Thursday, June 20, 2024

Steven is a Fusion and Rose is Bi and Why it Matters

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Steven isn’t just a hybrid; Steven is a fusion. More accurately he’s the Gem/human fusion of Rose and Greg. And Rose is an analogue for bisexuality. I know, I know. It sounds wacky. It sounds weird. It sounds, ‘unheard of’! Steven a fusion? “I thought that humans and Gems couldn’t fuse,” you might say. Even Greg admits that he and Rose were never able to fuse. Rose, bisexual? What does that even mean when you’re talking about Gems and humans? Gretchen, you just wrote an article about not sexualizing fusion relationships. Doesn’t calling Rose bisexual contradict that?

Both of these theories are controversial, I won’t deny that, but they’re maore than tinfoil. There’s solid narrative evidence and they make sense on a thematic level. So put on your limb enhancers, people, and get ready to analyze. It’s time for some Steven Universe theorizing!

*Spoilers through Steven Bomb 4, “The Answer”*

Steven as Fusion

What first led me in this direction is that the show actually establishes that Greg is interested in fusing with Rose. In “We Need to Talk” (S2, E9), we get to see how Greg met Rose and the Crystal Gems. He almost instantly falls in love with the giant woman Rose, and tries every way he can to get close to her. While making a music video with Greg, Pearl suggest to Rose that they fuse in front of him. They fuse, dance, and the song ends with a literal mic drop from Pearl.

Rose leaves and Pearl decides to confront Greg about his feelings for Rose.

Pearl: *over her shoulder* *swinging microphone* You’re just a phase. You know that, right?

Greg: *exasperated sigh* No, I actually don’t know that, Pearl.

Pearl: Oh, of course you don’t. You don’t know anything about Rose.

Greg: I know she’s super into me!

Pearl: *condescendingly* Listen, Mr. Universe. Rose may find you charming, but that’s only because you’re human. You’re a novelty, at best.

Greg: What makes you so sure?

Pearl: Well, that’s simple! Humans can’t fuse! *sing-songy* Fusion is the ultimate connection between Gems. And you, are not *puts cable around him*, a Gem!

Greg: *taking off the cable* Well, has any human ever tried fusing with a Gem?

Pearl: *stunned* Uhh, noo? I don’t think so.

Greg: Well then, I will try!

It’s his stated goal to prove Pearl wrong, that humans and Gems can fuse, specifically that he can fuse with Rose. When Pearl leaves, he watches the video footage, trying to imitate Pearl’s dance moves. Enter Garnet.

Greg: Yeah, I was just trying to get my head around this fusion dance.

Amethyst: A fusion dance ain’t about your head! *laughs*

Greg: Wait, you guys are Gems. You gotta help me out here, I need to be able to fuse with Rose.

Garnet: First you need a Gem at the core of your being. Then you need a body that can turn into light. Then you need a partner you can trust with that light.

Greg: Metaphorically?

Garnet: Literally.

At first, Garnet seems to imply that he can’t actually fuse with Rose. He is not made of light, so he cannot fuse the way Gems can. When he laments that he won’t be able to fuse because he’s human, Garnet

Garnet: Let me tell you something, Mr. Universe. I think you can do it, but it won’t work if you dance like Pearl. You have to dance like you. You have to fuse your way. Get open, get honest, invent yourselves together. That’s fusion.

Being a more or less permanent fusion herself, Garnet’s pretty much the expert on fusion. While Gem/human fusion may seem initially ridiculous, recall that we learn in “The Answer” (S2, E22) that initially Homeworld Gems thought fusion across Gem types was “disgusting” and “unheard of.” As the very first fusion of different Gems, Garnet more than anyone would understand what is and is not possible in fusion relationships. If she thinks Greg and Rose can fuse, I trust her judgment.

Greg trusts her too. The next we see of him in “We Need to Talk,” he has everything ready for his attempt to learn how to fuse with Rose. They dance, but don’t fuse the way Pearl and Rose did, so Greg thinks they failed. After a discussion of how to make their relationship work, they agree that they’re confused, but their decision to keep dancing signals that they’re committed to trying to figure it out. Pearl, watching from a distance with Garnet and Amethyst, reacts with confusion and anger.

Pearl: Why are they still dancing!? I-it didn’t work!

Garnet: Yes it did.

Pearl: What!?

Garnet: It worked.

What does this mean? If they didn’t physically fuse the way Gems fuse, how could Garnet have said “It worked”? Well, we know from several episodes that a fusion is a relationship between the two participants (see my fusion meta), a conversation, an experience. That’s how Garnet was able to say, “It worked.” While Rose and Greg hadn’t physically fused as Gems normally do, they had established a working relationship of equals. They were their own kind of fusion, albeit one that did not involve the literal fusion of their ‘bodies made of light.’

