The best lessons I have learned from Steven Universe

So 2016 sucked. Like the amount of animosity I have towards a metaphysical entity of a made up concept is downright ridiculous, but as the worst year ever ends and a new one begins, i will not wallow any more on how much life sucked last year. Instead I return to writing my bullshit opinions about media and what a way to start the new year than writing about the best thing ever.

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If you don’t know what Steven Universe is then shut yourself off from society for a couple of days, just you, your laptop and a couple of crystal gems BECAUSE YOU WILL BECOME A BETTER PERSON. I started watching SU because it was popular on the internet and i am a slave to popular culture, but it soon became apparent that this was a show for me and people like me and there had not really been a cartoon show for liberal minded young people with a pastel colour palette and musical interludes before. (All of which are my goddamn weaknesses.)

The story follows Steven Universe as he navigates life as a crystal gem, a team of alien heroes defending life on earth. Steven is the half human son of their former leader and is learning how to be a crystal gem. And gosh darn he is adorable.

(Actual dreamboat)

We follow Steven as he learns to control his gem powers with the help of his crystal Gem family, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, and his human family, Greg. We see him interact with the people of Beach city and Connie, who is his best friend (and maybe moreeeeeeee) as well as face the ongoing threat of homeworld. I am not going to give you all the lore of the show as I already have several whiteboards full of conspiracies about this show, that would be impossible to explain, but needless to say the world Rebecca Sugar and her team have built is vast and immersive and fascinating.

But the really incredible thing about the show is that they’ve decided to use that world to teach children important lessons and to demonstrate healthy behaviours and ideologies. While making dumb jokes. TRUE ART.

So these are some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from Steven Universe.

  1. HEY, THEY LET YOU MAKE TV SHOWS ABOUT LESBIANS.

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Ok so this isn’t technically a lesson the show itself taught me, the actual lesson the show taught kids was that it’s okay to be gay, which is still pretty impressive and undoubtedly one of the best aspects. But the really amazing thing is that they got away with it? Like do you know how hard children’s networks work to block queer narratives in their shows. So hard that when Adventure time wouldn’t let Rebecca Sugar make the queer narrative between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum explicit, SHE CREATED A SHOW WHERE EVERYONE IS A LITTLE BIT GAY OUT OF SPITE. Like truly amazing. A show formed by a bisexual woman’s need to tell the world to suck it. That is critically acclaimed. Solid life goal. But the best part is that it’s enabled so many more shows to branch out, like loads more queer narratives are a possibility that wouldn’t have been 5 years ago. So the first lesson Steven taught me is to write whatever I want.

2. You have to do things your own way. 

Since episode one it’s been made pretty explicit that the only way Steven is going to work is if he does what works for him, and the same goes for every other character. If there was a universal message of Steven Universe it would probably be something along the lines of, Be unapologetically yourself and work hard at it. After all the reason the crystal gems were formed is because some of them didn’t fit into the mould set by the homeworld so they started a revolution. Which is an interest idea to keep with you as we head into Trump’s America, Be You, Work Hard and Screw the people who try to make you feel anything less than what you are.

Sorry for that turning into an inspirational instagram post.

3. You don’t have to be perfect.

Granted this one is very similar to the last but let us consider the immortal words of Greg Universe,

“If every porkchop were perfect we wouldn’t have hot dogs.”

As well as teaching you to work in your own way and strive, the show continually teaches us that your flaws do not define you nor do they detract from what makes you great. And as someone who regularly deals with copious amounts of self loathing this is a lesson that I need shoved down my throat at multiple intervals. Character arcs are formed around self acceptance, and that’s amazing for a cartoon show, especially when the medium usually deals with hijinks and action sequences and fart jokes. One of those is the worst. And it sure ain’t hijinks.

4. Always be kind. Always try to understand. Always greet people with a smile.

Be kind, be soft and make friends with monsters. Steven is a silly serious show which sometimes cannot understand which kind of tone it wants much like the writer of this article but at it’s core it is gentle. Also like this writer. And that’s why this show is a good show to watch when you are a little sad and maybe in need of something to tell you there is good, that everyone has some good, including you. Steven is like the best chocolate cake, glass of nice wine and hangover cure rolled into one. It tells us simultaneously to be kind whilst being kind to us with small soft stories. Steven is smol and you should be too. God i love this show.

5. Talk about how you feel and even if its bad.

The season four episode “Mindful Education” might not be my favourite episode of Steven Universe, but it is the one I sometimes think about at one a.m when I can’t sleep. Because the emotional impact of that episode really just hit. The lesson was simple, talk about how you feel and trust other people, even if what your saying is bad or if you have to admit you did something wrong. Simple, but honestly how many times has that been a message in media? How many times do you see a character say they think that acted badly and not immediately try to defend themselves with skewed morality so they seem like the good guy? looking at you all network crime shows. We never got told to talk about our feelings. Did we ever get told it was okay to feel bad? Or was everything from our childhood this constant stream of be happy, be happy all the time, if you aren’t everyone will make fun of you and you will sit in the corner in a grey colour palette. Yes, Yes it was. This episode is a classic example of Steven telling you its okay to feel and it okay to talk but it isn’t the only one. And I am so happy that in this quite frankly dark and unsettling time we have things like this telling us to look forward to the future and have hope.

 Steven Universe is a good show, I’ll probably end up writing and talking about it more on here, but if there is one thing I can tell you to do this year to make it better, it would be to watch this show.

