Here's How 'Steven Universe' Is Making Me a Better Person
The quirky animated show Steven Universe from Adventure Time alum Rebecca Sugar has a lot of important life lessons. It teaches us to stand up for ourselves and for others, and to be patient, kind, and understanding.
Steven Universe has also taught me to recognize my own capacity to be hurtful. Before I really get into this, be warned there are some serious Steven Universe spoilers down below if you are behind.
I think it’s hard for most of us to imagine being the “bad guy". A lot of this stems from polarizing media from our childhood (Disney movies for me, personally). “Bad guys" are specifically bad. “Good guys" are specifically good, and who doesn’t want to be a “good guy"? In real life, though, it’s not so cut and dry. When we view ourselves as the good guy, it becomes easy to excuse our bad behavior. Steven’s actually a pretty good example of that — since he views himself and the Crystal Gems as “the good guys", he tends to sweep their morally ambiguous (and sometimes bad) actions under the rug. You may remember how Pearl lied to Garnet in order to fuse together (which honestly is a whole post on its own) or how Amethyst taunted Greg by shape shifting into Rose. Steven’s coping mechanism has always been "don’t think about it too much".
This comes to a head in the recent episode “Mindful Education", where Steven and Connie’s fusion Stevonnie breaks apart when they hallucinate during training with Pearl. Garnet recommends that they work together to come to terms with their past wrong-doings.
Connie had previously broken a classmate’s arm by accident and ran away. It’s easy to point out what she should have done — apologize and help the student to the nurse’s office. But it’s always easier to tell someone else what they should have done than it is to tell ourselves. When we do something wrong, it’s easy to get swept up with thoughts like “how could I have done that?" and “it can’t be that bad". It’s hard to reconcile that we’ve done something “bad" when we aren’t inherently a “bad guy". But “good" people often do “bad" things. What’s important is owning up to that “bad" thing and recognizing that people can admit to “bad" things without being labeled as a “bad guy".
Steven, in turn, has tried not to think too much about the less than perfect choices he’s made, especially regarding how he’s handled the fall out from his mom’s actions during the Rebellion against Homeworld; the most prominent, in my opinion, being Steven and Rose’s decisions in relation to Bismuth. During the Rebellion, Bismuth created a weapon that would kill Homeworld Gems instantly. Rose didn’t agree with this and bubbled Bismuth away on her own authority without discussing it with the other Crystal Gems, and Steven effectively does the same thing after Bismuth is released. This situation not only illustrates the gray morality of war, but the weight of making decisions in the interests of others without allowing them to contribute to that decision. We’ve all had that done to us, usually by authority figures like parents or teachers. And we’ve all probably done that to our friends too. It’s easy to make excuses like “I had no choice" or “you wouldn’t listen" to justify those actions, but it’s important to accept responsibility for what we’ve done.
However, before we even attempt to accept responsibility, we have to acknowledge our capacity to be hurtful. Like I said in the beginning, it’s hard to imagine ourselves as anything but the “good guy", since “good guys" aren’t hurtful. With the Crystal Gems and Steven’s human friends, we’re being taught to recognize that our friends and family can do “bad" things without being “bad guys". With Steven, we’re learning that we are just as capable of being hurtful and doing “bad" things. Again, this doesn’t make us “bad guys". Things aren’t so black and white. We just have to recognize what we’re capable of and understand how and why we feel bad about something we did. Then we can move forward and do our best to rectify the issue. If we can’t fix the situation, we have to accept that and the consequences that may come along with it.
Is Steven Universe helping you become a better person too? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!