Rock and Role Models: The Steven Universe Gems
You’ve probably heard it before: Steven Universe isn’t a kids’ show. Steven Universe is a kids’ show! Back and forth. Although some people might have issues with the themes of the show, Steven Universe has proven to me that it’s perfect for any demographic.
A couple of experiences I had at DragonCon 2016 while in my Rose Quartz cosplay leads me into this article. I struggled quite a bit with the topics for my DragonCon coverage. It wasn’t until Sunday night, when I was screaming Bohemian Rhapsody at the Yule Ball that I decided exactly what I wanted to write about.
I’m still a new cosplayer. I’ve only been doing it for about a year and a half. This past DragonCon, I revisited the Rose Quartz cosplay I put together for Geekiary writer Tara’s birthday. At the time, it was just a long white skirt thrifted from Goodwill, a ratty pink wig, and a Mr. Universe shirt. I remember thinking that it would have to do but wasn’t satisfied with it. I let it sit in my cosplay bucket in my closet for awhile before reinventing it for DragonCon.
It was Sunday afternoon and I was exhausted. Walking from the Marriott to the Hyatt, wearing my revamped Rose Quartz cosplay, I got stuck in doorways and elevators, trapping passersby. I stopped in the Hyatt Atrium to take a quick photo with an amazing Garnet cosplayer. Meaning to go back to my room, I ended up staying to take photos with some other SU cosplayers. Chatting casually with Garnet, I noticed a scattering of little girls and boys hanging around.
One couple approached me with their granddaughter, who had to have been 4 or 5 years old. She grabbed my hand and looked up at me and her grandfather said: “Do you want to get your photo taken with the princess? Sorry, she just loves princesses.”
The little girl turned to her grandfather and replied, in a clear, sweet little voice: “She’s NOT a princess. She’s ROSE QUARTZ.” Not only did she recognize the character, but she also understood that Rose was the opposite of the damsel in distress often portrayed in Disney films. The little girl threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug.
Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog, was also in the atrium with us. I watched a group of young black girls approach her with big smiles and take photos with her. Then they recognized Garnet. I heard the name rumble through and soon the girls were coming up to the cosplayer, visibly excited to meet her, this incredible, strong character. (By the way, Square Mom is best mom.)
That’s when I realized that while some people tout SU as an adult show, the kids who watch it benefit just as much, if not more.
People of color and kids of color get a chance to see some amazing characters on the screen, characters that aren’t caricatures or stereotypes. There is an amazing connection between the TV show and the kids. Many people don’t visit it nearly as often as they should.
I had a friend tell me that her son, who is autistic, is building his confidence watching Steven Universe. “Steven isn’t a traditional hero and one who sometimes makes mistakes even though he means well. [He (her son)] has gone so far as to ask about my sexuality [and] the issue of gender and talk about women in powerful roles because of it… which has been wonderful.”
We need amazing characters of color like Connie, Amethyst, and Garnet. We need more role models for children of color and their families, and we definitely need more diversely gendered characters. Aside from teaching positive lessons, it also helps kids ask important questions.
Do you have any experiences with kids and Steven Universe? Let us know in the comments! Keep Beach City weird!
Bekah has a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from Anderson University and is the Executive Assistant at Saga Event Planning. She is a frequent convention attendee and cosplayer and co-hosts The Geekiary webcast “The Bitching Dead”.
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