Steven Universe Critical

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Event
Event: Steven Universe Critical
Participants:
Date(s): 2017-
Type: Fandom War
Fandom: Steven Universe
URL:
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Steven Universe critical, also called Steven Universe crit or just SU crit, was a movement mainly on Tumblr starting in early 2017. This was a long fandom war with two opposing sides, and still somewhat exists in 2021 despite the show having ended. On one side there were the "SU crits," who heavily criticized Steven Universe and its crew for a number of reasons, and on the other side "SU stans," who either saw SU crit as needlessly critical, annoying, or simply wrong altogether. [1]

It began when Tumblr users started to criticize the show and then some of these criticisms were interpreted as "nitpicky" by other fandom members who were in disagreement.[2] These critics began making their own separate blogs specifically to criticize the show and its crew, and accusations would range from calling the crew racist to picking apart episodes frame by frame for animation mistakes.[3] These blogs exploded in popularity and if one intended to they could have blocked over a hundred in a day, proving their numbers.[note 1]

In response parts of the fandom spoke out against these blogs, saying that they were overly negative and that they placed streams of grievances into the main fandom tags. Some in the fandom even actively argued against the criticism, finding them to be closer to personal opinion than actual infallible moral issue with the show. SU crit blogs began calling those who were against the SU crit movement "SU stans," naming them under the belief that they were ignoring the shows issues.

Steven Universe Critical is still a large community, however it is possibly not as popular as it once was. The SU crit movement may be related to the cancel culture present on Tumblr. In 2021, Tumblr users may also identify this movement as "critical culture," which refers to audiences who have become hyper critical of the media they consume.

steven universe is an experiment in just how little effort you can put into just about everything on a show, from leadership to animation and writing, and still get praise and awards
Example of typical SU crit by Someuphillbattle, Jan 2017.

Arguments

Steven Universe Crits

While there have always been minute criticisms of the show, its fandom, and the crew, what ultimately started the SU crit movement were posts directed at the show's colorists and story boarders, and perhaps arguably the controversy surrounding Jesse Zuke (especially considering the original SU crit arguments began as arguments directed at Lapis and Peridot). Some fans noticed that characters, especially characters like Lapis and Peridot, were drawn differently across seasons and episodes.[4][5] This, to many, came across as being lazy and a sign of poor animation. Other posts criticized the saturated colors, namely Lapis and Peridot's colors, and suggested that they became more saturated as seasons went on.[6][note 2] A SU crit blog called Su-Critical (run by at least three underage mods) soon went on to claim that no one was actually upset about the show's color pallets and that it was a joke, however in the same post continued to call the colors ugly, jarring, and "objectively bad."[7][note 3]

Opinions between SU crit blogs are variable, though there are still some popular opinions among them. For example, one of the popular opinions and one of the opinions that initially kicked off the SU crit movement is the idea that the show is ugly, overly saturated, and lazily animated. One post that has over 900 notes as of Jul 2020 discusses this.[8]

The animation in SU (which has declined significantly despite what some fans think) is EXTREMELY static and boring. Just look at how flat (literally) steven and amethyst are. there isn’t any balance or composition to the shot, it’s the most basic static pose that you’d find from any high schooler.

[snipped]

TLDR; The animation in SU hasn’t only gone down in quality, but fails to convey the emotions that captured so many audiences back in older seasons. The crewniverse is staying in a very safe bubble animation wise, and thus the recent seasons feel static and boring.
Lesbian Moomin, Aug 2017

