Sunday, May 26, 2024

“Your Mother and Mine” is a Rose Quartz Lore Bomb

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Ever wanted to learn more about Rose Quartz, Pink Diamond, and the circumstances leading to the rebellion of one against the other? If you watch Steven Universe, then of course you have. It’s one of the central history lessons fans have waited for since we learned Rose Quartz fought a rebellion to save life on Earth. Five seasons later, we finally have it through “Your Mother and Mine.” How was this lesson? Oh, you know. Packed full of new reveals, new questions, amazing stylized flashback art, and Garnet being the most adorable person of all time. And like most history lessons, it was highly biased because of the source.

your mother and mine rose birth

So buckle up, Betchen—the Fandomentals fusion of Bo and Gretchen—is back and we have plenty to talk about!


We start off with Lars and his merry band traveling slowly through space because the Sun Incinerator’s nova thrusters are not working. Steven pops with a celebratory sub sandwich to celebrate their escape from Emerald and adventure on the Jungle Moon. Flourite interrupts to say she’s finished something, and Lars assumes she means repairs on the thrusters. Which leads to the ship losing power once Lars tries to use them. Damn it, Lars. You’re supposed to be a smoother space pirate captain than that.

Okay, enough bad news. Good news; Steven brought a guest! That’s right, it’s the return of Steven’s cool twin, Stephon!

Wait, even better, it’s Garnet! The original offensive fusion delights in all the off-color gems as only Garnet can. She takes time to speak lovingly to each of them in turn, but it isn’t until she reaches Padparadscha that she realizes their tentative reactions. They think Garnet is making fun of them. They can’t understand why anyone would think of them as anything other than shameful.

When Garnet tells Steven about feeling the same way before meeting Rose, the off-colors freak out. Turns out they each heard a different horror story about Rose. You know what that means. Stylized flashback sequence story time with Garnet!

She tells of how the Diamonds expanded across Earth’s solar system and Pink Diamond chose Earth as her first colony. Quartz soldiers were pumped out without incident until Rose, who is immediately distinct in appearance from her sisters. Rose began noticing life on Earth and growing to love it. Yep, that includes banging early humans. We all knew she did, but we guess this is confirmation.

Like any good heretic she began questioning their mission on Earth. Eventually she was brought before Pink, who laughed at Rose’s pleas to spare Earth and demanded she fall back in line. You know the story from here. Rose starts a rebellion, gathers allies, and fights. Eventually she shatters Pink Diamond because she felt it was the only way to win. In response, the remaining Diamonds launched a combined attack that led to the corrupted gems on Earth, and only Rose, Pearl, and Garnet remained untouched because of Rose’s shield.

The off-colors react badly to the ending, since it looks like the Diamonds won. Garnet delivers an inspiring speech saying they haven’t won because the Crystal Gems are still around, and gems like them are everywhere. Gems like the off-colors exist everywhere and they can be an example to the whole universe that freedom and love are as universal as those who don’t fit in with societal expectations.

With this new inspiration, Lars sparks his crew into action! While they work to restore power, Steven tells Garnet about his Pink Diamond dream, and also wonders if she’s alive given how strongly he felt her feelings. The off colors restore power, but not the thrusters. However, they see a Yellow Diamond asteroid mine nearby where they can find parts and make off for it.

Go off-colors!

Delightful Little Gems

  • We knew Padparadscha’s ability would be useful and the “technical advisor” label would be more than a joke. Her powers always had too many potential uses.
  • White Diamond rules Saturn. Saturn! She could be so close!
  • Garnet was so extra with her imitation of Pink’s voice. Have to go that extra mile for theater.
  • Steven still calls Garnet the leader of the Crystal Gems.
  • Speaking of extra, Lars. LARS. He’s growing into the space captain role so well.
  • White Diamond’s neck is the longest neck yet. Maybe neck length is the ultimate status symbol of Homeworld.

Lingering Questions

  • Was the scene of the Quartz soldiers created on Earth meant to suggest Rose came from a different place than the others? Her spot looked much further below the surface than the other.
  • WE have to wonder at this point if SU fans are setting ourselves up for the same disappointment with Pearl that Star Wars fans did with Rey. Maybe Pearl just isn’t important and belonged to no one important? We need to accept the possibility rather than refute it and end up furious when none of our theories are true.
  • So is Pink Diamond still alive? We’re torn on whether we think that’s a good idea or not, but it has to be plausible after this episode.
  • You also have to question Rose’s comments about Homeworld being her home, while every origin has her created on Earth. There are still a thousand lingering questions about Rose still and every new answer just creates more.

