Alright, I'm pretty sure most people aren't really gonna care about this journal entry. And that's fair, most people shouldn't have to be subjected to other people's whiny rants about stuff. But personally, there's a show that I loved dearly once that's been consistently letting me down to the point to where I only watch it as an obligation to this day, and don't really have another place that I can air my grievances personally. So here's the short of it, I'm falling out of love with the cartoon Steven Universe.
Unlike many people, I actually thought the series started strong with Season 1, even the very beginning. I really loved how even way back then, the show had a distinct "feel good" vibe to it: Steven was an innocent sweetheart, Greg was a good, if nervous dad, and the Crystal Gems felt like a happy surrogate family. As shown as early as Laser Light Cannon, there was a hint of something far more sinister over the horizon, but it was good at showing Steven's innocent and naive viewpoint and quickly grew into a fun action/slice of life show with awesomely horrific episodes like Cat Fingers and Frybo. As the series went on, the show began to show some serious depth: Steven, Pearl, Amethyst, Garnet, and Greg are all bundles of insecurities and serious issues, and I love the maturity and respect the show (usually) goes with handling these issues. Stuff like death, grief, self-loathing, and anxiety were all expertly handled, with later episodes even touching on domestic abuse. And of course, the heroes weren't the only selling points: Beach City is full of lovable, eccentric, and memorable characters who have issues of their own: Sour Cream's hailing from a fractured family, Mayor Dewey's position as a buffoonish yet well-meaning and good-hearted politician who's out of his depth, and Kiki Pizza's struggles with putting her foot down for her own sake. And of course, once the show touched upon a darker past to the Crystal Gems involving a rebellion from an oppressive fascist alien race of sociopathic planet looting psuedo-Nazis, we got to meet wonderful characters like Lapis Lazuli and Jasper, as well as the baggage that came from Steven's mother Rose Quartz's controversial decision to kill Pink Diamond.
For two seasons the show consistently impressed me and left me eager to see more of its lovable characters, take in the raw emotions, and root against the nasty Diamond Authority... but season 3 has been going downhill like crazy, a trend that hasn't stopped in season 4. And it really, really saddens and scares me. There are multiple reasons why I'm starting to lose faith in the show, and it'll take some time to get it all out, so bear with me here.Reason 1: Poor and Inconsistent Characterization
Boy oh boy, this has REALLY been a problem in season 3, and even a bit late in season 2. Steven Universe started out having consistent, well-rounded characters who not only had wonderful personalities, but ones that made sense. Come season 3 however... maybe it'll work better if I break it into particular characters who I take issue with.
My BIGGEST issue is with Peridot. Peri, Peri, Peri... much like her characterization, my feelings toward this character have varied considerably. I started off not caring about her in the slightest, grew to love her once she was stuck with the Crystal Gems, but now she teeters between a mid-favorite and among my least favorites. When she first appeared she was a rather cold and surprisingly heartless villain: showing a startling lack of empathy by viewing Steven as a pest in need of extermination and crushing an injured Robonoid of hers. I didn't hate her, though I didn't get the hype around the character (I got left behind on watching the show and got back into it after Jailbreak aired. Note: I'm no bandwagoner, I liked the show from the start! I just slacked off on watching it
). Come season 2 however I fell in love with her. It was entertaining as all hell seeing this coldhearted bitch show her hidden layers as a goofy, dorky, bratty little gremlin who thinks a wee bit too highly of herself, and it was humanizing seeing her slowly mentally unravel due to being stuck on the planet with the enemy and no way to go back home. It was cute seeing her reach out to Steven and through him, develop a conscious. And yet, it didn't feel forced, at least at first: she still held on to a lot of bad behavior that rubbed off from growing up in a bad home: she was bigoted towards Garnet and Pearl, openly gushed about how Dear Lead- er, I mean Der Fuhr- AHEM, I mean the Great Diamond Authority should have strip-mined Earth into oblivion, and was hilariously rude towards others. I loved how flawed and multi-faceted she was, and liked seeing her grow a grudging respect for the Crystal Gems and learn how to be a better person though.
