Sexualized Saturdays: Steven and The Doctor; Gender Identity and Role Models in Steven Universe

Since its premiere, Steven Universe has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. The representation of numerous gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities, and creeds has been a phenomenal example of how diversity can lead to better storytelling and has provided many fans of all types with new fictional role models. The recent remarks by former Doctor Who lead Peter Davison, however, have had me thinking about one group that some say is overlooked in discussions of how this diversity is having an impact: straight white men.

Now, before anyone says anything, the reason this group is “overlooked” is that they have occupied a widely disproportionate number of the roles that need to be diversified in the first place; they aren’t overlooked, they’re usually the group being looked at. This demographic is the exact opposite of an underrepresented minority, and the overwhelming number of complaints I see about their exclusion are, as sixth Doctor Colin Baker says in his reply, “absolute rubbish.”

“Straight white male” has been the default target demographic for a wide majority of western mass media in the last century, and that identity is one that is effortlessly validated by a seemingly unending parade of straight white male heroes (even just ones named Chris). There is, IMHO, absolutely no argument whatsoever to be made that straight white men are underrepresented in media, let alone solely within the subgenres of animated kids shows featuring aliens or British time travel franchises. But the result of this debate was that I got to thinking about the nature of what messages these shows send, and how the identity of the messenger can impact the way it is received.

SU WHO - In the real way

He can show you how to be strong. (screenshot from Steven Universe)

Which, of course, led me to Steven Universe. SU is a show with a straight male protagonist, but also one in which the bulk of the show’s main characters are women and many are (essentially) queer women of color. The show demonstrates both that a straight white male can deliver a highly inclusive message and that characters with a different identity can deliver messages that are particularly important for those same young boys in need of a role model—the same ones that Davison is worried about. By validating that a straight white man can in fact be a messenger for diverse audiences, SU simultaneously demonstrates why straight white men can and must begin to learn more of those messages from messengers of other identities.

(Note: while the racial component to the “default” hero identity is equally important, this article will obviously focus primarily on the gender and sexuality components.)

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Optimism in Steven Universe and Overwatch

Fiction is a great source of escapism. And honestly, many of us have been in the mood for escapism lately. Politics have been more stressful than ever, turning on the news feels like an onslaught of depressing events, and grimdark fiction is still pretty popular. Cynicism in media just isn’t cutting it the way it has in years past. Movies like The Dark Knight, with its message that great people can turn to evil with a little push, just don’t feel the same anymore. Since so many things in the world are sketchy, I don’t want fiction telling me that it’s only going to get worse.

Luckily, optimism seems to be making a comeback. Although it comes in many forms—horror, fantasy, comedy, etc—a simple through-line no matter the genre is hope and optimism. I think that this is the commonality that brings us to escapist media. In horror, the chance of survival brings hope; in a fantasy, there’s the awe of the mystical and unknown, showing that unfamiliar things can be positive; comedy shows us that any situation can bring joy. This hopefulness is what creates the escapism, and I believe that there are some very good examples in our contemporary fiction in properties like Steven Universe and Overwatch.

The world could always use more heroes! (via Overwatch YouTube)

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Fanfiction Fridays: Maheswaran Approved by sparksofwrite

In the absence of regular Steven Universe episodes, I decided to venture into the wide, wide world of its fanworks to fill the gem-shaped emptiness inside me. However, while I do love and support the canonical pairings in the show, I’m not super married to actively shipping anyone, and so I decided to see what I could find in the more gen fic space instead.

I was delighted to stumble upon this particular fic, which examines the sometimes contentious but ultimately loving relationship between Connie and her mother.

(via the Spanish SU Wiki)

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Top 20 Romantic Couples in Geekdom (10 Canon/10 Fanon): 2017 Edition

Let’s face it, 2016 was tough, and 2017 doesn’t look to be much easier. So let’s delve into some of our favorite geeky romantic pairings to help us cope! Yep, it’s Valentine’s Day, that sickeningly sweet holiday when our authors nominate and then vote on ships for our Top 20 Romantic Couples in Geekdom (10 Canon/10 Fanon) list. It is now my duty to present to you the super cute and sexy ships of 2017!

via

(via tenor)

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Steven Universe #1: A Great Comic (For Someone Younger than Me)

Gentle readers, you may or may not know that I love me some Steven Universe. You may or may not also know that a new Steven Universe ongoing comic series debuted earlier this week.

I’m usually not that interested in comics series that are directly tied to ongoing series—for example, although I liked the various six-issue Adventure Time series that delved into the backgrounds of characters who might never get a lot of showtime, I never really felt the urge to pick up the actual Adventure Time comic. However, I broke with my personal tradition this week to try out the new Steven Universe series, because, well, I love me some Steven Universe.

Spoilers for #1 below the jump!

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Black Features Shouldn’t Mean “Other”

Happy Black History Month, dear readers! This month has always meant a lot to me on a personal level. Being a Black person, I’ve witnessed erasure of our achievements, dismissal of our problems, and omissions of us from opportunities. These types of slights often expand into nerd media, where representation is already scant. In that spirit, I want to discuss an issue that makes the existing representation troubling. We need to stop giving non-human characters Black traits to code them as “other”, as alien from the protagonist and audience. These characters, rather than just being another character in a group, are specifically different or strange.

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Sincere Vulnerability

I’ll be candid with you, reader: it’s been a tough few weeks for me. Like many others, between winter blues, the political climate, and the often negative nature of nerd critique, I’ve been in a bit of a slump. In times like this, I like to look at some of my favorite media that resonates with me on an emotional level.

I appreciate sincerity and vulnerability in media. In my opinion, that has been a common through-line in a lot of viral fandoms in the past few years. There is definitely room for being a badass, and admittedly, that’s an enjoyable trait to watch play out in a story. However, I think many of us are craving a sense of vulnerability in our characters, not just physically, but also emotionally. We want to be be able to empathize and connect with the characters by knowing how they feel, what their aspirations are, and what they’re thinking. Of course in superhero media, the protagonists are relatively invincible, but are they people under all that? In the past couple years, I’ve seen some really great uses of emotional vulnerability, and I think they illustrate the benefit of creating these character traits.

The sequence that probably sold tons of fans on the franchise.

The sequence that probably sold tons of fans on the franchise.

Minor spoilers for Steven Universe and major spoilers for Undertale after the jump!

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