A Subtle Reflection On Challenging Media Stereotypes
When Ruby and Sapphire first fused into Garnet, they were lashed out at for fusing with a different typed gem. Rebecca Sugar, the creator of the show “Steven Universe,” used fusion as a metaphor for relationship. The fusion of Garnet stands for a romantic relationship. The fusion of Stevonnie stands for a platonic friendship.
The problematic message addressed is that in relationships, you should feel perfect and in harmony with one another all the time. Since a relationship should be perfect like you see them in movies, you shouldn’t get anxiety or be worried about it. But in media, there is a lack of working problem-solving in relationships revolving the two sides, causing in a lack of empathy between the two.
But what Rebecca Sugar proposes in “Steven Universe” is that in relationships, the two would have to amend and adapt instead of buying into the rosy perfection image of a relationship.
Ruby and Sapphire were exiled from Homeworld because the gems of Homeworld were not accepting of the relationship. This caused their first problem in their relationship. Facing exile and persecution, Ruby and Sapphire both had anxiety and attacks harnessed on them because of their beliefs. However, in “Something Entirely New,” they decided they liked Garnet and wanted to work together in this relationship to solve their unease.
Similarly, Steven and Connie face the same issue, and Connie’s anxiety is reflected in their fusion. This caused rifts in their relationship and experience as a fusion. But instead of accepting falling out of sync, they worked it out in harmony in order to conquer that anxiety. “Fusion is the ultimate connection,” and Steven and Connie were there for each other when they needed support and reliance.
To think, when these fusions did not address their worries, they can grow and become overwhelming. Sugar personifies this through butterflies. If a problem so small is ignored, the butterflies could grow into something bigger and insurmountable. When in a situation where you ignore the large picture affecting yourself, you may have harmed the ones you love. In Ruby and Sapphire’s moment of being overwhelmed by these new problems, Ruby let her worries go to help Sapphire, and found a connection. In Steven and Connie’s case, they reassured each other that “it’s okay,” combating their intrusive thought together, meditating on their struggles to handle their obstacles.
Sugar has styled the show similarly to society today. Perhaps it’s just me, but in every break up song I hear on the radio (ex “It Ain’t Me” by Kygo and Selena Gomez & “Fake Love” by Drake), their relationship don’t work because the other person isn’t right for them, and the singer lists all the issues they have with their former partner. This creates quite a negative outlook in relationships and fabricates a false perception on relationships. These popular songs also fail to address the mental instabilities relationships inevitably face sooner or later, and that the only solution is to break up.
The songs in “Steven Universe” challenge all that. When the people, or “gems,” are faced with new problems, they tackle it together. In unity. The role-models in this show demonstrates that it’s normal to face issues that can’t be solved on your own, or anxieties you can’t bear in relationships. But the most important thing is, they’re “here together.”
I chose these songs specifically because they are the most empowering songs on the show. While I don’t believe we should scale a song on how effective it is, these songs are anthems to overcoming worries and fear, and find love and empathy within it. In the end of the episodes, after the characters sing these songs, we find them in peace and harmony, and loving each other. This aura of unity had spread outside their screens, and has transformed my perceptions too.