That was all ruined at the tail end of season 2 and most of season 3, when she kind of grew into the token "small annoying forcibly cute teammate" of the Crystal Gems. She became a fangirl of sappy cartoonishly Canadian TV, got big into social media, started using human slang, and for whatever reason has this obsession with befriending Lapis Lazuli (Probably because some of the writers, one in particular REALLY wanna shill Lapidot). She feels like a completely different character than she did for most of season 2, and I don't like it. She's not the intelligent jerk with goofy nerdy tendencies and an inflated ego learning how to be a better person anymore, now she feels like what I can only call "le quirky Peridot!1!!1!!! XDDDDDDDDDDDD": a character whose quirky tendencies completely overtook her identity instead of being a part of it. Plus, her redemption was honestly poorly and sloppily handled: right after gushing about how Hitl- (Okay I'll stop) er, Yellow Diamond did nothing wrong, she suddenly burns her bridges with Yellow Diamond by insulting her to her face, declaring that Earth had things worth protecting, and otherwise did the Crystal Gem song and dance despite it being made clear in the previous episode that she had lengths to go to unlearn her toxic mindset. Sure, after her traitorous behavior sinks in she's horrified... but gets over it really quickly. And what feels REALLY weird is that she still comes off as inconsistently characterized: in Beta, she's "le quirky Peridot!!1!!!!!!1 XDDDDDDDDDD" in full force, but in Kindergarten Kid, a season 4 episode,
she's suddenly back to her old (and far more likable) rude jerk with goofy tendencies characterization. Out of all the characters, her inconsistent writing sticks out the most.
Lapis Lazuli is another big offender of inconsistent/bad characterization. This one really hurts because she's an incredibly nuanced character and one of my absolute favorites. For a while, she was consistently characterized as icy, vengeful, and standoffish towards most people after being put through so much crap, but had a much sweeter side she reserved for Steven which shows her as being debatable a better mom than most of the Crystal Gems. She also has a lot of issues that ring home with abuse victims: she has downright awful self-esteem, is prone to shutting down emotionally, and became an abuser herself after being yanked around by Jasper. I LOVED this so much... which is why I find episodes like Hit the Diamond and Beta downright insulting to the character. In those, she's this cartoonish goth girl who is incredibly apathetic and feels completely different than she usually does. And in Beta, she's suddenly best friends with Peridot with some blatant Lapidot pandering going on while in her previous appearance she loathed the very ground Peri walked on, and for good reason. And to add insult to injury, SHE was treated as the bad guy in Barn Mates despite having every reason to hate Peridot. Gah.
Garnet... alright, it isn't inconsistent characterization or even really bad: she's still the same stoic badass with the occasional asshole moment who nonetheless is adorably affectionate and maternal towards Steven. But in recent episodes... I dunno, there are some who feel that she's been losing her sense of identity and is basically reduced to being a fusion. It's hard to explain... but I kind of agree. Lately it feels that she's less her own character like she was in the past, and everything about her is now related to being a fusion. And even worse, her components, Ruby and Sapphire are dreadfully boring characters.
They have no
depth whatsoever, and can be defined as either being rambunctious and fiery or cold and distant, and being super in love for one another. And what's worse is that due to them being lesbians, not liking how one-dimensional they are or how unhealthy
their relationships seem (Seriously, they put Peridot's life at risk because they couldn't hide their lady-boners for one another) will get you put under fire for criticizing a sacred cow. Bleh.
Connie I feel instead of being inconsistent or poorly characterized is just boring.
I don't HATE her as she is a nice kid... but that's all she's got going for her. A bland, nerdy, nice girl with not much else to her. I liked her better back when she was struggling with her emotionally abusive parents because I could heavily identify with her feelings of anxiety regarding mom and dad... until that problem was suddenly taken care of. Now she just bores me. It's kinda fitting, her fusion with Steven, Stevonnie, is in my opinion the most boring fusion. But that's for another day.
That's about it for my characterization rant, part two's gonna have me talk about my issues with wasted potential in recent episodes. So uh... yeah. See you guys next time. Or not. I dunno.