In the eighth episode of Steven Universe Future, Steven and Lapis attempt to help two gems determined to stick to their old ways. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe Future.
Oh, this was a complicated one, but it was all the better because of it. I was thrilled by the return of Lapiz Lazuli, but even MORE excited that we finally got to see other Lapis gems for the first time! (Unless my memory is wrong here, but I don’t recall seeing any before this episode.) Their appearance here helped to tell an uncomfortable story, building off what we’d seen with Jasper in the first episode. What happens to gems who don’t want to change?
In the case of the two unnamed Lapis gems we meet in the episode, we get a slight variation on this issue. Both Lapizes actually saw Steven’s advertisements for Little Homeschool and his claims that the Diamonds were no longer operating their empire. They simply had a different interpretation of his insistence that they can now do what they want.
Well, they want to destroy and terraform planets.
But the time Steven and Lapis reach them, they’ve terraformed untold planets. Remember, Steven had heard rumors that this was happening, so we don’t even know how far they’d gotten before this confrontation. Even then, there’s still the immediate problem, the very one Lapis warns Steven about: stopping the gems from doing what they were made for is going to be immensely difficult. And I really enjoyed that this episode showed us how hard it is to break free from the kind of mental programming that these gems experienced. They’re indoctrinated in this entire framework of thought. They don’t know any other way to live, and we’ve seen that with plenty of the other gems! You can’t just tell people who have had no real choices before that they are free to do what they want. Like the gems in this episode, they can’t even conceptualize another choice. How can these Lapis gems “like” anything other than destroying worlds? It’s what they’re good at!
Obviously, the goal here was to get these gems to stop, but that goal seemed harder and harder to achieve. I respected Steven’s technique, even though it didn’t quite work completely. So much of what he was trying to do was demonstrate the other options. You could look at nature in a new way. You could appreciate living creatures! You could express yourself and your feelings through song and dance. There were infinite choices to make, and Steven’s plan was to show them as many as possible.
But what if that doesn’t work? Lapis’s solution was to use force. She wanted to subdue these gems and force them to face the reality of what they’d done. But was that the answer to this? Would that work, or would it be repeating the same sort of violence and lack of consent that the Diamond’s empire enacted on others?
“Why So Blue” doesn’t really come down in a definitive way to say that there is only one solution. Over the course of this episode, the freckled Lapis gem slowly sees the potential in what Steven and Lapis tell her, such as when she joins the impromptu dance party. Or when the song Lapis sings, “Why So Blue,” affects her emotionally! It unlocked something in her, enough that at the end of the episode, she traveled to Beach City to enroll in Little Homeschool.
But the other gem never relents once. In fact, if it weren’t for Lapis’s intervention, both the Lapis gems may have succeeded in destroying the planet. So it’s a tough situation! In this specific instance, Lapis using violence was needed if she was going to save this planet. (Obligatory moment where I repeat myself, because oh my GOD those weird little lotus creature things were GUT-WRENCHING in their cuteness. HOW DARE YOU WANT TO DESTROY SUCH BEAUTY.) At the same time, the episode gives Lapis space to express how disappointed she felt in herself. She didn’t want to rely on violence or displays of power. Which I get! There’s that moment after Lapis assembled that massive water being where the other gems were quick to defer to her. Why?
Because she demonstrated she had more power than them.
That’s not what Lapis wanted, though. She is learning herself to try and escape this hierarchy of power that she was taught, and she realized that she’d just replicated it. Again.
But “Why So Blue” is about offering grace, both to one’s self and to others. That’s how I saw the interactions here. Steven extended grace to two gems who literally didn’t know better. Lapis extended grace rather than destroy the gems, shatter them, or do something else that fed into her frustrations. In the end, Steven tells Lapis that she has to offer that grace to herself, too. Lapis did what she thought was right to stop the gems from destroying that world, and she DID refrain from going too far. Yet Steven reminded her of her own growth, of how far she’d come. These gems were still at the beginning of their journey. Lapis shouldn’t hold herself to impossible standards or ignore the things she’s accomplished over these years.
And look what happened in the end. It worked on one of the gems. “Why So Blue” doesn’t aim to show us perfection in any way. Rather, it fits in beautifully with all these stories of the messy aftermath. In this case, Steven and Lapis couldn’t “save” everyone, and they certainly couldn’t force the other Lapis to do what they wanted. No, they have to choose for themselves. That’s the whole point.
The video for “Why So Blue” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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