In the twenty-first episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Ruby goes on a journey of self-discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
I have emotions.
Unintended as it was, Sapphire’s comments to Ruby, referencing back to what Rose Quartz told the two of them long, long ago, unlocked something in Ruby. “The Question” is largely an exploration of that: are these two supposed to be together? Is love really the answer? At times, Ruby’s journey is silly and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I liked the absurdity as a means to explore what it meant for Ruby to be on her own. She had spent so much time with Sapphire, and that meant that she never really considered a life without her. And why should she? She was happy with Sapphire, and they spent a great deal of their lives as Garnet!
But upon learning that Rose Quartz lied, both these gems understandably began to question just how much Rose lied about. After talking to Greg, Ruby decides that she needs to go it alone, to see what life is like without her partner at her side. (Did anyone else feel weird about Greg comparing not disclosing his last name to Rose Quartz not disclosing that she was Pink Diamond? Part of me feels like it wasn’t serious, that it was Greg’s humorous way of addressing the situation, but I’m interested what y’all think.) Of course, she does this by emulating a cowboy from one of Greg’s comments, and oh my GOD, it’s mostly hilarious? I loved the accent that Ruby adopted, and I don’t care that she probably hasn’t ever heard one??? I’m going to use the evidence of her quick learning ability as proof that she probably picked it up in a single attempt. So, with Amethyst the horse, a sense of adventure in her heart, and her friends at her side, Ruby steps out into the great unknown to begin living solo.
What delights me so much about this little experiment is that it’s about choice. Ruby learns very quickly that there is an infectious power in knowing that you made a choice for yourself, that you have agency, that you don’t need anyone else to make any decision that you want. Granted, she nearly plunges into a canyon because of it, but I actually adored that visual: this was like she was taking a dive off the deep end. Thematically, it’s a perfect fit to follow “What’s Your Problem?” because both episodes are so concerned with the notion of choice. Steven and Amethyst didn’t choose to be a part of the war with the Gems; Ruby is now trying out decision-making without Sapphire.
And it all makes her so happy. Well, on the surface. I get that so much because over the years, I’ve had a few intense relationships. I remember how isolated I became with my first boyfriend, how I couldn’t seem to make decisions without consulting him. I should note that I’m projecting here, that I ultimately don’t see any real similarity between the two relationships. Sapphire and Ruby are healthy, loving, and caring, and my first boyfriend was… not. But after I got dumped, I remember, weeks after the haze of sadness finally passed, how incredible it was to feel free. To make decisions on my own, without having to account for someone else, without having to consult someone else.
That being said, loneliness is a hell of a thing.
I know there’s a lot to love here, from the silliness to the endearing qualities to the constant, constant attempt by this show to develop found families and the beautiful bonds between them. I still feel weird about Rose Quartz as a character, and I imagine I will for a while. It’s a LOT to deal with, and I do feel like the show is slowly delving into each of the complicated ramifications of this reveal. And if you’re gonna do something like this, that’s this far-reaching and upsetting, I believe it’s good to have all the characters react to it, to allow them to have intense and conflicting feelings on it all.
But the exposure of Rose Quartz’s lies has had an unintended consequence, and it is a beautiful one. In “The Answer,” Rose provided necessary validation for these two gems, and ever since then, they’ve believed that their love was the answer. But in separating briefly, each of them dealing with their own reactions to Rose, they come together by choice. It’s what is so victorious about this. Maybe Rose did influence them to remain a fusion. That doesn’t invalidate their love or Ruby’s desire to have Sapphire at her side. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a companion! That is not inherently a negative thing. Rather, these two characters get to have all the agency in the world, and they get to be a couple the way they want to be.
It was hard not to immediately tear up as soon as Ruby proposed. I grew up without much stake in marriage. My parents didn’t have a solid marriage—they mostly fought—and society told me that I wasn’t allowed to have it. So I didn’t expect it. I didn’t attach a whole lot of meaning to it, either. But as the world has undeniably changed around me, I’ve seen so many of my friends become partners with the people they love, and it was something that was only a distant fantasy when I was a kid. It’s not a fantasy anymore, and even more shocking, there are kids all over the world who are going to watch this and know it’s perfectly okay for two women to fall in love, stay in love, and commit to one another. I’ve said this a lot in various mediums, in response to various fictional works, but I can’t stress it enough here: I needed this when I was a kid. I needed to know that who I felt affection for was not a bad thing. I needed to know that love was the answer, and I’m so thrilled that Steven Universe has made this a reality.
The video for “The Question” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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