Another popular opinion held by most SU crits is that Rebecca Sugar (the show runner) and the crew either support fascism, are nazi apologists, or support imperialism due to giving the Diamonds backstories and later redeeming them. In modern fandom meta from the 10s and 20s, "redeeming" a character usually refers to anti-heros, who go from being evil to being good. As of Jul 2020 a post joking about this has 261 notes.[9]

steven universe future episode 1

steven: wow *random new gem* your ptsd really ruined our potluck, you can't be angry at your friends! >:(

blue diamond: steven we tried making a cake, but we didn't use any human ingredients... *pan to weird cake* haha we were imperialist dictators

white diamond: imma say a gemslurMoomin-Daddy, circa 2019

There are still many varied opinions yet, both popular and less so. These include accusations of the crew being racist (for its treatment of Bismuth, Garnet's character, and the human zoo), ableist (for its treatment of Onion), fatphobic (for changing how Steven is drawn), and many many more. One Tumblr blog called nbapprentice, which is an anti anti callout post blog run by two mods, offered their opinions on Rebecca Sugar and her husband Ian. When an anon sent nbapprentice an ask stating that they felt SU had good representation, was by a marginalized creator who simply made mistakes in her teen years, and that claiming such a marginalized creator was "gross and predatory" was an "alt right talking point, nbapprentice gave a short response refusing the anon's points. Their response was that Rebecca Sugar and her husband were pedophiles, "freaky asses," made Garnet an "Obsessive Lesbian stereotype" who followed a "slave master" and promoted rape, and that non-binary characters didn't count if they weren't human. nbapprentice's entire response is below and is another good example of the opinions held not just against the show, but its creator and staff as well.

for every absolute fucking pedophilic weirdo in an important position there could be a non-weirdo doing even better than their freaky ass :)

and most importantly: i pointed out that she’s doing stuff RIGHT NOW with her creepy-ass husband, not just abt shit she did years ago (which she apparently never grew out of lmao!)

its always the same with yall little apologists, isn’t it? you see your fav being fairly criticized and your eyes glaze over and you break out the “BUT IT WAS BACK IN THE DAAAY” when thats only a fraction of what we’ve even said here.

“bwuh bwuh you’re just repeating alt right talking points” no, dumbass, im a fucking nb bi woman calling out another nb bi woman. im not making shit up based on stereotypes. im basing myself on reality because i will not tolerate pedophiles and predators just because they’re lgbt.

now, for the ~lgbt rep~: she added an entire Obsessive Lesbian stereotype who was strung along by her slave master in her show and none of the characters who are NB are actually human. the moment Garnet was revealed to be a gay couple her entire character was discarded just to make her “the gay couple of the show”. wow the lgbt rep im nutting!!!

she may be jewish, nb and bi, but she sure as fuck is white, too, and it shows! having a whole-ass racist uncle screaming “they’re illegal aliens!” in the current political climate and the audience is supposed to forgive him? the way sugilite was treated? BISMUTH? the fucking HUMAN ZOO? i could go on and on and on!

and that doesnt even touch upon how her show promotes toxic relationships of every kind! her favorite character is a slave-owner and a r*pist whose only flaw was, apparently, making her abusive fascist mothers sad! Pearl being brainwashed into loving Rose is treated as a character flaw!

like, cool, she did SOME cool shit. it doesn’t erase the VILE fucking nonsense she’s also done. she literally made the movie to whine about how people dare criticize her.

she’s a brat at best and a revolting human being at worst. shut the fuck up and maybe read the shit i actually link before bringing your inane nonsense into my askbox.

#slavery #rape #abuse #racismnbapprentice, 2019[10]

Some other opinions, sourced from many different Tumblr blogs who have tagged posts under "su crit," are below.

