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Analysis

Steven Universe Theories That Hurt My Soul

Part One of A Million

It’s no secret that I love Steven Universe and like to talk about it. A Lot. Until TGIFemslash last weekend, I actually didn’t realize how much I think about Steven Universe. You mean other people don’t sit around wondering if the floating fingers we saw in “Gem Heist” (4.13) were attached to Peridots and what their life might be like on the space station? Or if they’d ever met ‘our’ Peridot and if so, what she thought of Peridots who spent their lives taking care of ‘clods’? Or that maybe the reason she side-eyed humans in the first place is because she met the ones in the zoo and assumed all humans were as infantile as they were? No? Just me then.

One of the many good things to come out (heh) of TGIFemslash was all the conversations I got to have, some of them about my obsessive and thorough Steven Universe theories. I realized that there were fans out there starved for pain and suffering theories the way I am. Which, incidentally is the reason I have so many in the first place, because I can’t find a lot of compelling theories online.

So, without further ado, I give you five of my favorite personal Steven Universe theories. And because I have to suffer with them in my head, you’re getting angsty ones.

Peridot Has Always Been Using Her Metal Powers

When we first meet Peridot, she has fancy lifts ‘limb enhancers’ on her legs and arms. Now, while she may be more concerned about the ones on her feet because they make her taller, I’m more interested in the ones on her hands.

Halp. I love her.

She uses the ‘gloves’ with floating fingers to interact with technology and displays for the most part, but they’re basically just hands. And the fingers are not attached, so how do they work? Gee, if only there were a character whose Gem weapon/power was the ability to control and manipulate metal.

That’s right. Peridot has always been using her metal powers to control her floating fingers, only she didn’t realize that it was a ‘power’. After all, Homeworld told her that her limb enhancers were given to her to make up for the lack of Gem weapon in era 2 Gems.

“My lack of skill is an objective fact. I’m an Era-2 Peridot. I am new. Resources are dwindling on Homeworld. They can’t make Gems like they used to. That’s why they give Era-2 Peridots technological enhancements because we… don’t have powers.” — Peridot, “Too Short to Ride” (3.09)

But what if that was a lie to keep her from realizing her own power? Think about it. The ability to manipulate metal (which all Gem ships are presumably made of) is a powerful weapon and also a skill that the hierarchy would want to exploit. What better what to do it than to create Gems with that ability only make them think that their ‘weapon’ is no more than ‘technology’. Give her a set of tools (limb enhancers) that function only due to her powers (metal control, i.e., moving the floating fingers), but explain it as powerful technology rather than an innate skill.

Sure, the limb enhances utilize and integrate new technology from Homeworld, like the plasma canon and tractor beam she uses in “Warp Tour” (1.36). However, the ability to use the metal fingers themselves, to levitate them and rearrange them into the necessary configurations, stems from her Gem power.

There’s no better way to keep her and other Peridots in line than to make them think they’re dependent on technology, something Homeworld supplies them. If the system can limit her power to operating within specific constraints and under the guise of technological enhancements, they can maintain control over her. Were she to lose her limb enhancers, she would be utterly helpless and ‘powerless’, which is precisely what we saw in “Catch and Release” (2.18).

It’s precisely the kind of move we’d expect from what we’ve seen of Homeworld. Many oppressive systems function by fostering an atmosphere of reliance upon it to survive and the perception of powerlessness in those most oppressed by it. Given the analogues to patriarchy and toxically masculine culture embedded within Homeworld’s caste system as presented thus far—which is a whole other essay I plan to write—misdirection in the case of Peridot’s ferrokinesis is not only possible but likely.

Which means she’s spent all of her life not knowing her own power and then months on earth feeling useless and helpless because of a shitty system that wanted to keep her under its thumb. Ouch. That hits a little too close to home.

Zoo Peridots and the Horror Behind The Robonoids

If Peridot controls her floating fingers due to her Gem powers, it begs the question I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this piece: are there Peridots at the Zoo?

