In the eighth and ninth episodes of the fourth season of Steven Universe, the first harvest celebration brings about a surprise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.Â
Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism, anti-immigration, and toxic family members.
I’m guessing that this episode came out some time around Thanksgiving, and lord, is it ever appropriate. I count myself as one of the large group of people for whom holidays are a troubling time. I always had to brace myself, especially when I first returned home during Thanksgiving and Christmas after missing two of them in a row as a teenager. How long would I have to wait until someone said something deplorable? Years later, when my second boyfriend said he was fine meeting my mother, I spent holidays mortified by the things that came out of her mouth. How do you deal with someone decrying all illegal immigrants as criminals and terrorists when an immigrant is sitting at the table? How do you deal with homophobia and racism during a time period that’s supposed to be about love and family? There’s so much pressure to perform these holidays in a manner that ends up being harmful to those on the receiving end of this nightmare, you know?
Now, I’m a huge, huge fan of Captain Awkward, and I’ll just link to this Holidays (https://captainawkward.com/tag/holidays/) tag so that you can read some EXCELLENT advice about the various ways you can deal with holiday-related social terrors. It’s a great resource, one I rely on frequently to navigate complicated issues. (Seriously, I cannot recommend that site enough. IT IS ONE OF THE VERY BEST THINGS ON THE INTERNET.) I don’t think “Gem Harvest” goes into as great detail as Captain Awkward does, but it provides us with a chance to see this dynamic unfold. Andy DeMayo arrives at his family barn, and he’s like the human personification of a train made of solid brick. He barges in, he says whatever he wants regardless of how it affects other people, and he complains. About. Every. Single. Thing. He represents so many things here: the offensive relative. The conservative relative who longs for the good ol’ days. The holier-than-thou relative who knows the right way to celebrate the holidays and just can’t resist telling you. Every. Single. Second.
Of course, this is all complicated by the fact that it’s been over twenty years since Andy saw his cousin Greg, and the resentment is… well, it’s a huge part of Andy’s characterization. He can’t accept that Greg moved on with his life, changed his last name, had a child with a “Martian immigrant,” and generally did things he wouldn’t do himself. He’s so pervasively judgmental, y’all! I understood his anger at the re-appropriation of his barn, but that’s kind of where my empathy dried up. He hated that the gems looked weird. Weren’t from Earth. Grew vegetables. Used old parts of the plane he learned to fly on, despite that they’d been abandoned. Had inside jokes. THE LIST KEPT GOING ON AND ON.
For what it’s worth, these people tried. I don’t think that’s bad advice, either, and it was sweet of Garnet to suggest that they at least try to get on Andy’s good side. And what a valiant effort that was! It may have not been the intention of the writers, but “Gem Harvest” revealed just how well these five Gems have learned to get along, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. (Is anyone surprised? Of course not.) Yet no matter how hard they tried, no matter how welcoming of an atmosphere they created, it wasn’t going to work. Andy had a bigger issue that had gone unresolved for over two decades: he hated dealing with change. Once you view his life through that lens, it’s easy to see why he lashed out so frequently. Every new thing he learned that didn’t fit in his narrow view of the world deserved his anger. Instead of accepting that other people live different lives than his own, he tried to shame them into not changing.
But how can you expect that of others? Why should Andy’s relatives have been forced to live their lives like his? It’s unfair in every sense, and Andy’s loneliness most likely came from pushing others away from him. In short? It’s just not fun to be around someone who wants the people in their life to stay static. Comfortable. Unchanging. This harvest celebration was nothing but one giant Change to him, and he reacted poorly.
It takes Steven’s empathy and kindness to bring Andy back down. Literally, in this case, but the point still stands. I love the idea that Steven represents the power of change and adaptation. Doesn’t it fit well??? Look how frequently his own life has twisted and turned since the start of this show. If anyone can give advice on how to accept change, he’s your guy.
And damn it, I hope we see Pumpkin again. I WOULD LOVE A PUMPKIN DOG, OKAY.
The video for “Gem Harvest” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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