“Star Trek: Lower Decks” Breaks Protocol with LGBTQ Representation

On October 14, the season two finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks aired on Paramount+, and while the show is lauded by some for “breaking new ground” as a sci-fi comedy and mature adult animation, often reviewers don’t talk about the LGBTQ representation at the heart of the show itself.

Continue reading ““Star Trek: Lower Decks” Breaks Protocol with LGBTQ Representation”

An Alternative to the Studio System?: Indie Animation Forges Ahead

Screenshots from the pilot of Nori and Zin (left) and latest episode of Gods’ School (right).

Indie animation is on fire as of late. This is clear from the hundreds of thousands of dollars given to Final Space creator Olan Rogers for his animated project, Godspeed, which will document the “entire process of developing, writing, boarding, animating, and even pitching” an animated series. Sara Eissa, the creator of Astur’s Rebellion, an animated series Crunchyroll passed on (to their detriment), has been posting updates and news about a site/startup that she founded, named Toon Cave.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the eleventh article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on July 15, 2022.

Originally, it was a video-sharing platform for animated content, similar to the indie animation platform, Fiyah. Toon Cave recently changed to a “marketplace for freelance animators to find work or collaborate with other animators” which Eissa called “more viable“. Some may be disappointed in this result, but it could be a boon for indie animators. It will likely be NFT-free, since Eissa rightly recognized recently that “many artists are against it for ethical reasons”.

Many creators, artists, and others responded positively to my previous post about indie animation. As such, this post will not only be an update on that post, but it will highlight new animations that I wasn’t aware of at the time I wrote that post.

Patreon is buzzing with activity. The first episode of Nori and Zin is being animated by sharpytown. Lopside Animation, which produced Long Gone Gulch, is moving forward with rough animations and likely more episodes in the future. Zeurel says the pilot of his series, Monkey Wrench, is almost ready to be released. Those working on Sheepish, a series with a non-binary protagonist, are saving up money until they begin crowdfunding. They are continuing to work on the pilot.

Animator Rebecca Doodles has said she is going ahead with development of the now-3D animated cartoon, Stellapie, and other projects. Also of note is The East Patch, a series created by the same people behind The West Patch. It has retro animation, a nostalgic style, and amazing art. It continues to move forward. [1]

Production on future episodes of Heloise’s Dreamophrenia animated series continues forward. Gods’ School, created by a French animator, Gaylord C. Libessart, an indie animated series based on Greek mythology, continues to barrel ahead. A recent short episode about Aphrodite loving Ares and Hephaestus, and unsure of which one to choose, was released on the show’s official YouTube channel earlier this month. Unlike previous episodes, it is less than five minutes long. More animated shorts are in production, with one coming this fall.

Hannah Daigle, a bisexual animator who is creating Satina, is advancing with the project. She put out a call for additional animators earlier this year. Faeduck Studios, which I have mentioned in previous posts, a studio creating BIPOC LGBTQ+ animated films and short, in their words, decided to shelve Howdy Cloudboy as an animated pilot back in September. However, they decided to turn Howdy Cloudboy into a motion comic, meaning that it is still continuing. Since September, pages of the comic have been released on the studio’s Patreon. [2]

Otherwise, Wild Card, a mature murder mystery series about lawyers. It is created by a bisexual man named Alex Bahrawy. There are continued releases of Wild Card: Shuffled! illustrated pages on the show’s Patreon and Webtoon. According to the show’s official Twitter account, the pilot’s pre-production by Astrobun Studio is done.

Similarly, animated series by Black animator Brandon Wright, the creator behind Guardian Instance, Diver: The Animated Series, and Silver Lin, among other animations go forward. Vivienne Medrano, creator of indie smash hits Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss, noted progress on the second season of Helluva Boss, which is premiering on July 31. These series share similarities with Genevieve Fleming‘s House of Hell which is about demons, and a human girl, Oria, who “has to live with them in an abandoned house”.

This is only scratching the surface of this indie animation boom, if it can be called that. There are various currently airing indie animated series. Apart from the aforementioned Helluva Boss and Hazbin Hotel, the latter in development for a full-fledged animated series, there’s Ollie & Scoops. The series, by Nico Colaleo, a good friend of Medrano, just aired its ninth episode, “Vinnie Video“.

In comments below the episode, Colaleo noted that episode 10 will pick up where this episode left off. More episodes are likely in production. The series is notable especially because it includes many well-known voiceover artists. This includes Kimmy Robertson, Eric Bauza, Mara Wilson, James Rolfe, Mike Stoklasa, and Daron Nefcy.

Eddsworld, is currently airing. Matt Hargreaves is the current showrunner. emojitown, a series by the emoji company and Wisdom Nunn‘s Bob’s World are also airing. In the latter case, two episodes of the series have aired on YouTube. The third episode is currently in production. Slowly airing this year is an independent anime series, Interstellar Ranger Commence.

The first episode was released on the official YouTube channel of Browntable, the series production company, on April 2nd. Although the episodes were originally scheduled to be released on a monthly basis, the second episode was delayed to sometime in July.

The same can be said about Michael and James, a series by Jon Lopez, who is also a lead animator for Eddsworld. The last episode aired in February, and the series is currently on hiatus. This short web series sticks in my mind because the first episode is a musical song by Elsie Lovelock who voices a guitar-singing girl named Leslie Loveydovey declaring “This House is Mine” as she invades the house of Michael and James. Lovelock later voiced Charlie Magne in the pilot of Hazbin Hotel. She has voiced many other characters and records covers for her YouTube channel.

There are other series currently in production just as exciting. Take, for example, Indigo, a sci-fi animated series created by a Latine non-binary storyboard artist named Moon, who often draws The Owl House fan art. Max is a non-binary protagonist, who realizes that the universe is ruled by two alien dictators, and goes on a journey to stop them. The pilot episode is currently in production. Moon put out a search for 2D animators and background artists for the series. They even created a Discord server for indie animation! The series, according to the show creator, will include asexual characters, robots, and villains scarier than before. [4]

Various indie animators responded to a tweet from Moon. There were some series I was familiar with, like the coming-of-age Stars Align, a cop series named Succubus Cop, and a space opera series Lumi and the Great Big Galaxy. In addition is a pilot by two gay married men (Félix M. and Floyd) filled with LGBTQ+ characters, Gadzooks! & The Cryptoid Kids, and a New Orleans based series named LimeLight.