Those look just like ‘our’ Peridot’s limb enhancer fingers. So are there Peridots trapped in charge of controlling human processing? Perhaps Peridots function as society wide mechanics. They’re the IT specialists of Homeworld who unknowingly use their ferrokinesis to maintain, repair, and operate all the fancy Era-2 Homeworld technology. Makes sense, right?

Only why, then, did they not notice Steven’s Gem when they processed him into the zoo? He wasn’t trying to hide it. Heck, he was laid out flat on his back with the Rose Quartz Gem belly up for them all to see. And it isn’t like there’s an entire room filled with almost every surviving Gem of that kind right next door…Oh wait.

So, assuming that there are Peridots behind the floating fingers, why didn’t they recognize Steven’s Gem? Or at the very least wonder why a human being would have a Gem in it’s stomach. That seems like something they’d want to bring up with their tearful leader just to avoid getting in trouble for an oversight.

I could theorize that they weren’t paying attention, but that’s not like the Peridot we know. This is where a friend of mine from TGIFemslash turned my theory from sad (poor oppressed Peridots in the zoo trapped there like the Famethyst and bubbled Quartz Gems) to downright awful. No, there aren’t Peridots behind the fingers, there are Peridot shards.

Remember the horror that was “Frybo” (1.05) way back when the show started?

Yeah, this one.

Remember how Pearl explained Gem shards to Steven?

“These Shards have a powerful partial consciousness that has been harnessed by Gems throughout history in order to create semi-sentient drone soldiers with the capacity to follow basic orders. Gems once created an army of these drones, but found their obedience waned as the shards overdeveloped inside their uniforms and turned on their commanders. You see, any shard imprinted by any sort of container could become a monster. That’s why it’s very, very important it’s kept away from any kind of garment…” — Pearl, “Frybo” (1.05)

A powerful partial consciousness used to create drones with the capacity to follow basic orders. ‘Basic orders’ like an assembly line of how to process a human captive to the zoo. Hurts to think about doesn’t it? Shattered Peridots placed into some kind of automated system where all they have to do is follow orders. It explains why they didn’t catch Steven’s Gem; they don’t have the intelligence to think, only to process.

So why haven’t they rebelled or mutated? One of Pearl’s biggest sticking points in “Frybo” was that when placed inside of a cloth garment, the soldiers developed too much independence and became uncontrollable monsters. But what if Homeworld found a way to contain Gem shards to prevent them from “overdeveloping inside their uniforms”? We know they’ve been experimenting with forced Gem shard fusion (e.g., the Cluster and Cluster Gem monsters). It would make sense that they’d also experiment with shard containment and control. Mindless drones seem like a thing an oppressive, militaristic society would want. And for a Peridot, what better way to simultaneously contain and utilize it’s innate power than a spherical metal container that looks an awful lot like a mini version of ‘our’ Peridot’s ship?

Gee, that looks familiar. Just don’t think about the tiny Peridot shards….

Yeah, I went there. It makes the scene where Peridot crushes one and then EMPs the rest of them (“Warp Tour”, 1.36) into not working even more horrifying and depressing. Because I don’t actually think she would know if they were controlled by Peridot shards. Yet even if she did, Peridot’s so calculating and cold when we first meet her that she might not care. Homeworld doesn’t think of the shards as being fragmented pieces of an entire soul. To Homeworld, shards are little more than experiments and exploitable drones. Just one more resource they can use in their expansionist agenda. Pre-redemption Peridot might not think twice about crushing a ‘sister’ Peridot Gem if it lacked a use. But just look at how far she’s come since!

I warned you Steven Universe hurts my soul.

Stevonnie Ages

Stevonnie, the fusion between Steven and Connie, has been a groundbreaking character in a lot of ways. They uses they/them pronouns for starters; imagine being a non-binary child and seeing yourself on screen. Somehow the show managed to take a seemingly straight ship (a male and a female young teen) and make it just as queer as two female pronoun using aliens in a permanent fusion relationship.

