Sad, Traumatized Atheists in Pop Culture: Rhonda Lyon in Empire

Rhonda and Andre Lyon in Empire

Content note: violence, miscarriage caused by violence, anti-atheist bigotry. Also spoilers for Empire, Season 2 Episode 11, “Death Will Have His Day,” and to some degree for the show as a whole.

There are a lot of shitty pop-culture tropes about atheists in pop culture. Atheist characters are often amoral, cynical, bitter, unhappy, or any combination of the above — and they’re often atheists because a traumatic event made them lose their faith.* Gregory House, Mal Reynolds. Possibly Lucious Lyon himself, although it’s hard to know whether he’s really a nonbeliever or just said that to mess with his Christian son. Now add to the list: Rhonda Lyon in Empire.

Quick plot summary: In the most recent episode of Empire (Season 2 Episode 11, “Death Will Have His Day”), Rhonda Lyon, who’s pregnant, has been pushed down a flight of stairs. Bleeding on the floor, she reaches for her cel phone to call for help, sees that it’s smashed, and prays: “Oh God. Please. Save the baby. I don’t care what happens to me. I can die a thousand times, just please, save my baby.” When she’s recovering in the hospital with serious injuries and having suffered a miscarriage, she tells this story to her husband, Andre, and says that when moonlight came through the window, she thought God answered her prayer. But when Andre replies, “God saved you,” she says, sobbing: “No. No. Andre, no. God doesn’t exist. If he did, then the baby would still be here. He didn’t do anything to anyone. There really is no God, Andre.”

Sigh.

Why, oh why, did it have to be this? Again? “I had this terrible trauma, so now I’m an atheist. I prayed that the baby would live, I even offered my own life for that prayer to be answered, but it wasn’t, therefore God doesn’t exist.” Really? Do we really have to play out this tired stereotype of atheism as a post-traumatic symptom, part of a sad and cynical worldview, or sulking because we didn’t get our way and God didn’t give us what we asked for? Continue reading “Sad, Traumatized Atheists in Pop Culture: Rhonda Lyon in Empire

Sad, Traumatized Atheists in Pop Culture: Rhonda Lyon in Empire

Steven Universe Episode 8: Serious Steven

Steven Universe Episode 8 Serious Steven

Ingrid and I are re-watching the entire Steven Universe series — yet again — and I thought I’d blog some of my observations. Please note: I’m not writing these as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions, about individual episodes and the show as a whole. These posts will probably make more sense if you’ve already seen the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check it out, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. This post contains spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 8: Serious Steven.

“This is just like the teacups!”

I’ve never been a parent, but I’ve been a kid. And I think one of the hardest things about being a parent has got to be deciding when kids are old enough for what kind of danger.

As a parent, it’s your job to keep your kids safe. But you can’t protect kids from every danger forever. Someday they’re going to have to do things like cross the street without holding your hand, use the stove, walk to school alone, drive, find their way around a strange city. If your three-year-old is behind the wheel of a car, you’re not doing your job: if your sixteen-year-old can’t cross the street alone, you’re not doing your job, either.

These decisions aren’t just going to be different for different ages. They’re going to be different for different kids. And they’re going to be different in different cultures and situations. If you’re growing up on a farm, you’ll have to learn to face different dangers earlier than if you grow up in a city, and vice versa. If you’re being brought up in a family of acrobats, if you’re the child of hard-core wilderness explorers, if you’re growing up in a war zone… you get the drift. And of course, these decisions are going to be different if the kid you’re bringing up is a magical half-human living in an uneasy temporary peace in a war between humans and aliens. Continue reading “Steven Universe Episode 8: Serious Steven”

Steven Universe Episode 8: Serious Steven

Steven Universe Episode 7: Bubble Buddies

steven universe bubble buddies

Ingrid and I are re-watching the entire Steven Universe series — yet again — and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it with each other, I thought I’d blog some of my observations. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), about the show as a whole and individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 7: Bubble Buddies.

It would be so easy for Connie to just get rescued all the time. After all, she’s the human with no super powers; Steven is the magical half-gem with super powers. It would be so easy to make their friendship all about Steven rescuing Connie.

