Alienation from History in Steven Universe

by tigermanifesto

Children in animated media meant for kids are often orphaned or somehow isolated from their parents. Steven is no exception, but in this show the disappearance of his mother and relative absence of his father connect to a larger theme––that being alienation from the past. Both Steven and the Crystal Gems are defined by their separation from the past. Steven is kept in the dark about his mother, whose dissolution was somehow necessary for his creation, and the Gems, in turn, are divided from their home world because they chose to defend organic life on Earth against Gem colonization attempts. They are isolated from their history, personal in Steven’s case and more cosmic in the case of the Gems. In some ways, their identities are defined by the absence of their origins, since the Gems Steven lives with are Crystal Gems only insofar as their loyalties are set against the rest of their race and Steven, who carries his mother’s gem, can only exist through her negation.

Beach City, and the broader universe in which Steven Universe takes place, therefore, is a land of “shallow history,” aesthetically eclectic and isolated from the rest of the world. Throughout the show, rootlessness and absence are constant themes. This includes the “Cookie Cat” backstory, which actually foreshadows later revelations about the gems, and the later episode “On the Run,” dealing with homelessness and wandering. Unfortunately, the first season is not yet over, so there is more to be seen, but this is a thematic thread to keep track of.

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