etc.) makes me enjoy them too. There is just so much about this show that captures what it means to truly love something and enjoy it and be happy that it's like taking a vacation in someone else's happy childhood memories.

And somehow they also manage to fit in stories around PTSD, and relationship boundaries, and anxiety, and openness, and honesty, and touch on some really dark themes, without ever losing that basic joyfulness.
posted by emjaybee at 11:06 AM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


it's like taking a vacation in someone else's happy childhood memories.

The thing that first drew me in was Beach City-- I'm nearly the same age as Rebecca Sugar and we both grew up in the DC area, so her memories of Ocean City and Rehoboth are pretty much identical to mine. For most of the first season, I couldn't shake the feeling that the show was set in my childhood.
posted by nonasuch at 11:18 AM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Here comes a thought is possibly one of the few songs that I've found to have useful to have stuck in my head - a catchy reminder for mindfulness.

And how important consent is in everything, and the mythology, and the fact that loving and being accepting but still standing up for yourself is so important.

I downloaded soundtrack attack while waiting for the newest set of episodes, and it was fun, even if I hit a brick wall when I got to the last world.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:26 AM on June 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


Great stuff. My kids are fully into Stephen Universe, which I've mostly been sort of ignoring as it goes on in the background, but over time I've become aware that it's something kind of special, and it's great to get an insight into where that specialness comes from.
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on June 1, 2017


Also apparently Chuck Dixon worked on this at some point, which is just fucking weird.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on June 1, 2017


I save up steven universe episodes for when I am in a funk. Wish I was in a funk more, so I could watch more. But there's more funks than there are steven universe episodes, so I save them for when I really need them.
posted by rebent at 1:36 PM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


They work quite well on rewatch too, rebent. (I've had plenty of funks lately to test this out).

Each episode is just so well made, there is tons to notice a second (or nth) time through.

I haven't played either game yet, not much of an rpg player, but the second article here might tempt me to try.
posted by nat at 2:10 PM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am Not OK about "Lars' Head," At All.
posted by Faux Real at 2:15 PM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Rebecca wrote the Fionna and Cake episodes for Adventure Time.

Rebecca Sugar - Oh Fionna (lyrics)

There's are more Adventure Time songs by her on that channel.
posted by adept256 at 2:26 PM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


emjaybee: "And somehow they also manage to fit in stories around PTSD, and relationship boundaries, and anxiety, and openness, and honesty, and touch on some really dark themes, without ever losing that basic joyfulness."

Yeah, they definitely do not shy away from some heavy, heavy stuff. And while everything takes place in a kind of metaphorical context (e.g.: gem fusion = relationships), it's all pretty close to the surface. Like, it's very hard to read the episode Alone at Sea (the one where Steven and Lapis go out on a boat and then Jasper shows up) as about anything but an abusive relationship. It's some really real shit.
posted by mhum at 2:49 PM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also apparently Chuck Dixon worked on this at some point, which is just fucking weird

Must've been the little piece of his soul previously employed for Nightwing.
posted by praemunire at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2017


Vox ALSO has an SU piece up today, on the music of SU.."songs about anxiety, grief and obsession for cartoon aliens."
posted by emjaybee at 3:25 PM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I basically leave my 9yo son's moral and ethical upbringing to Steven Universe.

Do what Steven would do shall be the whole of the Law.
posted by signal at 3:29 PM on June 1, 2017 [16 favorites]


Aaah the soundtrack comes out tomorrow - I knew it was in June but I forgot when.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2017


Not bad for an Invader Zim fanfic starring her brother.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2017



Rebecca wrote the Fionna and Cake episodes for Adventure Time.

Rebecca Sugar - Oh Fionna (lyrics)

There's are more Adventure Time songs by her on that channel.


Yeah I haven't seen Steven but I am a huge fan of Sugar's work on Adventure Time. Thanks for sharing these! (God I love Adventure Time.)
posted by grobstein at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2017


Can't believe we didn't do a "...and STEPHEN!"
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on June 1, 2017


(Artw: "Steven", not "Stephen".)
posted by XtinaS at 3:23 AM on June 2, 2017


...and STEVEN!

We append it to a lot of things at our house.
posted by Artw at 6:02 AM on June 2, 2017


The official listing for the soundtrack (Vol 1). Totally listening to this at work today.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:24 AM on June 2, 2017


two minutes in, I've discovered a tactical error: I cannot sing along to the songs at work. :(
posted by dinty_moore at 6:26 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Steven Universe is a show my son and I watch religiously.

For a kids show it deals with real issues in an amazingly good way, especially relationship issues.

From the obviously dysfunctional and clearly abusive Lapis/Jasper relationship, though who exactly is abusing who there is complex to the more subtly abusive (or at least manipulative) relationship Rose had with Pearl, to the mutually destructive relationship between Greg and Amethyst Sugar has shown a great many ways relationships can go very bad.

And there's good relationships shown as things you have to work at and still have problems. Ruby and Sapphire have fights and arguments, their love doesn't preclude that!

And depression! No one tries to fix Lapis or tell her to cheer up. She's depressive and her friends acknowledge that and its ok.

Its an absolutely amazing show. And it isn't all heavy or deep, it just has those moments as part of life. It flows well.

Also, any show that can be summarized as crying lesbian space rocks has to be amazing.
posted by sotonohito at 6:33 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Amal El-Mohtar quoted liberally from Steven Universe lyrics in her recent Guest of Honor speech at WisCon -- transcript isn't up yet but "Stronger Than You" makes a big appearance.
posted by brainwane at 1:29 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Another thing I love about SU is the wide variety of female body types presented. Among both the humans and the gems, but especially among the gems. They aren't all Barbie dolls or supermodels. In fact, none really are.
posted by sotonohito at 3:38 PM on June 2, 2017


I am Not OK about "Lars' Head," At All.

it's going to get worse
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 7:08 PM on June 2, 2017


Not bad for an Invader Zim fanfic starring her brother.

Whoa, she said that was how it started? Then I'm impressed all over again, to think that such a sweet and complex world was partly inspired from the total misanthropy of Vasquez.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:31 PM on June 2, 2017


yeah,, i think SU is a galaxy away from invader zim. Songs incorporated into the stories. emotional maturity and honesty, a color palette. about the only thing in common is the alien theme
posted by eustatic at 12:12 AM on June 3, 2017


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