But Steven Universe doesn’t go there. From this very first episode of their friendship, Steven and Connie help each other, take turns saving each other, work together, play together, and act like a team of equals.

There’s a theme that runs throughout the show — the theme of what it means to be strong, and of having different kinds of strengths. That is so much what this episode is about. When Steven and Connie get trapped inside Steven’s magical bubble, they bring different strengths and weaknesses to the situation. Steven has magical powers, and when it comes to magical creatures, he has good instincts and insights. Connie is a better analytical thinker and problem solver, she has more knowledge and experience of the human world, and she’s better at thinking ahead. They’re a team. They’re different, they each have their own strengths — and because of it, they make each other stronger.

I also love, love, LOVE that Steven’s first approach to Connie — a fumbled attempt at stereotypical masculine showing-off, casually/not casually bragging about his bike as if it were a sports car — utterly fails to get her attention. What winds up working is a more direct and vulnerable approach. Okay, and yes, saving her from falling rocks with a magic bubble. I do think it’s interesting that Steven’s magic weapon isn’t a weapon at all — it’s a shield, it’s defensive and protective — and that his first bubble comes in service of protecting Connie.

And I’m struck by the theme of the bubble itself, and the two of them being stuck inside it. It can be tempting to try to live in a bubble, and when you’re fond of someone, it can be especially tempting to wrap yourselves and the relationship in your own little world. But even in a bubble, you can’t be completely protected from the world — and being in a bubble creates its own problems. (It’s interesting that Steven doesn’t seem to be aware of why being stuck in a bubble at the bottom of the ocean would be a problem: it’s Connie who realizes they could suffocate or starve. Suffocation or starvation — yup, those are the metaphorical dangers of a metaphorical bubble, as well as the literal dangers of a real one.)

A few side notes: The at-least-somewhat-romantic nature of the friendship between Steven and Connie is clear from this very first episode. Pearl doesn’t get this at first (I’m not sure she ever gets it), and she sees it as a childish friendship: “Let’s set up a playdate.” But Amethyst and Garnet immediately get that this is something else. And I’d be derelict if I didn’t point out the continuity error: in this episode, Connie says her family moves from town to town because of her dad’s work, but later on her mother is revealed to be a doctor at a local hospital, which isn’t very consistent with that.

Ingrid notes: This episode showcases some of Steven’s flaws, which is somewhat unusual in the show. He can be relentlessly upbeat, and overly-eager to please and make friends, in ways that put him out of touch with reality — and in “Bubble Buddies,” this gets both him and Connie into trouble. Ingrid is also curious about whether Steven’s bubble is the same thing as when the Gems bubble gem shards, and if so, why none of the other Gems use bubbles the way he does.

Steven Universe Episode 7: Bubble Buddies

Problems With Consent In a Show I Love Dearly: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation banner

Content note: consent violations, passing mentions of sexual assault, Parks and Recreation spoilers

I love the show. I want no mistake about that. Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s smart and funny, entertaining and original, with that slightly-exaggerated realism that lets it touch on truth about human experience while giving it room to be ridiculous. It has lots of amazing female characters. Its core relationships include a friendship between two women and a friendship between a man and a woman, neither of them sexual or romantic. It’s better than average on diversity (although I’d be interested to see some writing about the show by people of color). It aces the Bechdel test with gold stars and extra credits. And it’s an all-too-rare example of a comedy show where most of the main characters treat each other decently most of the time. It’s proof positive that affectionate and supportive human relationships have plenty of fodder for both conflict and comedy. It’s hilarious and comforting at the same time, and that’s very, very rare. I’ve watched it all the way through about five times now, and I’m getting ready to do another round. (If you’re going to start, I suggest you begin with Season 3; if you want to test the waters with just one or two episodes, I’d recommend S4 E6, “End of the World,” or S5 E10, “Two Parties.”)

Please bear all that in mind.

Parks and Recreation kind of sucks when it comes to consent.

