In the nineteenth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Garnet reacts to the news about Rose Quartz, and Pearl finally tells the truth. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of consent, trauma, and imperialism
This is still a complicated landscape, and while “Now We’re Only Falling Apart” does provide some much-needed context, I remain curious about the implications of this reveal. I appreciated that this episode picked up in the aftermath of “A Single Pale Rose,” and I’m also glad that everyone is not immediately forgiving and understanding. Amethyst is mostly in shock, but Garnet fractures in response to the truth. Understandably so! This lie is so far-reaching, so disturbing, that I get anyone having an intense reaction to it. In particular, Sapphire feels completely betrayed. And why wouldn’t she??? Her power is seeing potential futures, and she so deeply trusted Rose Quartz and what Rose Quartz told her that she never once questioned her. Even if Rose Quartz was well-intentioned, there had to be a manipulative element to this so that Rose wasn’t ever discovered. She had to present herself as inherently trustworthy and valuable, as someone who had every reason to be on their side, as someone they could look up to.
So what happens when you find out that they used to be the enemy?
Obviously, it’s more layered than that, but Pearl’s story provides us the earliest look at Pink Diamond/Rose Quartz and—most important of all—how she came to turn on the other Diamonds. As I said earlier, there is some context that allays some of my concerns, and I did get a better sense of what turned Pink Diamond to the other side. And for most of us in the world, we have to have the ramifications of our complicity thrust into our face for us to finally realized that we’ve been doing something harmful and unethical. That’s especially the case when you’re talking about systemic shit: racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism… and in this specific case, imperialism. Until Pink Diamond went to Earth, she had no idea that she was responsible for the potential ruin of an entire world. There was no concept of that in her mind. You can see that in the jokey way she refers to the Amethysts, in how she just wants to be on Earth to bond with them, completely ignorant to the fact that the Homeworld Gems are mining a planet for resources.
Pearl facilitates the travel, and Pink Diamond’s entire worldview—literal world view, I should note—is changed forever. She is face-to-face with the reality of what she’s doing and what she will be destroying. (And did I catch the first instance of indigenous characters on the show? I know this is an alternate “America,” but I felt those unnamed characters were meant to place that visit in a specific point in time.) That, combined with her interaction with Garnet, the first fusion she ever met, pushes her to reject the colonization of Earth. She tries to undo what has been done… sort of? See, that part rushed by so quickly that all I could glean from it is that Pink Diamond just tried to convince the other Diamonds not to colonize Earth. And when she couldn’t do that, she started a war. So… what about colonizing any of the other planets? I get that she couldn’t bring down ALL of it at once, but I am not sure that I got that Pink Diamond understood that colonizing Earth wasn’t the problem; it’s colonizing period.
I didn’t need the show to give me a political treatise, though, and I did appreciate that the emotional angle still mattered so much. There’s a distinction made here about who is the leader, about who was following who. It is important that Sapphire realized that Rose Quartz wasn’t always taking the lead, that she followed the other gems for cues and for guidance. That really does matter! But what ultimately still makes me uncomfortable about Rose Quartz is that there is still a huge power difference between her and the other gems, and I’m not sure this show is actually addressing it. Maybe Rose was following the lead of the others, but she was still seen as the de-facto leader. At least that’s how it has been described and portrayed to us, right? I’ve never questioned the fact that she was the leader.
And in considering that, I can’t ignore how tangled and messed up her relationship is with Pearl. As I said in the last review: Pearl has romantic feelings for her owner. As we see in this episode, Pearl is very literal in her attempts to please Rose Quartz, and most of this takes place before Rose Quartz frees Pearl. Thus, anything Rose Quartz dictates, Pearl has to obey. So… how can this be a consensual relationship? At the very least, the power dynamic makes it a mess, and thus, that brief fusion that the two achieve is… I don’t know! Massively uncomfortable??? Ah, y’all, I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt, and it’s possible that upcoming episodes might address this in greater detail. I can admit that. But as it stands, I feel like we’re still not at a point where Pearl’s relationship/affection is divorced from the violent reality of Pink Diamond. I don’t doubt that Pearl’s feelings are real; and I don’t doubt that Pink Diamond tried to change herself and change the world. In many ways, she did. Her presence had lasting good on the world and on Earth, and she set this whole revolution in motion… but at what cost? And what does Pearl’s love for Rose Quartz really mean if there were parts of it she couldn’t choose?
WHERE DID SAPPHIRE GO????
The video for “Now We’re Only Falling Apart” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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