The Cartoon Network show Steven Universe breaks many boundaries. One is that it supports the idea of intersectional feminism. With characters who fall into differing identities, the show is truly groundbreaking.
One of the key feminist components of Steven Universe is the fact that it is woman-dominated. Steven is the main character, but the crystal gems mentor him throughout his journey. The show tells many narratives, ranging from body image to sexual identity. With all this representation, watchers are bound to feel connected to the characters.
In particular, the show tells many stories about triumphant women, and this largely contributes to the show’s overall feminist theme.
Although Steven is the main character, he is the only prominent male character in the show. Most of the adventures follow his relationship with the Crystal Gems – a band of warrior women who defend Earth from evil. However, Steven’s character develops in softness and sensitivity – it is more than realizing just his power.
The writers are not afraid of adding androgyny to the show. In one of the episodes, Steven puts on makeup and heels and completely owns it. Nothing is done in an ironic or comedic way. The show just merely creates yet another intersection for people to identify with.
Connie is Steven’s crush and best friend in the show. She is a POC with brown skin and thick curly hair. I remember first watching the show and thinking, She is just like me! To be a woman of color watching this show, I was able to easily identify with this intersectional emphasis. I rarely have this reaction while watching cartoons, but Steven Universe has become special to me because of this.
In one specific episode, Connie becomes a knight. Firstly, this shatters the stereotype of solely male fighters. Connie describes her desire to help protect Earth, and goes through training to realize her dream.
Connie does not learn to fight to protect herself, but to help Steven fight off evil. In the end, Connie becomes Steven’s sworn protector and is a skilled warrior. As a young girl watching this character, I was impressed! I had never seen this narrative in other shows; I was glad to see some positive representation.
As Connie asserts more power throughout the show, Steven doesn’t try to extinguish her fire. Instead, he supports her. Steven loves Connie, and their relationship blossoms beautifully over the course of their adventure.
Rebecca Sugar is the non-binary mastermind behind Steven Universe’s success. The producer expressed her mission to create an inclusive space through animation in an interview with Film Music Media. While writing the show, Sugar kept in mind that she wanted to appeal to a wide audience. Intersectionality should be vital when creating content for media. If viewers can relate, they will become more invested in the product.
In Sugar’s case, feminism has allowed for all genders to realize equality. This message becomes apparent in her work and in her life. She has set her life as an example of representing intersectionality, and Steven Universe is the vehicle for this message.
The notes of intersectional feminism in Steven Universe go beyond what is typical of the everyday media stream. With more effort being put towards intersectionality, the show gives viewers a sense of identity and comfort. Steven Universe is not targeted toward one group, but is made suitable for viewers of all categories.