by Daniel Wirtheim
Beyond 12-years-old I was never a huge fan of cartoons. I liked Hayao Miyazaki movies and a handful of graphic novels but I never thought I would feel so passionately about a cartoon as I do with Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe.”
A friend of mine introduced me to show about a month ago. He wouldn’t shut up about how it was such “a ball of light and joy,” queer-friendly and maybe the best show ever made. At his request, I gave it a try and since then my girlfriend and I have watched nearly half of the first season of “Steven Universe.”
It’s about Steven, a young boy whose mother was a Gem — the most badass group of superhero alien girls the planet has ever seen — and he therefore holds some super powers. But he’s not completely Gem-like, since his father is only a washed-up musician.
In every episode, which last about 10 minutes apiece, there’s some kind of inexplicable and often ridiculous evil. But we know, since it’s stated in the show’s glorious theme song, that the gang “will always save the day.”
Some feminists have championed “Steven Universe” as a cartoon with a male lead that respects, admires and takes leads from powerful women. Rebecca Sugar, the first female animator, composer and director for Cartoon Network, created the show. She’s also the creator of “Adventure Time,” another hit show on Cartoon Network.
I think it’s the pioneering mentality that makes “Steven Universe” exciting and refreshing. I think it’s something about enjoying a cartoon with humor that reaches such a broad range of ages and backgrounds that makes it entertaining. I love the social dynamics and the impact the stories might have on a younger audience. But as a staunch critic of cartoons, I think the most important message here is for the cartoon-hating adults — that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
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