This episode is just quintessential Steven Universe, and I’m pretty sure it’s what finally made me a fan.
We begin with Steven trying to fuse with the Crystal Gems via dance routines, and failing because said routines just weren’t meant for him (even ignoring the issue of height, he clearly doesn’t get the more sexualized dance moves). He has his own style that doesn’t easily, well, fuse, with any of the others.
Then Connie comes over to cheer him up and they are too precious.
Connie: Well, I think it’s amazing you were able to dance with them at all. I could never do that.
Steven: Huh? What do you mean?
Connie: I’ve never danced in front of anyone before. […] There was a dance at my school, and I was really excited about it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I just couldn’t stop thinking about everyone staring at me.
Steven: Well…no one’s staring now.
Steven is just too precious. He puts on some music and they just start dancing, using a few of the steps/moves he was taught earlier, and also just goofing around, like you actually would at a dance.
The visuals are also pitch-perfect in this episode (which is, like “Lion 3”, partly credited to creator Rebecca Sugar), so I’ll not apologize for this image-heavy post.
I would call this judicious use of a first-person camera angle, simultaneously helping to tell the story and creating a little disorientation.
Steven. Connie! I did it! You did it? Wait. This…no! This is…great! Oh my gosh, look at you now!
Stevonnie: I’m a fusion. I have to show everybody.
First of all, I love the costume design on this character and how it combines Connie and Steven’s outfits into something completely new. If I were to cosplay any character in this show, it would be Stevonnie.
Second, this character just epitomizes what’s so unique about this show. It legitimately took me a while to process the existential weirdness this character represents – it’s one thing to see the other Gems fuse with each other, but it’s quite another for the viewpoint character, especially since Connie has such a wildly different personality and experience from him. And if I’m honest, it certainly didn’t help that this was the first fusion involving people of two different genders – it was the first time where “they/them” pronouns made complete sense to me.
The faces in this show are the best.
Pearl: This is unprecedented…a Gem fusing with a human being – it’s impossible! Or at the very least inappropriate.
Amethyst: Wow, you two look great together! How does it feel Steven…Connie…Stevonnie?
Stevonnie: It feels amazing!
Pearl: Yes, well, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourselves, but you two should unfuse this instant!
Stevonnie: What? Pearl, you were so worried Steven wouldn’t be able to do this. Aren’t you proud of him?
So this is the episode where the nature of fusion becomes a lot clearer – it’s not about physical intimacy so much as emotional intimacy. Here Connie gets a glimpse of Steven’s life with the Gems like she never could as “Steven’s friend”, and Steven in turn gets a taste of Connie’s insecurities.
Also, Garnet is clearly overjoyed by this turn of events.
Garnet: Stevonnie. Listen to me. You are not two people, and you are not one person. You are an experience. Make sure you’re a good experience. Now go have fun!
So they get to experience life not just as a much taller person, but as a beautiful stranger in their own hometown.
Stevonnie: Two donuts, please. What do I owe you?
Sadie: Nothing! It’s on the house.
Stevonnie: Really? Okay. But just so you know, that isn’t a very sound business practice.
Of course, two children suddenly experiencing life in an attractive “mature” body will also serve as a metaphor for adolescence, especially when they’re invited to a (non-school) dance party.
I totally did that sort of thing at a school dance. I was thankfully oblivious to any attention I garnered for it. Stevonnie, however, is acutely aware.
Stevonnie: I thought this was a dance party. Why isn’t anyone else dancing? This is what being cool at a cool dance is, right? This is how it’s supposed to be…why isn’t it like it’s supposed to be?
I love how this visually depicts how suddenly self-consciousness can make a situation awkward. I may not have much experience with stage fright, but I certainly know the feeling of wondering what on earth you did wrong and thinking everyone’s judging you.
And then Kevin makes it all worse.
I’ve always felt like I enjoyed Steven Universe for a lot of the same reasons I love Princess Tutu, and I think what that really boils down to is the way they both celebrate femininity and feminine perspectives. As much as I love stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, they’re still fundamentally masculine stories told from a masculine perspective (even some stories written by women can fall into that trap, like Harry Potter). Basically, I relate to Steven more than I do to dozens of “strong female characters” in fiction, and I generally feel very seen by this show. Like the jerk who won’t take no for an answer.
Stevonnie: I don’t understand what’s wrong. You have fun dancing, but this dance isn’t fun! You’re supposed to like this, why don’t you like this? I wish you were here. If we were together it would be okay. But we are together, and it’s not. I’m alone.
There’s just something about that “monologue” that’s inexpressibly sad – namely because I’m sure a lot of girls have felt like that before, but there’s not always someone else around to turn to.
Kevin: Hey baby, why’d you leave me on the dance floor?
Stevonnie: I don’t- I don’t want to dance anymore.
Kevin: What are you talking about? We’re the best thing that’s ever happened to this place! Come back out with me.
Stevonnie: Why should I?
Kevin: Because we’re angels walking among garbage people! We’re perfect for each other.
Stevonnie: How can you say that? You don’t even know us!
I definitely appreciate how this show addresses consent in a fashion that’s approachable for children. And at least Kevin finally gives up when Connie and Steven unfuse.
I am totally on board for more Stevonnie the fusion AND Stevonnie the ship!
Until next time…