The Latest Sneak Peak Gave Us a Ton To Think About, But Not a Lot of Answers
Fans of Steven Universe were no doubt delighted by the news at this year's Comic Con that Rebecca Sugar's iconic world would be continuing with an epilogue called Steven Universe: Future.
But until now, that title and a little bit of teasing artwork was all the news we'd received about the upcoming limited series. Today, finally, we got our first sneak peak at Future, and it really is looking bright.
Here's the Steven Universe Future promo in high quality! #StevenUniverseFuture #StevenUniverse https://t.co/qCA9EPxbvt— Crystal: Future (@Crystal: Future)1574077538.0
It's been nearly a year now since the fifth and final standard season of Steven Universe concluded with the apparent achievement of universal everlasting peace. Having recovered their lost, beloved Pink Diamond in the form of a small, half-human boy, the Diamonds' whole worldview was shaken. The framework of unquestioned superiority that had guided their rule was suddenly invalidated. They dissolved their society's rigid hierarchy and acknowledged the value of organic life. War and conquest are off the table, and gem technology will bring a new Utopian era to earth. Huzzah! Every problem is fixed and all the characters can now live in peace and love and freedom into eternity.
For a show with a well-earned reputation for tackling the complexity and nuance of interpersonal drama, it seemed a bit strange for events to be wrapped up so tidily. It's a sentiment that was perfectly captured in September by the song "Happily Ever After," that played in the first moments of Steven Universe: The Movie. "Here we are in the future, and it's bright. Nothing to fear, no one to fight." But no sooner was this sense of a happy ending established than Spinel was introduced and new drama ensued, showing the way for the franchise to grow moving forward. There are loose ends galore, and in the upcoming limited series Steven Universe: Future Steven will have the work of handling those, but also, "as he runs out of other people's problems to solve, he'll finally have to face his own."
That leaves a lot of room for Steven's romantic life, his questions of identity, and his private ambitions to be explored—not to mention his own messy history with the tribe of Watermelon Stevens, etc. It's not yet clear which of his personal problems will come into focus in Future, but we do have clues about some of the other problems he'll be facing.
Let's start with the frame of a generally better life in Beach City and the rest of the universe, with gems finding new ways to live, be free, and have fun on earth—yoga and art and new fusions galore. "Happily Ever After" echoes throughout the snippets of Future we've received so far, but the new sneak peak emphasizes Steven's misplaced optimism in believing that "soon, we'll all be able to put the past behind us." Dissolving the old hierarchy does not erase history. There are ancient grievances that we've never even heard of—as with Spinel, abandoned in Pink's garden—and there are grievances from within the show's established canon that may not be so easily forgotten. Enter Jasper.
Jasper is a toxic gem. Abusive and domineering, she has internalized the hierarchy of gem society to such a degree that she can't conceive of personal value or identity in any other terms. Fusions are beneath her, imperfect gems are beneath her, biological creatures are far beneath her, and Rose Quartz—who upset the natural order and remade herself into a half-biological creature—is absolute scum. For Jasper, it's not such an easy thing to let go of those ideas on the basis that this scum, this fundamental enemy of her values, is now being held up as Pink Diamond—Jasper's lost matriarch. And now the fact that her gem is corrupted is likely to only exacerbate her resentment. Her manic laughter rings out in the new video, along with the defiant declaration "You are not my diamond!"
Jasper will clearly represent a significant threat in Future, but she's not the only character fans are buzzing about. Perhaps even more interesting is the mystery of the damaged Pink Pearl. She was previously taken from Pink Diamond—before our familiar Pearl replaced her—and has since served under White Diamond. She has large fractures of unknown origin covering half her face, and in the sneak peak, we catch a glimpse of those fractures spreading across her face. No doubt the drama of her past and the question of how she will be incorporated into the new world will be another focus of Future.
Beyond that, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but it's exciting to see so many new and wild fusions, and gem technology transforming life on earth—for the better this time. The release date hasn't been specified beyond the vague promise that it's "coming soon." Hopefully a date will be forthcoming, because "soon" can't come soon enough!
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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