Ok so has anyone else talked about the blatant fatphobia in Steven universe??Like in the first season Steven was a beautiful fat boy who wasn’t shamed or ridiculed for it and openly enjoyed food. Now what do we have???A funko pop??A chibi???The fuck is this
Children-Against-Pedophiles
Unpopular opinion but the songs in Steven Universe are incredibly shitty as of now and that's solely because of the fact that Rebecca Sugar can't hop out of her C minor tune + two note vocal range songs and it fucking sucksIitalianleathersofa, Nov 2017
i love how quickly they backpedaled from “pink personally created a human zoo bcs they were interesting and fun to her” to “yellow and blue threw some randoms in a zoo in a half asses attempt at “preserving human life”
what-we-really-are, Jul 2018
steven universe: a show where trapping someone in a fusion is bad but turning a human (without consent) into nothing more than a portal/plot device & then leaving em stranded on a hostile planet is a-okThottygoddess, May 2017
You can redeem intergalactic tyrants but not Jasper apparently. What kind of ass backwards writing is this? Seriously don’t praise the crew for their writing skills because they’re practically non-existent. And even if they do redeem her later why does it take longer for her to get redeemed than the fucking genocidal “aunties”?
Ranting-Peridot, Oct 2019

A famous Steven Universe Critical blogger who actively hate watched the show and posted her criticism directly into the SU Stan tag of Tumblr is Lily Orchid, a Youtuber who became known for a two hour long video about why she believed the show was garbage. She was mocked by SU stans for the length and content of the video.

SU Crit and Other Shows

Some users on Tumblr have questioned why ex-fans of Steven Universe focused so heavily on just Steven Universe, when there are several other cartoons- past and present- with equal or similar topics of criticism. For example, the criticism of Steven Universe and its crew became so wide spread that the "SU crit blog" became a popular side blog type. However, other shows, such as She-Ra and the Princess of Power, whose crew made jokes on a podcast about their black characters and slavery, and Star vs. The Forces of Evil, which had an adult man in the body of a teen boy date a teen girl, have not received the same overarching negative response as Steven Universe. While there are indeed posts and meta essays discussing the issues of other such cartoons, the two examples given have not caused entire communities to be formed around their criticism, nor have there been hundreds of criticism blogs dedicated to them. The "spop crit" tag on Tumblr, as of Feb 2021, and sorted by most popular posts, brings up only about a dozen or so posts, with the highest note count being 630. Furthermore, "svtfoe crit" only brings up one post and one crit blog.

In one example of a Steven Universe fan pointing this discrepancy out, Tumblr user coyoxtl criticized cartoon fans for praising Avatar: The Last Air Bender's creators, who were both white men, and hired mostly other white people, while in the same breath speaking badly of Rebecca Sugar by calling her a nazi apologist. They said:

its a bit infuriating, that a show created by two white men could be hailed as the most progressive, feminist, and diverse ever created *cough*atla*cough* but a show created by a queer jewish person with a team of other queers and poc, has been repeatedly called a terrible, overrated show, and considered badly written solely because its themes about mental illness and generational trauma doesnt relate to every single person who watched it, oh and people called its creator a nazi apologist repeatedly despite being a jewish queer.*cough*steven universe*cough*
coyoxtl, Sept 28, 2021.[11]

In a converse example of someone comparing Steven Universe to other popular cartoons, Tumblr blogger kittyprincessofcats discussed why they felt certain writing elements of She-Ra were better than those of Steven Universe. Specifically, they spoke at length about why they found Catra to be a "redeemable" villain and why the Diamonds were not. Kittyprincessofcats started out by saying that though they were disappointed in SU and found certain episodes to be deal breakers, they had nothing against those who enjoyed SU. They said that the Diamonds had no motivation for their evil actions, had conquered millions of planets/peoples without remorse, that the Diamonds being sad over Pink's death wasn't enough to make them sympathetic, and that the Diamonds didn't actually have a redemption arc but instead that the audience were simply meant to forgive them without reason. Conversely, they said of Catra that she had only destroyed one planet, that she was sympathetic because she'd been abused by Shadow Weaver, that Catra simply being a "toxic friend" wasn't enough to make her a bad person who should go to jail, and that Catra had an "amazing redemption arc" where she loses everything then feels bad for it. Part of kittyprincessofcats's criticism of the Diamonds is below.