Closing Thoughts

Oh boy. What an episode. We certainly learned a lot, but let’s get one thing out of the way about what we “learned” here. Let’s face the fact that Garnet was spewing pure propaganda from a highly biased POV.

I’m not saying she was lying. Garnet’s not a good liar. She genuinely believes what she says here. Thing is, we know some key parts of it are plainly untrue. Rose did not shatter Pink Diamond with the sword. If she did the deed, she did it with something else. The origin of Rose’s rebellion was obviously an embellished messiah type story that made her appear flawless. Considering Garnet didn’t even exist until well after the rebellion started, she would have been told all of this Crystal Gem history through second-hand tales from her fellow rebels, who would have obviously made Rose into this kind of savior-type figure.

The only scene not highly stylized was the Diamond attack that ended the war, which suggests it’s the only event shown that Garnet was actually present for. Everything else is highly debatable or outright false and we can’t know which at this point because we only have each side’s set of interpretations.

Still, we definitely learned some facts from Garnet’s tale. We have a better timeline of the rebellion now. Pink fought Rose alone for a while, then asked for help from both Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond. It appears as if the Diamond corruption attack occurred as soon as they found Pink shattered. This means “The Answer” almost definitely took place beforehand.

We also learned a little bit about Rose. Turns out she has been sexually involved with humans for thousands of years. There has to be some truth to her origin, even if it was embellished. Gems may lie but they don’t completely make things up. And we certainly know about Rose’s fascination with life on Earth.

Another fascinating tidbit is Rose’s change in form/clothing when she decided to join the rebellion. That her clothing choices were different from other Quartz gems we’d met has been apparent since the Zoo. Prior to this episode, it could have reasonably been assumed that her more feminine clothing had more to do with having a different role, perhaps a caretaker role that required a more ‘nurturing’ or ‘demure’ appearance. Yet when we first meet her in the flashback, she’s dressed like all the other Quartzes we’ve met: crop top and pants. Only when she gives her speech to spur the other gems to join her does she morph into the tiered, flowing dress she’s ‘always’ had on our screens.

What’s intriguing is the more feminine choice in presentation at the precise moment she decides to ‘break the mold’ and rebel. Normally such an action for a female-coded character has a more masculine tone and presentation. Yet here she is talking about resistance in a dress. We love it. Not only does it remind us of our other favorite space general—Leia Organa—it both elevates and recontextualizes feminine presentation. As part and parcel of her rebellion, her choice of apparel becomes a symbol of her empowerment and leadership. She’s not just a leader and rebel who happens to wear a dress, in Homeworld’s eyes, she is such because she chose to wear a dress, to look different from what they expected and demanded of her.

It’s a beautiful moment, and, coupled with Steven’s love of dresses, makeup, and other feminine coded behaviors, one that celebrates what many in our society see as weak, demure, and submissive. In that one visual moment, Rose embodies that no all female characters in positions of leadership and authority have to dress like men. You can kick Diamond ass and do it in a dress, tyvm.

The other intriguing element is the choice of title. Now, Rebecca Sugar and the Crewniverse are known for their in-jokes and sly referencing of other pieces of media, so it’s not that out of left field to wonder if the title “Your Mother and Mine” is a specific reference. To what, you might ask? Why, to Disney’s Peter Pan. Now bear with us. “Your Mother and Mine” is a song that Wendy Darling sings to her brothers and the lost boys after their day hanging out with the (horribly racist caricatures of) Native Americans. She’s telling them a story about who and what mothers are and represent to their children.

The picture of motherhood that arises from her song is sweet, domestic, and highly idealized. Mothers tuck you in at night; they offer you advice and comfort. They’re practically quasi-divine and definitely pure and wholesome: “Ask your heart to tell you her worth/ Your heart will say, heaven on earth/ Another word for divine/ Your mother and mine.” Not the kind of mother who would start a rebellion, murder her enemy, and leave her child with more questions than answers. Peter Pan’s mother isn’t the kind to leave a mixed legacy; she’s a source of comfort, not conflict, and she would never think to offer anything but encouraging words and a listening ear.

