When the title for “Steven vs Amethyst” first showed up online months ago, along with a host of other apparently Amethyst-themed episodes, the fandom went a-flurry with theories. A battle between Steven and Amethyst? What could possibly trigger it? Would she change sides? Get corrupted? Try to kill Steven?
It’s a testament to Steven Universe’s sharp writing that while they did create an incredibly intense fight between Steven and Amethyst, they did so without putting in any of the character derailment or forced miscommunication these plots usually need. So yes, we get to see two of our heroes clash in a head-to-head battle… but we also got them saving each other’s life and give AGGRESSIVE COMPLIMENTS.
After yesterday’s awful beatdown of Amethyst at the hands of Jasper, it’s hard to admit that this battle was kind of… fun. Lauren Zuke and Hilary Florido boarded a funny, complicated episode in “Steven vs Amethyst.” Somewhere in eleven minutes there was time for the whole awesome fight sequence, a heart to heart about the burden of unattainable expectations, and Pearl points.
Pearl wasn’t all perky teacher in “Steven vs Amethyst.” Saying something like “we may be smaller, weaker, and less gifted than our opponents…” to a self-conscious Amethyst, let alone an Amethyst who has just been beaten badly by a “superior” Quartz, is insensitive, if unintentional. It feels like season one Pearl and Amethyst, when Pearl was hurting Amethyst’s feelings and Amethyst wouldn’t admit it. I guess although I love these two sad rocks and hate to see them at odds, I know how true to life rehashing old communication problems can be in relationships. All I can hope is that Amethyst tells Pearl that she’s feeling inadequate and scared after what Jasper did, and Pearl can take a little bit more care about how she talks to Amethyst about being “smaller, weaker, and less gifted.” Perhaps they can find some common ground in being “defective,” if only they’d talk to each other. Pearl and Amethyst deserve a musically narrated mediation by Steven Quartz Universe, is what I’m saying.
In our review of “Monster Reunion,” we wrote about how Steven Universe handles representing disability. The Crewniverse uses the literal alien nature of the Gems to broaden the metaphor of their messages. In “Steven vs Amethyst,” Amethyst rejects the “you can be anything you want to be” moral often put out in a lot of children’s media. On a basic level, it’s a good message. It’s intended to give kids confidence, tell them that they can do anything, just as long as you try.
So what happens when you try, and you try, and you try, and you just can’t? If Amethyst succeeded in what she was obsessing over in “Steven vs Amethyst” and she trained real hard and became a great fighter and defeated Jasper, would that make her the perfect Quartz soldier? She says: “I know what’s wrong with me. I’m not supposed to be small.” Nothing could make her permanently bigger, so what would she be left with then?
Amethyst can’t seem to take her own advice from “Too Short to Ride” about focusing on who you are and not who you aren’t. Which is a shame, because as Steven hollered throughout the episode, Amethyst can do some pretty cool stuff. She’s got two shockable whips, she can do the dash thing, she can rock a ponytail like no one else can. She is objectively the best shapeshifter of any Gem we’ve met. Even her overcookedness saved her from the big bad Diamond corruption blast; Amethyst would literally not be around if she were a “normal” Gem.
Amethyst is not Jasper, but she is fun and funny and loved by her family. Amethyst can’t fight like Jasper, but she is not brainwashed and brutish and a bully like Jasper, either. Still, the beating was traumatic, of course it was. Combine with this the fact Amethyst only recently discovered her “defect” through Peridot, meaning Rose and Pearl and Garnet kept the truth from her for thousands of years. It is no wonder she feels angry and resentful, even though channeling it into an obsession with defeating/becoming Jasper is not a good thing.
At least Amethyst is able to open up to Steven. “I get mad at myself and then it makes me suck at everything I do even more,” she tells him. Despite falling back on some old destructive habits, this is a different Amethyst than the one from “Tiger Millionaire,” who refused to acknowledge any of her negative feelings at all. She recognises her faults, and is actively working to address them.
I’m not sure how this storyline will be resolved. Will Amethyst find a way to defeat Jasper, perhaps through superior planning and shapeshifting? Will she do it through teamwork and fusion? Or will she realize some other way that she doesn’t need to defeat Jasper at all, that she doesn’t have to measure up to Homeworld’s standards to find self worth? It will be intensely exciting to find out.
Tomorrow’s episode, “Bismuth”, is the show’s 100th episode, and is clocking in at a double length half hour special. I’m sure absolutely nothing emotional or heart wrenching is going to happen.
Author: KK Bracken & Laura B
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