Also of note is the magical slice-of-life entitled Mugshot and Pollen, the artistic-themed Long Way from Del’Arte, a horror-action-romance pilot named Nocturne, a fully deaf produced animated show named Corrupted Memories, and an upcoming series named Fighting All Odds.

There were other series I was not aware of, such as a sci-fi action adventure named Defenders of Alodia, a horror sci-fi named Crater Cove, and Creosote Raining! by Joshua. The latter recommended I mention an independent horror mini series, My Roof. There are many more I could mention, like a 2D science-fantasy named Among the Others and the game-themed Bit Wars. [5]

Fighting All Odds is more than an upcoming series. On January 28, the show’s creator, Robert J. Preston, told me in a direct message that the show is a coming-of-age story about Jackie. While she is deaf and hard of hearing, her deafness isn’t the subject of the show, as noted by Preston. Rather, the focus is on her hero’s journey. At certain points, Jackie uses American Sign Language (ASL) to talk to specific people. There are two deaf consultants to make sure the series best represents a “group of people who deserve more representation.”

The series has LGBTQ characters, like a non-binary character named Oli/Ironside, and those with disabilities. Preston emphasized these characters aren’t written different from any others. In his words, Jackie’s struggles come from her choices as a hero and individual, but not because of her deafness. He added that the series may touch upon LGBTQ identities and disabilities of specific characters as part of the “exciting super hero action story”.

Corrupted Memories, an animated series by a deaf Latine storyboarder, Jocelyn Saravia, has some thematic similarities to Fighting All Odds. This series is aiming to be a “fully deaf produced animated show”, with a pilot coming out possibly in the next year or so. The series may have some themes reminiscent of Inside Job, by former writer for Gravity Falls, Shion Takeuchi, as it centers on a “mysterious stolen experimental drug” which causes tension between college students, who try and find answers and attempt to piece together what happened.

As the show’s official website says, they don’t want those investigating the incident to know everything. The series may also be influenced by series such as Kim Possible, as Saravia says they were inspired to go into animation because of the show, and The Owl House, since she is a big fan of the latter series. They are also the creator of a comic named Mother Traces.

This differs from Evan’s series, Lumi and the Great Big Galaxy. The show’s Kickstarter further describes it as a sci-fi fantasy with humor and adventure, and a “mix of both episodic and linear storytelling.” The page also notes that this animated series in development is inspired by Wonder Over Yonder and Steven Universe, and says it has been in development since he was in middle school. The series is planned to be released in either late 2022 or early 2023, with the voice actors even outlined!

This series is as exciting as LimeLight. It is a series, according to its Patreon, mainly set in New Orleans. The series focuses on Ashira GoldenFire who is trying to make her way in the music industry but she becomes associated with “darker side of life” through Carter Sillver. She falls in love with him, but her future from then on is uncertain. Its quite an exciting hook into the story.

The series had its first livestream with the show’s voice actors, creator MoralSky (Hannah I. Johnson), and many others, streamed on the show’s YouTube channel. These creators recognize what Jenn, co-creator of the Sunflower Club, stated: “indie animation is not for the weak”.

Penelope LeBlanc lovingly hugs Dakota Rivers, while Elizabeth Montgomery looks on in a screenshot of a short animated clip by Stars Align creator, Thea

The Patreon for Stars Align, a slice-of-life fantasy with LGBTQ+ representation may open on August 1, according to Thea, the show’s creator. There was recently a collaboration with another upcoming musical series, Sunnyside Magic High. Thea noted that Stars Align takes inspiration by The Owl House. This isn’t a surprise as she has drawn The Owl House and Amphibia fan art. Currently, writing for the pilot episode is done, while plotlines for season one are being worked on.

In an interesting coincidence, there is an anime series with the same name directed by Kazuki Akane, and cut from 12 episodes down from 24 at the last minute. That series shares something with Thea’s Stars Align. There is LGBTQ representation as well. Yuta “Yu” reveals he is “binary trans, x-gender, or something else entirely” as one reviewer pointed out. The series also has a focus on mental health too like Thea’s Stars Align. In response to a fan, Thea noted that she was aware of this similarity two years after she had created her characters.

On a related note is Pia’s Mugshot and Pollen, a magical slice-of-life. I’m a big fan of older slice-of-life series like Azumanga Daioh, and Dear Brother, and newer series such as Ascendance of a Bookworm, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, Laid-Back Camp, Let’s Make a Mug Too, and YuruYuri. I also like stories with magic, so this series would be right up my alley, and anyone else who enjoys such as series.

On a different vein is storyboarder Amber Avara’s Nocturne, filled with “vampires, retrofuturistic tech, nu-wave music”. She describes the series as a cross between Jem and the Holograms and Berserk. It shares some similarities with Allissoon’s Battle of the Bands. The latter is a 2d mature animated series in development about a world where musicians “have elemental powers based on the genre of music they play”. It is a series which sounds like a real rocker, for sure.

Then there’s Mysteries of Kruger Mansion which follows 14 young adults, ages 18 to 19, cast in a reality game show set in a haunted mansion. According to a direct message from Deric Jackman, one of the show’s co-creators (Adam Blubdi is another creator), this turns into a quest for “sinister truth” behind the mansion. It is, in his words, a “dark drama thriller” with blood, comedy, and a deep-cutting story.

The series, once finished, will air on the YouTube channel of Blu Productions, the company producing the series. The series, in some ways, gives me the same vibe as the classic 1993 supernatural black comedy film, Addams Family Values. It also makes me think about the short-lived young adult animated series, The Hollow, which had reality game show elements.

On another note is a sci-fi action-adventure cartoon named Defenders Of Alodia. It is created by Naya, a 19-year-old Black animator and SCAD student. Art direction and character design are by Vector Convoy. This series, in development, has a Kickstarter in the process. It is being produced by an emerging animation company, Boldbird Studios.