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Also here is a handy picture of fellow twogirlsoneblog writer Liz, as her probably gemsona Pearl. The amount of similarities are startling. (Debate is still ongoing as to whether I am Amethyst or Peridot.)

~Elly

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Spotlight Review: Best Picture Winner [Spoiler Free]

Directed by Tom McCarthy

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

When the news first broke of the mass sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, I was six years old. Needless to say the story didn’t have an impact on me. But I still wasn’t aware of it when I was 13, or really when I was 15 and in fact I think I was 17 when I first grasped the proper extent of what had happened. A brief internet search will show you how little the Church has done to apologise and the extent of the inaction at the time this was all going on. One of the first things I thought at the end of Spotlight was how the Church really didn’t receive any proper punishment for the cover up. Now when Catholicism is brought up people mention how much they like the Pope, or Stephen Colbert, or some perverse idea of a Catholic Schoolgirl. And the fact is that the Catholic Church kinda got away with global sexual abuse on a mass scale and I am really not okay with it.

Neither is Spotlight, a mix between a love poem to investigative journalism and a punch to the stomach. Based on true events in Boston around  the early 2000’s Spotlight tells the story of an investigative journalism team who stumble across the truth of the sexual abuse committed by priests in Boston, and the cover up committed by the Church. It follows the team right from the initial investigation of one priest to the printing of an article exposing 87 priests as sexual abusers.

For the first film on this blog I may have picked one of the hardest to watch, but I mean that in the best way possible. It tricks you in its pacing, starting out as an ode to investigative journalism and its processes before starting a slow build up to the trauma of what was happening. Suddenly you’re halfway through and what happened really hits you and your stomach drops and you can’t really be anything other than angry till the end of the film. Even after that the emotion stays with you and personally that is the sign of  good film.

Firstly let’s just say – Mark Ruffalo, otherwise known as possibly my second biggest celebrity crush (my heart will never leave you Oscar Isaac), is fantastic. Definitely deserving the supporting actor nomination, as did all the cast. One of the great things about these performances is that nothing ever felt purposefully dark, the subject matter certainly was, yet these were still normal people, who could still display joy, tiredness and shock in what they were facing. They were journalists dealing with dark subject matter but with the exception of some excellent moments they never made it personal to them. Basically it was really great to see real people dealing with this rather than messengers of angst (There’s a reason why I struggle with Police dramas).

Other noteworthy performances include Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber who bring an element of control to almost everything they do, especially Schreiber who to be frank felt like he was on a whole other level throughout the entire film, he just stole your attention in every single scene. As well as the performances from the victims, whose testimonies and stories were that much more appalling when you realised they were probably real life stories.

Also Stanley Tucci is in this film??? Did you know? I didn’t know, Liz didn’t know and let me tell you there is nothing better than a surprise Tucci. Go watch it, do it for him and his majestic toupee.

We all know that we here at two girls one blog love feminism, so folks let me put on my FeminElly hat and talk about the lack of women in this film and the deeper more perturbing fact that for once I did not care as much as I would have in other films, (I have stuff to say about the Revenant and The Big Short, don’t you worry). Rachel McAdams’ character was perfectly fine, with some stand out moments, but overall she didn’t have the draw in that Mark Ruffalo had when he was on screen. She had nice moments though and Liz was very excited about the fact that she was wearing normal person clothes that were practical to work with. The complaints that I do have were that the victim narrative was very focused on the male victims and didn’t really mention the mass amount of female victims as well. Also, too many white people and despite the fact that I adore Mark Ruffalo, passing him off as Portuguese is mighty shady.

One thing that this film knew how to do was handle a montage sequence, like, I am a fan of a good montage, whether of the cheesy musical kind, or the intense crop of beautiful shots and movements like spotlight had. Again it reads like an ode to investigative journalism, with sequences focusing on groups of librarians finding information, or the interviews with victims, or dear god the beautiful printing press sequence, my kingdom for every film to have a well shot printing press sequence.

The cinematography was also on point throughout the entire film, gorgeous wide shots emphasising the urban community within Boston and some particularly impressive tracking shots, because everyone loves a good tracking shot.

Overall guys, go watch this. The storytelling is on a whole other level of emotionally manipulative, dragging the audience in every direction before leaving you with a sense of awe and frustration that I haven’t felt since the overwhelming white guilt of Twelve Years A Slave. The cast are superb echoing the curiosity, frustration and disgust that I imagine was felt by everyone in the community. Spotlight in my opinion fully deserved its win this year and I hope it sends out a message that we need investigative journalism, we need people to look into this kind of thing, otherwise who knows what kind of tragedy will go unnoticed for who knows how many years?

Overall Score: 8/10

March: To Watch List

So does anyone remember the Oscars? Happened last week, kinda extremely racist, Leo won? Well your intrepid reviewers stayed up until 5 AM watching that ceremony for reasons I can’t claim to understand. So throughout the month of March we will be posting our Oscar Film reviews and judging whether or not they really did deserve the wins, or losses they had. Expect a lot of shade at the academy’s blatant racism.

Films To Watch:

Spotlight Poster

Spotlight: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. Directed by Tom McCarthy.

Carol Poster

Carol: An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman. Directed by Todd Haynes

The Revenant Poster

The Revenant:  A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Room Poster

Room: Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

The Martian Poster

The Martian: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Directed by Ridley Scott.

The Big Short Poster

The Big Short: Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. Directed by Adam Mckay.

I get that Brooklyn and Mad Max aren’t on there but rest assured they will be watched eventually, there’s only so much time in a month.

And the Danish Girl isn’t on there because it’s boring.