One thought on “Vlog Review: Steven Universe S3E20-21

  1. Once again sorry I get back to you so late but I still feel I should put a comment about this here.

    First of I don’t know who you expected to be pissed of but it definitively wasn’t me…. actually more the opposite…. that was really worth listening to because I really changed my mind here a little bit… but I come back to this in a moment.

    I also really liked this episode like you and I think that was basically everybodys reaction to his. That was an impressive little character arc for that runtime and a lot of people are now wishing for more double length episodes (still don’t know if that would really be a good thing but I bet the try more specials like this in the future). Also I can actually keep this much shorter then usual because I skimmed though the Youtube comments and guess this time a lot of people put stuff I noticed way more eloquently then I could.
    In general the community found a lot to unpack and talk about with this episode and you already saw that there a few quite contentious plot points with lots of viewpoints (beside the one obvious). Really fascinating stuff.
    But for me that was for the most part impressive because the really surprised me (again) with how serious they take their bigger themes. That actually felt a bit like a surreal experience to me because now matter how much I thought with SUs darker episode some arc had to go these places someday to challenge Stevens perspective I didn’t expect it to go so specific to topics of warfare and betray and on the other hand serious exploration of Roses major character flaws. The are really not taking the easy way out here… reminded me a lot of a similar reaction when Steven first time draws his shield confidently when he wants to end the fight with Lapis clones and I realized they really understand how to build magical girl narratives.

    But lets get to the your elephant in the room because that was also my elephant in the room I wanted to get back to you before. I actually expected you to talk about this problem way before even seeing the Vlog so I was really curious what you had to say because… well that OBVIOUSLY was a big talking point for some people when the episode came out and TBH I was actually very dismissive when I first read this…. not because I didn’t get what they meant by “black-coded” but because I really questioned if they had seen the same plot I did. And you have talked about this again and again … circle fire swat, B/W thinking, lack of nuance in fan discussion. I basically got a very incomplete and in itself very reductive version of that argument and I found it very hard to take an argument about a simplistic harmful stereotype serious because it sounded so much like all the other times they tried to paint characters with depth as simplistic because they didn’t the character etc.
    I really wondered if they had just kind of skipped the first 2/3th of the episode because I felt lots of scene were specifically included to argue against stereotyping to make Bismuth a more convincing tragic character because I assumed that was all about the violence and zealotry and the war themes.

    So that why I just wanted to honestly thank you for taking the time and explain that point in detail because I feel now I get it a bit more. Especially that part about the layered implications and all its subconscious biases was really helpful because as an outsider I feel a lot of people don’t know how to explain that well with concrete details. The part about the accents as well… that always hard for me with English as a 2nd language. Even after years I’m already glad to understand where someone is from in the first place so all of those subtle social connotation of those accents are completely lost on me. E.g. never even realized that part about Garnets having a British accent and as a result how that might make a difference in perception. On top of this Germany gets almost all of American media dubbed which obviously completely replace those nuance anyways so its even harder to get used to this stuff about accents.
    And while GerDubs usually keep it pretty faithful (and SU seems to be quite competent from the few clips I’ve seen) sometimes they just completely change the type of VA in terms of age or voice range… case in point if you want to laugh a bit Greg and also Young Greg have a much older sounding VA IMO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx5hzajU0Q0 …. sounds just hilarious to me. :)

    And I saw a few other comments echoed that sentiment about not noticing this difference in the first place. Because no matter how much I read about the horrible implications of “the black experience in America” its often still hard to connect the dots. Especially when you talk about this element of “going to far” and the reframing of narrative a felt really dumb because I had read enough article about this and it felt like it should have stare me in the face all along. So that where it really clicked because yeah that really bad and unreflected on their parts.

    And to get real for a moment here no matter how much Germany has its own types of bad ethno stereotyping (e.g. making Turkish immigrants the butt of a lot of jokes over the years ranging from silly to pretty mean spirited) I just have nothing to really relate to in terms of personal / friends experiences when it comes to the viciousness and destructiveness of this discrimination. Its often hard to believe that’s even real because it sounds just so outrageous that its just left alone as is (even if I get the why).

    But I also agree a bit with those commenters that tried to justify the choice of the crew. Because it’s really easy to read this as them completely missing the forest for the trees after all those talk in interviews how they were always committed to give minorities a chance to shine via writing or acting. So its easy to assume that they did just focus on the war veteran aspect (like when I first thought about it) or make her so butch because they wanted to convey her warrior / blacksmith aspect convincingly in the short time they had. Or as others said backwrote the character to look even more Afro-American to fit the VA because they really believe she could sell this emotionally complex role and IMO for the most part she did a great job.

    So yes that was also a lesson for me how I evaluate character complexity in the future and I wanted to share this because I just assume you may not get this perspective how aliens that all may seem to other a lot either.

    —-

    As for the actually plot of the episode think I only want to add 2-3 interesting view points I didn’t see in you other comments.

    First of speaking of veterans …. one completely different perspective on this morality play is that it actually lead to talk about the whole implications of warfare with in itself felts kind of impressive as a result of a “kids” show. But what got me thinking the most in this regard was one reddit poster (whos link I lost so I have to sum it up first … sorry) who basically went: “So people want to talk about military. I’m a US veteran… so lets talk IRL military ethics and how it related to this episode.” and he may 3 really unexpected points.

