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.