In the twenty-third episode of the second season of Steven Universe, Steven’s birthday celebration continues as he struggles to deal with the concept of aging. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of body image issues.
STEVEN UNIVERSE IS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD AND I DEFINITELY DID NOT THINK THAT WAS THE CASE. It’s such a cool reveal, though, because it means that Steven is at an age where we humans start going through changes, and it’s PERFECT for the show. Plus, there’s now a canonical reason why Steven could look like he’s the same age for a long time within the show, and THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.
Yet this struggle felt so real, one rooted in a struggle that most of us have probably gone through in very different ways. Puberty was an awful time for me because the rush of hormones gave me terrible acne and utter clarity regarding my sexuality. Like, there was no doubt by the time I was twelve that I was gay. I had known for years at that point, but when my thoughts started wandering more, when those thoughts became way more sexual than before, it was undeniable.
And then I started growing. I jumped up by nearly six inches in less than a year, and I turned into a gangly, pimpled nerd. This was in the mid-90s, right when fashion in Southern California took a decidedly baggy turn. So imagine when I bloom up to 5’8″, and my parents cannot afford to buy me new clothes, and suddenly, I’m wearing super tight jeans and shirts, and it was hell. Bullies loved it! (I now resent that tight clothes have come into fashion. When the skinny jean thing happened a decade ago, I was furious. Some of the same motherfuckers who made fun of me in junior high and high school for my tight jeans were now wearing them. I HOPE THE SEAMS SPLIT IN ALL OF THEM FOREVER.)
What I’m trying to say is this is a MAX RELATABLE episode, despite that it’s about how Steven hasn’t really aged for the last few years because he’s part Gem. Y’all, he’s fourteen. And since he was eight, he’s looked exactly the same. It’s not until Connie comes into the picture that he even realizes it. But that’s sort of the point; he’s never really had someone close to his age around him regularly, so he never had reason to compare himself to others. Once he does, however, he can’t stop, and lord, as someone with intense body image issues, I CAN DEEPLY UNDERSTAND THIS. It’s so hard to deal with because objectively, I understand it’s a worthless thing to do. Bodies are different! We should love and accept ourselves as we are! Yet in practice, it becomes easy to obsesses over those same differences.
That’s why it’s so important that Connie really accepts him as he is. He was so concerned that she’d stop hanging out with him because he didn’t look his age, but that’s not the basis of their friendship. They’re friends because they care about each other! I appreciate that the show makes it clear why Steven feels the way he does while also giving him the means to feel better about himself, too. Also: this episode goes to such a weird place in the process. BABY STEVEN OH MY GOD.
I’m still amazed at how many real-world issues are addressed through Steven Universe, y’all. I’m almost done season two, and I’m just… wow. This show is still real and happening, and I get to share in the joy of it all with you.
The video for “Steven’s Birthday” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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