Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe has become increasingly popular not just with kids, but with many adults as well. It happens to be one of my favorite shows, and with the developing plot lines and new characters this summer, the show has been incredible! This isn’t your average TV show — and the Crystal Gems aren’t just your everyday cartoon superheroes.
This summer — during the Summer of Steven special — the show has been heating up. Plot lines are thickening and the Crystal Gems have finally caught up to the villainous Jasper. Amethyst, a small Quartz gem from Earth, previously lost a battle to Jasper in the episode Crack the Whip. In the episode, Jasper insults Amethyst and questions why Rose Quartz ever kept her around.
Since then, Amethyst had been determined to find Jasper and fight her once again. Amethyst has struggled with low self-esteem, often feeling like she’d never be good or strong enough because she wasn’t made “right.” After finding Jasper and attempting to fight her again, Amethyst tells Steven, “I can’t win, no matter what I do … she came out right and I came out wrong.” Steven consoles her and tells her that they’re better when they work together.
Bring on Smoky Quartz!
Steven and Amethyst merge together, making a new character: Smoky Quartz. They’re short with a dark purple-brown complexion, three arms and no gender. They’re super chubby and bubbly. As soon as Smoky showed up on the screen, fans took to the internet. While most fans were sharing their excitement, not everyone echoed those feelings. Folks aired their fatphobia on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and more, saying that a fat character sets a poor example for children. Which is silly, since Steven Universe has seen its share of fat/chubby gems and fusions: Amethyst, Rose Quartz and Sugalite, just to name a few. But fans never put up a fuss about them — mostly because they’re light in their complexions, strong and able-bodied. Folks showed their ableism, combined with transphobia and flat out anti-Blackness.
Yo why tf does Smoky Quartz look like a fat middle school kid who prolly has his own Minecraft Let's Play channel pic.twitter.com/p0l7AQuknx
— Portal The Freak (@TheGreatSWG) August 9, 2016
The calculation of Smoky Quartz
Of course the show is open to everyone’s interpretation, but there’s no doubt that this character’s design is quite calculated. As Steven and Amethyst fuse together, they use teamwork to complement each others’ abilities to help “poof” Jasper. Compared to the other fusions, Smoky’ isn’t immediately threatening looking, nor are they what most folks would consider conventionally attractive. Most of the other fusions are tall, skinny, etc. Smoky Quartz is none of those things, and that’s why they’re incredible!
They bring representation to those that aren’t usually recognized in media; especially for children. For once, the fat character isn’t the punchline of the joke. The disabled character isn’t there to be saved. This character might look small and weak, but they’re a complete bad-ass!
Smoky Quartz shows us the beauty in being disabled, in being fat with a round body type. Smoky Quartz shows us beauty in complexions that the sun has kissed more than others. Together, Steven and Amethyst created a bond that held each other with all of their insecurities, and there is immeasurable beauty in that.
Up until now, Steven had only ever fused with Connie, as Stevonnie. Fans have wondered why Smoky Quartz was “so ugly” if Stevonnie was so great-looking. Steven and Connie’s fusion was made to be conventionally attractive on purpose. In the episode “Alone Together,” Stevonnie goes to a rave where someone tries to coerce them into dancing with him.
Some fans even theorized that Smoky Quartz is “ugly” because it was Steven and Amethyst’s first time fusing. And while gem fusions can change their outward appearances, Smoky is perfect just as they are! They don’t need to re-fuse. They don’t need to practice fusing. Yes, they’re disabled. They love their skin, abilities and humor. They don’t need to live up to bullshit beauty standards to be incredible.
Representation matters most
This show has not only brought queer representation, but it also brings light to agender, non-binary, fluid identities and femme magic all around. They bring representation to physical disabilities — with Smoky Quartz of course. Lapus Lazuli brought representation to those with PTSD after being in an incredibly abusive relationship with Jasper. Pearl, as well, has seen her fair share of trauma in the gem war against Homeworld, as well as from losing fellow gems and, of course, Rose Quartz herself. Amethyst is physically disabled/different. The show brings attention to such important issues like consent, one’s agency over their body, boundaries, what abuse and intimate partner violence looks like, how to care for trauma survivors, how to love and so much more.
So many of these characters are coded and written so well. It’s important that kids see such a diverse group of characters, queer characters, mentally ill, those who are fat, those whose bodies hold trauma, grief, low self esteem and depicts them in a way that highlights their greatness and doesn’t solely focus on what’s “wrong” with them.