Yet, to my mind, some kind of physical relationship had to have occurred between Greg and Rose, because the next thing we know about their relationship is that Rose is somehow pregnant with Steven. Greg clearly states that they were never able to fuse the way Pearl and Rose did, but something happened, and the result is that Steven is born and Rose ‘dies.’

Greg, Rose, and unborn baby Steven. *hearteyes*

In “Laser Light Cannon” (S1, E2), Greg tells Steven that Rose “gave up her physical form to bring you into the world.” Now, someone on the Steven Universe Wikia raises the question of why Rose had to give up her physical form to create Steven. Human beings can give birth without losing their form, so why does Rose? It’s an interesting question and one that I think the “Steven as Fusion theory” explains.What do we know of what happens when Gems fuse? From Garnet’s comments in “We Need to Talk,” we know that a Gem’s body is made of light. It’s a physical projection from their Gemstone. In fusion, the individual Gems ‘give up’ their individual body and personality to create a third entity.

While we know there can be conflict within the fusion and that one personality can dominate another, we also know that the fusion is more than just a combination of individual parts. It’s a completely different being from the original two.

Now apply this to Steven and Rose. If Rose was ‘incubating’ a fusion when pregnant with Steven, in order to finalize the fusion, she would need to give up her physical form, just as all Gems do when they fuse. The only difference is that a Gem/human fusion can’t unfuse the way a normal fusion can. You can’t separate the human from the Gem after it has been fused. Steven is therefore a permanent fusion. This explains what Rose means when she says, “Steven, we can’t both exist. I’m going to become half of you. And I need you to know that every moment you love being yourself — that’s me. Loving you and loving being you.”

Just listen to that. To me, that sounds like what half of a fusion would say. An individual Gem can’t also exist alongside the fusion. Ruby and Sapphire can only exist individually as themselves, as soon as they become Garnet, they can’t also be separate beings. And Rose specifically says she will be “half” of Steven, with Greg being the other half. Again, this is what half of a fusion might say. The last part clinches it for me: “And I need you to know that every moment you love being yourself — that’s me. Loving you and loving being you.” Look at how Garnet describes herself in “The Answer”:

Garnet: How I feel? I feel… uh, lost… and scared… and happy. W-why am I so sure that I’d rather be this than everything I was supposed to be, and that I’d rather do this than anything I was supposed to do?

That’s me. Loving you and loving being you. That’s more than just a mystical ‘I’ll always be with you when I’m gone’ statement. Rose is not just saying she’ll be ‘with’ Steven, but a literal part of Steven. His self love is her loving him. Just like Garnet loving herself is Ruby and Sapphire loving each other and loving being Garnet.

Steven being a fusion explains why Steven has Rose’s powers and weapon, but with his own unique twist on them. Fusions, as we know, have weapons and powers that are a fusion of the powers/weapons of their participants. Opal’s bow is a fusion of Pearl’s spear and Amethysts whip. The same is true of Sardonyx’s hammar and Sugilite’s flail. If Steven is a Gem/human fusion, he only has the weapon from the Gem side, hence him having Rose’s shield.

In “An Indirect Kiss” (S1, E24), we learn that Rose had healing tears. While Steven is disappointed to learn that his tears are normal, he eventually learns that he has healing spit when Connie’s poor vision is healed after sharing a juice box with him. Steven can also grow sentient plants, like the watermelons in “Watermelon Steven” (S1, E34). Rose grew sentient flowering plants, like the rose bushes seen in “An Indirect Kiss.”

The strong correlation to his ability to use his powers and his emotions—like when he changes his age to match with how he feels in “So Many Birthdays” (S1, E 13) and “Steven’s Birthday (S2, E23)—seems to me to be a result of being a human/Gem fusion. His human emotions shape how/when he can access his Gem powers.

On the flip side, Steven’s human emotions enhance the empathy and nurturing instinct that he inherited from his mother. Her belief in the value of and empathy for organic life helped found the rebellion. She accepted ‘defective’ Pearl and the cross-Gem fusion Garnet without question. In the same way, Steven shows compassion for broken, corrupt, and Homeworld Gems. But he goes beyond even Rose in his belief that he can actually save the corrupted Centipeetle Mother (“Monster Buddies,” S1, E23), and actually make friends with Peridot instead of use her to extract information. It’s subtle, but I think that this compassion is the result of Rose’s empathy fusing with the human emotions natural to human beings like Greg. It’s veering into tinfoil territory, I admit, but I still like the way it fits.

So why doesn’t anyone call him a fusion? The Crystal Gems and Greg fail to understand Steven as a fusion most likely because he doesn’t look like what they expect. Greg, who is used to human birth, sees Steven as someone who was born the ‘normal’ way, even though he’s also a Gem. The Gems, used to fusion looking a certain way, wouldn’t be able to recognize this born being as a fusion.