Chris Traeger
A few examples. Chris asks Ann out multiple times, even though she keeps saying no — and Ann says to Leslie, “He is nothing if not persistent.” No, no, no, no, no. This idea that persistence is flattering and that refusing to take No for an answer promotes jolly good fun or is an admirable romantic trait — this isn’t just annoying. It’s dangerous. It’s a pop culture trope that needs to be taken out into the street and shot. (S3 E1, “Go Big or Go Home”)

tom haverford
Tom pesters Ann to date him a second time, even though she says No vehemently and several times. She finally gives in and says Yes, saying, “Dude, you wore me down.” Immediately after, in a one-on-one with the camera, Tom says, “The four sweetest words in the English language — ‘You wore me down.'” See above. No, no, no, no, no. Again, this isn’t just annoying. It’s dangerous. It’s an attitude that can make the world an uninhabitable misery for women just trying to live our lives, and it’s an attitude that can lead to sexual assault. (S4 E15: “Dave Returns”)

Tom flat-out deceives Nadia and wastes hours of her time so he can hit on her — in his government office, in his capacity as a government official, providing a service she had paid for as a taxpayer. And when he finally comes clean (or rather, when April comes clean for him), Nadia actually considers the question of whether this was romantic or totally scary — and concludes that it was romantic. She also dismisses his deceptions, chalking them up to “weird panicky dude behavior.” (S6 E4, “Gin It Up”)

Leslie Knope
Leslie refuses to accept Ben’s unwillingness to stay friends after their break-up — and interferes with his love life with other women. This is classic creepy, stalkerish ex-lover behavior. The fact that it’s done by a woman doesn’t make it okay. Yes, she eventually realizes that this isn’t okay and she needs to back off. But her behavior isn’t presented as stalkerish. It’s presented as overzealous, but understandable and cute and funny. Ann even tells Leslie that her tendency to steamroll over what other people want is a sign of her passion, and that while she needs to dial it back, it’s not a sign that she’s a bad person. (S4 E6-8, “End of the World,” “The Treaty,” “Smallest Park.”)

There’s also a trope, repeated so many times in the show I can’t even count them or document them, where people hug someone who’s explicitly said they don’t want to be hugged — and this gets presented as a sign of overflowing affection. It’s presented as a sign that when you love someone, sometimes you just have to hug them, even if they don’t want to be hugged, have said they don’t want to be hugged, and are visibly uncomfortable with being hugged.

And I have to add this to the list, even though it puts a knife through my heart — the entire early romance of Leslie and Ben.

I love Leslie and Ben. I love their romance and their friendship, their political relationship and their marriage. I love how in their marriage vows, they say, “I love you and I like you.” (Okay, tearing up a bit now.) But when Chris disciplines Leslie and Ben for their workplace romance, he’s not wrong. There are good reasons for having a policy that prohibits sexual relationships between bosses and their subordinates. And it’s not just because of the reasons Chris gives, that these relationships can lead to fraud, corruption, and misuse of public funds. It’s because these relationships can constitute abuse of power, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. It works out well with Leslie and Ben, but that’s not a good enough reason to suspend these rules or discard them. That just means they got lucky. (S4 E9, “The Trial of Leslie Knope”)

All of these characters are depicted as delightful. Tom is something of an annoying would-be player, but he’s never seen as predatory, and everyone is shown to be warm, affectionate, caring, likeable, and generally awesome. And none of this behavior is presented as troubling flaws in otherwise good people. It’s presented as just normal — annoying at worst, charming at best.

I love Parks and Recreation. Among the many, many things I love about the show, I love how (usually) feminist it is. But I’m not going to limit my pop-culture political critiques to blatantly sexist stuff I can’t stand. Lousy consent in pop culture helps normalize lousy consent. And when that happens in an otherwise-feminist show, it normalizes it in a whole different way. If feminist icon Leslie Knope winks at troubling consent and even perpetrates it herself, it makes it seem even more okay, even more like the ordinary quirks of healthy dating and romance.

We can critique the politics of pop culture and still enjoy it. I’m not going to give my favorite show a pass just because it’s a feminist favorite — or just because it’s my favorite show.

Problems With Consent In a Show I Love Dearly: Parks and Recreation

Steven Universe Theme Song Parody, Cat Edition

So I’ve written a song parody of the Steven Universe theme song, based on our cats. Because of course I have.

