Friday, July 31, 2015

"In Which I Try to Convince You to Watch a Children's Cartoon Show" or "Watch Steven Universe"


I'm a 33 year old married man with no kids who likes to read comic books, read fantasy novels, and watch movies where giant robots fight monsters from other dimensions.

What I'm saying is you really shouldn't be surprised by the blog you're about to read in which I try to convince you to watch a children's cartoon.

So why should you watch "Steven Universe?"

1. It's a great homage to stuff you probably already like. Are you like me? Did you grow up watching poorly translated Japanese cartoons like "Voltron" or "Sailor Moon?" Did middle school you think "The Simpsons" was the funniest thing in the history of things? Well, then you might like "Steven Universe" which is both a parody, and a loving homage of things that kids who grew up in the late eighties through the nineties really loved.

2. Do you think traditional gender roles are sort of bullshit? You do? Well so does "Steven Universe." Steven Universe is a young boy who is half human and half gem. "Gems" are badass alien fighters with cool weapons, and superpowers who fights monsters. Oh, and gems are all female except for Steven (on account of him being half-human.) All of the "action" characters in this show are women. Oh, and in addition, there are all kinds of female characters on this show. Pearl is disciplined and controlled. Amethyst is wild and loves to party. Garnet is cool, and also built like a brick shit house. On the flip side of the coin, many of the shows male characters are emotionally available, and nurturing- roles men aren't always allowed to play in society or in entertainment. Steven himself loves and looks up to the Crystal Gems (his warrior caretakers), but also spends most of his time... caring for people- trying to make sure their needs are met. The show also features characters who are gay, straight, black, white, and everything else. It's like if "Sense8" was a kids' show.

3. The songs.  Good lord, the songs! There's a song every third or fourth episode and I love them all. Here's one of my favorites: "Giant Woman" in which Steven sings about how he wants Pearl and Amethyst to merge into a larger, more powerful  gem.
Catchy as hell right?

4. It revels in its weirdness. This is a weird show. The gems are literally sentient stones who project holographic bodies. On one episode, they fight an evil breakfast. On another, they fight a possessed mascot for a french fry restaurant. The show knows it's weird. There's an even a character named Ronaldo who runs a blog called "Keep Beach City Weird," chronicling all of the weird stuff that happens in Beach City (where the show takes place.) Oh, and Steven's mother, a gem, had to die to give birth to Steven because she became Steven. Is that confusing as hell? Will it make sense to you after you watch the show? Maybe?

5. All of the characters are deeply, profoundly flawed. Even though they're often weird aliens, every single character on the show is flawed in a very profound way. They make mistakes, often bad ones. The whole second season of the show has featured one character slowly breaking down as she admits her own emotional trauma before trying to build herself back up again. The characters don't always get along with, or like each other. But "Steven Universe" uses its characters flaws, and mistakes, so, so well, and it's so much more satisfying when the characters come together and triumph because it feels like they overcame something real, learned lessons- just like actual people.

6. It's action-packed. Between "Avatar: the Last Airbender" and "Steven Universe," I have to say that most of the best action sequences I've seen in the last few years or so were on kids' cartoons. The action scenes in "Steven Universe" are just off-the-wall, clawing the edge-of-your seat awesome.

7. It's funny. Remember when I compared the show to "The Simpsons?" The humor reminds me a lot of that show. Or, it reminds me of "The Simpsons" back when Homer and the gang were in their heyday. It's really, really funny.

So, there are seven good reasons to watch "Steven Universe." Give it a try.

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