What to say about a cartoon that's given us so much...
With its many landmark episodes featuring diversity, mental health, and representation, Steven Universe has proven to be one of the most thoughtful and inclusive shows on TV.
The show has officially reached its conclusion in the final episodes of Steven Universe Future, wherein the eponymous Steven is undergoing some severe growing pains. With the series having come to a close, there's no better time for fans to express how grateful we are for all that it's done. Personally, even though it's a children's cartoon, Steven Universe has meant so much to me in my adult years. Series creator Rebecca Sugar and their team consistently used the show as a vehicle for inclusion, and its timely messages have made me feel seen and heard like no other show before it. Watching Steven Universe has truly been a life-changing experience for its viewers, and all we can do is thank the show for everything it gave us.
Now, where to start?
Steven and Connie's fusion is a firm representation for the transgender experience.Cartoon Network
Thank you for giving us Stevonnie
In a show that consistently blurs the line between gendered constructs, Stevonnie is the perfect representation of Steven Universe's ideals. As a physical fusion of Steven and his female friend Connie, they are a being that transcends the concept of gender to begin with. They're a confident presence and a wonderful role model for trans people. They're also heroic, valiant, and capable of exploring their identity in healthy and productive ways.
In Stevonnie's debut episode, "Alone Together," Stevonnie tests the waters of their new form by interacting with Steven's friends and family and going out for a night on the town. They explore their new identity, ask themselves questions, and become more informed of who they are through conversations with others. Stevonnie is a prominent example of intersex representation, and their ongoing development allows them to further understand what being Stevonnie—and beyond the gender binary—means.
(Personally, I'll always appreciate Steven Universe for giving me outlets like Stevonnie to help me understand my gender identity. One year, for New York Comic Con, I even cosplayed as Stevonnie. It felt so right to embody someone whose gender exploration very nearly lined up with my own, and it's a cosplay I'll always be proud to have worn.)
Few children's shows have been as bold as to show a marriage like this.Cartoon Network
Thank you for the lovely lesbian wedding
Too many other shows conflate LGBTQ+ storylines with "mature content." For the longest time, audiences, especially younger LGBTQ+ ones in the process of finding their identities, couldn't get that kind of representation in any show without at least a TV-14 rating. But there's no reason that two people getting married, regardless of gender, needs to be portrayed as "mature," and Steven Universe's marriage between two women completely shatters any argument to the contrary.
When Garnet, the Crystal Gems' leader, was revealed to be a fusion, we learned that her strength and wisdom come from the love between the two Gems who comprise her. To that end, Ruby and Sapphire's wedding is nothing short of iconic. The entire episode was reserved to let these two hopelessly-in-love gems to join each other in matrimony. As every character prepared for the wedding, the show celebrated an unabashed on-screen marriage in a show that's accessible to everyone. Once upon a time, it was unthinkable for a children's show to display a scene like this. Steven Universe shining an enormous spotlight on their pride sets a new bar for other shows to do the same in the future.
Lars is one of few prominent Filipino characters in media today.Cartoon Network
Thank you for all the diverse racial representation
Between the show's characters and its real-life voice cast, Steven Universe has never shied away from diverse racial representation. People of color proudly fill a cast as colorful as, well, gemstones, as they work to illustrate a world as diverse as ours.
I, for one, am especially proud of all the Filipinix personalities. From Filipina voice actors like Deedee Magno Hall and Shelby Rabara as major characters Pearl and Peridot respectively to the quick reference to Lars' heritage when he made an ube roll, seeing my own culture receive such enormous visibility made me validated and happy.
The show has often presented itself as an outlet for emotional and mental health.Cartoon Network
Thank you for the guidelines on managing emotional health
The characters in Steven Universe experience a lot of hardships. Whether it be PTSD, struggles with growing up, or any form of dysphoria, the Crystal Gems are almost always dealing with some heavy emotional baggage. Steven Universe Future displays this prominently, as Steven himself struggles with the many ongoing changes in his life and has to work through both the physical and mental trauma that he's collected over the years. His growing powers are synced up to his turbulent emotional states, resulting in outbursts that cause more damage than he expects.
But rather than offering a simple solution to everyone's complex problems, Steven Universe prioritizes ways of working through them in our daily lives. Songs like "Here Comes a Thought" and arcs where even the show's most stoic characters become emotionally vulnerable are perfect examples of how this cartoon portrays healthy coping mechanisms. It never tries to be a one-stop shop for emotional recovery, nor does it try to limit anyone's trauma to a solitary explanation. Steven Universe simply states that your struggles are valid and that you can work through them.
Celebrating every single one of the show's accomplishment's is no easy task.Cartoon Network
Simply speaking, it's impossible to overstate the kind of pillar Steven Universe has become for important social concepts and marginalized communities. So as we reach the show's long-deserved conclusion, expressing heartfelt gratitude will need to suffice.
Thank you for all the memorable characters and heartfelt moments. Thanks to Rebecca Sugar and their fellow creators for introducing us to this world. Thank you for everything you've done, Steven Universe. Thank you for being bold and groundbreaking, from beginning to end.