In the thirteenth episode of the third season of Steven Universe, Steven uses one of his powers to help Kiki with a difficult problem. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
As someone who, for the majority of my life, has had a problem telling people no, this episode spoke to every molecule in my body. That’s a strange thing, isn’t it? When fiction can make you feel exposed. Undressed. Vulnerable. It’s a thrilling feeling, however, because it means there’s someone else out there who understands you, at least a little bit more than you’re used to.
Niceness has always been a part of who I am. I was the kid eager for the approval of others. I wanted to impress my teachers. Other students. Random staff members at the school. As I got older, this behavioral trait of mine didn’t go away; if anything, it got worse. It took me years to understand why, especially as, like Kiki here, it backfired on me so consistently and regularly. But time allows you the luxury of hindsight (and access to a therapist L O L), which helped me realize just how starved for attention, validation, and love I was, even as a child.
I used to do people’s homework. I did errands for other people. I used to clean things before they were asked, tidy up a room before I was told to. Anytime someone asked me to do something for them, I’d maneuver myself, contort my body and my time and my own needs, so that I could accommodate them. I regularly did not expect a return of anything or reciprocation of kindness, more out of a cynicism than some sense of altruism. But you better believe that deep down, I wanted something back. Yet I couldn’t say no! I’d pile things onto my plate, and I somehow found a way to do everything.
I have one person to thank for pulling me out of this incredibly unhealthy habit: my first roommate after I ran away from home. He saw how much time I spent doing things for other people, and it infuriated him. It wasn’t easy for him to tell me because he thought it wasn’t his place, but good lord, I was ultimately SO THANKFUL for his honesty. Plus, he helped me realize I could charge people for doing their homework, and THUS I SURVIVED MY SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL.
Which isn’t precisely the point. I related to Kiki because I came up with any number of reasons to justify what I was doing, despite that I was exhausting myself. “Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service” creates a similar scenario out of this, though it utilizes Steven’s dream projection power to provide Kiki with her catharsis. (Which I completely missed commenting on for “The New Lars.” That has to be how he got in Lars’s head!) After both of them realize that their joint dream really was a shared experience, a parallel relationship form. Just like Jenny repeatedly asks Kiki to help her, Kiki begins to rely on Steven’s ability to fight off the cheesy pizza demons of her dreams, which gives her a good night’s sleep. And just like Kiki, Steven doesn’t want to disappoint his friend!
Yet you cannot provide an infinite amount of support for a person an infinite number of times, and Steven’s DREAM WARRIOR nights (totally an all-caps term, y’all) begin to take a serious toll on him. Since he’s so active while dreaming, he gets no rest, and Kiki’s problem with her twin sister hasn’t been solved; it’s just been transferred to Steven. Cue one of the most delicious-looking visual nightmares on this whole show!Because honestly, as creepy as Pizza Jenny looked, it still made me crave pizza a lot. I also appreciated that the writers portrayed this decision as a difficult one for Kiki. Even as Pizza Jenny is about to smother her cheesy horror, SHE STILL WANTS TO PLEASE HER SISTER. It’s Steven who helps her realize that she needs to value her own time, her own well-being, and her own ability to just say no.
And once she does? Well, when Steven sees Jenny the next day, we learn that all Kiki needed to do was tell her twin sister the truth. That final image – of Kiki running along the beach, her hair bouncing and twinkling in the sunset – is one of freedom. Kiki found a way to value herself.
The video for “Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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