In the fourth episode of the fourth season of Steven Universe, I truly love this show. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
HOW. HOW DOES THIS SHOW CONSISTENTLY DO THIS TO ME.
I don’t know how we’re getting full-length songs that communicate plot and character development, and I don’t know how we’re getting these REPEATEDLY over the course of four seasons, but here we are. “Mindful Education” is a challenging look at guilt, one that shows how painful it is to feel guilty, but also how wallowing in guilty helps no one, including the person you hurt. That’s a complicated story all by itself. Add a song? Even more difficult to convey? Jam it all into eleven minutes? Jesus, how does this show do it over and over again?
Basically, it sucks to be wrong. To do something to someone that hurt them. “Mindful Education” focuses on the perpetrator of harm instead of the victim, and Connie is a great example of what many of us have probably gone through. She tries her best to not think about what she did at school, believing that training will provide her with the distraction that she needs. Given that fusion is such a mental/emotional thing, however, means that even while fused, Connie’s headspace can affect Stevonnie. She’s out of sync with Steven because she’s so preoccupied with what she did to Jeff.
I really enjoy how we discover this. That conversation outside the training arena is SUCH A GREAT EXAMPLE of how this could have gone wrong. Once Connie admitted what she’d done wrong, Steven’s first response is to say that that doesn’t sound like Connie. That’s true, of course, but he doesn’t let that cloud reality. Even if she did something out-of-character doesn’t mean she gets to avoid responsibility. However, Steven’s advice to her â€“ to just not think about it â€“ more or less does exactly that. He’s not malicious here, of course; he just knows that Connie feels bad, and he’s trying to make her feel better!
But choosing to ignore guilt doesn’t work for Connie; it haunts her, and then she obsesses over it. Not only did it affect her fusion with Steven, but it fills her every waking thought. She can’t do anything but think about it, you know??? That’s why Garnet’s song is so powerful, y’all. It’s all about facing emotions head on, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. The whole sequence is animated with a dark beauty, white butterflies swirling about in a deep blue sea. Ruby and Sapphire act out a moment of pain and fury, showing Stevonnie that if you ignore emotions and let them fester, they only get harder to deal with. Soon, the white butterflies have nearly consumed Sapphire, and that’s a bigger challenge than dealing with a single butterfly.
(Everything is gay and queer and perfect here, by the way. HELP ME.)
Look, if “Mindful Education” had ended with just the song, I would have adored this episode. Seeing Connie realize her guilt just kept her in the same place was an experience. Knowing that she apologized to Jeff? Even better. WITNESSING HER IMPROVEMENT? PERFECT. And then this episode has to go and drop a harrowing sequence in which Steven’s guilt manifests in Jasper, Bismuth, and Eyeball, and EVERYTHING HURT. I wasn’t sure that these characters would be addressed again, but holy shit. So Steven does feel guilt over not saving Jasper, over bubbling Bismuth, over hurtling Eyeball into space to their death. In all these situations, he tried to do something to save them or help them. (I still think he could have done more with Bismuth, but I don’t feel the need to rehash that here.) In all three situations, he was backed into a corner and did something he feels immense guilt over. How does he deal with that?
By not ignoring it. By accepting that even if his intentions were pure, he still hurt people or failed them. I’m glad that he’s given the space to feel this way, too! Just because he acted in self-defense doesn’t mean he’s not allowed to still feel bad about it. Given how sensitive Steven is, it fits his character well to see this unfold.
Seriously, I loved this episode a lot.
The video for “Mindful Education” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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