Also, I just heard from a friend that in one of the most recent Steven Universe comics, Stevonnie goes to the prom with Kiki Pizza. This gives me all the feels; I actually squealed when I heard about it. Which reminds me, I need to go buy that comic asap. Brb.

Okay, I’m back. I love Stevonnie. The only thing I love more than Stevonnie fanart is fanart about Steven and Connie’s potential family and having little babies that look like Stevonnie. But thinking about Stevonnie too long gives me an ache in my chest despite how thrilled I am with their character. Because Steven is going to outlive Connie and that breaks my heart.

I’ve seen theories out there about Steven matching his age to pace with Connie as she grows old. Those are heartbreaking enough, but what about aging Stevonnie? Stevonnie with stretch marks after Connie has had a couple of children (if she chooses to). Stevonnie with wrinkles and grey hair as Connie reaches middle age, with back aches and arthritis when Connie is approaching her 70s and 80s. Steven can balance out some of Connie’s human frailties in the fusion, but he can’t erase them.

Imagine Connie in her old age, with very little time left, asking Steven to fuse one last time. They dance together, and Connie gets one last chance to be Stevonnie before she dies. Stevonnie may have a bowed back, wrinkly knees, and a thick braid of silver-white hair, but she’s still just as much a conversation and experience as she was the first day she came to life on the beach.

You might call it a headcanon, but to me, its tied to the idea that Stevonnie has to age because Connie does. Even if Steven decided to stay the same outward age as he is now—though why would he?—Connie would age. And as a fusion between both of them, Stevonnie must age as well. I love the idea of Stevonnie’s ‘age’ reflecting both the physical ages of Steven and Connie as well as the maturity of their relationship. Other fusions, like Gems, don’t age. So no matter how long Garnet has existed, unless she is poofed or decides to change her physical form herself, she will always look the same. She’s ‘timeless’ as a relationship.

But I love the idea of Stevonnie being the entity that shows Gems about the beauty, tragedy, joy, and sorry of being human beings in love. They’ve never seen a long-term human relationship before. They didn’t get to see Greg grow old while Rose stayed the same. Didn’t get to see how loving someone gives you laugh lines or frown lines or grey hair. Stevonnie gets to teach them that while she grows and changes to reflect Steven and Connie’s ever evolving love for and relationship with each other.

Excuse me while I go cry in a corner for a while because I apparently enjoy suffering.

Rose was a Guard in the Zoo

This is not my theory, but it’s one I’ve latched onto as both compelling for Rose’s character and interesting from a worldbuilding perspective. I’ve also added a few of my own personal twists on it. It’s not a complicated theory, but the gist of it is that Rose was a guard at Pink Diamond’s human zoo.

“The zoo is meant to be calming to humans. A place where they live a life of complacency and safety. Would it not make sense that the Gems working there would be approachable to humans should they ever need to go into the enclosure? Would it not make sense that they would be able to grow new wildlife should something happen to the ecosystem in the enclosure? Rose Quartz’s would make the perfect guards for such a place. At least until one of them decided she liked humans a little too much and didn’t want the planet they came from to be destroyed.” (source)

Rose’s ability to create plant life and heal would have been used to care for human beings and their ecosystem. Rose’s primarily defensive ‘weapon’ (a shield) also makes sense in this context as you would not want to equip a nurturing caretaker with an offensive weapon that might alarm your ‘animals’. That might seem harsh, but we know for a fact that the Gems perceive humans the way humans perceive animals.

An ideal, non-threatening Gem.

Rose’s coloring, Gem placement, and appearance are also the closest to human of all the Gems we’ve met. She’s ‘soft’ and motherly looking. She’s also interested in humans and their lives. Yet, until she meets Greg, it’s an infantilized curiosity. Protective, too, and a bit condescending when you start to tease things out.

