Steven Universe Finds Religion
If you’re a fan of Steven Universe and you haven’t been up to date with the newest episodes, please be cautioned: spoilers may be ahead.
Two weeks ago, I walked into my parents’ kitchen wearing a Steven Universe T-shirt. The shirt depicted a scene from one of the most recent episodes, “Reunited,” in which the characters Ruby and Sapphire marry. My father looked at me and asked if the two were Jewish because the brides were standing under what looked like a chuppah.
I tried to explain to him that Ruby and Sapphire are sexless aliens who come from another planet and don’t practice the same religions as humans, but then I remembered a particular moment from the wedding scene: ice appears beneath Sapphire’s feet, and she crushes it, evoking the Jewish tradition of the groom breaking a glass under the chuppah. Maybe my father was onto something.
I don’t think Steven Universe is trying to have religious themes. The cartoon is well known for its themes of LGBTQ acceptance and love, and the wedding was one of the highlights of the series. (Ruby and Sapphire, although sexless, are voiced by women and use she/her/hers pronouns.) Given that the show is the creation of a bisexual woman, Rebecca Sugar, this is hardly surprising.
When I did a little research on Sugar, I realized that she was raised in a Jewish household, so it makes sense that elements of a Jewish wedding would be present within one of her show’s episodes. However, there was something else that had been keeping my mind active, something I think the show’s creator and producers may have overlooked.
The titular Steven Universe is a half-human, half-Gem individual. Gems are sexless aliens (Ruby and Sapphire are members of this species), and they don’t reproduce like humans do. Steven possesses his mother’s gemstone, along with her powers. When Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, gave birth to him, she had to give up her physical form to bring him into being.
The current season of the show also reveals that Rose Quartz was hiding her true identity: Pink Diamond, one of the four most powerful Gems in existence. The Diamonds are responsible for controlling the Gem Homeworld and creating new Gems. Every Gem in existence was made to serve one of the four Diamonds (White, Yellow, Blue, or Pink).
So, some Gems are clearly dedicated to their Diamonds. Peridot was made for Yellow Diamond, and she initially claims that she’ll never “forsake the Gem she was made for.” Other Gems in the series are not as loyal or dedicated to the Diamonds as she is. A group of rebels called the Crystal Gems resides on Earth, a planet which initially “belonged” to Pink Diamond. The planet was intended to be another part of the Diamonds’ growing empire. However, we find out in season five that once Pink recognized the value of life on Earth and that none of it would survive her invasion, she decided to protect the planet rather than destroy it. After failing to convince the other Diamonds to let her preserve the planet, she assumed the identity of Rose Quartz, the leader of the rebellion against the Diamonds and defender of Earth. And the episode “A Single Pale Rose” shows that Pink Diamond, with the help of a Pearl, decided to fake her own shattering (yes, that kind of shattering) to end the threat to Earth once and for all.
I can’t be the only one who sees Rose Quartz, Pink Diamond, and Steven Universe as parallels of the Holy Trinity. Pink Diamond, a creature with godlike powers (in the eyes of her followers), dies for her crimes against Earth; Rose Quartz, her alternate identity, gives up her physical form in order to bring her child into the world; and Steven, who possesses the powers of a Diamond, lives and deals with the legacy of his mother’s two identities. In the case of Steven Universe, these elements are the Mother, the Son, and the Pink Diamond Gemstone. If the Holy Spirit is meant to be the “one God in three Divine Persons,” then the Pink Diamond Gemstone is the equivalent of the Holy Spirit. It is the one physical trait that links the three characters together.
My hunch is that the parallels between Steven Universe and religions are accidental and not meant to be taken too seriously. At the same time, I feel like they need to be addressed, as the idea of one of the characters as a god/goddess gives insight into the powers she wielded. Some of these powers were inherited by her son, and many of these powers can be wielded by at least two of the three remaining Diamonds in the show. If Steven is a demigod and Blue and Yellow Diamond are lesser gods/goddesses than White Diamond, then our hero and his allies may have to face their greatest foe sooner than they think.
header image: still from Steven Universe / Cartoon Network