Steven Universe gives us an altogether different picture of motherhood. Yes, Garnet’s picture of Rose is an idealized one as much as Wendy’s is. In fact, if the Crewniverse does intent a reference to Peter Pan, Garnet’s story being an idealized, at least partially fictional version of Rose’s life is all but guaranteed. She’s telling a story that she believes her audience needs to hear even if it is one she believes in herself.

But we have seen Steven’s journey grappling with his mother’s mixed legacy. We know mothers aren’t always as straightforward as Garnet or Wendy would have us believe. Mothers can hurt us, mothers can leave wounds in ourselves and others that we have to live with. Even a heroic mother other people idolize can cause problems for us when other people expect us to live or act a certain way. Mothers aren’t divine; they’re human, even if they are Gems, and that means they are flawed. Not flawed in the way Homeworld perceives the Crystal Gems or the off-colors as being flawed.

As only Steven Universe can, “Your Mother and Mine” shows us what true flaws are with a minimum of explicit discussion. Presentation, a different set of skills, who one loves or how many—these aren’t flaws. These are aspects of ourselves we should celebrate, as Garnet does with the off-colors. Rose flaws, and thus any flaws the off-colors or anyone else has, stem from attitudes and choices.

And finally, White Diamond! She exists and we saw a real-life part of her body! No fusion or anything! We know we always knew there was a White Diamond, but without actually seeing her or having anyone so much as mention her by name, all kinds of theories sprouted about why. She was a fusion of all the Diamonds (Gretchen’s favorite theory)’ she was a fake symbol for Homeworld; she was dead. People had many ideas about her. Now we know she was always real and her own Diamond independent of the others.

She’s also freaking huge. Look at the size of her compared to the others, both in the silhouette and the shot of her arm! We can’t believe how many theories can come from a single shot of her arm. Since her power seemed to dominate all the others, does that mean she has some kind of corruption power? Or maybe her power involves the nature of gems overall and she just used one aspect of it by deforming all the gems on Earth? Her hand was also less “human” than the other Diamonds. What does that mean for her appearance and origin?

So many answers and questions, just like any good lore episode should create.

Of course, why did Garnet’s tale exist to begin with? Because she’s recruiting! The off-colors are now one step closer to joining the Crystal Gems! Steven Universe has always used its characters as representatives of marginalized communities, but  it’s been a long time since an episode has done so as clearly and with the focus “Your Mother and Mine” did.

It broke my heart to see the off-colors react so suspiciously and negatively to Garnet’s initial attentions. Yet the moment rings so true. How many people feel shame for their sexuality, their skin color, or any other aspect of who they are that isn’t considered “normal” by society around them? Too many. And too many people can’t believe anyone would find beautiful the things that they believe shame them. They don’t realize just how normal they really are.

Eventually, hopefully, you find out just how many people out in the world are exactly like you. Garnet learned that thanks to Rose Quartz and the rebellion. She’s still learning just how prevalent people like here are, and how Earth isn’t special in allowing gems outside the norms of Homeworld to exist. How many Homeworld gems sided with the rebellion the first time? How many would do so now? Peridot and Lapis already did, and Topaz was ready to join if the opportunity presented itself.

Now the off-colors can discover the same thing. They are beautiful, normal, and far more numerous than they suspect.

Steven Universe has always done representation so well and naturally that it’s barely worth mentioning on an episode to episode basis. Just look at how understated the reaction to Flourite was, a polyamorous relationship between like six gems. Garnet’s simple, “Flourite…woah…you’re just beautiful,” at once normalizes this kind of relationship without drawing too much attention to it. Flourite’s existence is a beautiful thing. End of story. How often is that the initial and only reaction to the depiction of a polyamorous relationship? And Steven Universe does it so casually that you can’t imagine any other way of looking at it.

The same goes for the other off-colors. “Your Mother and Mine” gave this messaging of acceptance a focus and as usual knocked it out of the park. We can’t wait to see the off-colors find more gems like them, and we can’t wait to see them grow into love and acceptance of themselves as they do.

This was a fantastic episode. Welcome back, Steven Universe.

Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

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