“I love the way, human beings play/ I love playing along.” — Rose, “We Need to Talk” (2.09)

She thinks human are fun and interesting, but not equal to her level of intelligence and bonding. That is, until Greg confronts her and makes it clear that humans can love as deeply as any Gem and are worthy of respect, not just idle curiosity or patronizing protection.

All of Rose’s perceptions about humanity make sense for someone designed to be a benign caretaker for human beings. Her fascination and protectiveness are ideal qualities for a zookeeper. Plus, it explains why all the Rose Quartz Gems are bubbled in the zoo (i.e., where they worked), rather than, say, on Earth or back on Homeworld.

It also explains her rebellion against Homeworld and siding with the humans.

“There is a story of an opening wall. A very long time ago, a Gem came through a wall hole to help someone who was hurt. ” — J-10, “The Zoo” (4.14)

What if that Gem was Rose? And what if helping the ‘hurt’ human led to her believing human beings ought not to be holed up in the zoo but allowed to ‘roam free’ on their home planet? Makes sense, right? When confronted with human pain, she chooses to defend their right to autonomy and self-determination. She may infantilize them and think of them more like puppies than beings worthy of the same respect she gives other Gems, but she’s not a monster. She believes they have a right to grow and learn and be the unique beings that they are.

I also think it explains why she know human anatomy well enough to know how to create Steven. As a healer in the zoo, she would need to know how the human body works in order to take care of humans. This includes the reproductive system, because things can go wrong with fertility, pregnancy, and birth even in a controlled environment like the zoo. Of course she would think of making Steven as a Gem/human fusion and know how to do so. She knows how humans physically work and when the time came to ‘make’ a human, she chose to do it the human way.

This theory underscores her strong desire to ‘be’ or ‘experience’ being a human as well.

“Isn’t it remarkable, Steven? This world is full of so many possibilities. Each living thing has an entirely unique experience. The sights they see, the sounds they hear. The lives they live are so complicated… a-and so simple. I can’t wait for you to join them. *turns the video camera around at her* 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. Because you’re going to be something extraordinary. You’re going to be a human being.” — Rose, “Lion 3: Straight to Video” (1.35)

She was created to care for these creatures. She’s fallen in love with one and gotten to see the power of human choice and autonomy in the lives of her friends: Garnet being able to be a fusion, Pearl learning how to be her own being isntead of a slave, Amethyst finding a home and life outside of Homeworld’s caste system. Greg also challenged her to respect him. Then, she meets a human child (“Greg the Babysitter”, 3.16), and sees all that potential.

No wonder she wants to ‘become’ that in some way, even if it means losing a piece of herself. Even if it means she might not be able to come back. She wants to create a human life, become a human life. Not just exist apart from them, but be one of them. Because she was their guardian and sees that role in her life as no longer necessary. They can determine themselves, and she wants to be a part of that. To make something entirely new.

Pearl’s Misplaced Antagonism toward Amethyst

Jealous, Pearl. The word you’re avoiding is jealous.

This is a newer theory of mine, so I’m still thinking my way through it. Consider this an insight into my theory-forming process, though at least a partially mediated one. No one should ever see the randomness and absurdity that is my initial theorizing. Just think of Amethyst’s bedroom, only instead of piles of junk it’s just free-floating concepts and ideas colliding into each other. It makes sense to me, but it’s chaos.

So, I was thinking about Amethyst the other day, about how she was designed to be a Quartz soldier. Meeting the rest of her kindergarten class in “That Will be All” (4.15) showed us that there’s an element of carefree recklessness in all the Alpha and Beta kindergarten Gems (other than Jasper, so far as we’ve seen). That got me wondering if that’s just an element of being a Quartz Gem. They’re soldier types. You’d want a bit of impulsiveness on the battlefield. When well trained and disciplined, you can hone impetuousness into audacious courage, creative thinking, and the ability to become a good tactician and strategist.

Who do we know with those characteristics? Rose Quartz.