A recent tweet from the show’s official Twitter account said it has “Black girl magic” and stated that the series is “coming soon”. It fundamentally differs from Long Way From Del’Arte. The latter focuses on artistic friends who travel their world of “art, magic and science to find ancient stones that have the power to grant wishes”. All these projects come with a risk, even though many don’t want to deal with studios anymore, as some have noted.

Otherwise, Shannon Mowatt’s 16-minute animatic of Revamped, has been released in advance of the full animated pilot. It is an upcoming short queer film about four high school sophomores who deal with school life, vampires, and the supernatural world.

There’s the Lackadaisy film about 1920s gangster cats, based on Tracy J. Butler’s webcomic. Another series, Outcasts, has cats as characters. Shou Tuzi’s Tallyho! series continues to develop. It is inspired by steampunk, fantastique, and other media. Tuzi’s studio, Skull Hare Studio, is also working on Arthur: The Timeless Knight.

Daniel is continuing to pursue his action adventure series, Lumeon Lands, which has begin production. These series are important to highlight when Hollywood continues to end projects and sack animators. Some have put hope in indie animation, noting it has the promise to allow creators to have “creative control” unlike working under major studios.

While there are many indie animations I could mention. [6] However, I’d like to focus on a few series in development. One of those is Sam Sawyer’s SALEM, also known as Salem or S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters. In May, SpectroliteAAA, the lead storyboard artist said that she could talk about it soon, but not yet. In January, Sawyer, when asked by a fan, said the same thing.

The series has been fully funded. The now-fulfilled Kickstarter defines the series as an animated story about “a cryptid with a big heart and even bigger questions, on a quest to discover their true origins”.

Apart from having high-profile voice actors like Laura Bailey, Rob Paulsen, and Adam McAarthur, a tweet from the show’s account confirmed Petra as asexual, Salem (who is also non-binary) as pansexual, and Oliver as gay. The series has Randy Abrams as executive producer. It is being animated with help from Surfer Jack Productions, a company said to specialize in “ingenious storytelling”. The company was founded by animation industry veterans Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, Lance LeCompte, and Bernie Petterson.

There are other series in development. This includes Georden Whitman’s pilot named Port by the Sea on two kids who are “sailing the seas to fix a now broken moon”, Matt Acuña’s fantastical adventure The Garden Age, and the Far-Fetched Show, an animated seriesabout a rock band of misfits” by Ashley Nichols and Dave Capdevielle.

In addition, there’s a demon/vampire themed series in the process entitled Bloodgore, the psychological horror dramedy named Please Stay Tuned, the ghost-themed Ghost Hunt, a sci-fi themed SpaceAges, and many more. These are a small sampling of the indie animated series out there. [7] These persist despite the problem of distribution and funding to “make original stuff”, and possible iffiness of crowdsourcing, as writer Chris Hill pointed out.

Port by the Sea‘s pilot will likely come out sometime later this year. The Far-Fetched Show is also moving ahead, with comics to go with the series like Wild Card. The Nichols’ Patreon notes that a lyrics video for the series band, Sesemoid, is coming out later this year. This also noted they are still working on the pilot. Currently, there is wonderful fan art of the show’s characters, including putting them in a Steven Universe setting, and much more.

The fact that Port by the Sea has over 1400 followers and Far-Fetched Show has over 67,600 followers, along with 406 Patreons of Nichols, proves what animator LanceArts pointed out: that the indie animation scene is “exploding with greater popularity now more than ever.

More episodes of Alpha Betas are currently in production, with recording for new episodes. Four episodes are set to be released in Fall/Winter 2022. Additionally, Lucha Vandross is fundraising for various indie animated series. This includes those inspired by 1980s Hong Kong films (Project Icarus and Project Icarus X) and a modern take on Robin Hood. The latter is about friends “robbing the rich and giving it to the poor” (Samson). [8] Animator 9Hammer is actively releasing series in Newgrounds, of all places. This includes series such as Chaotic Heart and Solace, with new episodes in production.

Others, like Warlord-of-Noodles, have ongoing series as well, which is also posted on YouTube and has a Patreon. Series like Deep States, by Molly, are on YouTube. There is the exciting 2d indie anime in development entitled Broken Beat, made by animators of prominent anime series, like Creative Theory. The series is about a protagonist, Sin, tasked with stopping the reign of the creator god, and challenged by an “endless conflict between humans and manifestors”. Sin masters his form along the way.

Newgrounds is a weird place. There’s a lot of terrible (and amateurish content) there, mixed with sexual content. It is more than what would YouTube would permit, and includes pornographic material. Apart from the series on hiatus by 9Hammer, Beyond the Fog, there’s The Looter, and Zack and Alex. The latter, by Jayevin Abad, had its pilot posted on YouTube as well. Otherwise, there are various other series, films, and more, which have aired on the site. [9] Some shows I’ve noted before in this post, and elsewhere, like Ollie and Scoops, Eddsworld, Tales of Alethrion, and Satina all have pages on the site.

Apart from Newgrounds, are further series in development. This includes The Art Of Murder, produced by an Australian indie 2D animation studio named Choc Chip. It is produced by Anokhi Somaia and directed by Nirali Somaia. Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli are the series composers.

The Art of Murder is a murder mystery, musical, and pop culture parody where “sketchbook characters come to life” when the clock strikes midnight. It features voice actors like Lizzie Freeman, who also voices a character in Gods’ School, Lauren Lopez, who founded a popular online musical theatre company named Team Starkid. There’s also Joey Richter (part of the same theatre company), Joey Bizinger, a well-known Japanese-Australian voice actor, YouTuber, and more, and Megan Lee, a Korean-American singer-songwriter. 

There’s further projects of note. This includes various series by LGBTQ creators. [10] For instance, there’s an animated series such as Scrappers, Swift Spark and the Defense Five, Birdboys, and Novas. Scrappers and Birdboys are by trans women, Charlie Gultiano-Wyton and Danielle Maxine specifically. Swift Spark and the Defense Five is by a trans man, Pan. Novas is by a queer and trans artist, Jesse. Scrappers is being produced by Gultiano-Wyton’s animation studio, Variation Media.

