'Steven Universe' is a children's television show about a young boy named Steven and three female alien characters, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst, also known the Crystal Gems, that work together to keep the Earth safe from gems that want to destroy the planet. The leader of the Crystal Gems is named Garnet, who is a fusion of a Ruby and Sapphire gem that is in a lesbian relationship. Their love is the backbone of one of the most important and interesting storylines because it completely changes the audience's view of gem fusion. Typically, two gems would fuse and form a new gem for strategic purposes in battle and then separate when the fight was over, but Garnet decided to stay as a fusion because of how much Ruby and Sapphire love each other. Garnet became a representation of their relationship and this stirred up a lot of anger and disgust in the gem community. Other gems would tell them that it is unnatural to stay fused for so long and that it made them uncomfortable to see them fused, which is a direct parallel to the real world and how LGBTQ+ people are treated.
Despite the struggles that Garnet has been through, 'Steven Universe' makes a point of having her character and all of her loved ones explain to the world that there is nothing wrong with her fusion. She is simply made of love and that same love is what makes her one of the strongest gems. This is a wonderful message to show children because it not only teaches them that there is nothing abnormal about being gay, but it also shows any gay child watching the television show that their feelings are not anything to be ashamed of because it makes them the fierce individuals that they are.
The idea of fusion is also used in 'Steven Universe' to educate children about consent and abuse. These two topics are typically seen as too heavy to discuss with children, but 'Steven Universe' tackles them in a way that is completely age appropriate while still getting the point across. In the show, Steven is taught that the most crucial step prior to fusing with another gem is to make sure that they are giving you their consent to fuse. Even though fusing is not the same thing as sex, it is still a deeply personal experience that requires trust and respect. On multiple occasions in 'Steven Universe,' the audience sees Jasper, an enemy of the Crystal Gems, force gems to fuse with her as they desperately try to escape. The analogy of Jasper's actions to rape is clear, and presenting those situations to children provides the foundation for loved ones to discuss with them in depth why Jasper's behavior was unacceptable.
'Steven Universe' makes a point of shining a light on mental health as well. Every single main character has their own traumas that haunt them, such as Amethyst feeling inadequate because of constantly being put down, Pearl being rejected by the love of her life despite sacrificing everything for her, and Steven carrying the burden of believing he is responsible for his mother's death. As the show progresses, the audience is able to see how each character accepts their pasts and mistakes and moves on from them.
The most impactful episode in regards to mental health, in my opinion, is 'Mindful Education' because of how it offers a mechanism for coping with anxiety. In the episode, Garnet comes to the aid of Stevonnie, the fusion between Steven and his friend Connie, because they have both been struggling with the anxiety that resulted from the guilt of their mistakes. Garnet teaches Stevonnie how to meditate and not let their thoughts consume them. The song that came out of this episode, appropriately named 'Here Comes a Thought,' goes on to show Garnet telling Stevonnie to not be afraid to rely on their friends and family for comfort and support when dealing with their anxieties. It is a crucial lesson for children to be made aware that their mental health deserves just as much attention as their physical health because it can prevent them from ever stigmatizing mental illness.
I highly recommend this show to everyone and anyone, no matter your age, because not only is there an interesting plot, beautiful art style, and catchy songs, but there are also relevant issues intertwined with each episode that makes the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.
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