So the thing about their redemption arc is… they don’t really have one. We’re just kind of meant to forgive them out of the blue. Steven and the Crystal Gems ask the Diamonds for help to cure the corrupted gems and they manage to convince them, but there’s never any point where the Diamonds regret their actions. They only start to regret their actions towards Steven and Pink, but there’s never even an ounce of regret for what they did to anyone else. The Cluster? The deaths? The millions of destroyed planets and civilization? The humans and Rose Quartzes in the zoo? The presumably thousands of off-colors fighting for their lives underground on homeworld every second? That’s all swept under the rug in the finale. And therefore, the Diamonds can’t even get to the point where they make sacrifices for someone else or do anything that would lead me to forgive them, because they’re not even at a point where they realize they’ve done anything wrong. The show treats them like they’re redeemed in the end, but they’re not. Everything they’ve done just gets ignored.kittyprincessofcats [12]

Conversely, when other cartoons are considered to be progressive and more accurate with their representation and portrayals, they do not receive the same unadulterated praise. For example, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a cartoon that is considered much more progressive than many of the cartoons before it, including Steven Universe, and thus has less criticism overall. However, while SU crits are pleased to heavily critique Steven Universe for its perceived flaws, they are less pleased to heavily praise cartoons that are considered to have better representation. For example, the previously mentioned blog, nbapprentice, who was quoted saying "for every absolute fucking pedophilic weirdo in an important position there could be a non-weirdo doing even better than their freaky ass," in reference to Rebecca Sugar, has only made one post about Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, which did not mention the show runner or any details about the show's progressive representation.[13]

This focus on critiquing "bad" content but not praising "good" content to an equal extent is not exclusive to SU crit and the Steven Universe fandom, and has been pointed out on Tumblr regarding other issues as well.[note 4] One Tumblr user named transsexuallationstudies pointed out this trend, saying that while many want to watch shows by LGBTQ+ and non-white artists, once they discover that those LGBTQ+ and non-white artists are themselves also flawed, they stop supporting them in favor of white artists who never speaking on LGBTQ+ or non-white issues at all (see Race in Fandom).[14]

Why SU crits focus so intensely on Steven Universe but not other cartoons, even in 2021 after the show had been over for a year, is a point of topic for a lot of SU Stans (discussed in detail in the subsection below).

Steven Universe Stans

The other side of the Steven Universe critical fandom war are the "Steven Universe stans," an opposing group named by the SU crits themselves. While the name "stan" refers to a fan who praises something without regard to the piece's problems, more often than not it is the SU crits that SU stans find issue with, rather than finding nothing wrong with the show. SU stans that avidly ignore the show's problems are few and far between.[15] While a Tumblr search of the tag SU crit instantly pulls up an endless page of said crit, searching SU stan or anti SU crit does not actually reveal the intense praise one would assume of the title "stan." Instead, the SU stan tag is much more similar to the regular Steven Universe tag. SU stans tended to try to find the enjoyment in the show while simultaneously arguing with SU crits for their methods of criticism. Some SU stans may agree with certain SU critical opinions, but believe the surge of blogs dedicated to picking the show apart are annoying or unnecessarily negative. Other SU stans simply see the SU crit movement as nitpicking, reaching, or based off of personal squicks rather than educated critique. Yet another opinion from SU stans is that Steven Universe is not inherently as bad as crits claim it is, and that their criticism is only so harsh because the show itself is full of LGBTQ characters and minorities, and because the show runner is a bisexual Jewish woman in an interracial relationship, so see SU crit as a case of the "moving the goalpost" fallacy. Overall, the opinion SU stans all hold is that the show simply isn't as perverse or bad as the SU crits chalk it up to be.

