TV Features

Thank You for Everything, "Steven Universe"

What to say about a cartoon that's given us so much...

Steven Universe The Movie | Official Trailer | Cartoon Network

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?

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.


What Steven’s New Powers Mean for “Steven Universe: Future”

The first four episodes introduced three new powers that have big implications for the rest of the series.

Screenshot from: Steven Universe Future | Steven Universe | Cartoon Network /
Cartoon Network /

In the first four episodes of Steven Universe: Future, a ton has already happened.

Even though the premiere episodes were relatively relaxed—lots of emotional drama and growth, but no monsters or planet-threatening events—the series seems to be set up for some amazing developments. Just for a start, Pearl has a new bond with the permanently damaged Pink Pearl—they even fused!—Steven cemented his awkward-but-loving siblinghood with the Rose Quartzes, a tense armistice (with potential for collaboration) has been established with Jasper, and we saw further proof that onion is an immortal and indestructible being. Oh yeah, and Steven discovered three incredible new powers!

First, in "Little Homeschool" there was the defensive skin shield that spread around his entire body when he was battling Jasper. Defensive seems to be the operative word. He had gone to her intending to offer some help, but as soon as she got the chance to fight him, she used his concern for others—for baby birds in this case—to find an opening, then she got him pinned. At that point she renounced the idea that he could ever help her, saying "You think everyone needs help! But it's only you. No one is as pitiful as you." Ouch…

Understandably, this triggered something in Steven. With a look of rage on his face that we've never seen before, a pink layer of bubble spread across his skin, and he was suddenly able to fight back with a lot more power, and he actually won some grudging respect from Jasper—who nonetheless refuses to acknowledge him as an incarnation of her diamond. No one else has the venom for Steven that Jasper does, so it took a confrontation with her to bring out this defensive side of him, but once it was unlocked it revealed more power—not all of it good.

Next, in "Guidance," Steven's newfound power revealed a new ability for Smoky Quartz—his fusion with Amethyst—as well. With Steven's pushy plans for new immigrants from the Gem Homeworld going awry, a rollercoaster is about to go flying off the tracks, and he and Amethyst fuse to try to save it. Smoky Quartz realizes they're not going to make it on time and starts freaking out—and maybe getting a little defensive?—when the same pink skin shield spreads around them, but with a new development. They are suddenly moving so fast that time seems to stand still, and they are able to save everyone on the roller coaster—except onion, who is immortal and indestructible.

Finally, in "Volleyball," Steven has opened a clinic for treating damaged gems, and there seem to be a whole lot of them—maybe they're getting damaged on purpose? His healing spit is doing its work until Pink Pearl comes in with her cracked face. His healing powers can't fix this damage, because it isn't a reflection of any damage to her gem—it's something deeper. Pearl suggests taking Pink Pearl to The Reef—a facility that can purportedly fix any Pearl.

When even the Reef can't fix her, and Steven is confronted by the fact that his mother's violent temper is responsible for this deeper, psychological damage, he again becomes defensive. The shield skin forms, and then he demonstrates exactly what one of his mother's temper tantrums would have looked like. He lets out a shout that becomes a shockwave and destroys the reef, setting off a series of events that the three just barely survive.

It remains to be seen how Steven will gain control of his new, temperamental powers. They will likely cause a lot more problems before he fully learns to use them. Or perhaps—like his mother—he will learn to tamp down his defensive impulse. Whatever the case, it seems certain that, along with these major new powers, we can expect some major new problems in the next three weeks.


How to Watch and What to Expect for the "Steven Universe: Future" Premiere

With four brand new episodes premiering Saturday at 8:00, you'd better make sure you're ready

Screenshot via Cartoon Network Asia /

It's finally here!

After the announcement, the trailer, and all the teaser art, the anticipation was killing us. But now December 7th is upon us, and the premier of the first four full episodes of Steven Universe: Future is about to deliver some sweet escape from dull dark reality with a glimpse into Beach City and a new era of peace and liberation, thanks to Steven and the Crystal Gems. What new enemies will arise to threaten this hard-won stability, and what lessons will Steven have to learn to take them on? Also, did they ever bring back Cookie Cat? Because Lion Lickers just aren't cutting it.

Steven Universe - Toon Tunes: Cookie Cat

All these questions and more are finally about to be answered…for those of us who have cable. Unfortunately for the millennial cable cutters who make up a big portion of the Steven Universe fanbase, until next spring rolls around, there isn't really a great way to stream Cartoon Network content. You could always find a source to pirate the episodes, but apart from the legal issues, you'll have to find a way to sleep at night while knowing that you stole the hard creative work of Rebecca Sugar and all their collaborators.

If you have it in your budget, and know you're going to watch these episodes over and over, Amazon already has a "season pass" available. If you don't, then you might want to find a friend with cable, and just watch it with them. And if you're reading this with 8:00 PM approaching, and you're scrambling for an option, there are a number of Live TV services with Cartoon Network access that offer free trial periods. Just don't blame me if you forget to cancel…

If you aren't convinced, and think you might still wait for who knows how long to watch these episodes when they finally come to Hulu or Netflix, here are the episode descriptions for Saturday's premiere, along with a first look clip of Steven being a sort of social worker for a restored Jasper, just to whet your appetite:

"Little Homeschool"

Welcome to Little Homeschool, a place on earth where Gems from all over the universe can come learn how to live together peacefully! But there's one Gem who refuses to attend.


Amethyst has been helping Little Homeschool Gems find jobs on the boardwalk, but Steven isn't sure about her approach.

"Rose Buds"

Steven gets a surprise visit from some old friends, and an even more surprising introduction to some new ones.


Steven is determined to help Pink Diamond's original Pearl heal the scar on her face.


What We Know About "Steven Universe: Future" So Far

The Latest Sneak Peak Gave Us a Ton To Think About, But Not a Lot of Answers

Cartoon Network

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.

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."

steven universe future threatsCartoon Network

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.

jasperCartoon Network

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!"

pearlsCartoon Network

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!