Pop Culture

What the Steven Universe Leaks Tell Us About Entertainment

Priya Sridhar

Staff Writer

A 2016 MBA graduate and published author, Priya Sridhar has been writing fantasy and science fiction for fifteen years, and counting, as well as contributing columns to Chalkpack Magazine and drawing a webcomic for five years. She also enjoys reading, biking, movie-watching, and classical music. One of her stories made the Top Ten Amazon Kindle Download list, and Alban Lake published her novella Carousel. Priya lives in Miami, Florida with her family and posts monthly at her blog A Faceless Author. Website Twitter: @PriyaJSridhar

Steven Universe made 2016 better. A cartoon about a half-human boy that fights gem monsters, the show managed to convey adventure and love. Over time it discussed deeper issues, like war, redemption, and moral ambiguity. It carried me through a rough time, while delivering some serious episodes. The scheduling tends to happen sporadically, with random marathons and sole episodes.

With this, you would expect for me to feel pleasant surprise on hearing that Cartoon Network released the last of season’s four episodes on an app. I did not feel that. Like many fanbase members, I felt surprise. Then I felt suspicion. Cartoon Network does not deliver  Steven Universe episodes in batches, especially without warning. A few clips told me I didn’t want to watch all the episodes at once.

Eventually, it came out that Cartoon Network released the episodes on the app without telling the creator, Rebecca Sugar. Her crew didn’t know either; one expressed concern that fans were pirating the episodes. The end of season four was supposed to coincide with the end of January.

Cartoon Network, like other companies, has made its fair share of snafus towards creators. With the original Teen Titans show, it’s been confirmed that the amount of girls interested in the show combined with a lack of merchandising interest was why it got cancelled; the same circumstances happened with Young Justice, which Netflix is reviving. The Mary Sue has confirmed that executives do not want “girls” watching shows aimed at boys while covering a Paul Dini podcast.

Apart from Steven, women impact his world from beginning to end. Rose Quartz, Steven’s mother, drives the plot with her absence; in life she saved the Earth from a great war, and in death she leaves behind her son, his father, and her surviving friends. The Gems and Greg Universe cope with Rose’s loss, while Steven struggles to live up to his mother’s legacy. Steven’s best friend Connie is Indian, who grows from a shy bookworm to a skilled fencer. His other friends in Beach City include twin African-American girls that work at their dad’s pizzeria, and the only person Steven hates is a jerky teenager that insulted his dad and Connie.

When considering this, Steven Universe feels like a success. The show has a cast of mainly women, or at least aliens that take the form of women, and diverse humans of various races. We also have ample Steven Universe merchandise, including tie-in comics , that makes the show lucrative. Kids and adults alike adore it, and have expressed their love. Despite all this, Cartoon Network let Rebecca Sugar tell the story she wanted to tell. At least, that’s how things seemed.

Cartoon Network releasing the Steven Universe episodes early shows disrespect for the creator’s wishes. It would have been one thing if Cartoon Network had told Rebecca Sugar ahead of time. None of the Crew knew about the leak, however. As a result, the Internet got spoiled ahead of the original airdate. Instead of perfect progress, we get a huge stumbling block. The timing of this leak, with our country electing the most homophobic vice president for this era, feels like a step backwards.

I hope that Cartoon Network doesn’t mess around with the Steven Universe creators in the future. They’re already cancelling several long-runners such as Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball and Adventure Time, while they all will receive proper sendoffs. We need Steven Universe to remind us that tolerance can exist, and that love can persist with war and heartbreak. Steven can play his ukulele and fight gem monsters with a smile. The Gems can keep fighting without Rose and remind us to never give up.  The fictional humans can make doughnuts, play violin, and mix  music without fear.

Cartoon Network, I beg you as a Steven Universe fan to not do this again. The creators need their respect, and we viewers need honesty about these situation. If we aren’t entitled to peaceful life the next four years, then the Beach City residents certainly deserve it. For everyone’s sake, please prove you’re not the same company that cancelled Teen Titans when girls watched.