I’ve been watching Steven Universe with my younger sister over the last few months. For the most part, it has been a few episodes at a time becasue she’s even busier than I am, but since July, when we went on a group vacation with one of our siblings and a couple of our friends, our watch sessions have grown less frequent but longer in length. After all, the first few months of watching were all of the light-hearted early days of the show. After our trip, we’d moved into the emotionally complex and somewhat difficult portion of the show, where the bad stuff starts to pile up and Steven goes from being a happy-go-lucky young kid to the responsible, serious leader of the Crystal Gems. We have another session coming up (a couple days before this posts) where we’re going to finish Season 5 so that, on her birthday, my sister and I can watch the movie and then Steven Universe Future in one go. I’m even driving out of the state to visit her so we can watch in person with our sibling and maybe some of my sister’s friends.
I started watching Steven Universe in 2016 and followed it faithfully until the show concluded in march of 2020. To say it had a significant impact on me would be an understatement. I don’t think it was instrumental in the development of my identity, by any means, or even in my growth. It just really helped me figure out how to talk about my relationship with my family and to come to grips with the way I felt about them compared to how I thought I should feel about them. It was a pretty significant personal journey that laid the groundwork for most of my life since then, and it all started with looking up what else Rebecca Sugar had done after I found out that they’d done not just my favorite songs from Adventure Time, but some of my favorite arcs as well.
After that, I was hooked. How could I not be? It’s such a charming show. I’ve always been fairly distant with the fandom online, since every time I’ve even looked in the direction of the online communities related to Steven Universe, I’ve seen a lot of anger and hate. Some directed at the communities, some flowing out of them, and some just sort of cycled around like a horrible game of hot potato. My main impression of the anger is that some people have opinions, other people have different opinions, everyone got super emotionally invested, and now everyones arguing about it. Lots of accusations get hurled around every time Steven Universe trends on twitter and I honestly have never had to the spoons to actually look into any of them, so I’ve just stayed away. I don’t need that kind of negativity, you know?
The downside to minding my own busines is that I haven’t really had a chance to discuss the show in-depth with anyone other than one roommate I watched it with, and media literacy isn’t exactly his strong suit. We can and have talked about the show a lot, but not to the level of detail I’d have liked. Now, though, as my sister watches the show, I can finally have those conversations! Eventually, probably. She’s gotta finish watching it and then take some time to digest it (and maybe watch it another time or two on her own), but I’m excited to be able to talk with her at length about it. Especially the parts coming up, as we finish Season 5, watch the movie, and then Watch Steven Universe: Future. Most of the parts that gave me something to think about and a way to frame how I felt come from this section of the show.
It’s also just nice to share something I enjoy with one of my siblings. Life’s been difficult for all of us and having something in common that we can enjoy together has helped a lot with the feelings of distance. At least, for me they have. Most of our interactions are had via our sibling discord that we also use for checking each other’s memories of past events, unpacking stuff that probably traumatized all three of us, and keeping me informed on family news since I don’t talk to anyone but my sister and the oldest of my younger siblings. Watching this show with my sister when we can schedule the time is a opportunity for us to connect in a way that isn’t tied to the trauma we both survived and are currently trying to heal from separately (because we had such different experiences, it’s difficult to heal together). I really appreciate the time we spend together, even if one of us is joking about how much we’re crying at something that just happened or we mostly sit in silence while our own versions of the show play for us on our own computers. It’s nice.