In the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of Steven Universe, this was way more messed up than I expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, manipulation.
Like… it’s a human zoo. I knew this would be messed up. I STILL WASN’T READY.
At this point, I honestly have no idea where this season is headed, and this specific arc is so disturbing and grim that I wonder how any of this is going to be resolved. I imagine that some big showdown between the Gems and the Diamonds is in store, but how do we get to that point???
Well, one thing at a time. Let’s talk about this zoo, because what the hell. I am guessing that we’re getting some insight into why Blue Diamond is revered as a kind and merciful leader. The world that they’ve created inside the human zoo has the appearance of civility and kindness. However, once Steven arrives, he’s able to contrast the horrific mind control and social conditioning that unfolds every single day within that place. It is, to be frank, designed to be a perpetual breeding machine, one that placates the humans so that they feel no urge to leave and sets them up to create more humans in order to keep the zoo going. There’s the illusion of choice and happiness here, one that is incomprehensible to Steven. Nothing that unfolds here is by choice; they all blissfully and ignorantly follow the commands of the Little Voice, the gem director that speaks through their earrings day in and day out.
And why should they do anything other than follow directions? They’re fed; they allowed time to socialize; there’s a recreational period; there’s group sleeping time; the zoo looks like one of the most beautiful places anyone could live. Again, every detail of this place invokes a facet of humanity, but it’s a weapon, not a positive quality. I have a lot of speculation that I could do here in trying to determine how this zoo got made, and everything I come up with horrifies me. Did Pink Diamond observe and study humanity long enough to know some of their base requirements – food, water, oxygen, sleep, and social entertainment/companionship – and then re-create a space meant to provide only those bare necessities? She must have realized how rebellious humans can be, how much spite and resistance is built into their spirits. That’s got to be where the earrings came into play. And I’ll take a wild guess: she bred out those same tendencies towards rebellion and resistance by forcing these people to bring forth new generations of humans, meaning that soon enough, no one would ever have context for a different way to leave.
Honestly, that’s what we see here: these humans have no understanding of the human experience of Earth. They exist in a state of naïve and almost child-like bliss. Everything is provided for them on a perfect schedule; why would you ever go against that? Greg couldn’t have been in the zoo for longer than a few days, and even in that short length of time, HE FELL FOR IT. Gah, what isn’t disturbing about this episode? If Steven hadn’t dedicated himself to getting out of the zoo, would he, too, have fallen prey to this alternate existence? Perhaps not. Emotions are deeply important to the show and to Steven, and if anyone recognizes the importance of being able to feel everything, it’s him. He knows that the bad things he feels can help him. Anger has been a good motivator in the past! He’s been taught to trust his instincts when he feels something is “wrong.” What kind of world is it where people aren’t even allowed to feel negative things?
Not the kind of world where Steven wants to spend the rest of his life. Unfortunately, I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY ARE GOING TO ESCAPE. Even worse: this is the last available episode on iTunes, so I’ve just cliffhanger’d myself for WHO KNOWS HOW LONG. (For context, I’m writing this on February 9th, so I don’t know when the next batch of episodes will be available for me to buy.) I AM TORMENTED BY THIS SHOW AGAIN.
The video for “The Zoo” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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