Swift Spark and the Defense Five is by artist and animator, Pan, who loves Phineas & Ferb, and is based on a comic of the same name. Birdboys is by artist and animator, Danielle, with some teasers posted on her YouTube channel. Novas is the personal project of Jesse, a SCAD student, who posted a casting call for the animation on Tik Tok. What Avara, mentioned earlier in this article, stated is relevant here: support for indie creators is necessary if you “want to see diversity in animation”. Part of that is LGBTQ representation.

Just as exciting are the shows by Black creators. I’ve mentioned a few in this post already, including Creative Theory, Brandon Wright, Wisdom Nunn, Lucha Vandross, Nya, and Pia. For one, there’s a 2D animated series named Jumbie, produced by a small studio in Trinidad and Tobago, GemGfx Animation Studios. Originally scheduled for release in February of this year, the Jumbie pilot was delayed to February 2023, because the studio was working on a music video for “A Better Tomorrow”, a song by Mark Loquan, featuring Terri Lyons, which came out in April. With that, Jumbie is going forward.

In addition, there is an animated hiphop musical entitled Battu, which is scheduled to become an animated series on Cartoon Network. The latter has also picked up a show drawing from Nigerian culture entitled Iyanu: Child of Wonder to be overseen by a Black-owned animation studio, Lion Forge Animation. Before Disney Branded Television was headed by Ayo Davis, a Black woman, it agreed to pick up Iwájú. The latter is an Africanfuturist series set in Lagos, Nigeria. Disney is co-producing it with Kugali Media, a Pan-African entertainment company.

There are many other Black indie creators. There’s Vampire Nwt’s suspense mystery show entitled Blackwater Creek. It has queer Afro-Latine leads named after magic, monsters, and fruits! Even more exciting is Captain Zero. It is an action drama about a social media-obsessed superhero named Captain Zero who “must find the cause of his depression-fueled blackouts in order to save his city and himself.” The series is created by a Black non-binary illustrator, filmmaker, and writer, Lamard Cher-Aimé. It is produced by a Black-owned animation company, Cutting Edge Animation.

This animated series tackles “mental health in the Black community, identity,” according to Cher-Aimé. Currently, five seasons, 4 specials, and a feature film for Captain Zero are planned. The show’s GoFundMe states that with enough money it can turn the show into a reality. The show, and another produced by Cutting Edge Animation, Space Friends, are often promoted by Cher-Aimé. They often ask their followers to name show characters, and showcase series art and related merchandise. Interviews, Q&As, and more further pull in potential viewers on the show’s YouTube channel.

Recently, a short five-minute film entitled “Captain Zero: Into The Abyss”, funded in part by Chromatic Black’s Ida B. Wells fund, aired. It stars the Black trans actress Angelica Ross, who is the film’s executive producer. The film focuses on a therapy session of Xerxes Hughes, aka Captain Zero, with Dr. Niobe (voiced by Ross). It was posted on the show’s YouTube channel. It is within a video that is about 1 hour, 50 minute video, complete with mental health professionals, Ross, Cher-Aimé, and others talked about the film, Black representation in animation and comics, mental health, and many other topics.

These series prove what Ashley Nichols said: that “anyone can tell an amazing story.” It also seems to prove that people with vision and passion can make “god tier animation”. Amazing animation doesn’t always need a “studio behind it with a million dollars.” There is no clear answer for making indie animation viable. After all, people can still steal content of an indie animation and profit off it.

Even so, some have supported waiting longer for series to come to fruition, giving those producing it more time to rest, polish their ideas, and make the shows better. Furthermore, there is no doubt that corporate media fails to represent many aspects of society, with indie animation making cooler content despite the need for funds. There are the continual challenges of people not taking animation seriously.

Unsurprisingly, there have been calls for a website for indie animated series which works like Webtoon. The Animation for Adults site proposed an awards show just for indie animation. Creator Nation promoted a Discord server for indie creators, indie animated shows, and indie comics. Some noted news of Netflix’s war with its animation department by letting go many of its animation employees. Many creators responded sharing their series or pilots in the process. It has led more toward indie animation.

Creators have seen indie animation as the way to go. Some said that creators should do promos for other indie animations or said that now is the most important time to support, and follow, indie projects. This is coupled with the realization (and recognition) that those in the animation industry don’t have stable jobs.

Then, there’s Project City, created by Rad Sechrist, well-known as the showrunner of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. In February, I argued that Project City has “the potential to expand the indie animation space beyond…often crowdfunded series on YouTube”. I stated that it allows for “more independence for creators in the series, movies, music, or shows they create.” While it is amazing that Sechrist is funding, and creating, his next film (The Brave War), co-created with Andra Gunter and Daniel Rojas, independently, progress on the platform is somewhat slow.

There was lukewarm reception to his idea that people who buy shares in a project “have the right to make and sell merch” but have to “drop profits back into our system that distributes to all IP owners”. Some about the potential use of NFTs, which Sechrist realized was a good point. He is strongly against NFTs and for good reason. Others called it “iffy“, said the execution could be tricky, or worried it could set a bad precedent. On the other hand, there were those more receptive to Sechrist’s idea.

Project City now emphasizes its role as an animation school, including 15-minute lectures on various topics, and is now defined as a “project based platform for learning how to create animation.” Back in March, Sechrist said they are continuing with F-IP (fractional IP), where people could buy shares of an IP, but are not using Blockchain or NFT, and stated they would be launching it within the next month. That did not happen. The idea continues to be developed. A tweet from the project’s account used the #FIP hashtag on June 24. But, there haven’t been many more updates beyond that, as Sechrist last mentioned it in a tweet on January 7.