We
Are the tabby cats
We’ll lie around all day
And if you make the bed
We’ll both get in the way

That’s why the mamas of this world
Believe in
Comet, Talisker, and purrrrrr
And SLEEPING!

Comet and Talisker snuggling asleep on bed 1000

(For those who aren’t Steven Universe fans, here’s the theme song, and the extended opening with the extended theme song.)

If you enjoyed this cat-themed song parody, you may also enjoy:

Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting
Love Me, Love Me, Love Me — I’m A Kittycat!
Everyone Knows It’s Comet!
The Comet Song: Theme from “Cat Over the Fridge Up High,” by ReasJack

Steven Universe Theme Song Parody, Cat Edition

Steven Universe Episode 6: Cat Fingers

steven universe cat fingers

Ingrid and I are re-watching the entire Steven Universe series — yet again — and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it with each other, I thought I’d blog some of my observations.. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), both to the show as a whole and to the individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 6: Cat Fingers.

“It kind of does what it wants.”

Some episodes of Steven Universe are complex and nuanced, with subtle meanings on many levels. This one, I think, is not. This one, I think, is very straightforward: it’s about teenage and pre-teen anxiety about changing bodies.

Teenagehood can seem really exciting to kids. It did to me: when I was growing up. teenagers seemed like the most glamorous people on the planet. But when you’re in the middle of it, it can be difficult and scary. Of course there’s the emotional and psychological transition, the place of not yet being an adult but not being a kid any more, being seen by others as neither or both, not being seen by others the way you’re ready to be seen. But in addition to that, there’s the anxiety of the purely physical changes. Being a pre-teen and teenager can feel like you’re turning into something completely different and alien, and you have no control over it.

I think that’s what this episode is about. Steven sees Amethyst shapeshfting, wants to learn how to do it himself, and starts to be able to make cats pop out of his body. At first it’s exciting and fun. Cats on your fingers! What’s not to like? But he quickly starts to lose control of it. Cats start popping out everywhere and taking over. They even lash out against his will, biting Lars. And he can’t make them go away. Cats start appearing on their own, popping out of his face like zits, and they quickly take over his body and turn him into a monster, unrecognizable even by his own father. (Visually, this is one of the most unsettling episodes of Steven Universe: Ingrid can barely stand to watch it, and I find it pretty disturbing as well.)

It’s telling that Amethyst is who Steven is imitating here. He models himself after all the gems at some point or another, but in this episode it’s Amethyst, the one who’s most like a teenager, whose shapeshifting abilities he admires and wants to imitate. It’s interesting that Steven doesn’t grasp how disturbing this is to others: he runs around town showing off his cat fingers, not picking up on how freaky people find it. And I think it’s telling that in this episode, it isn’t the Gems who help him. It’s his dad. In one sense this is magic gem business — he’s made his body turn into cats — but sentient rocks can’t teach him how to deal with his changing body. This episode starts and ends with Steven and Greg: ultimately, this is intensely human, parent-child business.

(Side note: When people teaching a skill say, “Relax and don’t try so hard,” they don’t always acknowledge that this can be a really hard thing to do. I find it interesting that Steven is actually very good at it, and picks it up quickly. He obviously doesn’t control it very well — but the basic idea of “trying not to try,” he’s very good at.)

Steven Universe Episode 6: Cat Fingers

Steven Universe Episode 5: Frybo

Steve Universe Episode 5 Frybo

Ingrid and I are watching the entire Steven Universe series for the third time, and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it the first two times, I thought I’d blog some of my observations about it. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), both to the show as a whole and to the individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 5: Frybo.

This is one of the first episodes of Steven Universe that’s emotionally hard to watch.

Steven Universe often touches on how adults and children have a hard time communicating and understanding each other’s priorities. This episode gets into that theme in a more serious way: how adults can have overly high expectations of kids, can put too much pressure on kids, and can pile too much responsibility on kids too early. And it gets into how damaging it can be when fulfilling these high expectations is presented as a requirement for membership in the family.

