August Update

This summer has flown by! I still have the list of planned posts I made back in June, but I hope to get them out sooner rather than later. Since then here’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to…

Recent Release: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3

Season 3 released on August 2 on Netflix with a whopping SIX episodes– down one from season 2’s SEVEN. I have a lot of thoughts about this. In one of my earliest posts, I expressed my frustrations with Miraculous Ladybug’s release schedule, and it’s no secret that Steven Universe dragged its feet, so I’ve actually found this rather refreshing. Since releasing season 1’s thirteen episodes November 18, 2018, season 2 dropped seven episodes on April 26. Although the episode count is still low, She-Ra has kept my interest piqued.

The problem with long wait times between new content is that it’s easy to get caught up in something else. Doctor Who is perhaps my favorite franchise, but these days I’m much more interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its fairly constant stream of content and announcements, but even now that those have slowed and become increasingly unclear or ambiguous, I am looking for new content to keep me occupied.

Marathoning: RuPaul’s Drag Race

I may have done some marathoning while cleaning out my house and crafting like crazy and most recently I’ve been catching up with RuPaul and the several seasons I’ve missed over the last few years. The thing I like about this particular competitive reality television program is RuPaul’s commitment to promoting loving oneself and one’s weirdness.

The show routinely depicts contestants overcoming their own personal demons or how the show lead to family reconciliations. Regardless of the veracity of reality TV, these heartwarming messages are the kind of thing that we should see more of. With so much hate-speak and anger, promoting love and acceptance is hugely important.

Also, I just love drag queens and have a lot of connections to the LGBTQ+ community. While Drag Race was originally more concerned with poking fun at the question of gender, it has since become a safe space for all forms of gender expression. In recent years, former contestants have come out as transgender and there have even been openly trans contestants. At the start of season 9 (which is what I’m currently on) Lady Gaga makes an appearance and explains how drag has affected her life, elevating it as an art form and an important form of self-expression.

Personal Note

Next week I start grad school (again!) and begin working towards an MFA in Film & TV Studies (hopefully with more emphasis on the TV). I’m very excited, but also nervous. I still have a long list of blog entries to write and publish but have no idea how much time I’ll actually have. To those who keep reading, I deeply appreciate it. I don’t know if I can quite explain what it means to me.

This blog has been a way for me to find my voice and put it out there. Confidence is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and having this platform has been a way for me to work on raising my voice. Learning people are actually reading has been even more exciting. Hopefully, my next post will be a proper review rather than another update!

Steven Universe: Change Your Mind

On Monday, January 21st, fans of Steven Universe had almost all of their questions answered in a 45-minute special that is apparently NOT the series finale. (Though it was originally supposed to be?)

That’s right, it’s taken almost two years, but Season 5 is over. When I first started writing this post a few days after the special aired, I was under the impression that the show had already announced a Season 6, but that’s not the case. Instead, “Coming Fall 2019 to Cartoon Network” is the Steven Universe Movie, but rumors of a sixth season don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Being a Steven Universe fan is incredibly frustrating. This is not new information. During its five seasons, the show has evolved with lead character, Steven, from fun-loving and slice of life, to much more serious and plot-focused. This evolution, while fulfilling has also made Cartoon Network’s poor scheduling choices all the more infuriating. Even this last run of episodes had absolutely absurd premiere dates:

(Most Recent Examples:
– Episodes 19-24, which conclude with Garnet’s wedding aired over the course of 5 days (July 2-6, 2018), with episodes 23 and 24 combining to form one special episode.
– Episodes 25-28, “Legs from Here to Homeworld” through “Escapism” aired on a weekly basis from December 17, 2018-January 7, 2019, with season-finale “Change Your Mind” airing two weeks later on January 21, 2019.)

So, while we all often feel like hitting our head against a wall in between bouts of optimism, this last episode, which was originally meant to serve as series finale, would be a lot more fulfilling had it been billed as such. The episode “Change Your Mind”, which Cartoon Network billed as a special called “Battle of Heart and Mind”, went beyond resolving the conflict and into answering questions that we’d all wondered about at one time or another:
– What would happen if Steven’s gem was removed/can it be removed?
– What is Steven’s version of Rainbow Quartz like?
– What would Garnet and Steven’s fusion be?
– What happens when the four Crystal Gems fuse (Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst, Steven/Rose Quartz)?
– Is it possible to heal the corrupted gems?

