Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe has been a breakout hit for Cartoon Network. The first series on the network created by a woman, it tells powerful, funny, and moving stories in tiny doses, and has dealt uncompromisingly with issues around gender, childhood, and family in ways both unexpected and delightful. It’s also telling a great long-form adventure story. We’ll talk about all elements of this show in a panel that, like the show itself, will appeal to fans of all ages.
Cassandra Lease (m), Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Juliet Kahn, Cody Mattes
I'm going to say upfront that this panel made me unreasonably grumpy because (a) the room it was in had some deep thrum in the HVAC that made me feel like my brain was melting (I left a panel yesterday because of that, also because I needed a nap) and (b) my breakfast consisted of two chocolate cookies, which was nobody's fault but my own. I heard lots of people being happy as we left.
It is reasonable of me to be grumpy that, after announcing that questions were going to be held until the end, the moderator let someone who appeared to be a white dude interject a question. (Many other people had put hands up and been told by the panel to wait.)
I also had some subjective grumps about the panel's structure, which was highly structured, i.e., Powerpoints. I appreciate the work the mod put into the slides, which was obviously considerable, and included a little video with song snippets plus that extended theme. (Sing-along! It was so much fun. She tested the sound before the panel started by playing the start of the extended theme, people started singing along, and everyone was so sad when she stopped it that she started it back up.) But I'm not a fan of such rigid panel ordering and taking up time with multimedia presentations, no matter how squeeful they were, because it was a packed room and there were SO many audience questions and very little time for them. I much prefer to take questions throughout the panel, at transition points, for this reason.
I didn't take a lot of notes because I didn't bring a keyboard and because I've still never tidied my exhaustive notes from several Readercon panels. Also, a lot of what was said was good and true but also not new to me. Here are some non-spoiler comments:
Rebecca Sugar did fanart for a show called Ed, Edd n Eddy, plus created a comic called Pug Davis which is a space opera about a guy with the head of a pug and his gay sidekick, and which a fast Google suggests is now comprehensively unavailable.
Ian Jones-Quartey, before animation school, did a webcomic called RPG World which Max was a big fan of and which also appears to be completely lost. (Also, his grandmother was awesome.)
And now a few spoiler comments:
Various summaries of the show:
"Simpsons meets Sailor Moon, but better"
"Repentant alien conquistadors"
"Space moms don't understand human nutrition"
(I still like "The year’s most adorable animated musical about planetary genocide" (tm Genevieve Valentine).)
Steven's outfit in "Sadie's Song" uses the colors of the Transgender Pride flag. (I was told last night in conversation that Garnet's first fusion incorporates both those colors and the colors of the bi pride flag.)
(This was part of a conversation in which SU was mentioned as doing trans themes right. IIRC, things cited were: Gems creating their own bodies; Stevonni and Amethyst (I hadn't realized that sometimes she adopts the wrestler form after the wrestling episode); "But if it were me, I'd really wanna be a giant woman.")
The room busted up when, during a discussion about fusion's metaphorical richness and how Malachite was an outlier, someone said "hashtag not all fusions."
Juliet, who identifies as biracial, said that Steven was personally meaningful metaphor for biraciality: all his mom's side of the family came from the old country, which he's never been too, and that moment in "We Need to Talk" when Greg & Connie fist-bump "humans" and he's like, "Humans?" (I don't have episodes with me, so am paraphrasing.)
Max pointed out that Gems reproduce literally virally, we see abandoned virus shells in the Kindergarten, they're just huge.
The inevitable "what was up with Rose Quartz?" question; someone suggested that Lion was what was left over when Rose Quartz stopped being Rose Diamond. (Fandom also seems to like the idea that Pearl was once White Diamond's Pearl, which I don't particularly like because I feel like she ought to mention that, and we know there are lots of Pearls on Homeworld.)
Audience member suggested that Peridot and Pearl are coded as on autism spectrum, Steven and Amethyst as ADHD. Someone on panel was particularly struck by similar behaviors of Peridot and autistic relative.
My question, that I didn't get to ask: does anyone have a theory on why it's the Crystal Gems?
Finally, today I learned that Utena is UTE-ah-na not you-TAY-na. One of these days I'll watch it, I swear.
(After the panel I had mediocre food at Rosa Mexicano—half the tortilla chips were so soggy with grease they were actually difficult to chew—and then wrote this first because I was going to write up Friday's panels to put myself in a better mood, but it's already three and I have a panel at four, so probably that should wait. I have had my SU playlist on repeat, though, which has done wonders for my mood all by itself.)