In the fifteenth episode of Steven Universe Future, Greg takes his son on a journey of self discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse (specifically from parents)
Sometimes what works for us does not work for others, and sometimes things done with the greatest intent still hurt. This was a difficult episode to watch because there was a moment there when I thought that Steven’s mood was going to truly shift, and then it all (understandably) came crashing down. The thing that gave Greg joy did not do the same for Steven. The thing he rebelled against is what Steven wanted. And unfortunately, but the end of this episode, I don’t think Greg understood that.
So yeah, this was a tough one, a story so deeply uncomfortable that I’m certain the ramifications for it will be addressed immediately. (I’m also basing that assertion on the fact that Steven Universe Future is pretty much completely serialized at this point.) But we’ll get there! I wanted to start by talking about how much Greg clearly loves his son and really did want to do the best for him. At the same time, this trip to Greg’s original home explains SO MUCH. So much! Like Steven, I also thought Greg’s parents were dead, and I believed what little he’d spoken about his childhood. Only now do I realize that Greg was speaking metaphorically.
It’s hard parsing what actually happened, but based on what we saw in that house and what Greg said, I believe that Greg’s parents were very traditional and were a huge fan of routines and regularity. Most likely, they clamped down on any signs of nonconformity in Greg. Thus, Greg’s idea for Steven—to head out on the road to discover himself—makes absolute sense in that context. After having spent his life in such a restrictive violence, freedom is all that Greg wanted. He wanted the chance to make bad decisions. He wanted the chance to explore himself, his tastes, and his desires. He wanted spontaneity!
It’s wild to me how much I managed to relate to both Steven and Greg in this episode. As I’ve written about many times over the years, I grew up in a violently strict and abusive household, and I was constantly discouraged from being different. (Being queer and a Latinx transracial adoptee certainly didn’t help!!!) And like Greg, I wanted to pursue a life in the arts, either in music and writing. My parents were not even slightly supportive of my artistic efforts. I was constantly told it was a waste of time. My dad spent my teenage years telling me I needed more structure and discipline in my life and that I should sign up for the military. So, yeah, after I got kicked out? I’m not surprised that I developed an INTENSE desire to constantly be out of the house, exploring the world. (Which has, incidentally, contributed to a severe decline in my mental health in the last year because I CAN’T LEAVE THE HOUSE AND GO ANYWHERE. Especially now that it’s the winter!!!)
I get Greg. Completely. I get his journey and his rebellion.
The problem is that this isn’t what Steven needs. There were a few sweet moments during the “Dear Old Dad” montage, but it wasn’t until Greg broke into his parents house that he seemed to be breaking out of the funk he was stuck in. There, amidst Greg’s things, Steven was excited! He was learning about this whole part of his father’s life that had been kept a secret from him. I got the sense that Steven wanted to bond with his dad over this, but that’s a huge reason why there was such a disconnect. To Steven, all this stuff from Greg’s past delighted him, while it triggered negative emotions in Greg.
All of this is because these two are fundamentally opposed due to how they were raised. Greg was restricted; Steven had ultimate freedom. Greg’s parents were overbearing and smothering; Steven’s were mostly absent or were distant.
What pushed Steven to the point of having an episode was Greg’s refusal to see how badly Steven needed any sort of structure. In particular, Steven addresses the lack of a “normal” home. The fact that he hadn’t seen a doctor until FORTY-EIGHT HOURS EARLIER. Yes, freedom was wonderful, but sometimes, you need direction, especially when you’re a kid and the world is big and scary and challenging. Thus, “Mr. Universe” (the song) wasn’t going to inspire Steven because he already knows that there’s a great big world out there. HE HAS BEEN TO SPACE AND OTHER PLANETS MANY TIMES BEFORE. What about Steven’s world at home?
But Greg—even after Steven crashes the van!!!—still can’t see the forest for the trees. He wasn’t genuinely listening to Steven in that final scene, y’all. He was planning the next thing to comfort Steven, despite that his son LITERALLY TOLD HIM WHY HE WAS UPSET. Steven. Needs. Structure. I am guessing that he feels aimless! Directionless! Without purpose! And that feels like a good guess because Steven has actually said this is how he feels.
So, like I said: This hurts. It’s uncomfortable because while Greg has tried to be the best father he could be, he messed this up again. I wonder, then, what Steven’s going to do next. I could see the road trip thing working if Steven was alone, but I don’t know that he’d be allowed to do that. Regardless, we’re approaching the end of the show, and there aren’t many episodes left to resolve all of this. I’M AFRAID, okay??? What is the best path for Steven? I don’t know what it is, but I really think it needs to be something he decides on alone and then acts out alone. He has to start centering himself.
The video for “Mr. Universe” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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