LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE! …and sing and probably cry a little, too. It’s time for “Tiger Philanthropist”.
“Tiger Millionaire” was the ninth episode of Steven Universe, and it was the show’s first glimpse into Amethyst’s emotional issues. What we knew then was that she used her rebelliousness to mask their existence. It was only in retrospect that the pieces fell into place. Amethyst feared she couldn’t be a “real” Crystal Gem, having emerged years after most of the rebellion had been wiped out. Wrestling was a mostly harmless outlet for the warrior instincts seemingly built into Quartzes, and playing the heel was a way to work through her fears that she was a bad guy, a parasite made to destroy her home planet.
It was also where we saw Steven dealing with one of his first emotional struggles — how to cope with people who don’t like you. It’s an issue he’s had to deal with time and time again despite his sunny disposition. He has learned about apologies and making things better, but also discovered that sometimes, you just can’t change how a person feels about you — whether it’s because your mother was a murderer, or because they disagree with your artistic choices.
Amethyst, too, has matured so much since the early days. She’s confronted her origins, her lack of experience, and her disability. She’s found acceptance both within the team and with her fellow Amethysts. And she’s formed Smoky Quartz. With all that, she doesn’t need wrestling anymore — not as an escape, and not as a bonding experience.
The problem was: she never actually bothered to tell Steven that. So when Amethyst just drops out of wrestling out of the blue, of course he’s hurt and confused. And being Steven, of course he doesn’t want to tell Amethyst that. So instead, he finds another reason to continue wrestling — Lars — and is disappointed when he finds it unfulfilling. The scene where he finally confesses all this to Amethyst is pretty quiet and low-key. No musical numbers, or shouting matches, or tears. Just talking. They’ve formed Smoky Quartz from mutual understanding; they can only maintain that relationship through continued communication. It is so refreshing that Steven Universe is teaching the lesson that even solid relationships can stumble, and that communication is what can pick them back up again. Never before has watching your heroes being completely pummeled been so heartwarming!
Emotional moments aside, “Tiger Philanthropist” was a hilarious romp. Lars and Sadie were a delight all the way through. Sadie’s frustration that Lars cannot understand that Steven is Tiger (“No way! Tiger’s ripped and like seven feet tall!”) was hilarious. And Lars’s line, “I’m a complicated teenage boy! I don’t even know what I want for breakfast!” The writers clearly had a great time returning to wrestling tropes, parodying them with loving glee. The ridiculous, cheesy costumes were great, but personal favorite goes to the ‘Sea Wasp’, based on an animal so obscure that Mr. Smiley had to quickly google it.
It may not be a spectacle, but this episode happily encapsulated the things Steven Universe does so well. The mixing of Steven’s two worlds, the balance between silliness and interpersonal relationships. No doubt he’s gonna need some of both before the Diamonds come knocking on Earth’s door again…
Author: KK Bracken & Laura B
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