Monday, July 15, 2024

The Good Lars Struggles to Find a Happy Lars

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Two episodes in and this latest Steven Bomb has been wonderful. Steven and Connie got relationship episodes with parents. We’ve had lore. We’ve had humor. Two new gems appeared (as shadows, anyway) to kidnap Onion. What a great start. We can’t wait to see…Lars?

Okay, this can still be awesome. Bo’s not the biggest fan of Lars, but he will give this a chance. Lars just so happens to be Gretchen’s problematic fave, so she is excited for this. In any case, we both love Sadie and so long as she’s involved we will likely get a winner.

Wait a minute. Lars is baking pumpkin bread shaped like a pumpkin?! Betchen is 100% sold. Let’s get to it!

Spoilers for 4×23 “The Good Lars” below


No, seriously, Lars baked pumpkin bread shaped like a pumpkin. Steven tries and loves it. Turns out Lars is quite the baker. Lars tries to downplay it, which as Steven knows is Lars-speak for “thank you.”

Buck Dewey comes to the Big Donut and invites Lars to a potluck with the other cool kids. Well, color us surprised. He also invites Sadie and Steven and asks them to bring food. Since that’s what happens at potlucks. Sadie and Steven see this as a great chance for Lars to show off his baking to an objective audience, since he doesn’t believe their praise of his culinary talent. Lars predictably doesn’t want to go, but Sadie and Steven convince him otherwise. Now that he’s on-board, though, his baking has to be perfect.

We cut to Lars’s house, where he pulls out a hidden cookbook and decides to make an ube roll, which is a type of cream filled cake roll made with sweet purple yams (ube). Together they cook it up and Lars has Steven and Sadie try it. They proceed to eat the whole thing. We can relate. Sometimes that just happens with something that delicious. Did we mention it was purple?

*hearteyes* It’s so pretty!

Sadie leaves, and Lars tells Steven he hides his baking because it’s not cool. He’s worried about everyone knowing he loves baking and…okay, he nearly says Sadie and stops at the very last second. Steven tries to convince him that the cool kids already like him, which is why they invited him. And if they don’t, it’s their loss. Lars asks when Steven matured so much and he says,

“Somewhere between summoning my shield and finding out my mom is a war criminal.” — Steven

This show has no chill and we love it.

Steven shows up at the party with sushi (watch the short if you’ve never seen it). Jenny brought pizza of course, Sour Cream brought soda, and Buck brought assorted fruits. Hey, they tried, you can’t expect much from most teens when it comes to cooking. Buck and the others say nice things about Lars when Sadie shows up with paper plates, visibly nervous about hanging with the cool kids.

They love her because these are the best cool kids in existence. Sour Cream celebrates her plates by turning off the lights and throwing glow sticks since he doesn’t have to do dishes. Steven leaves to find Lars, searching all over Beach City with no luck. Lars doesn’t answer his phone, either. When he returns to the party he finds Lars’s ube roll in the trash outside the house.

Inside everyone is playing music and Sadie sings. We’re so, so happy for her, especially when the cool kids compliment her. Excuse us, we need a second because this was so sweet. Ahem. Steven doesn’t tell them about Lars’s dish, but shows Sadie after they leave together.

Sadie talks about never expecting to hang with cool kids and how the cool kids are really great people. She wishes Lars would give them a real chance, but figures she should focus on her own life rather than try to fix Lars’. When she and Steven separate, the shadows of the Homeworld gems follow Sadie.

Sadie NO! Lars NO!

Delightful Little Gems

  • Of course the hipster cool kids would love “bingo bongo.”
  • Sour Cream is the best.
  • Here’s all the SU shorts collected into one video. Give them a watch, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Will Lars and Sadie just admit they’re dating already???
  • Speaking of ube, when this episode aired, Gretchen’s friend told her about how delicious ube ice cream is, and what would happen that night but that Gretchen got to try ube ice cream? It is quite delicious. And just as purple as the roll.

Lingering Questions

  • Does Lars’s baking mastery mean he’s the donut king over at the Big Donut? After all, Sadie didn’t even bring food to the potluck.
  • What other recipes lie within his cookbook?
  • Could the cool kids not have brought, we don’t know, Chaaaps or something? And why is Buck’s idea of ‘assorted fruit’ dragonfruit, pineapple, and durian?

Closing Thoughts

Wow. It takes quite the episode for Bo to feel deep things about Lars, but this one did the trick. Lars has always been the jerky kid of Beach City. He acts the way you expect the cool kids to act—indifferent, condescending, constantly focused on his image. This episode, we got to see another side of him. Steven tells him he should “make something that represents you” and Lars decides on ube roll. For those of you know don’t know, ube is a staple of Filipino cuisine. True, it’s a part of other cuisines as well, but the prominence of this yam in Filipino desserts basically confirms that Lars has Filipino ancestry.

Given that he ate ube growing up, his being Filipino was likely a significant part of how he was raised, or at least aspects of being Filipino. Making an ube roll thus represents more than just a nostalgic childhood treat. It’s his heritage, a piece of himself he hasn’t shared with Sadie so far as we know, much less anyone else in Beach City. He’s not just sharing a skill, he’s sharing his culture. The treat also happens to be his favorite color and showcases the hidden talent inside him like the creamy center of the ube roll: purple on the outside, sweet and squishy in the center.

