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Steven Universe gets the childhood we all wish we had
Steven Universe is a show about alien rocks who protect a small bayside town from an intergalactic menace and also sometimes they sing songs. But it's also a show about family, inclusivity, using the correct pronouns even if you're a giant living god because no one is exempt from basic decency... the show's got layers.
At the center of all of this is our titular boy with a crystal in his tum tum, Steven Universe. Steven lives a nontraditional life. He's being raised by the Crystal Gems, who are all aliens who are voiced by women but who also don't really have rigidly defined gender. Steven's father, Greg, lives nearby and helps by advising Steven, but he doesn't have a traditional father role, either.
Steven is a child who is, to paraphrase the axiom, raised by a village. That happens. Having lived for years on the corner of 191st and St. Nicholas in Washington Heights I can tell you that, especially in tightly populated communities full of immigrants and first generation kids, being raised by the community happens a lot.
But the wonder of Steven's journey from childhood to maturation, is that he, and, by proxy, the other children around him, are not blocked by traditional roles of gender. There is no rule that says Steven cannot wear makeup, nor is his closest friend, Connie, expected to hang back when the fight for humanity is at its thickest. Connie is the offensive, Steven is the defense. There is not prescribed role that says the man must be stoic nor one that requires the women be calmly empathic. Those who do try to force themselves into those boxes often do so at their peril. In fact, the Gem Homeworld is at odds with itself specifically because it outlaws diverse combinations of its peoples.
Today on Every Day Animation, comic creator and author of the series, Black, Kwanza Osajyefo, spoke about his experience of being an odd kid, about what teachers expected, what other kids expected, and where he found his space to just be who he was. Steven experiences a true privilege in the way he is raised up to embrace who he is on his own terms, most of us do not have that. But we connect to his story where we can because it provides us, children and adults alike, hope to carry on. This is what a conversation like that sounds like:
And if you're watching along with us, tomorrow is another really incredible conversation. Comedian, Jes Tom, will be talking about Satoshi Kon's final feature length film, Paprika. Not only is this a hugely influential film visually, but it also speaks volumes about the power and temptation of dreams as well as the struggle of duality each human must grapple with every day. It's gonna be a good one, so watch Paprika and join us right back here tomorrow.