Finally, if Steven really is a fusion, then the term “half Gem” is technically incorrect. He’s not ‘half of a Gem’, he’s a full Gem, and a full human and also something more. Calling him “half Gem” seems to imply that he’s merely a sum of parts, human + gem = Steven. In the same way that you can’t call Garnet a “half Ruby” or a “half Sapphire,” calling Steven a “half Gem” diminishes what he really is, a third, unique being that is both a Gem and a human being.

Rose is Bisexual

The longer I thought about Steven as fusion and the episode “We Need to Talk,” the more I realized how obvious it was that Rose is an analogue for bisexuality. The whole episode screams bi to me. Pearl tells Greg that he’s “just a phase.” How many women have been told that their relationships with other women were just “a phase” or “experimenting” (with the implication that real love is heterosexual). The term “college lesbian” was created to diminish the value of female/female romantic relationships. It’s temporary. Now put this into perspective with Pearl. She knows Rose has loved other humans (Rose admits this to Greg), and she also knows that human beings are temporary creatures compared to Gems, who could conceivably live forever so long a their Gems aren’t shattered. She literally sees Greg as a passing love.

What’s more, her fusion with Rose was very clearly an attempt to stake her ‘claim’ on Rose. “I’m the same as Rose,” it says. “I can love her more purely than you can. And she can love me more fully than she can ever love you because we can fuse and you can’t.” The Crystal Gems perceive fusion to be the ultimate expression of love because of Garnet. So Pearl being able to fuse with Rose, and choosing to show this off in front of Greg is about as close to a “she’s mine, she will always love me more” as Pearl was capable of being. She quite literally shoves it in his face. She’s trying to prove that Greg’s love for Rose can never reach the heights that Pearl’s love can and that Rose cannot love Greg as much as she loves Pearl. It really can’t be more blatantly obvious to me that this is about bisexuality. About the toxic belief that you can only really love one kind of being and that you have to choose which one you love more.

The thing is, Rose never does. Yes, Pearl seems to believe that Rose doesn’t really ‘love’ human beings, that they’re “just a phase.” But Rose never says so. She flat out tells Greg she’s loved other humans, and so has he. They’ve both loved other people. Greg has loved other human beings, Rose has loved both human beings and at least one Gem. She’s not bothered to choose one over the other. She loves them all. It’s only Pearl that seems to think that love must look a certain way for it to really be love. She’s content loving Pearl and loving Greg as they are.

By the end of “We Need to Talk” Pearl seems to understand that Rose loves Greg differently from other humans. She loves him more.

Amethyst: I think this one’s my favorite.

Pearl: *saddened* … I think he’s her favorite too.

From the way Pearl agrees, she means more than that Greg is Rose’s favorite human. The statement applies to herself. Greg is Rose’s favorite instead of Pearl.

We don’t get to see what happens immediately afterward, but from the current timeline, Pearl has clearly come to accept Rose’s love for Greg. She may still resent Greg (more so in S1 than now), but that has more to do with Rose’s death than Rose’s love for Greg. Pearl admires Rose for her love of the human race, and will fight for humanity on Rose’s behalf, even if she doesn’t share Rose’s proclivities.

This brings us back around to Steven being a Gem/human fusion. We know Rose loves Pearl and loves Greg. She can fuse with Pearl easily because they’re both gems, but in order to form the kind of bond, the kind of “third entity” that fusion with a loved one represents, Rose will have to ‘give up’ her physical form not just temporarily as in normal Gem fusion, but permanently. That’s the only way that Steven can exist.

I think it very likely that Garnet’s existence, and her friendship with Rose, is what convinces Rose that she and Greg can make something work. She was there when the first cross-Gem fusion came into being, something her entire society believed to be an abomination. So she can look at Greg, this earnest, beautiful human being who wants to fuse with her in whatever way is possible, and she can think, yes. Yes I’ll try.

She’s willing to give up her physical form because she’s seen that when that happens (Garnet), the being created is greater than the sum of its parts. Steven was worth it. Which, again, fits into one of the themes of the show: that love is always worth it even if no one understands or they condemn you or hate you or think you’re disgusting.

Ultimately, this isn’t just about a cool theory (though I think it is a cool theory), its about what that theory represents for the story Rebecca Sugar is telling. Love crosses all boundaries: boundaries of class, boundaries of culture and toxic socialization, even boundaries of race (species). You can love more than one kind of person. You can love people who are like you, and people who aren’t in any way like you. You can love people who are as different from you as humans are to Gems. And you can make a relationship and a conversation out of that love. You can make a ‘fusion’. Like Steven.

Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

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