Because these "stans" are usually against the crit movement rather than the criticism itself, one may find the handful of anti-crit blogs are actually labeled as Steven Universe positivity blogs. This is likely in reference to the original boom in SU crit blogs flooding the normal Steven Universe tags in 2017. Anti-crit users found the flood of SU crit to be nothing but negative posts about their favorite show and that they were draining, thus the creation of positivity blogs to counter act the negativity blogs began.[16]

SU stans frequently point out that SU is one of the only shows with a creator of multiple marginalized communities while other popular cartoon show runners are not. For comparison, Rebecca Sugar is a Jewish bisexual non-binary woman in an interracial relationship (though otherwise white), whose show had openly showed several LGBTQ relationships, non-white characters, and hired voice actors of several non-white ethnicities for non-villain rolls. Noelle Stevenson, the show runner for the Netflix reboot of She-Ra, is a white non-binary lesbian married to a woman, whose show had one gay relationship at the very end of the series, and a few implied LGBTQ relationships. Then, Daron Nefcy, the show runner for the show Star vs. the Forces of Evil, is a white woman whose show has no LGBTQ relationships and the side-kick is a POC to a rich and magical white main character. While a SU crit, based on their general opinions, would state that even people of marginalized groups such as Rebecca are not exempt from critique and can be themselves racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic, a SU stan may look at such above information and suggest that SU crits have ulterior motives for only criticizing Rebecca heavily given that, out of all the above creators, she is the most marginalized and attempted the most representation in her show. Conversely, SU crits may point out that a large portion of the criticism towards Rebecca actually comes from those of marginalized groups, boiling a majority of SU crit down to non-white and LGBTQ ex-fans making the brunt of SU crit. Three quotes from SU stans about this specific argument are below.

On one hand it sucks how Cartoon Network treated Rebecca and Steven Universe, making the crew clearly have to rush to wrap up as many loose ends as Cartoon Network’s timeslots allowed them to… On the other hand since SU finally ended, that terrible “SU crit” movement has basically died along with it. I do NOT miss post after post of performative morality, because apparently owning and maintaining a hate-watching blog (for an LGBTQ+ cartoon by a Jewish bisexual woman in an interracial relationship) was what was popular at the time, and helped the kiddos stack up their imaginary good boy points online
prairieprayer, 2021[17]
Rebecca Sugar: no one’s truly evil in my show

SU crits: SHES GONNA REDEEM THE DIAMONDS! SHES A NAZI/HITLER APOLOGIST

Ok first of all she’s Jewish and second of all you claim to be peaceful critics and yet you get pissy and threaten the crewniverse over any fucking thing that doesn’t agree with your narrow mindset. Just… let Rebecca tell the story the way she wants to tell it and wait to see how it plays out. It’s her goddamn show. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up loving it. But a Jewish woman saying that no one is truly evil on her show does not equal her being a nazi apologist.

Things like this are why the rest of the internet hates you.Ankle-Beez, Jun 2017
I’m half joking because I know mainstream sucrit is just like that but like, the only people who would benefit from convincing everyone that an incredibly progressive cartoon with happy gay main characters and a literal lesbian jewish wedding made by a bisexual nonbinary jewish person is somehow nazi propoganda is the nazis themselves. So like, what if that entire conspiracy theory was made or at the very least spread by nazis themselves?
Disgustedorite, Sept 2018

Below are a number of other quotes from SU stans, some pertaining to the SU crit movement and some being counter arguments to the show's criticism.

SU critical could’ve been really useful, like bringing some insight and analysis to the show’s problems, that’s good! But like everything else on this fucking hellsite it got taken too far, and now it’s a cesspool of nitpicking and hatred, where if you don’t agree with them you get labeled as a racist homophobic stan.Ankle-beez, Jul 2017
hi uh. if you don’t like SU or SUF or have some thoughts about it that doesn’t exactly vibe with my art or post, then please make a different post about it instead of complaining about that issue in the notes. i try to protect my experience as a fan and having people clogging my art with fandom discourse doesn’t feel great or fun. i will block people who do that. please find it in you to hold back that bitterness until you’re on a more appropriate "channel” (read: post that is not mine) to do that. thanks.
Taikova on SU crits arguing in their notes, Jun 2020.
Now all you SU Crits complaining about how Lapis doesn’t have any gold in her design can shut upFictitiouspastery, Jan 2019
Steven Universe isn't a perfect show Steven Universe also isn't trash garbage You're allowed to like, dislike, love or hate it But at the end of the day it's just a cartoon and not something to fight over And harassing people is never okay
Welomia, Jul 2017