On the other hand, on June 18, Sechrist said that they have been wanting to take steps toward making Project City “a streaming platform of creators learning and sharing their process/knowledge.” He added that Project City takes “no ownership of IP people post”. Anyone can post and delete any video they have posted. In addition, he said they were considering allowing people to post 1 minute clips on the site. Ultimately, Project City may be part of what Avara describes, giving people a platform who wouldn’t have it “in the traditional studio setting”. More fundamentally, it is part of allowing creators to share stories on their own terms.

A few other indie animations are worth noting. Take for example, a comedy sci-fi music series named Starstruck, surrealist cyberpunk anime named Dreamcatchers, and an animated young adult horror mystery named Black Pines. There’s artist and animator Tamara’s Starmakers series (with a bisexual girl named Astra), and storyboarder Kaitrin Snodgrass‘s seeming space opera, Buckwild.

There’s also a young adult action-adventure fantasy film named The Will of Monsters, by filmmaker and animator Christopher Wade, an animated project named Big Cat Bandits, and about globe-traveling cat thieves “resisting an evil world-conquering empire with crime”. It was exciting to learn about 2D freelance animator Nadia Dar’s series based on growing up mixed race entitled Brighter, and an animated series named Ironface “steeped in 80s pop culture…part Terminator, and all NIGHTMARE” according to the show’s teaser. Others are just as intriguing, such as an action-comedy named Defender Squad about an alien woman who crash lands on Earth and “joins a low ranking two-person hero team” according to series creator Royal Wildfire.

These series, and many others, [11] are examples of creating animation without connections to big companies. These creators aren’t on “puppet strings“. Unlike series produced made by big companies, indie animations obviously depend on people’s support, due to lack of support from the industry unsurprisingly. The indie animations are often shared by their creators, following the basic marketing advice some shared about small indie creative projects. Still, it is worth remembering, as The Owl House creator and bisexual animator Dana Terrace once pointed out, “nothing is precious in animation.”

This makes me think about a Russian indie series about a family of Metalheads entitled Metal Family. It seems to have stopped for the time being. Western sanctions on Russia limited financial options available to Russians. They resulted in challenges for the show’s staff in getting money necessary for the show’s continuation. From comments on the Metal Family subreddit, I get the impression that the series is a rut now and won’t be coming out anytime soon. Presumably work on episodes is going forward, but slowly. My enthusiasm for the series dissipated after a character used an anti-gay slur unnecessarily and no one attempted to improve the dialogue.

On a more positive note, there are are creators such as a 2D Thai animator named KAGO, and an indie feature animation director, Fnook. Indie animation studios Cloudrise Pictures, Paper Panther, Tapocketa, Krispy Animation, and Bandit Mill are producing animations. The latter is working to create “unique, different adult animation” such as The Boys of Boxtown. Bitter Animation is making a pilot named Stranger and many other animations. The indie animated studio, Sunflower Club, is going forward with Little Wolf and Life in Hell.

There are many other series in the works. This includes DynamoToon‘s sci-fi fantasy comedy named Horizonauts. There’s also a queer Colombian-American 2D artist and animator named TipsyJHearts creating a series entitled The Evil Little Thing, and an animated series named The Porcelain Prince by Gabrielle Teaford. Also of note is an unnamed sci-fi crime drama “heavily inspired by Avatar and RWBY” by Keelan270, and Animation Emfatuation’s Crime!, a short film in the process about knightlights and teddy bears which fight monsters at night entitled Knightlights & Teddy Bears. 

It is worth pointing to a 2D-animated cartoon with slapstick and adventure entitled The Incredible Adventures of Detective Cat, an independent drama named GrindCove, Angye Burman’s Real Fantasy: Fight for the Past which focuses on four teens who try to figure out their future while “fighting off evil…and struggling with school”. Then there’s a series by an animator, Shorter, named Gangs for Rent. It is an animated sitcom about gangsters, with LGBTQ people, those on the spectrum, and with mental disorders.

There are many other indie animated series out there, [12] some of which aren’t in this article despite my best efforts to find as many series as I could. Cartoon Crave promotes some of these series on Twitter. Supporting indie animation is important to provide a viable alternative to often stifling studio system which ingests shows and spits them out. Likely the indie animation boom will continue as companies continue to cut animators and cancel shows.

Notes

[1] This paragraph used information from the Patreons of sharpytown, Lopside Animation, Zeurel, Sheepish Series, Rebecca Doodles, and the East Patch. The West Patch is being pitched in hopes of becoming a more full-fledged series in the future.

[2] This paragraph used information from Patreons of Heloise&RS, Gods’ School, Hannah Daigle, and Faeduck Studios.

[3] This paragraph used information from Patreons of Wild Card, Essieo, Brandon Wright, and Vivienne Medrano.

[4] See tweets here, here, and here.

[5] There’s two series adapted from comics: the supernatural series WeatherWitch, and robot-themed Space Cops. Others with previously aired series, like Lions Light and Sirenetta also responded. Other examples are a surreal adult animation named Tailocity, a sci-fi thriller named Eidolons Vision, a fantasy-adventure named Bonorum, a boxing fantasy named Punch Drunk Monkey by Brad Braché, the superhero series Aleph Stars, a cartoon about an overpowered superhero horse and “his sidekick Beaver fighting Evil” named Atomic Horseman, J.M. Collado’s Finding Alyx about a “child who learns…art of self expression through his alternative neighbors“, and an original “medieval post-cyberpunk science fantasy series” named Rogue Metro.

[6] Take, for example, joolia‘s The Legend of Pipi animated film, a channel named GLITCH creating animated shows, a short 3D animation film Grandma My Love (Mi Amor), a media brand named The Dynamite Twins and Friends with shorts, clips, and music, an animated series by Aran W of Fiyah entitled Scratch, an animated series by Corey named Newt currently on hiatus, an animated series entitled Don’t Touch the Props, the mature animated series Boy Meets Underworld, an animated series named Blood and Skinny Hedgehog, animated shorts featuring Serenity Lockhart, and a series centered around teenagers with magical powers and must save the world entitled Warlocks of Wrath High.