If theories are correct (and Gretchen believes they are) that Lars is trans, then we can readily understand why he doesn’t want anyone to know he bakes. It’s not about being ashamed of the hobby in itself, or it being ‘not cool’ (though he frames it this way). It’s about Lars being associated with a traditionally feminine coded activity like baking. We’ve seen since the beginning that Lars has a bit of a complex about how others perceive him, and it’s fair to say he struggles with hypermasculinity. So even if you don’t buy into the trans Lars theory, this episode is about more than just Lars learning to let other people accept him; it’s about Lars being willing to set aside his self-imposed gender presentation and allow himself to be seen as having an interest in feminine coded activities, something the “old” Lars would never ever do.

(P.S. Bo had never seen this Lars theory before, but he thinks it’s fascinating and certainly presented the case well. He’ll definitely keep it in mind moving forward.)

Letting that happen created space for him to understand just how accepted he already is, though in the end (sadly), he never finds out. The poor kid has always been hung up on expectations of what’s cool that he never realized Sour Cream, Buck, and Jenny are eager to accept him. They’re great people. We love that Steven Universe consistently promotes the idea that the cool kids are decent, kind, and accepting; they’re really only ‘cool kids’ in everyone’s mind rather than being Cool Kids, i.e., jerks. It’s like Sadie says, “You know they really are cool, like, not like he thinks, but like, they’re actually cool people.”

We saw it with their easy acceptance of Sadie. It makes you wonder if Lars knows this, but finds ways to avoid becoming friends with them. Even with Buck going out of his way to invite Lars to the potluck, Lars could not bring himself to go. It’s almost as if he prefers sabotaging his chances to fit in rather than risk the chance of rejection.

Gretchen has a lot of feelings about this gif. If Lars is trans, just imagine what it means to have Steven, one of the few who might know because he spent a day in Lars’ body and also the literal opposite of toxic masculinity, telling Lars it’s okay to be in touch with his emotions. Emotions Lars likely suppresses because he feels they’re too ‘feminine’. Just…kill me.

As far as we know, he gave up on the party despite the encouragement of Steven and Sadie. Check the trash can when Steven first arrives at the party; Lars’s ube is already tossed away. We suppose Lars could have been abducted beforehand, but why would his dish lie in the trash outside Sour Cream’s house if that were the case? Unless he were abducted right when he got to the house and the roll happened to fall in the trash can in the abduction. It’s a bit of a stretch, but Gretchen, at least, wants to give Lars the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, he at least made it to the house, which is a huge step for Lars in and of itself considering he was looking for any reason to avoid the party entirely.

We also have to talk about Sadie this episode. Lars’s insecurity gets more attention in the show overall, but Sadie has it just as bad, if not worse, just more quietly. This is likely how they ended up becoming close; their time spent working together showed them a kindred soul. Lars worries the cool kids won’t like him. Sadie honestly believes she doesn’t belong there at all. When she learns Lars didn’t make it, she’s ready to back out and go home. She believes she’s riding his coattails into the cool kids circle and is not worthy to be there on her own merits.

Yet, by the end of the episode she decides not only to sing for them, but to stay despite Lars apparently backing out. She found her footing with them and now believes she belongs just by being Sadie. *Sniffle* We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Speaking of Sadie singing, holy cow Sadie singing! In front of people! Can we say character growth? Back in “Sadie’s Song” (2×17), she didn’t want anyone to hear her sing. She had a very Lars-like freakout before going on stage. In this episode, she willingly sang along with the cool kids and accepted their honest praise. She’s also willing to keep on singing and be friends with them even without Lars. As we mentioned, it’s a huge step for a girl who only believed she should be there because he was. Thank goodness for Sour Cream, Jenny, and Buck. This could have gone so wrong and hurt Sadie so much.

Also, we choose to believe she has spent more time singing with Steven, like she did at the end of “Sadie’s Song,” to help make her comfortable.

Then the episode ends with her coming to her own realization about where she’s gone wrong in her and Lars’s relationship friendship. She’s spent far too long focused on trying to fix his life instead of her own. You can’t force someone to be happy, after all. Hopefully this means Sadie and Lars can move forward and have a better ‘friendship’ from here on out. We’re pulling for them at least. Go Sadie!

“The Good Lars” showcases parallel development for both of them really. Both of them go from being afraid to showcase their talents to being willing to take a step forward. Yes, Sadie’s development is more in the shadows to Lars’s front-and-center, in-your-face growth. Yet it isn’t upsetting that she takes a back seat in this episode; rather, we prefer her quiet growth parallel to Lars because it rewards close investigation. She wouldn’t want to be in the spotlight in any case.

Seriously, how impressive is this show that it can give us not one, but two character arcs in 11 minutes? Some shows can’t do it in an entire season.

Tune in tomorrow for “Are you My Dad?”, where we finally get to put faces and names to the shadows of the Homeworld gems!

Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

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