We see this a bit in the opening scene with Steven and Pearl. When Pearl explains to Steven about the missing gem shard, she does it in a way that he can’t possibly understand or focus on. She gives him complicated explanations of the history of the missing shard, and totally buries the lead — the fact that a gem shard is missing, and that if he finds it, it should be kept away from clothing. (“Oh, geez, she’s really explaining something!”) And later, she gets angry at him for not listening — when it was her responsibility to explain it in a way he could hear.

But we mostly see this theme — and we see it at its most unsettling and heartbreaking — with Peedee.

sad Peedee in Frybo costume
It breaks my heart when Peedee’s dad calls him Frybo (the name of the anthropomorphic French fry costume Peedee wears to advertise his dad’s fry shop) — instead of calling him Peedee. It breaks my heart when Peedee’s dad looks at his son, with his costume off, and says, “Where’s your face, Frybo?” It breaks my heart when Peedee’s dad tells him, “Being part of the Fryman family means you got to sell fries. And… be my son. Which you are. So — you’re already halfway there. Keep at it, Frybo!”

Because boy freaking howdy, do I get it.

I felt like that growing up. I felt tremendous pressure to excel in school, to be a bookish brainiac genius, and to eventually go into some academic or academic-type field. It wasn’t just that I was worried about disappointing my family. I was worried about not being considered part of the family. Academic book-smarts were very much part of the family identity, and I felt that if I wasn’t an academic bookish brainiac genius, I wouldn’t get to share that identity.

It’s the main reason I changed my name when I was in my twenties. No, Christina is not the last name I was born with. When I started writing professionally, I didn’t want to worry about how my work reflected on the family reputation (especially since I was mostly writing for a lesbian sex magazine). I wanted my writing to just be my own, and to reflect just on me. So I decided to use a pen name. Then I realized that this wasn’t just true for my writing. It was true for my life. I wanted my life to be mine. So instead of taking a pen name, I changed my name. I dropped the family name, and took my middle name as my last name. It was the right choice: I love the name Greta Christina, and feel deeply connected with it. But it was sad that that’s what I had to do to pursue a career, and a life, without worrying about how it reflected on the clan. And I still feel that pressure to this day, when I hear the voice in my head saying that any time not spent working at achieving brilliance is time wasted, or when my disabling perfectionism is getting in the way of doing things I love.

sad peedee on seahorse
So it breaks my heart when Peedee escapes the Frybo costume and excitedly says to Steven, “Let’s go be kids!” It breaks my heart when they go do fun kid things — but Peedee can’t enjoy it, because he’s still stressing about his too-old-for-him responsibilities, and about his father’s disappointment in him. It breaks my heart when Peedee is in the Frybo costume being pecked at by hungry birds, and he screams at them, “I’m not fries!” He’s screaming it at the birds — but I feel like he’s screaming it at the world.

Ingrid commentary: Ingrid also finds this episode very disturbing.

She finds PeeDee’s speech on the mechanical seahorse very compelling, and very disturbing. “You pick up a job to buy a house, or raise kids, or to — impress your dad. You work away your life, and what does it get you?… You get cash — cash that can’t buy back what the job takes. Not if you rode every seahorse in the world.” She says that he is much too jaded, much too perceptive of adult realities, at much too young an age.

Also, she finds the animated living Frybo very disturbing.

On the brighter side: She loves the bit where Steven and Pearl are talking, and Steven’s pants trot across the screen in the background. She has a soft spot for the visual joke where somebody or something is casually running in the background — especially when it’s the thing the foreground characters are talking about or looking for. (Greta again: This bit totally reminds me of the pale green pants with nobody inside ’em.)

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Steven Universe Episode 5: Frybo

Steven Universe Episode 4: Together Breakfast

Steven Universe Together Breakfast

Ingrid and I are watching the entire Steven Universe series for the third time, and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it the first two times, I thought I’d blog some of my observations about it. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), both to the show as a whole and to the individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 4: Together Breakfast.

“Now it has all the power of a breakfast. We have to destroy it!”