[7] Others include a slowly moving flash animated series, True Tail, C. Cameron’s Wimp Witch, Colin McCall‘s adventure-comedy Evelynne Doom, and hints that Zak Wood will independently produce the action-musical Band of Mythix. There’s Crash Tako’s Lovers in Crime, which currently has a pilot, Micaela Wainstein’s series in development, The Crystal Eden, an original anime named The Kaminai, a sci-fi series named Deranged!, an animated series named CRiTORA, a slowly developing series named Jade, an animated web series entitled Bleating Heart, Glenn Draper’s Space Landers, and Marabelli: A Scoundrel’s Tale, a series produced by Adventure Noises and created by Benjamin Feldman, is moving into full production.

[8] He is trying to produce a hip-hop influenced 3D action game named Supremacy, which looks pretty cool.

[9] Some Newgrounds series that ended include Interface (ended in October 2021) and Monster Lab (ended in December 2021). Some films on Newgrounds that have aired include Heartbreak (2022), Winter Blues (2022), The World of Literal Hat (2022), Home (2022), Tales from Scortchwater Valley (2022), The Wind Whistles (2021), The Wait (2021), Gilded Guy Gets Up (2021), Butch (2021), and Hot Salsa (2020).

[10] There’s a series by queer writer Stephanie “Steph” about an ambitious space pilot named Space Pilots and a queer western action- romance story entitled Limbo by a trans man named Inukuma. Also there’s a LGBTQ animated series named Summoners, created by a gay man named Blurzy, who describes it as “about a bisexual boy who lives in a world with magical abilities and a futuristic time frame”. There’s a series by a abrosexual art hobbyist named Violet about a trans elf girl, a sweet girls love film directed by Sophie Feher entitled Piece of Cake, and Inukuma‘s Romancing Roslyn Cherry.

[11] Likely Bloop and Friends, Frootoon‘s Project Tideaway, LZbrosThe Alyssian, Feldman’s Accidental Gehenna, Régis (Reggie) Camargo‘s Hockey, Love And GUTS!, CheesyTrishy‘s Dragon Falls and Crime Time, Sophie Bergers’ Framed, Artixi‘s Destination Unknown, BBGannon’s Alfred the Alien, Shiloh’s Zeyka, Poolustrations’ The Cosmos in your Eyes, Gabis’ The Fantastic Warriors, Courtney’s Sorein, Rebecca’s Royal Pain, Crescent Fire, and Brady’s Crash in the System are moving forward.

[12] Take, for example, animator and illustrator Colleen Gundersen’s unnamed series, an animated pilot by @LSMark_, and Legends of Myiorda (Myiorda No Shinwa), an original anime by Eternal Arts Studios. Century Park remains in the lurch because they haven’t found an Indigenous teen to voice the protagonist, the pilot of The Heroes of Tomorrow is moving ahead, as is Wolves of Cecila, and The Shadow Marked. Cartoon Connect is working on Lil Ron Ron. There have been no updates on Ana/Dami’s Harri’s World since January 2021 nor Dark Pages since December 2021, or Re:Quest. The studio producing the series stated the cast would be announced in November 2021, but that did not happen. Although there haven’t been any updates for some time, The Descendants animated series may be moving forward.

Entrapta, She-Ra, and Autistic Representation

This is reprinted from Neurotastic and was a shorter version of my post a couple days before on the same topic.

When people think of autism, Raymond Babbit in Rain Man, Christian Wolff in The Accountant, or Sheldon in Big Bang Theory, may come to mind. These negative stereotypes persist in popular culture despite increased positive representation for autistic characters. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (SPOP) is different.

While the series rightfully received accolades for its LGBTQ+ representation, there is another aspect of the show: positive autistic representation. Entrapta (voiced by Christine Woods), a curious and sensitive hacker, scientist, and “geeky princess,” is a well-written autistic character. SPOP series creator Noelle Stevenson stated that autistic storyboarder Sam Szymanski played a huge role in shaping Entrapta.

Behind the Mask

Whether she is seen as “morally grey,” “adorkable,” or “chaotic neutral,” she is a smart character who makes her own decisions and tries to fix problems through a mechanical means. Unlike the show’s other protagonists, Adora, Glimmer, Catra, and Bow, around age 17 or 18, she is older, in her late 20s or early 30s. She struggles to connect with others, due to her occasional low self-worth, and sometimes hides behind her mask, affixed to her face. Her voice changes when wearing the mask, as she tries to cover up her autistic traits and appear neurotypical.

As Noelle described Entrapta, she struggles to communicate her feelings or understand what other characters are saying, seeing “humanity in everything,” whether clones, robots, or otherwise. In the show’s most recent, and last season, she begins to balance her love for machines and a desire to connect with others, while helping the protagonists save the world of Etheria, where the series takes place, from the villainous Horde Prime. One of the characters she humanizes is Hordak, former leader of the evil Horde. Their interactions, in the show as a whole, led some fans (and members of the show’s crew) to ship them as “Entrapdak.” This was confirmed as canon in a Black Lives Matter charitable Twitch stream hosted by Noelle and her wife, Molly Ostertag.

Noelle also stated that Entrapta, as a loving person, has a lot of robot boyfriends and girlfriends. The latter is reflected in the show’s most recent season when she flirted with technology, specifically the Horde Robot in the episode “Launch,“and the spaceship, which she named “Darla,” in the episode “Stranded.” Whether these are examples of robosexuality, referring to love or sexuality between a robot and a humanoid person, or not, there is not question it is part of her propensity to see humanity in everything.

System Failure

Entrapta freely makes her own decisions as an “underappreciated technowizard,” some of which are reprehensible. For instance, she helped the Horde destroy much of Etheria. Although she stayed loyal to her friend, Hordak, it is incorrect to call her the “worst kind of villain” or a person who cares only about pursuing knowledge despite the consequences. Whether she is fully aware of the planetary damage she has caused, she is undoubtedly morally ambiguous, with a “cheerfully wobbly” moral compass, different than the show’s other characters.

She thinks that her calculations and data will give her the “answers,” no matter the cost. As such, it is incorrect to say she lacks the ability to self-assess her actions or embodies stereotypes. After the Princesses unintentionally stranded her in the Fright Zone, she joined the show’s villains, the Horde, leading some to declare that she is a harmful form of representation, while others claimed she believed the lies of Catra, Adora’s romantic interest. In any case, Entrapta willingly stays with the Horde and the Princesses respect this decision while disagreeing with it.