Those are just some of the ones that have been knocking around for a while. “Change Your Mind” answered many questions and resolved almost every plot thread. Whether or not you found that ending satisfying, is debatable (which I did. On Saturday.). I felt that the show wrapped up in a way that was satisfying and made sense for a program aimed at children. While children’s TV can be very smart and do some really interesting things, at the end of the day, I feel that the ending needs to be satisfying for children, which generally means a happy ending that resolves the conflict.

The friend I debated with and my fiancé have differing views. My friend felt that there should have been greater repercussions for the series’ villains, while my fiancé thinks no ending should resolve everything. (I will admit, this is cheating since I have a blog, but I’m gonna call them out anyway, because they do make incredibly valid points.) While I agree with my friend that ‘justice’ was not necessarily served, going into the complex political repercussions of the finale feels like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones territory. Meaning, that while that stuff may be important and interesting, it’s not nearly as flashy or attention grabbing, which is why I remember Attack of the Clones as incredibly boring, since it came out the year I turned 12. (I think I’ve tried to maybe watch it once in the last 17 years, which says something since I am a girl who loves to binge prior to a big premiere.) Steven Universe is literally more accessible; it’s a cartoon program that airs on Cartoon Network and can be found on Hulu (and often YouTube). It’s available to a much larger age range. So, while I’d love to hear more about the political fall out, I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing a cartoon aimed at children could do. Perhaps if it were on Adult Swim/Toonami, it would work, but I’d even love to see it done as a novel. If we get a sixth season, I’d hope we’d hear about the events, even if we don’t directly witness them.

Now, on to my loving fiancé, whom I love and cannot wait to marry, who believes a creative work should leave audiences with more questions than answers: Children’s. Program. When we last discussed this topic on Saturday, I vehemently disagreed with my fiancé, but after giving it some thought, I have a new answer. I absolutely see where he is coming from. Some of the best creative works leave us wanting more, or with an ending open for interpretation (which means everyone can have their own satisfying head canon), or with philosophical questions about life/society/etc. However, I am a 28-year-old English teacher. My tastes and preferences have evolved as I’ve gotten older, but generally speaking, while I see the value in open endings, I still want to see everything resolved. I think most people do. Children, who see the world in much more black and white terms, certainly do. I don’t know many children who aren’t hoping for a happy ending that wraps everything up. Again, that doesn’t mean everyone feels that way, just that a show aimed primarily at children should have an ending children can connect with. Until a show becomes classified as ‘For Adults’ (I again look at Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, which is under the Adult Swim umbrella), it has to be satisfying for its target audience, children– and be something their parents can approve of.

Speaking of parents, some may not be thrilled with the insidious underlying message of acceptance and understanding. Since watching the episode when it aired, I’ve seen a number of headlines/articles which point out the trans-inclusive message. Upon additional viewing this past weekend, I absolutely agree. Steven Universe has long been an LGBTQ+ friendly show, depicting relationships between females and starring a character that, while identifies as male, doesn’t seem to pay much attention to gender conventions. The issue of gender in this show is one that has been wondered and puzzled about for some time, but “Change Your Mind” really addresses the issue.

(Beyond the theory that Lars is trans, which, although no less important, is not as deeply explored.)


Canonically, the essence of Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond, her gem, is part of Steven, which is why they cannot both exist at the same time. Additionally, Homeworld gems find fusions (or relationships) between two different types of gems taboo. The latter point serves as a metaphor for same-sex relationships. The first point, however, is one that until now has really only had importance to the plot. Steven’s ability to connect with Rose/Pink and see her memories has helped to advance the plot. While he’s struggled with his identity in relation to his mother, it’s only become the central focus since we learned about Rose Quartz and Pink Diamond.

