Masculinity is hard to define. More and more, we see displays of the damage toxic masculinity can cause if left unchecked. Many of our favorite games and shows promote these sort of ideas, even subtly. Although many of the games don’t outright state that “you must be stoic and physically powerful to be a real man,” this reading is still easily felt. The First Person Shooter genre is the largest offender in this case, with many action games following suit. But, I think masculinity can, and should, manifest in other ways: emotional strength, love, and bravery. These attributes could be considered “soft masculinity” as a counter to more aggressive, “hard masculinity”. Since the geeky areas on the Internet are still in love with Steven Universe, I’d like to use that show as an example of displaying masculinity in other ways.
I recently sat down and watched all the existing episodes of Steven Universe, and first of all, let me say that Rin was right: everyone should be watching this show. It follows Steven, a young boy who’s inherited his late mother’s magic Gem. He lives with his mother’s teammates, all skilled Gem-users who are raising him and helping to train him in his new powers.
Without digging deeper into word of mouth and the multitude of headcanons, the show is a fantastic subversion of gender norms, as it features a trio of diverse ladies with very different personalities and body types working together to save the world, and a little boy who looks up to these women as his ideal role models. The Crystal Gems are excellent examples of how varied a cast of women can and should be on television.
It’s probably Steven Universe’s easy rejection of societal norms that lent veracity to a rumor suggesting the Gems were even more unique than we originally thought. Recently, a post began to circulate on Tumblr asserting that show creator Rebecca Sugar had, during a Women in Animation panel at a recent convention, stated that the Gems were canonically non-binary. Continue reading