This episode really hits home for me. Steven wants the Gems to have a nice breakfast together — not just any nice breakfast, but the specific nice breakfast that he made for them. And he wants them to have it right away. “I can’t let this become together brunch!” He’s so attached to this that he doesn’t pay attention to the fact that this particular moment is not a good one: the Gems are distracted and have other things to take care of. As a result, the breakfast gets transformed into a hideous monster that he has to destroy.

In other words: Steven wants connection and togetherness. But he’s super attached to that connection taking a particular form. He creates the form of the connection first, and then tries to force the connection into that form. And this attachment actually interferes with the connection he’s seeking, and turns it ugly and unpleasant. Steven himself says it best, when he’s destroying the breakfast monster: “I made you to bring us together — not to tear us apart!”

steven universe together breakfast monster
At age 53, I’m still learning this. I totally get it about having a vision of a particular form of togetherness — a special dinner, a party, even just a quiet evening at home — and being so invested in it turning out exactly the way I want it to, I get stressed and miserable and horrible to be around. When I catch myself doing this in the future — when I catch myself prioritizing a particular form of connection and togetherness over the actual connection itself — I am going to try to remember the image of the breakfast monster trying to destroy everything.

This episode also touches on yet another repeating theme of the show: the ways that adults and children often have a hard time understanding each other, and in particular understanding each other’s priorities. Steven doesn’t understand why the Gems can’t drop everything to have breakfast together; the Gems don’t understand why the breakfast is so important to Steven. And the ways the different Gems tune Steven out are very iconically representative of who they are. Garnet can’t have breakfast because she has important, genuinely urgent business to attend to. Pearl isn’t very good at listening to things she doesn’t understand, and much like Steven in the episode, she isn’t willing to let go of doing the thing she wants to do (putting her sword away) right this second. And Amethyst is insensitive and self-involved: she hears Steven say that he wants a together breakfast, but she’s hungry and wants the waffles. Either that, or she wants to play a game of chase with Steven, and doesn’t catch on to the fact that he doesn’t want to be chased and is really worried about the breakfast. (I’ll get into this more later — but Amethyst can sometimes be a serious jerk. The other gems are merely oblivious to what Steven wants, but Amethyst actually hears and knows what Steven wants, and still ignores it.)

Other notes:

At some point, I totally want to make this breakfast. In much the same way, I also want to make Homer Simpon’s Patented Moon Waffles. (I clearly need to get a cheap waffle iron that I don’t mind destroying.)

This is the first episode (I think) where we see Amethyst in a male persona.

Ingrid commentary: The opening sequence, where Steven is making the breakfast, totally reminds her of Ren & Stimpy. The animation, the music — everything.

Ingrid and I are both wondering about a possible continuity error here — the fact that later in the series (in “Fusion Cuisine”), it’s made clear that Pearl doesn’t eat, and in fact is repulsed by food. While none of the Gems need to eat, Amethyst enjoys it anyway, and Garnet seems fine with it — but Pearl is so grossed-out by food that the entire “Fusion Cuisine” dinner has to be worked around it. In “Together Breakfast,” though, she seems open to the idea of eating, or at least not repulsed at the very notion. Our question: At the end of “Together Breakfast,” is Pearl just being nice and going along with the idea of the breakfast, even though she’s not going to eat anything? Or is this just a continuity error? Also, it seems like Steven should know that Pearl doesn’t eat. Is he just oblivious about this until “Fusion Cuisine”? (Kids can be weirdly both oblivious and observant — much like adults.) Has he only recently moved in with the Gems, and is still learning about them? (We know from the extended intro that he hasn’t always lived with the Gems.) Or, again, is this just a continuity error? (I’m voting for the latter: food comes up in a few episodes before “Fusion Cuisine,” and while I don’t think we ever see Pearl actually eat, we also never see her super-repulsed by food until then.)

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Steven Universe Episode 4: Together Breakfast

Steven Universe Episode 3: Cheeseburger Backpack

Steven Universe Episode 3 Cheeseburger Backpack

Ingrid and I are watching the entire Steven Universe series for the third time, and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it the first two times, I thought I’d blog some of my observations about it. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), both to the show as a whole and to the individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 3: Cheeseburger Backback.

“Everything’s a pocket! Even the cheese is a pocket!” I have totally bought purses for this exact reason.

