Thursday, January 26, 2017

Karyn Hijacks her Mother's Blog to Talk About Cartoons and Empowerment

My mother as a Gem, Tanzanite.

You might be aware of this cartoon show, Steven Universe, that airs on Cartoon Network. It involves a magical race of sentient stones called Gems who appear as women of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. This has captured my heart, as a fat woman in her late 20s. For the first time ever, I have seen a character in a show who is fat portrayed as beautiful and well-loved. Rose Quartz, who is all at once a mother, a fierce warrior, a rebel, a savior, a healer, who understands and loves humans but who is also confused by them every step of the way, betrayed her home planet to defend the Earth from invasion and colonization thousands of years ago. She eventually fell in love with a human man named Greg, and after working hard to understand and love each other, they had a son named Steven. Giving birth to Steven effectively ended Rose's life, but she wanted him to live and love on Earth as a human being--something she valued incredibly. Rose is eight feet tall. Rose is portayed as huge in all respects--she looks soft and strong simultaneously. Her hair is a mountain of billowing pink curls. She radiates love. She is flawed and complex and spectacular.

The thing that has captured me about Steven Universe is the incredible diversity in the characters. Each of the gems we meet is wildly different from the next. There are short, hefty gems like Amethyst, who was created on Earth and is half as tall but just as charismatic as other gems of her same class. There is Garnet, a fusion gem who is both stoic and emotional, brave and frightened, secretive and open. Pearl is a former servant who was at one time a total renegade--political rebel and intergalactic outlaw. On Earth, she is motherly, anxiety-ridden, and uptight. We see soldiers, like Jasper, and technicians like Peridot. Each Gem is, if you forgive the pun, multi-faceted. They have flaws and prejudices to overcome. They have weaknesses and strengths. They feel limited, not good enough, and scared at times. At others, they feel invincible and cunning. Chances are, there is someone like you on Steven Universe. Even if there isn't someone like you, there could be. Steven Universe is a show in which you, the person you are right now, could very well exist. You, with your fears and you foibles, your ugliness and your beauty--you could exist in this world.

Rose Quartz is someone I like to think I have a few things in common with, but she's not me. She made choices I don't know if I would make. She said things I don't know if I would say. But a Gem like me could exist, because a Gem a little bit like me already does. When I was growing up, I fell in love with the show Sailor Moon because there were so many girls on it who were super heroes! And they were realistic--they got scared sometimes! They had to pull themselves together! There was even one girl, Sailor Jupiter, who couldn't find a uniform that would fit her at her new school. I couldn't find shit to fit me when I was growing up. Granted, it was because Jupiter was too tall, which isn't the same as being fat, but I didn't really have any chubby characters to look up to as a little plus-sized girl crying in the JC Penney's junior section. Everyone on Sailor Moon was beautiful--pale skin, slender, with long legs and perfect hair. It was easy to identify with their characteristics, but not so much with their appearances. With Steven Universe, the human occupants of the town are incredibly diverse in all ways, and the magical girls are just as diverse. I couldn't exist in Sailor Moon, not really. But I could live in Steven's world. In his universe. Someone like me could be something special.

and if i did exist there, this is what i'd be. peace out.

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