Resources and Meta

Meme and Art Response

Sample Crit Blogs

Sample Counter-Blogs

These are parody blogs or positivity blogs. Most parody blogs are themed around making fake SU crit posts with the goal of making the SU critical movement understand how silly the stans see them.

Notes and References

Notes

  1. ^ I actually did block over 100 SU crit blogs during the peak- and I did count. I still have them blocked and the list is truly massive. (Patchlamb, 7/19/2020)
  2. ^ I remember seeing tons of screenshots of the show circulating in 2017 about the color pallets and the animation differences. It got on a lot of peoples nerves because they felt like everyone was being needlessly harsh over tiny details. There was a lot of arguing over this stuff and is probably where the stans started seeing the crits as being nitpicky. (Patchlamb, 7/20/2020)
  3. ^ Su-Critical was a blog started Jan 2017 and was run by three minors. Based on their blogs archives they may have been one of the most argumentative and vocal crit blogs, tending to "call out" the stans just as much as they criticized the show. (Patchlamb, 7/20/2020)
  4. ^ I've seen this talked about a few times in regards to issues such as trans rights and the support of black peoples on Tumblr. Specifically, I've seen it pointed out how some people are happy to share their hatred of terfs/the police, but they do not support or share the same amount of positive content about/from trans and black peoples. (Patchlamb 2/18/2021

References

  1. ^ What is Su Critical Dated 2017 (Accessed 12/18/19)
  2. ^ The Thing that Still Infuriates Me Still About... Tumblr (Accessed 12/18/19)
  3. ^ Su-Critical, Tumblr (Accessed 12/18/19)
  4. ^ Why do They Look Like that... Tumblr. Mar 11, 2017 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  5. ^ Peridot's Head, Tumblr. Mar 7, 2017 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  6. ^ The Crits When People Try and Tell You Lapis... Tumblr. Mar 11, 2017 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  7. ^ Stevs Pooniverse I'm Tired Of SU Pallette... Tumblr. Feb 13, 2017 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  8. ^ Wow I Just Realized Something After Looking At... Tumblr. Aug 11, 2017 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  9. ^ Steven Universe Future Episode 1 Tumblr. Circa 2019 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  10. ^ SU has lgbtq characters and Rebecca Sugar is openly non binary and Jewish. Tumblr, Dec 8, 2019. (Accessed 2/15/2021)
  11. ^ its a bit infuriating, that a show created by two white men, Tumblr. Sept 28, 2020 (Accessed 7/14/2021)
  12. ^ I love both shows (Spop and Su) but I wanted to ask about some things you’ve said, Tumblr. Jan 8, 2021 (Accessed 2/15/2021)
  13. ^ Have you heard about kipo and the age of the wonderbeasts? Tumblr. Apr 1, 2020. (Accessed 2/18/2021)
  14. ^ there’s this interesting tendency that especially young ppl have, Tumblr. Circa 2021 (Accessed 7/14/2021) (Archived 7/14/2021)
  15. ^ (Accessed 12/19/19) I Hate the Term SU Stans... Tumblr. Nov 2019 (Accessed 7/19/2020)
  16. ^ No-Su-Crit-Here Dated March 2017 (Accessed 12/19/19)
  17. ^ On one hand it sucks how Cartoon Network treated Rebecca, Tumblr. Feb 10, 2021 (Accessed 2/15/2021)
  18. ^ Why Do ppl Make Racist Pearl Memes, Tumblr. Jan 19, 2019 (Accessed 7/20/2020)