This episode begins to touch on a theme that comes up over and over again throughout the show: a particular paradox of relationships between adults and children. On the one hand: Adults really do know more than children, and generally have better judgment. On the other hand: Children are people, with ideas and observations of their own — and sometimes, they come up with ideas and make observations that adults miss. So when kids have ideas that adults think are ridiculous, or see things that adults don’t see — when should adults take children’s contributions seriously, and when should they say, “We’re the adults, we know better, and we’re going to make the decisions, based on our own knowledge and judgment”?

And when should adults let kids have responsibility for important things? If kids never get to have responsibility, they’ll never learn how to handle it. But if they’re given responsibility for important things too early, they can make big mistakes with serious consequences. (Also, if they’re given too much responsibility too early, they don’t get a chance to be children.)

In this episode, the gems make both mistakes. They don’t trust Steven to have good ideas that will contribute to the mission (at least, not at first). At the same time, they let Steven have too much responsibility — they let him be responsible for the moon goddess statue, the single most important element of the mission. It’s a difficult balance to get right, and no adult is ever going to get it perfect, or even close to perfect.

Other notes:

I love Mr. Queasy. The Steven-verse has the weirdest kids’ stuff. The Mr. Queasy toy; the Crying Breakfast Friends TV show… it’s weird and inexplicable, in exactly the way that kids’ stuff is often weird and inexplicable.

I love Pearl fretting about the water damage to the Lunar Sea Spire.

“I just want everyone to know — my plan would have also worked.” Pearl is so — Pearl. Over-achieving and competitive, even with a small child. Again — a theme that comes up again later in the show, in more serious ways.

Ingrid commentary: What are “goddesses” in this world? The temple they live in is a statue of a goddess, there’s a statue of the moon goddess… is this a religion? Or are the goddesses just gems? They sometimes refer to their gem powers as “magic” — is it supernatural, or is that just a shorthand that makes it easier to talk about their powers with humans? (Greta’s commentary on Ingrid’s commentary: I’m reminded of the Arthur C. Clark quote, about how any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic.)

Ingrid also is noticing how young Steven’s voice is in this episode, compared to later episodes. He really does grow and mature as the show progresses.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Steven Universe Episode 3: Cheeseburger Backpack

Steven Universe Episode 2: Laser Light Cannon

steven universe episode 2 laser light cannon

Ingrid and I are watching the entire Steven Universe series for the third time, and since we’ve been spending so much talking about it the first two times, I thought I’d blog some of my observations about it. Please note: I’m not writing these Steven Universe posts as a series summary or recap. I’m just writing down some of my observations and reactions (not necessarily coherently), both to the show as a whole and to the individual episodes. These posts will probably make more sense to people who are already watching/ have already watched the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check out the show, as it really is one of the richest and most emotionally intense things I’ve seen on TV. Note: This post may contain spoilers about Steven Universe: the show as a whole, and/or about Episode 2: Laser Light Cannon.

The BITS! The BITS! The BITS! The BITS!

I think it’s interesting that the Gems’ dubious, ambivalent, somewhat condescending attitudes about human beings shows up this early in the series. The central theme of the show (in my opinion) — namely, children learning that adults are flawed and limited — is already being explored in Episode 2, both with Greg and his scary hoarder storage locker, and with the Gems. In fact, imperfection, and the acceptance of imperfection, is the main theme of this show (“if every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs”). And another ongoing theme of the show is also explored here — the times when imperfection really can’t be accepted. (“I live in there!”)

I love the T-shirt cannon that fires T-shirts that read, “Buy T-shirt Cannons.”

Ingrid commentary: Ingrid, who has been reading more S.U. commentary than I have, says it’s been pointed out that the laser light cannons are very weirdly sexual, both phallic and vulval.

Ingrid asks: What the heck is the Red Eye thing, anyway? She points out that at this stage of the show, they’re not really explaining what the things are that they’re battling, or how they fit into the larger narrative. She also points out that, having watched the entire show already (twice!), it’s weird to be seeing these early episodes with so much exposition and explaining.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Steven Universe Episode 2: Laser Light Cannon