In the seventeenth episode of Steven Universe Future, Steven realizes there’s only one place left to go to help him with his problem. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of self harm, trauma, PTSD, imperialism and its aftereffects
I… I just simply did not expect this. BUT OH MY GOD, I’M SO HAPPY.
Yeah, of course. Of course Steven would have to go to Homeworld! He’s dealing with his mother’s Diamond powers, so clearly, he needs to go to the source: Homeworld. This show manages to pack in a ton of worldbuilding into a short span of time as well, since this is the first major update on what’s happening on Homeworld since the events of Steven Universe.
And there have been changes. Lots of them. What most impressed me about this is that we initially see a chance that seemed more surface level, only for the show to delve deeper into more fundamental shifts in how the Diamonds operate and think. Note that before Steven reunites with Spinel (WHAT A SURPRISE!!!), all we see is a tour guide narrating the place like they’re part of a museum. While education is certainly important to shifting narratives, does that actually change a culture? How can a culture change if someone—like the guide in this episode—is still asking people to imagine what it might feel like to be a Diamond? So, my worry at the start was that most of this was cosmetic. Maybe there was no Empire anymore, but had anyone’s hearts or minds changed?
With the help of Spinel—who, for the record, genuinely seemed to have found joy in life and let go of the hurt they experienced!—Steven is guided from one Diamond to another, each who might have the solution to Steven’s Diamond problems. But these trips serve another purpose, since in each one, we learn how the Diamonds’ powers have fundamentally changed to provide healing and repair to all that they damaged. In perhaps the most direct example, Steven arrives in Yellow’s chamber to discover that she’s been using her power to re-assemble shattered gems and to heal them. At one point, she even makes the promise to restabilize the gems in the Cluster! So, here’s someone who didn’t just apologize for what they did wrong and then just change their behavior. Yellow going back to find all the gems that were harmed by her or the others, and she’s healing them in multiple ways. I feel like this addresses a huge thing that was left out of Steven Universe, namely that it was great that the Diamonds realized they were wrong. But that didn’t fix what they’d destroyed?
So it also makes sense that Yellow Diamond’s approach would involve fixing the body. She heard what Steven said, and she assumed that changing his height, his stature, or his weight would solve the problem. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t, but I did notice that each Diamond got a little closer to the truth. Because this is an emotional problem, just in part. It’s not everything that’s going on.
Which brought Steven to Blue Diamond. AND WHAT A CHANGE. Blue’s entire mood has shifted, and while she’s still recognizable as herself, I was blown away at how efficiently the show (through the animation and dialogue) was able to communicate how she’d become someone new. Her facial expressions were more hopeful. Her room had transformed, too! It was full of clouds MADE FROM HER TEARS. She literally turned her sadness into FLUFFY CLOUDS. Her entire power is to help others feel joy, rather than how she used to inflict her pain on everyone around her.
But is that what Steven needs? Feeling joy is wonderful, but the core issue that Steven is dealing with isn’t addressed by this. It’s like a band-aid on a gaping wound! Which isn’t to say that Blue Diamond’s first solo song wasn’t lovely or that she didn’t want to genuinely help Steven. Clearly she does! However, Blue pushes Steven one step closer to accepting what’s happening to himself by sending him to White Diamond. Why? Because maybe this is thing he’s dealing with is an issue of self-worth.
I admit that even one glimpse of White Diamond sent a burst of panic through me. It’s hard not to associate her with the terror she wrought on the galaxy and specifically on Steven. Which is the point, and the show leads us to a very dark place as Steven discovers that White Diamond’s power has been quite literally reversed. She doesn’t violate the consent of others by taking over their bodies in order to make them see her point of view. Now, she allows people to take over her body as an act of self-reflection, since this makes it possible for a person to see themselves and have a conversation.
Unfortunately, as good of an idea as this is—I really do think Steven has a poor sense of self-worth, and I’ve said that before!—this backfires horribly. Why? Because it triggers his (possibly) greatest fear: Becoming a Diamond himself. And it’s so wild that once Steven said that, so much of this show fell into place. Of course this was what he’d been fighting against in Steven Universe Future. His mother was a Diamond, and Steven never wants to become what the Diamonds used to represent. Which puts the events in the previous episode in a new context, too! Steven was seen as a Diamond by Jasper, fulfilling his worst fears. So imagine what he felt once he saw himself as a Diamond. It terrified him.
It also enraged him. Like Spinel, Steven becomes consumed with vengeance upon seeing this version of himself and White Diamond, and he remembers the horrible violence that White Diamond enacted on Steven in the finale of Steven Universe. He lashes out, forcing White Diamond to hurt herself… but is he also hurting himself in the process, however unintentionally? I mean, that is what snaps him out of this act of violence, but it wasn’t lost on me that Steven seemed to want to hurt himself alongside White Diamond. Perhaps that speaks to the greater issue that Steven is trying to deal with, especially as it relates to his self-worth.
All that said: it’s really, really disturbing. My heart ached for Steven, because he is in so much pain, and every time he tries to relieve it, it only gets worse. I honestly have no idea what the solution to this is gonna be, but I have a theory that we’ve seen pieces of it in the second half of this show. I still think Dr. Maheswaran’s preliminary diagnosis of PTSD and unresolved trauma is part of what’s happening to Steven. I think it’s also his historical lack of stability, as well as his desire to have a family that feels normal. (You’ll see on video that I did pick up on the fact that at the beginning of “Homeworld Bound,” Garnet reminds Steven that he has a family, which is also what the Diamonds say at the end of the episode.) In the first half of Steven Universe Future, many of Steven’s problems center on his inability to advocate and care for himself first, since he prioritizes everyone else.
All these pieces are part of a greater puzzle, and I know we’re close, but I still don’t see how they fit together. WE ARE SO CLOSE THOUGH. I just really want the best for him, especially since… well, it’s really hard (once again!!!) not to project all over this episode. I know what it’s like to not deal with things from your childhood. HELLO. I’M 37 AND JUST UNEARTHING THINGS IN THERAPY I SHOULD HAVE DEALT WITH TWENTY YEARS AGO. And maybe that’s really it: If Steven allows himself to love himself and to heal, it’ll make it that much easier for me to do the same. Not that I’m hinging my growth or healing on a television show, but I do care about this character, and I’ve been deeply affected by this journey.
Oh, Steven. My feelings for him are endless! Endless, I tell you!!!
The video for “Homeworld Bound” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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