Cartoon Network, Steven Universe is the most diverse and empathetic cartoon of the century. The show is written by Rebecca Sugar and is about the adventures of Steven, a 14 years old half-human, half-Gem (alien) hero who’s learning to save the world with the magical powers that come from his bellybutton. The show aired in 2013 with a pilot episode and from then on, with 5 seasons up to now, it became very popular amongst kids and their parents, teens, and adults attracting a vast, fierce fandom and frequently at or near the top across all social media platforms and on Tumblr’s Fandometrics page.
Steven Universe could be praised because of its beautiful pastel colour palette, it’s amazing-catchy musical chore, voice acting or it´s sweet and sharp sense of humour, but no of them are as important as the experience of settling and submerge into a world of well-written characters and getting yourself mirrored in them, like no other show or cartoon is doing it, whether that’s in gender, sexuality, body type or race.
In Steven Universe diversity is not a calling card. Rebeca Suggar inclusive writing shows it in such a natural way that there is no need of special episodes or “guest characters” to drag the topic into the show. Diversity is portrayed the best way possible: through quiet example, the characters just exist and are comfortable with themselves. It is a great show to teach kids that it is okay to be who you are and to identify with whatever you prefer. To be comfortable in their own skin no matter who questions it.
Steven is the main character of the show, but his world is mostly dictated by female characters around him. He lives in a beach house in Beach city of the fictional state of Delmarva with three Crystal Gems (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl), an extraterrestrial species of magical beings portrayed as females (actually gems aren’t really male or female, they just happen to present in a feminine manner).
Love is portrayed in the show through a diversity of relationships. Gender is something we can or can´t identify with and in the show the gems do not necessarily state their gender; Pearl had deep feelings for Rose Quartz (Steven´s now deceased mother) and she had feelings for Greg (Steven´s father), Garnet is a “fusion”, process where two characters with deep relationships can combine to form another person and Steven and his human girlfriend Connie Maheswaran can combine to create Stevonnie. Those portrayals can raise some questions for the audience like “Is Stevonnie a boy or a girl?” Stevonnie is both female and male. Steven Universe addresses gender in a subtle way without implying something sexual. Stevonnie opens conversations between parents and kids about gender, relationships, and even sexual orientation. The diversity of genders goes in and about. Steven broke gender boundaries in ‘Sadie’s Song’, he was shown singing wearing a skirt and makeup and having fun just like the kid he is.
Another notable aspect of the show is that various races, body types and bodily preferences are represented. Steven Universe characters have varying skin tones, hair textures, accents, and body types. Even Steven body type and looks are out of the average contemporary male protagonist.
At Steven Universe’s New York Comic-Con panel last year, several questions began with tears. One fan, in particular, was too overcome to fully express their feelings about the show, other than sharing an experience familiar to fans: “I’ve learned to accept myself more.” This type of raw, public connection isn’t out of place in an environment like Comic-Con, which is literally fueled by pop culture fandom. But Steven Universe, which takes on a role in viewers’ lives that is frequently as therapeutic as it is aesthetic, is especially likely to inspire this kind of devotion.
Steven Universe is the ideal show for children growing up in an increasingly diverse world. Rebecca Sugar has done what many creators either cannot or are afraid to do; she has incorporated different types of diversity into one show. Diversity is why Steven Universe is brilliant and seems so relatable; everyone looks different, sounds different and acts differently because everyone is different.