BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Weeks 12 and 13 – So Long, Steven

Weeks 12 and 13 – So Long, Steven

I’m not doing too well with my resolution to get back to regular Blogress Reports, I admit. But I can’t let another week slip by without marking a notable occasion: the end of Steven Universe.

It feels almost unreal that it’s been nearly five years since Steven and the Gems came into my life. I started out figuring that I had to start watching because I was seeing it all over Tumblr and I didn’t want to get even more spoiled than I already was. So I started a segment on my blog dedicated to giving my thoughts and reactions as I went about catching up, thinking that if nothing else, I could at least get some traffic out of it. Cynical, I know. I clearly remember thinking “There’s no way this thing can be as good as Tumblr makes it out to be.” I was guarded, willing to be surprised but expecting nothing.
Anyone who followed my commentaries knows what happened: I fell in love. You can see it happening… or you could, if I didn’t actively discourage giving the corpse of Tumblr any more hits than necessary, but I digress. I went from “Okay, this is cute” to “WHAT HAS THIS SHOW DONE TO ME” in less than a week. There, when I least expected it, I found something miraculous. Something deep and meaningful and emotionally complex. Something progressive as hell and unafraid to shout it to the rooftops. Not only did Steven Universe live up to its hype, it exceeded it. That summer, when SU came back from one of its many hiatuses, I was fully on board. My commentary sub-blog, which I had intended to run only until I’d caught up, ended up lasting three and a half more years, to the very end of the original series. It even outlasted Tumblr! I convinced my friends to watch it with me, I downloaded the soundtracks, I made a tribute remix and a t-shirt design… and in 2018, I met Zach Callison, the voice of Steven himself. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said with total honesty: “Your show is a masterpiece. What you’re doing is essential, and I think your show is equal with the works of Miyazaki.”
2018 ID: BHS is Steven Universe Approved by bhsdesk
Equal with the works of Miyazaki. Five years ago, I’d have never dreamed I’d say those words about a Western cartoon. I’ve idolized Miyazaki’s work for almost half my life now. Princess Mononoke was and still is my favorite movie ever, and it has been since the night I first saw it. Hell, I wrote a psychology paper on his films in my senior year of high school, and got an A- on it too. So maybe you have some inkling of what it means for me to say that Rebecca Sugar’s weird, wonderful, beautiful work belongs up there with Princess Mononoke in the list of things that I don’t just love, that aren’t just influential to me, but they’re life-changing. Steven Universe is one of those things.
In other words, it’s far, far more to me than just being a fantastic animated series. Putting aside the enormous influence it’s had on my creative work, I feel I must remind you that Steven Universe inspired me to publicly come out as asexual/aromantic. I had been struggling with my sexuality for a long time, and SU’s bold message about loving who you are and not being ashamed, damn the consequences, resonated with me. It spoke to me in ways I don’t think I fully understood at first. When I finally realized that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t abnormal or broken just because I couldn’t feel romantic attraction, that maybe being like that was okay and I could be worthy, even beautiful as a person anyway… it was transformative. That realization gave me strength. I worked up the courage to come out to my friends and loved ones, and despite all the chaos that’s happened in my life since then, I think I’m much happier for it overall.
So now, after five years as a constant part of my life, Steven Universe is over. It’s only fitting that a show that surprised me so often during its run would hand out one last surprise in its final episode. I gotta be vague here, because I know that at least a few people reading this aren’t caught up yet, but… well, I was bracing myself expecting total emotional devastation, and I didn’t get it. Not in the actual final episode, anyway… the stuff leading up to it was auuuuuuuuugh. Instead, “The Future” was a gentle coda to the series, lighthearted and just a little bittersweet. It prompted tears from me, yes, but not the ugly crying I expected. And the more I think about it, the more I think… yeah, I’m completely satisfied. Much as I love bittersweet endings, after all he’s been through, Steven deserves a happy one. Not to spoil, but he got it.
And now, after seven years, five seasons, a movie, and a 20-episode epilogue miniseries, we’re done. Steven and his friends belong to the ages now. Rebecca Sugar and the cast and crew, be proud of yourselves. You made something miraculous. You made animation history, you changed countless lives including mine, and you went out in a blaze of glory. I’ve said a lot of words in this entry, but I think I can finish up with just this: thank you so much. Thank you.
– BHS
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BHS Blogress Report: 2019, Week 44 – Essential Work

Week 44 – Essential Work
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong about being honest about things that are painful and hard. I don’t want to suffer in silence; I want everyone else who hurts in this profoundly important way to know that they’re not alone.”
 
The line above comes from a blog posted today by Nathan Rabin. It jumped out at me shortly before I started this entry. Nathan Rabin is a fantastic writer, in my opinion one of the finest film and media critics in the world, and I’ve been following his work for years. I’ve grown to respect and admire him even more since he began writing candidly of his struggles with depression and feelings of failure, subjects I’m all too familiar with. The blog entry in question concerns Mark Twain, and how his chronic inability to manage his money contributed to his greatness as an American author and humorist.
Rabin’s words reminded me of my favorite lines from Steven Universe: “You have to be honest about how bad it feels, so you can move on!” That’s something tremendously important, which doesn’t get said enough in today’s society… we’re told to “tough it out” and “keep a stiff upper lip” and “always look on the bright side” over and over again. Revisiting SU with Ninty is giving me a renewed appreciation, not just for how good the show is, but how essential its messages are: all types of people are beautiful and valid. Loving yourself is just as important as loving others. Empathy and compassion can be superpowers.
I may not always be the best at following the advice and lessons that the show dispenses, but I feel with absolute certainty that I’m a better person for watching it, that the series has had a positive impact on my life and my growth as a person. So in that spirit, I’ll be honest here: I don’t love myself, and I haven’t loved myself for many years now. Part of that is depression, and part of that is the result of a life that hasn’t turned out the way I wanted or expected. There’s been a lot of pain, physical and emotional, and a lot of regrets over mistakes I’ve made. I’m not, generally speaking, a happy person… but one of Steven Universe’s greatest gifts and greatest messages to me is this: change is possible. It’s given me the hope that someday, maybe, I can change and learn to love myself again. I’m a flawed person, but so is everyone. Those flaws will never really go away, but maybe I can learn to accept them as part of who I am and grow from there.
It’s enormously profound stuff for what’s seen as a children’s show… but as I said to Ninty, part of the secret of Steven Universe’s genius is that it’s not written like a children’s show. It has a raw emotional honesty and complexity that many if not most so-called “adult” media lack, and it’s tackled issues no other series will touch with unparalleled skill and sensitivity. Rebecca Sugar and her cast and crew do essential work. So does Nathan Rabin, in his own unique way. And maybe, in my own way, so do I.
– BHS

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