Coming to Homeworld, Steven begins experiencing Pink’s life and seeing more of her memories. In “Familiar”, he even has a song in which he questions why everything is so familiar to him when he is not Pink Diamond. In “Change Your Mind”, we get a new side to the issue. While Blue Diamond and Yellow Diamond have struggled to accept that Steven and Pink are not the same person, it’s White Diamond’s response that best serves as a metaphor for trans issues. Over the course of 45 minutes, all three Diamonds eventually come to understand and accept that Steven is Steven, but White has the strongest and most violent reaction and it is her actions that best help the audience and Steven understand the truth of his identity.


At the episode’s climax, White Diamond insists that Steven has just been fooling himself, that he really is just another form of Pink Diamond, like Rose Quartz. To prove it, she says she’ll make him change back and removes Steven’s gem***. To the surprise of everyone, Steven’s gem reforms as…..

Steven. “[Pink Diamond]’s gone!” (Gem Steven, “Change Your Mind”)

It answers some major questions and reaffirms Steven’s personal identity, ending a journey we saw in the very first episode: what does it mean to have his mother’s gem and who does that make him? This key moment also highlights the trans metaphor as Steven has been insisting that his name is Steven. That is who he really is, and White needs to accept that. It parallels the trans struggle to be accepted for who they really are, rather than how their parents see them, because, in many ways that’s what White is to Pink, a parent. By this time, we’ve already seen how Pink’s relationship with White, Yellow, and Blue parallels Steven’s relationship with Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst, the gems who raised him. In a reference to a song from episode 30, “Island Adventure” (for reference, “Change Your Mind” is the 157-160th episodes overall), Steven suggests White Diamond (and maybe parents everywhere) to let everyone be whoever they are. It’s a message that goes beyond where you fall on the sexuality or gender spectrums into something that is true for everyone. And honestly, were Steven and Rose/Pink not different genders, the trans metaphor wouldn’t be as clear.

While the episode answered many questions, I went into the season finale knowing that there would be more content. As a result, I was left with additional questions, beyond ‘what is going on with that heart-shaped gem?’. During White Diamond’s revelation, she talks about how she is meant to be perfect. This left me wondering, what are her origins? What are the origins of the gem species as a whole? I saw one reviewer ask, ‘where did the Diamonds go when they left Earth?’ (I’d assume back to Homeworld to rule an empire, but that’s just me.) What is going to happen to Steven and the now-uncorrupted gems? Since 2013, Steven Universe has been looking at the importance of family, love, acceptance, friendship, and been providing viewers with more questions than answered. “Change Your Mind” marks the end of the initial story and several of the series’ main questions. Time will only tell what this new story will be, what new questions we’ll inevitably have, and if Cartoon Network’s schedulers will keep making poor choices.

***One thing I’d like to point out about Steven’s gem that I find suspicious and interesting and is something I suspect we may see or learn about in the movie or future season: once Steven is reunited, we do not see Steven’s gem bellybutton. Even when he is topless with a bathing suit, his stomach is carefully hidden through the end of the episode.

Better Late Than Never: Avenue Q

My original plan for this weekend was to write a detailed comparison of the role the military plays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe. Due to… circumstances… that did not happen. I typically write my blog entries in advanced and schedule them to post a little after midnight on Saturday (I’ve since deleted my empty blog post). Currently, I am writing on a heavily delayed train on its way to Boston from New York, so you’re getting something related to that.


I had a lovely weekend in New York, went to some amazing eateries, took in a show… Now, I would tell you about the food, but since I am woefully unqualified for that, I’m going to talk about the show we saw: Avenue Q. Avenue Q happens to be one of my favorite broadway shows. I first saw it in high school with my mom (awkward!) and this weekend saw it again with my fiancé, my brother, and his girlfriend.


The concept behind Avenue Q is a Sesame Street for grown ups; something that will teach the lessons we wished we learned as we grew into adults. It utilizes standard tropes from Sesame Street to look at racism, sex and relationships, and finding yourself in your 20s.


Before I continue, I should mention that the show absolutely has content NOT suitable for all ages. For example, some of the songs included are: “It Sucks to Be Me”, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)”, and (everyone’s favorite) “The Internet Is for Porn”. So, while the show does try to emulate Sesame Street, it is very much for ADULTS. I cannot stress this enough. This show is NOT appropriate for children! DO NOT BRING CHILDREN.


