Part 3: Steven Universe

In my post about Ms Marvel, I said it was important that kids see themselves reflected in the stories they read and see.

Steven Universe has been a revelation, on that front.

You’ve already heard about the super cool gender and sexuality stuff – feminised boy hero, all the superheroes are women, canon queers all over the place, and it’s way cooler than even that – but sometimes what’s missing from that commentary is the fact that Steven Universe is actually a really good television show.

The stories Rebecca Sugar and co are telling in this big, mad sci-fi world are so tiny and well-observed; like all the best stories, there’s often a sense that you’ve seen this before and you know where it’s going, but it takes you off into another direction and does stuff that I genuinely never thought you could get away with on children’s TV (it’s on Cartoon Network, but honestly these stories are more nuanced than a lot of Grown Up Drama).

The series is doing such interesting stuff with mental health and human relationships – the characters are allowed to be jealous, spiteful, detached – in a way that I’ve never seen before on television.

It is hilarious and brilliant, starting in media res and seeding a complex mythology as it goes.

I see a lot of myself in Steven, a feminised boy hero who’s strengths – and weaknesses – come from being empathetic and protective; I wish this kind of TV had been around when I was a kid.

As a ‘big’ person – not just fat, but big – I’ve often struggled with the fact that I take up space, that my body is different to the bodies of people around me. Steven Universe has been a revelation on that front, too, and I’ve found a lot of comfort in its diverse range of body shapes and sizes.

Beautiful, trippy animation, music and voice acting; popstar Estelle as Garnet is my highlight, and Nicki Minaj turns up at one point.

I wish all TV was this good.

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