Steven Universe: funny, feminist, and fat-positive

steven universe TV show banner

Steve recently introduced me to Steven Universe, a children’s TV show that has also gained a cult following among adults (and what seems to be most of Tumblr). I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but I really like it, and I love that it’s body-positive without making a big deal about it.

The show revolves around the adventures of Steven, a 10-year old boy who is half-gem and half-human, and three gems who are basically his aunts: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. Gems are aliens who can take human-like forms, and these three protect humanity from the evil intentions of other gems and miscellaneous monsters. Steven’s father, Greg Universe, is so far a peripheral character, and there are occasional flashbacks featuring Steven’s mother, a gem named Rose Quartz who gave up her physical form when she gave birth.

Steven, both of his parents, and Amethyst are all fat–and their sizes are never played for laughs, or even mentioned. It’s treated as a matter of fact that Steven is chubby, Amethyst is short and fat, Garnet is tall and big-hipped, and Pearl is very thin. Since Steven’s powers come from a gemstone in his belly button, his chubby stomach is often visible, and this is never portrayed as negative or even noteworthy either.

steven universe trying to use his gem powers

Steven trying to activate his powers

The three gems are women with unique personalities who kick ass in their own ways, while also taking care of Steven and helping him learn to use his powers.  It’s refreshing to see three female characters who are both nurturers and warriors, who are strong without falling into the “strong female character” stereotype, who just feel like real people. I relate the most to Amethyst, who is the goofball of the trio.

The show also deals sensitively with Steven’s loss of his mother, and how both he and his father cope with her absence. I’ve only seen a few episodes that touch on that backstory so far, but I’ve heard from multiple friends that later episodes made them cry.

I also really appreciate that Steven feels realistically like a ten-year old boy: sometimes he’s annoying, sometimes he screws up something important, but other times he saves the day (often by accident). Throughout all his learning and growing and mistake-making, he’s immensely lovable, and the gems are kind and patient with him. They’re a loving, non-traditional family–which is pretty damn revolutionary for TV.

cosplay of rose quartz from steven universe

A cosplay of Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, who is tall and fat (source)

I can’t wait to keep watching and see what comes next, and I highly recommend the show for both adults and children. Having positive representations of fat characters is so important in a world where fat children are surrounded by messages that their bodies aren’t good enough.

And I can’t deny that it’s pretty cool to watch a show whose main character has the same name as my fiancé. If Steve ever changes his last name to Universe, I’d consider taking his name when we get married! 😉

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