WE. ARE THE CRYSTAL GEMS.
That’s how the song goes, and I’m sure you’ve heard your kid sing it at some point, right alongside his or her request for a ukelele. But what is Steven Universe?
Steven Universe is a cartoon created by Rebecca Sugar, whose previous cartoon experience was with the widely-loved show Adventure Time, where she wrote most of the songs for the show’s first few seasons including “I’m Just your Problem” and “Good Little Girl/Bad little Boy”.
Steven Universe follows the titular character Steven Quartz Universe, the newest member of a team of alien heroes known as the Crystal Gems. The Crystal Gems consist of Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and Steven’s late mother, Rose Quartz. Rose Quartz had to give up her physical body to have Steven, and as such her gemstone is embedded where Steven’s naval is.
The show is a coming-of-age story, and while the consensus is that the first season takes a while to pick up steam, the show kicks into a high gear not far in.
As the show progresses, the tone slowly shifts from lighthearted adventures of the inexperienced Steven trying to learn how to use his powers (of which include summoning a shield, floating, and healing saliva) and into a more dramatic show, with the slow reveal that the Crystal Gems are the remains of a rebellion against their homeworld, who fought for Earth’s freedom over 5000 years prior.
Steven Universe deals with themes of prewritten destiny VS free will, grief, loss, healing, love, knowing when to stand up for oneself, and growing up with expectations placed on oneself. Steven feels like a character most kids can relate to, with boundless optimism and youthful innocence, which means he’s friendly with everybody in his hometown of Beach City, Delmarva, which is a state more or less where Delaware is in our world.
Rebecca Sugar’s songwriting talent is used in full force, with hugely popular songs such as Giant Woman, Do it For Him, It’s Over, Isn’t It?, Stronger Than You, What’s the Use in Feeling (blue)… Frankly, I could be here all day just listing songs. The songs are used in precisely the right spots and none of them are wasted.
As the show stands Steven is a fully-fledged member of the Crystal Gems. He has responsibilities, heart, power, and a charming singing voice provided by Zach Callison. In fact, the entire cast is full of singing talents. Garnet is voiced by British pop singer Estelle, and the imposing Yellow Diamond is voiced by Broadway singer Patti LuPone.
As of writing this post, the show is on a brief hiatus, but this is nothing new to the show, but to pass the time, here’s the extended version of the theme song, charmingly sung by the Gems.
So that’s Steven Universe. A show about a young boy trying to figure out his destiny in a world that may or may not have one ready for him already. Now you can watch with your kids, get the songs stuck in your head, and be a rock star!