In the third episode of Steven Universe Future, Steven is visited by people he hasn’t seen in years, and lord, do they EVER bring a surprise with them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe Future.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of trauma and PTSD, as well as death/grief.
This episode PHYSICALLY AFFECTED ME. It’s only eleven minutes long, and it packs an immense emotional response. UNDERSTANDABLY SO. I guess I never truly thought about the implications of gem creation, because OF COURSE there would be more Rose Quartzes. It just didn’t occur to me. (Or if it did, I forgot about it. I have covered this show over multiple years. Sometimes I forget things!!!) And so, after Steven struggled with trying to find out where he should put a portrait of his mother, the sight of her–in the many now-unbubbled Rose Quartzes–was deeply, deeply disturbing.
I think there’s a recognizable framework that this episode intentionally operates under: Steven’s experience with his mother after her death was deeply traumatic. The sight of her kicked him into panic mode, and he spent the entire time leaning even HEAVIER into his normal coping mechanism:
He helps everyone around him except for himself.
I know I project myself and my experiences onto fiction quite a bit, but there are parts of this that were eerie to watch. I also become freakishly accommodating when I’ve been triggered, especially if it’s by something that takes me back to my childhood. Through therapy, I’ve come to understand why, and it’s something I’ve been comfortable writing about in reviews more frequently. That coping mechanism as a kid kept me alive. Now, though? Most of the time, I don’t need it, yet it’s what I default to.
Additionally, though, I wanted to talk about visual triggers, since this episode does an amazing job of depicting them onscreen. Note how the sight of all the Rose Quartzes is upsetting and awkward to Steven, but he tended to focus on the one who looked EXACTLY like his mom. Visually, she was almost identical, down to the curls that framed her head. Visual or audio triggers can often happen when something is similar enough, like the case with that one Rose Quartz. I have spoken about mine over the years, but I feel as if this is a great episode to open up about a new one that’s very relevant to this.
It’s the Steven Universe theme song.
I associate it with one thing only: my ex, Baize, singing it to me. When he passed in late 2019, I was touched by how many of you reached out not just to offer condolences, but to say that one of your favorite things was seeing him sing to me during the opening credits. Before he passed, I managed to catch up on the show, and even that was hard at times. None of you could possibly know this, but I separated from Baize a few days after I watched “Change Your Mind.” We had a rocky break up–one of those cliché back-together-and-then-not things–over most of 2019, so even watching the movie was a little difficult.
And now I can’t listen to that original theme without immediately being taken back. I think of that couch we had in Los Angeles. How he was often huddled up under a blanket because he ran so cold. How much he came to love and adore the show. (Thank you, by the way, to the person who made me the crochet Lion. Baize loved it, too, and I often found him playing with it.)
To be brutally honest, it’s a huge reason I delayed watching this. You cannot imagine my relief when the new theme song started playing. It’s made watching this so much easier for me, because I cannot divorce my memory of this show from him. And like… obviously I have other triggers, but I never would have expected in a million years that THIS would be the thing that does me in.
But here we are. I feel like a huge theme of “Rose Buds” is honesty, so… I’m being honest. And really, that’s how this seemingly never-ending anxiety attack comes to a conclusion. Steven has to admit that he’s not okay, that being around the Rose Quartzes is deeply, deeply disturbing. Because look what happens!!! The three of them get to admit that they, too, are struggling with living in the shadow of their mother. It could not have been easy to have people look at them as if they were here!
But the important thing is that they’re not. They’re individuals. (Definitely hits right at one of the core moralities of Steven Universe.) And sometimes, we’re not okay. Having to hold that in? Having to keep it a secret from people around you? Oh, this episode does a brilliant job in showing how PAINFUL that is. Steven looked like he was going to burst at the seams the whole time!!! But fear will do things like this to a person, and Steven was afraid. Because while you could analyze this as him not truly knowing how to cope with the Rose Quartzes, I still think he was genuinely trying to be as nice as he could. He knows from experience that gems that have been unbubbled struggle to understand their new world, and he was still doing his best to accept that.
This was a complicated situation, but the show handles it with so much care. (And humor. God. Amethyst’s face when she sees all the Rose Quartzes was INCREDIBLE.) Ultimately, it features the importance of being able to tell people you’re not okay, and further deals with the aftermath of Rose Quartz.
Wait. Is that what this whole series is about? Because we’re three episodes in and it’s the only thing that’s shared by all three stories. HMMMM I HAVE THOUGHTS, THEY’RE ALL GOOD, IF I’M RIGHT THIS WILL BE EXCITING.
The video for “Rose Buds” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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