In fact, I think it quite possible that an element of Pearl’s antagonism toward (or at least emotional distance from) Amethyst is precisely because Pearl sees a lot of Rose in Amethyst. The impetuousness, the rebelliousness, the devil-may-care-ness. Amethyst’s disregard for other people’s opinions of her, at least on the surface.

Greg: Well, you know Rose.
Pearl and Greg: She always did what she wanted.
—“Mr. Greg” (3.08)

We all know Amethyst isn’t as self confident as Rose. She often projects her confidence to make up for a feeling of being broken or flawed in some way. At the same time, “Tiger Philanthropist” (4.19) gave us a glimpse of a healthier Amethyst. One’s who’s faced down the specter of not being good enough, reunited with her family, and learned she’s not as alone or defective as she thought she was. She’s calmer, collected, and more ready to take charge of her life. More like Rose.

Amethyst also has a stronger attachment to Earth and human things, although it manifests differently than for Rose. Amethyst indulges in ‘human’ activities like eating and sleeping with abandon. She doesn’t need them, but they make her feel more connected to her home and even to Steven. But again, look closer and you see a similar impulse in Rose, who decided to become half of Steven.

“All right, Rose. We saw that glow. So why are you still a baby? Is it… really fun or something? *shapeshifts into a baby* Garnet. Hold me. *Garnet holds her in her left hand.* All right, I get it. This rules.” — Amethyst, “Three Gems and a Baby” (4.10)

When faced with a new situation, Amethyst wants to experience it for herself. Why not try being a baby for a while to see what it’s like? She may have the wrong impression of how Rose relates to Steven, but is her impulse all that different from Rose’s desire to experience being a human being via Steven?

That’s not to say Amethyst and Rose are the same person, or even have exactly the same personality. Some of the traits that make Amethyst quite different from Rose also repel Pearl, like Amethyst’s immaturity and wildness. In fact, the push-pull dynamic of what both reminds Pearl of Rose and what is so unlike Rose about Amethyst is precisely why I think Pearl struggles to get along so much with her. If she were a carbon copy of Rose, that would be simpler, she’d know how to relate to her. But she’s simultaneously drawn to and also wants to steer clear of those characteristics that remind her of Rose, while also being repelled by those qualities that differ.

When Amethyst was the ‘baby’ or ‘child’ of the Crystal Gems, it would have been easier to dismiss her antics and ignore how similar she could be to Rose. But once Amethyst started maturing, I think Pearl began to recognize what Amethyst and Rose have in common, and she’s highly ambivalent about it. I think she resists bonding with Amethyst not just because they butt heads and disagree about a lot of things, but also because of how much Amethyst echoes some of the characteristics that likely drew Pearl to Rose.

Just think about how much a mature Amethyst would look like Rose: independent, self-assured, rebellious, curious, full of energy and charm. An Amethyst fully in control of herself and her insecurities would be a leader many would want to follow the way they followed Rose. We’ve already seen how she can inspire the famethyst, at least a little bit. Give that time and direction, and Amethyst could very well grow into the leadership position she was created to occupy.

I also think there’s a reason why Rainbow and Opal have a strong visual similarity in styling, poise, and elegance. Why they both have ballet themes associated with them. The dynamic between a mature Amethyst and Pearl wouldn’t be all that different from Rose and Pearl. They balance and compliment each other well.

Far more similar than, say, Sugilite and Sardonyx.

This is precisely what scares Pearl most in my mind, perhaps even unconsciously. She resists it. She pushes away the person who reminds her most of her loved one and chocks it up to ‘being too different’. Basically, she’s afraid of getting too close to Amethyst, so she maintains a careful, annoyed veneer to mask an undercurrent of attraction to those qualities that make Amethyst most like her beloved Rose.

It’s fun to think about at least, and by fun I mean painful. So now you know why I have so many feelings about this show. Because I spend hours just imagining theories like this and their implications. Welcome to Steven Universe hell, my friends. It’s nice and toasty in here.


Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

Gretchen
Written By

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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