Now, moving on, Avenue Q is currently celebrating its 15th Anniversary (thats 15 years of shows both on and off Broadway), which means it premiered in 2003. As I said above, I first saw Avenue Q in 2007 with my mom. I was in high school at the time, in New York looking at colleges and planning to study Technical Theatre. At that time, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with politics and I found some of the songs as shocking as they were funny (still kinda do, to be honest). But, in 2018, at a time of great unrest when prejudice, bigotry, and misogyny seem to be rampant, there were some moments that were just plain cringy. (And some that weren’t necessarily cringy, but I found personally problematic.)


The thing to keep in mind (something that my brother, his girlfriend, and my fiancé agree on) is that it is important to remember that the show was written and premiered at a very different time for the American economy and politics. So, while a lot of what is said is still poignant and applicable, there are a lot of places where the message is no longer so relevant.


Let’s start with the most cringy and problematic: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. The point of the song is that since everyone is a little bit racist, we shouldn’t be overly sensitive about other people’s slip-ups, instead trying to focus on who the person is and their actions, and getting along. In 2018, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” has become the excuse for a number of deplorable acts. Instead of using such a message as a way to bring people together, it is being used to create larger divides. This is a huge problem currently facing our country. So, while the song is still funny, I definitely felt cringy listening and laughing, knowing what I do about the world and our country right now.


Another topic I found problematic was the treatment of gay character, Rod. Rod is a Republican and an Investment Banker who is deeply closeted. His roommate, Nicky, tells him, in song that “If [he] Were Gay”, that “would be okay”, but reminds him at every turn that Nicky is absolutely not gay. Later, when talking to another character, the Japanese Social Worker Christmas Eve, she tells him that a republican investment banker would be an absolutely useless homosexual. The overall message is one of acceptance, but the way the show handles it has become somewhat antiquated. Since Avenue Q‘s inception, Gay Marriage has been legalized in the United States while the spectrum of gender and sexuality has become the greater issue. While I’m sure many still struggle with coming out, it’s an old fashioned idea that you have to be a certain way to be gay (beyond being sexually attracted to the same gender you are).


Another issue that had me prickly comes in “The Internet is for Porn”. I love this song and think it’s hilarious, but was disappointed that not even any subtle changes had been made to the choreography. It just demonstrates a bigger issue with how women are treated. While it matches that era as well as some parts of the country now, it’s not something I’d expect in New York. In the song, the lead female, Kate Monster, thinks recluse Trekkie Monster is a pervert for watching porn, and is horrified when all her male neighbors admit to watching porn regularly.


My first issue is that I feel like by now this is more or less common knowledge. It has nothing to do with relationships or sexuality, it’s just a fact that many (if not most) people have watched or read or seen something pornographic. My second issue is that it does not recognize that women are just as likely to partake. In more recent years (and thanks to shows such as Sex and the City), it has become recognized that women are just as sexual as men.


That actually brings me to another character, Lucy the Slut. Lucy is a woman who regularly partakes in casual sex and serves as a major temptress for all the straight men in the show. In the last fifteen years, slut shaming has become unacceptable and many women are refusing to apologize for their sexuality. In general, the attitudes towards women reflect the social politics of 2003. The most progressive idea is that while Kate Monster wants a boyfriend, her real dream isn’t just to get married, but to open a school and be a successful career woman. That just doesn’t cut it in 2018.


I can and always will appreciate what its doing. Avenue Q broke boundaries and made statements and did some really great things (and there are puppets!). It provides important commentaries and is technically brilliant, but so much of it is no longer relevant. It’s like watching a movie made in the 1950s, but because it’s still so recent it’s difficult to create that separation of time and benefit of hindsight.


What we really need is an update, something that teaches the lessons that are relevant now. We need a show that examines the current millennial struggles and priorities, looks at race and gender tensions, and gives a voice to different members of the LGBTQ+ community.  We need a show that uses a different celebrity; Gary Coleman is dead, it’s just sad now.


I have neither the wit nor musical talent to write a proper update, but I maintain it can be done! The way creative content is produced and distributed these days is drastically different. Why can’t we have a new episode of this grown-up Sesame Street? We can always use new ways to explore important messages and, let’s face it, the world needs more puppets.