Ingrid and I are re-watching Steven Universe, and I’m blogging it. I’m not writing these posts 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 for people who have seen the show, but I hope they inspire the rest of you to check it out, as it’s 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 12: Giant Woman.
“All I wanna do/Is see you turn into/A giant woman…”
OMLOG this episode tho! There is so much about this episode, both the content itself and the meta. SO MUCH CONTENT! SO MUCH META! ALL THE THINGS!
Content first: Kids are fascinated by adult life and adult relationships. Older kids especially.
I have vivid childhood memories of family gatherings, being put to bed and overhearing the adults as they lived their adult, non-kid-centered lives: drinking, playing card games that were beyond me, gossiping about people I didn’t know and behavior I didn’t comprehend, discussing politics that seemed boring but that I could still tell were important, laughing uproariously at jokes I didn’t understand. I remember being a little older — like, twelve or so — and starting to hang out at my parents’ late-night parties, watching and listening and trying to figure it all out. (A difficult task, since the people were stoned much of the time — I’m a child of the Seventies.) And I remember pestering the adults in my life to explain things that were beyond my comprehension, or none of my business, or both.
So I totally understand Steven learning about fusion and immediately becoming obsessed with it and wanting to see it. (For people who aren’t watching the show and don’t mind spoilers: The Crystal Gems are sentient gems who project humanoid forms, and they can fuse together to form a single larger being with the combined strength and skill of both or all of them.) Once Steven learns about fusion, he’s FASCINATED by it. He does that thing kids do — some adults, for that matter — where they get fixated on a thing they want and absolutely will not drop it, and everything that happens becomes just another excuse for bringing the thing up one more time.
And kids have a lot invested in adults getting along. It’s hard when the adults around you are fighting. It feels very unstable, and it can be upsetting and even scary. I can see that being especially true for a kid like Steven, who’s emotionally sensitive and highly invested in the people around him getting along. Steven’s relentless fixation on Pearl and Amethyst fusing isn’t just about discovering this new form of adult relationship and being fascinated with it. It’s about him wanting Pearl and Amethyst to quit fighting and get along. (And, of course, it’s about Steven’s ever-present admiration for female strength, in all its forms.)
But it’s reasonable for Pearl and Amethyst to draw a boundary. Their squabbling isn’t super productive, but they have a right to have their relationship be their relationship. It’s reasonable for them to fuse on their own terms, for their own reasons — not to entertain Steven. And while Steven is usually a very sensitive person, his personal desire for Pearl and Amethyst to get along actually gets in the way of his sensitivity and empathy. Wanting other people to get along is understandable — but sometimes people have real differences, and they need to work it out on their own.
Now to the meta:
This episode is where Steven Universe really kicks into gear, and it’s what I’ve taken to calling the “you’re in or you’re out” episode. If I’m evangelizing about SU to friends, and they say they’ve watched a couple of episodes but the show hasn’t grabbed them, I always ask, “Have you seen ‘Giant Woman’ yet?” If they haven’t, I ask them to stick with it. If they have, I’m like, “Yeah, if you’ve seen ‘Giant Woman’ and you haven’t fallen in love with the show, you probably won’t.”
Episodes one through eleven are great, but to a great extent they’re world-building, and emotionally they’re fairly straightforward. Starting with “Giant Woman,” the show starts getting more nuanced, more complicated, more emotionally intense, and often more unsettling. And of course, this is the episode that introduces fusion, which becomes HUGELY important throughout the series — not just as a plot point, but as a metaphor for connection and love.
I’ve enjoyed writing up these first twelve episodes. But I’m super-excited now to be getting into what I see as the meat of the show. In particular, I can’t wait to write about “Mirror Gem/ Ocean Gem,” “Coach Steven,” “Alone Together,” “Winter Forecast,” “Jail Break” (of course), “Keeping It Together,” and “Message Received,” about which I have VERY STRONG opinions and feels. Stay tuned!
Ingrid comment: She loves this episode, among many other reasons, because it’s the first one where an entire full-length song is built into the episode, and the first one where the song coming into being (i.e., being made up by Steven) moves the plot along and is part of the story. Music is an important part of the show, and this is the first episode where it’s really important. She’s struck — as am I — by the line in the song where Steven sings, “But if it were me/ I’d really wanna be/A giant woman.” Gender fluidity and gender non-conformity is also a theme that comes up a lot in this show, as is Steven’s comfort with taking women as role models, and it’s nice to see it here. She also thinks the mountain-climbing and stair-climbing scenes are referencing the “Return My Love” sequence in the Bugs Bunny “What’s Opera Doc?” cartoon (Another gender-bending cartoon icon!)