There is a deeper reason she joined the Horde. When Glimmer and Adora meet her in her debut episode, “System Failure,” fighting the murder robots she accidentally created, Glimmer sees her as a way to impress her mother and win the war against the series villains. In contrast, Glimmer’s friend, Bow, sympathizes with Entrapta, calling her a “brilliant inventor,” praise she happily accepts. Despite Glimmer’s negative vibe, she stays friendly, and offers to cut off her leg to save them from the robots.

A few episodes later, in “Princess Prom,” Entrapta geeks out, describing the prom as a “social experiment” which is the best place to observe social behavior. She pries into Glimmer’s uneasiness and becomes friendly with Catra. Later, after Adora pulls her aside, it is implied that Entrapta’s heart isn’t with the Rebellion. The forcefulness of Glimmer, Adora, Mermista, and Perfuma toward her throughout season one, may be a subconscious turn-off for Entrapta, with the Princesses not completely understanding her. While the Princesses mourn the “death” of Entrapta, unknowingly leaving her behind, they had used her for their own purposes (defeating the Horde). Catra does the same thing, using her to get back at Adora.

Finding Friends in Exile

Furthermore, Entrapta may have been unaware she defected to the Horde or cares what side she is on. In the episode “Ties That Bind,” she tentatively says she is with the Horde, telling Glimmer that she is on the side of science, but is living in the Fright Zone. Near the end of season three, considering what Adora told her, she tries to warn Hordak to not open a portal which threatens to destroy Etheria. Catra panics, electrocutes Entrapta, and tries to distance herself from her mistakes by sending Entrapta into exile onto the remote Beast Island. In the bizarre world created by the portal, Adora and her friends meet Entrapta who helps them figure out what is happening and thanks Adora for being a friend. In the following season, she is thankful that Bow, Adora, and their talking horse, save her from Beast Island, a place full of “technological monstrosities.” Although she left Beast Island for scientific discovery and data, she appreciates Bow as a friend.

Due to Entrapta’s track record with the Horde, the princesses are distrustful. This is shown in the season five episode, “Launch.” As Megan Crouse describes it in her article, Entrapta begins to clash with the other princesses, putting them in danger. When Mermista accuses her of not caring about them and being untrustworthy, she responds by not realizing the Princesses were angry with her in the first place. She retreats to apologizing, stating: “I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech. I thought maybe if I could use tech to help you, you’d like me. But I messed that up, too.” After this, Entrapta tries to get away, but Mermista pulls her back by her prehensile hair, like Horde Prime in a later episode, relenting only when convinced that Entrapta cares about Glimmer.

In the rest of the season, she works to earn the trust of the other Princesses, gaining more friends as she recognizes the reasons behind her actions and explores her feelings for others. While you could say that Entrapta does not see the full consequences of her harmful actions, she overcomes possible social isolation and helps the series protagonists save their friends (first Glimmer, then Catra) from Horde Prime’s flagship, the Velvet Glove. She also removes the mind-control chip from Catra’s neck and forgives Catra after she apologizes for her hurtful actions. In the final episode of the season, after trying to disable mind-control chips of those across Etheria, when held against her will on the Velvet Glove, she apologizes to everyone. Later, after Catra and Adora save the world with their love, she reunites with Hordak.

Entrapta Represents

In the end, Entrapta is a positive form of representation for autistic people and subverts the Entrapta from the original She-Ra series, a simple villain without a conscience.

“We wrote her that way”: Entrapta and autistic representation in She-Ra

Entrapta forgives Catra for exiling her to Beast Island at the end of Season 3, and being a jerk to her in the past, in the episode, “Taking Control”

In November of last year, I wrote about Entrapta, one of my favorite characters in the animated series, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, because she is morally gray character, a hacker, and a “smart and quirky chaotic neutral icon.” In that post, I examined her character in the first four seasons of the show, noting that she is an autistic character who makes her own decisions, acting as “a princess with prehensile hair who is [also] a scientist and inventor always trying to tinker with ancient technology. ” I also criticized some who claimed she is a “hurtful” representation of autistic people, noting that she is sweet and underappreciated, pointing out that Bow is the only one who sees her sympathetically, and that she stays in the Fright Zone by choice. I further noted that she is dedicated to science and research, sticks up for Catra when Hordak wants to send her to Beast Island, and stated that when she is rescued from Beast Island in Season 4 she “goes with them back to Bright Moon because of data and scientific discovery, not because of friendship or anything else.” I additionally made a comparison between her and Peridot in Steven Universe, with storyboarder Maya Peterson (the same one who said Peri is asexual and aromatic), said she doesn’t interpret Peridot as autistic. I intend this post will be an update from my previous post, talking about her in the show’s final (and fifth) season, which started streaming on May 15th.  If you haven’t see the new season, please do so because this post is filled with spoilers! It is important to write about this because series creator Noelle Stevenson confirmed that Entrapta was autistic, basing her on an autistic person on the SPOP crew, a full-time storyboard artist named Sam Szymanski. [1]

Most of the commentary about the new season has focused on the mutual confession of romantic feelings by Catra and Adora, shipped as Catradora, who kiss in the show’s final episode, with their love literally saving the world (and universe) from destruction. This is the right focus, while some have noted the other LGBTQ characters confirmed like Seahawk (whose ex is named Falcon), Kyle and Rogelio, the relationship between Perfuma and Scorpia, or the romance between Bow and Glimmer, among many other topics. [2] After all, as Lindsey Mantoan, wrote in a CNN opinion, She-Ra is the “best queer representation on television.” In the process, however, little has been said about Entrapta. In fact, of many reviews I looked at, only a few even mentioned her in their analyses, despite her pivotal role in at least part of the season. [3] While one reviewer for A.V. Club (Shannon Miller) claimed that the show trades an in-depth look at Entrapta’s treatment for “heroics,” and saying there could have been “more reflection from those who have outwardly had more difficulty understanding Entrapta’s mindset, ” another, for Forbes, Linda Maleh, says the opposite. Maleh argues that Entrapta gets a lot “a lot of screen time as she learns to balance her love of machines with her desire to connect with people,” calling her entirely “adorkable,” and that her character gives viewers some of the most touching and funny moments of the show. I tend to agree with Maleh more than Miller. Similarly, I think that Heather Hogan of Autostraddle makes a valid point in saying that Wrong Hordak brought out the charming parts of Entrapta, stating that it was nice to see her understanding how to work alongside friends, express herself better, and her feelings, while the princesses “start to understand her for who she really is.” Although it is positive these reviewers noted her role in the season, there is clearly a lot more going on about Entrapta than what Miller, Maleh, or Hogan talk about.

