Let’s Talk About Amethyst
Shapeshifter. Comedian. Runt. Earthling. Amethyst was introduced as the fun-seeking, free spirit of the Crystal Gems, but five seasons have peeled away her scruffy outer shell and revealed the deeply self-critical Gem underneath.
Amethyst was designed to fit into a very specific cartoon archetype: the troublemaker. Despite being millennia old, Amethyst acted like a teenage trickster, pranking and irritating people for the sheer heck of it. In fact, it was fairly hard for some audience members to sympathize with her at all. Why was she so needlessly cruel to everyone around her?
The answer? Lots and lots of internalized self hatred.
“Still got that good hole smell.”
Unlike other Gems, who once served Homeworld and then chose to rebel against them, Amethyst was ‘born’ after the Great Gem War was over. She emerged into an empty Kindergarten, where she was left alone for an unknown amount of time. We can only imagine the intense levels of boredom she must have faced, and that still impacts her character into the present. She’s perhaps the most self-sufficient of the main cast, yet also the one most likely to dramatically lash out to get attention.
Eventually Amethyst was found by the Crystal Gems, who welcomed her into a loving, if atypical, family. Unfortunately, it was a family who were all laden with their own emotional baggage, and they couldn’t help but pass it onto their newest member.
The Crystal Gems fought for Earth and freedom, and to hear Pearl tell it, the war was nothing but a glorious victory. “I wish I could’ve seen it,” Amethyst once remarked. Even though Garnet immediately pointed out the sheer horror of it all, Amethyst continued to feel out of place among these comrades-in-arms.
Not just out of place– guilty. The Crystal Gems fought to prevent Kindergartens from sucking the planet dry of all life. Having been created in one of those Kindergartens, Amethyst felt like the enemy her family fought against, a parasite that fed on her own home.
While Pearl always spoke openly about the horror of the Kindergartens, Rose Quartz stood as a gentle maternal figure who could reassure Amethyst. “You’re perfect the way you are,” she would say. With her support, Amethyst felt free to do as she pleased, content that in Rose’s eyes, she didn’t need to change.
And then Rose Quartz died and turned herself into a baby. Uh-oh.
“I will fight for the world I was made in!”
Amethyst was always the baby of the group, and now suddenly, Steven is. He’s the one who’s young and sweet and has everyone going out of their way to look after him. Amethyst is now expected to take responsibility and protect him. Before, it never mattered that she was the most inexperienced in a group of trained soldiers. Now, it could get someone she loves seriously hurt.
There was also the bubbling frustration that her grief couldn’t match the other’s– especially Pearl, who has a bad habit of making things all about her. Amethyst is very much the type of person who pretends everything is fine, until suddenly, it isn’t anymore. That’s what caused her to lash out at Greg when he wouldn’t indulge her, tormenting him with the shapeshifted form of his dead wife.
Amethyst’s arc over the first two seasons is accepting that it’s time to grow up. That her actions and words can not only hurt other people, but can help others as well.
She shares with Pearl how the Kindergarten comments made her feel like nothing but a mistake. She begins to understand how many of Pearl’s actions come from a similar place of low self-esteem. She learns to take missions more seriously. She works on keeping her anger in check, and not lashing out when insulted.
Then Amethyst met her toughest challenge yet: Jasper.
“She came out right, and I came out wrong!”
In the Steven Universe podcast, series creator Rebecca Sugar described Amethyst’s upbringing akin to a kid with hippy parents. They were genuinely loving, supportive, and encouraged Amethyst to be whatever she wanted to be.
But to make up for their own overly restrictive upbringings, Rose, Garnet, and Pearl may have swung too far the other way. Amethyst felt fairly untethered, without any real goals to strive for in life. This is why so many of her powers tend towards flexibility. Her whip is versatile, able to be used both in attack and subduing. She excels at shape shifting, reflecting her constant attempts to be something she’s not.
Fusion is also used as an escape to become a different person. This is most obvious with Sugilite: Amethyst reacted with unbridled glee at the chance to fuse with Garnet. Then Sugilite reveled in the ability to get away with the stuff Amethyst (or Garnet) never could. Opal is a more subtle manifestation of it. Amethyst doesn’t want to show just how much she craves sharing in Pearl’s grace and prowess, but she does nonetheless. As Garnet wrote in The Guide to the Crystal Gems: “Opal achieves a sense of peace in that balance that Amethyst and Pearl rarely experience on their own.”
Peridot tells Amethyst what she was ‘supposed’ to be. On Homeworld, quartzes are big, brawny soldiers, loyal and obedient. But Amethyst came out late, and she’s not. She’s given an unattainable goal to strive for.
Amethyst shows amazing self-restraint, and doesn’t lash out at Peridot for these direct insults. Nonetheless, these fears fester until she her showdown with Jasper. The quartzes are mirror images of each other: Jasper, the perfect soldier from the rush-job kindergarten. Amethyst, the overcooked runt from the superior prime kindergarten.
Having spent her entire life raised in a system that believes power is everything, Jasper rubs these differences in Amethyst’s face at every opportunity. She takes perverse pleasure in assaulting Amethyst and attempting to kill her. Jasper doesn’t view this as evil. This is the way of the universe: any Gem who can’t perfectly serve Homeworld’s order is better off eliminated.
Homeworld is often used as a metaphor for harmful human systems. Their hatred of mixed fusions is a metaphor for queerphobia. Pearls’ prescribed roles represent the subjugation of women, as silent servants with no power of their own. Quartzes, in contrast, are stand-ins for the ideals of masculinity– and the dangers when that masculinity turns toxic.
That toxicity is Jasper’s downfall. Taught only to value independent strength, she’s unable to build relationships or make healthy fusions with others. She has no outlet to share her fears or concerns. The second she fails, she believes wholeheartedly that she deserves it, and chooses destruction over accepting help.
Amethyst, however, overcomes her internalized ableism. For a long time, she tries and tries to measure up to that goal, and eventually admits: “I’m not supposed to be small. And everyone’s always acting like there’s no problem. You can be anything you want to be. No! I can’t.” It’s a rarely shared message, but an important one. People aren’t created with the same abilities and strengths. However, we’re all worthwhile despite that.
So Amethyst recognizes her limitations, her low self-esteem, but fights on despite them. She bonds with Steven over their shared weaknesses, creating Smoky Quartz, a manifestation of the sibling-like love they share with one another.
Ultimately, Amethyst’s shapeshifting is her greatest strength. She doesn’t have to confine herself to one shape. She can break the mould in any way she chooses.
“I’m 8XM! Facet-5, Cut 8XM– That’s me!”
After her ugly history with Jasper, it’s perfectly understandable that when tasked with infiltrating a group of Homeworld Amethysts, Ame is terrified. Turns out, she didn’t need to be. The Zoo Squad are caring, lovable pranksters, happy to be reunited with the sister they never got to meet. They even have a few ‘defects’ of their own.
Amethyst dubs them ‘The Famethyst’. In return for giving her some reassurance about her identity, Amethyst inspires them with the possibility of freedom and rebellion.
While Amethyst may have a new family in space, they’ll never replace her old one on Earth. She and Pearl indulge in now playful bickering, and fuse into Opal effortlessly. Garnet and Amethyst egg each other on, drawing out each other’s playfulness. She’ll encourage Peridot to try gardening and improv. She’ll play video games and eat junk food with Steven.
Amethyst is happy being Amethyst, no matter what form she takes.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world.
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