‘What would Steven want?’ ‘Steven Universe Future’ creator breaks down the finale
The following contains spoilers from the finale of “Steven Universe Future.”
Happily ever after, here we are. It‘s been quite the journey.
In “Steven Universe Future,” hero Steven Quartz Cutie-pie DeMayo Diamond Universe learns that there are certain repercussions to a childhood spent fighting to save the galaxy.
The limited epilogue series, which concluded Friday, specifically focuses on Steven’s mental health and his compounded trauma from fighting in an interstellar war.
“It’s taken a toll on [Steven], being the protagonist of the show to whom everything happens, who is tasked with fixing everything and has to feel personally responsible for everything,” series creator and showrunner Rebecca Sugar told The Times. “For me ‘Future’ was about going on this journey through Steven with Steven [and] really unpacking everything that the show had been.”
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Like the main series, “Future” addresses themes that are rarely covered in children’s television. And in examining the aftermath of victory, the show tells a story that often gets glossed over.
“I also wanted to make a statement at large about shonen anime and kids cartoons and the fact that children are tasked with saving the world and end up in really brutal fights,” Sugar said. “Especially in action shows, action cartoons, action stories — if you win a fight, it’s as if that’s not a problem that you were in a fight.
“But having someone fight you is a really difficult experience to go through, and that’s something that you need to unpack. If you win it doesn’t mean that that didn’t happen,” they added (Sugar is nonbinary and uses both she/her and they/them pronouns).
Below, Sugar addresses some of the key moments from “Steven Universe Future,” edited for length and clarity.
On Steven turning into a monster
Once the trajectory of “Future” really became clear in my mind, that seemed like the direction that we needed to go in. We had a lot of different ideas for what he would need to face, but ultimately we all decided that what he really needed to face was his own problems. His own situation. So we looked for a variety of ways to do that, which we tried to showcase all throughout “Future.”
One thing that I’ve really enjoyed about “Future” is that we’re really calling back to a lot of things from the very first season [of “Steven Universe”]. The idea of him transforming and losing control of his body is something that we had seeded very, very early on in the show.
On monster Steven’s design
We were very inspired by kaiju designs. Him being a kaiju was our goal, but we also wanted to make sure that you could see the relation to him in the design itself. There were a lot of really fantastic ideas from our character designer Becky Dreistadt, our background team, and Miki Brewster and Etienne [Guignard], who were all working on the episode. We wanted some shield-like elements — elements that felt almost like pieces of his shield coming out of him like they’re embedded in his body a little bit. And I wanted to make sure that he fit in with the way that the monsters that we have had on the show [have looked].
On Steven proposing to Connie
For me, it was something very relatable when you’re really feeling insecure to just look for another person to lose yourself in and to tell you who you are. Also, [in] my experience as a bisexual kid, I was told so often that my relationship would ultimately define me. That I would find out if I were truly lesbian or if I was straight because of whatever relationship I would settle into. So I find it really fascinating and really tragic when you’re in that place, when your sense of self is in that deficit.
I read a lot about differentiation as a concept, especially back when we were working on the wedding, because it’s something that had to do with Ruby and Sapphire. The idea that you really need to build a solid sense of self so that when you’re with someone you can love each other as individuals — because you are protecting and developing yourself as an individual even when you’re in a relationship.
Steven is not there in [the episode in which he proposes to Connie]. He’s not in a position where he even really knows what it is that he wants from his future.
We discussed this extensively in the room too — “What would Steven want?” And we all were just like, “He wants to get married.” That’s not even a question. Steven has dreams: He’s gonna want to get married, he’s gonna want to be in love. He’s Steven Universe. That was a really interesting snowball that started rolling because even we were trying to figure out what he could want for himself, and what he would need to do even to set himself up to eventually be that person that could be in the kind of relationship that he was dreaming of.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Steven has goals that involve being in a relationship. But he needs to exist as an individual. He needs to take care of himself in that way in order to have that.
On Steven lashing out at his dad
There’s no truly reliable narrator in “Steven Universe” or in “Steven Universe Future.” [Steven]’s not wrong [for questioning his upbringing]. Greg’s also not wrong that Steven is a Gem and there’s a lot about his childhood that couldn’t be the same as a human child.
The family that Steven does have is extremely supportive and loves him so much, and that does worlds of good. Even in difficult living situations, even when you’re in danger, to have the kind of love that Greg has for Steven and the way that he will be there whenever he can be at a moment’s notice is also a powerful, powerful magic. The most powerful magic that we have access to as humans.
I was very inspired when reading “The Deepest Well” [by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris] … about how transformative love and support from a parent or close friends, family [can be]. Extremely mentally and physically transformative, powerful healing comes from that kind of support, which of course is also true for Steven. That’s how he’s been getting through everything through the series proper. There are so many people in his life that love him so much. And he knows that and he carries that with him everywhere he goes, and he’s going to continue to even after “Future” is over.
On Steven’s decision to leave Beach City
Steven is making decisions for himself based on what he feels and what he wants to do, and that’s a really huge step. No more “shoulds.” He can decide what he wants to do and what he needs to do for himself. He can experiment and he can make mistakes, but he needs to just be there for himself through that process. And this [road trip] is really giving him an opportunity to do that.
I also wanted to make sure that it was clear that he’s planning [on] seeing people. He’s saying “Hi, I want to see you when I’m in this place.” He’s gonna meet up with Lars at certain times. He’s not going to be alone.
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