    1) He said no matter how much we may enjoy the morality play about killing this situation is pretty unambiguous in terms of IRL procedure because Bismuth basically ignored a explicite order from her superior about how to deal with combatants which get you in big trouble IRL.

    2) He praised the episode as a really respectful allegory for the challenges to reintegrate veteran in to civil society because that basically what happening here. Due to being put into stasis the war never ended or changed for her and due to the Gems tragically incomplete explanation she is let to believe nothing changed in the first place even if she may have adapted giving time (I feel that was the point of the “Steven interesting now Gem rituals” scenes)

    3) He questioned how much the whole obvious shattering gem = killing people implication as actually a bit of a false equivalence that that shattering gem may actually be far more immoral. He reasoned that IRL killed in war is seen as exceptable because its the only 100% reliable way to disable combatants but its never the main point (and yes I know its always more complicated then that but he was talking military theory here) but thats obviously not true in this scifi scenario that thats also the point of this episode that Rose explicitly wanted a no lethal solution which could be seen as more reliable to imprisonment IRL.
    So its interesting that despite the obvious pacifist additute that SU always championed even in context of warfare shattering gems may actually be more akin to use of excessive force / cruelty and drift into the realms of war crimes from IRL perspective.

    Also adding to this the Overly Animated people took a quick aside while summing up the plot of the episode on their podcast to mention that despite the fact Bismuth rational is clearly presented as abhorred because SU is a very idealistic show that kind of rhetoric is just excepted by lots of democratic first world countries without even seen as controversial. Definitively gives you pause how much of a sensitive topic they are actually tackling here especially considering that those shows get made with international distribution in mind.

    And the last big topic will be Roses attitude towards Bismuth which you may have noticed gets interpreted a bit more sympathetic by other fans then you were with your conclusions. And don’t get me wrong I really thing such a “damn she really messed this up” scene was needed as is for Stevens arc, even for Roses “arc” and also because SU always was really invested to tell stories where nobody is perfect and thats ok. And demystifying Rose to this extent as a very human character is most like the bravest step the could have taken considering how this types of hero characters get painted in most media.

    But what I wanted to address is that there is one subtle detail that I didn’t see mentioned by others that really changed may interpretation and that about the “hiding her mistakes” part. Because whats easy to forget is that the big confrontation at the end is between 2 characters with very incomplete information about the situation. So Bismuth basically accuses Rose of putting her principles over her friends and allies and by hiding it proving that its was all a lie and she didn’t care about the consequences at all. And beside the fact that thats obviously an overreaction and highly unlikely for Rose as a character there is also a hint baked right into the episode that she must be wrong. Because Rose put Bismuth into Lion despite the fact that she could have put her into lots of her other secret places etc. Also everything else in Lionspace IMO is basically a collection of her most precious possessions and memories and there was always an implication for me that she wanted Steven to inherit all of this stuff which makes also kind of dark because that would imply that Steven also inherited all of her burdens (which of cause makes perfect sense symbolically).
    But it don’t think the just this element in the show just thoughtlessly and for me thats once again towards a topic you had before and that’s guilt (and by extention confuse how to handle it). Thats why I found your comment about survivors guilt so interesting. Thats actually a point a assume they may go more in depth later on. I mean makes sense right… very empathic character dealing with intense guilt…. also in her own way has a hard time communicating those complicated feelings (I mean that was everybody bit take away from this episode right that she was really at communicating in small as well as big issues). I could totally see SU going there to add another layer to her characterization.

    And if you let me indulge in wild speculation for a moment here. One point that may tie into this and is still a big question marks to me is how that idea of having Steven came about in the first place (beside sort of been in love with the idea of the human condition itself and living like a human or as idea to bridge the cultures). This got me back to the one dialogue where she actually talked about babies as human growing and changing and that got repeated recently as well. So is that it? Is the implication that she also felt she wanted or needed to change and couldn’t of her own or something like that? If thats really the point we may wait a while to hear her perspective because that would most like be reserved of one of those big reveal plots like a finale but I still like it as a thought experiment.

    —–

    Oh and also one last small inside baseball thing: Basically everyone desperately wants to see a continuation of this storyline and IMO part of the problematic characterization is that they have to make this dramatic cut and just end it right there so everyone has to fill in the blanks themselfs for better or worse. And Bismuth seems like the most obviously character to build a redemption arc of any kind for. But the practical reality is what the fans have termed the “curse of the guest actors” because yes that the lady from OITNB and like most fusion VAs she most likely won’t have much time for this in the future and we shouldn’t expect her to ever have a mayor role as a recurring character. Which is sad but just life considering how much they try to distract from the fact that most fusion appearances lately are very brief without any lines.
    On the other side Ashley Burch was teased as a future guest VA and I’m curious where this is going because I only know her for really wacky performances.

    Ok enough is enough…. hope that didn’t eat up to much of your time… but there is just a lot in this episode even substracting all the already addressed topics.

    Like

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