Entrapta, who is between the ages 28 and 30, appears in every single episode of the fifth season, apart from episode 10, can be said to be the “smartest” character in the series. In the previous season,  she was rescued from Beast Island by Bow, Adora, and Swift Wind, reminded about her true friends while ancient technology continued to pull her in. In contrast, in this season, she struggles to find a place among the other princesses, as highlighted in the episode “Launch.” Since Entrapta has been a morally grey character in the past, it makes sense that the princesses are a bit distrustful. Even Emily, with her name as an obscure reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, turns away from Enttapta when it appears that she cares more about tech “than saving their friend.” After that episode, the princesses begin to understand her better. She later helps out Adora and Bow save Glimmer from Horde Prime’s flagship. Glimmer is transported through space by Catra, in her first likely selfless act. She then helps Adora, Bow, and Glimmer successfully rescue Catra from Prime’s flagship, called the Velvet Glove. She even does surgery on Catra, removing the chip in her neck. She, additionally, forgives Catra after she apologizes for treating her terribly. As a reminder, at the end of Season 3, Catra panicked when Entrapta tried to warn Hordak to not start the portal. She then orders her to be sent to Beast Island. She is shocked with what she is done (as is Scorpia by this cruel act against her), beginning her descent down a “dark, dangerous path.” Basically, Catra blamed Entrapta for her own mistakes.

In the rest of the season, Entrapta continues to help the princesses and tries to disable all the chips before being transported to Prime’s flagship. She apologizes to everyone when captured by Prime, literally the head of a cult of mindless drone soldiers. Whether Entrapta has platonic or romantic feelings for Hordak, the latter shipped as Entrapdak by one of of the show’s story editors (and some other fans), it is up the viewer. [4] As some fans noted back in March, a few months before the recent season premiered, it is clear that there is “some chemistry between her and Hordak” and some even call their relationship “sweet,” although I’m not sure I would go that far. In any case, it does mean that Hordak is more than a one-dimensional villain like in the original She-Ra: Princess of Power series in the 1980s which was used to sell action figures for Mattel. Through some searching, I did find an interview with Stevenson (complete with unfortunate spelling errors by the person who wrote the transcript of her interview responses) where she specifically talks about how Entrapta grows in this season:

I think with a character like Entrapata [sic], we sort of live in a little bit of her own version of the world that the other characters don’t always understand…It’s not only Entrapta learning how to empathize and connect with others, but also for others to learn how to empathize and connect with her. And so I think with both sides of that, we see [Entrapta] growing this season. What I think has always been [Entrapta’s] strength is that, even if she might struggle with communicating her feelings or understanding other characters when they’re communicating their feelings to her, I think her strength as a character — kind of her superpower — is that she sees humanity in everything. Not just in humanoid or organic creatures, but she sees humanity in robots. She sees humanity in the AI that drives ships. She sees humanity in one clone in a million identical clones and knows their personality and knows who they are and knows how to connect with them… I think we see her make a lot of progress on that front, but then we also see her. I think she does more than almost any other character in humanizing characters who have never been humanized before by anyone….It’s so much of what is the heart of this show. It seems like that’s what makes Etherea [sic] special in general is that everyone who comes to Etherea [sic] isn’t getting broken by it a little bit. They end up making connections and falling in love in ways they never thought were possible. And I think Entrapta really embodies that.”

Furthermore, as a morally grey character, who played a “big hand in some of the Horde-led destruction on Etheria,” she still cares about her friends. While some may question her renewal of the individuality or “humanity” of Hordak, becoming his first genuine friend, later leading him to turn against Horde Prime, she clearly had a “unique perspective on the world that not everyone understands.” Earlier in the season, when she encounters Hordak before he is freed from Prime’s control, in an attempt to access the computer control center of Horde Prime so she can disable the mind-control chips, helped by Swift Wind, she tells Hordak “remember, your imperfections are beautiful!” When the essence of Prime is destroyed by She-Ra, he is freed, and is soon reunited with Entrapta, who says that she is “so glad” to see him back.

By this point, it is clear that Entrapta is not the “worst kind of villain” as some described her and is more than a person who “only cares about the pursuit of knowledge,” no matter the consequences, as Brett Elderkin described her, also calling her a “mad scientist,” but rather just a morally grey character, or perhaps “chaotic neutral” to use a Dungeons and Dragons term. That brings me to a recent article by Megan Crouse in Den of Geek appropriately titled “She-Ra: In Defense of Entrapta.” She states that while Entrapta occasionally embraces the trope of not caring about “people who might be hurt when dangerous experiments go wrong,” she is much more than that, and dramatically changes in Season 5. Crouse added that Entrapta in Season 4 was not truly happy as a hermit on Beast Island, although she maintained her fascination with science, missing people, and afraid that “her friends will inevitably abandon her.” She then talks about the episode “Launch” where Entrapta’s conflict with the fellow princesses reaches a boiling point, putting others in danger, with her actions “extremely, comically risk,” wanting to win at no matter the cost. After Mermista accuses Entrapta of not caring about any of them, and not being trustworthy as a result, she responds by saying she didn’t realize they were angry at her. She then retreats to apologizing, one of her many defensive mechanisms, stating

I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech. I thought maybe if I could use tech to help you, you’d like me. But I messed that up, too.

As she barrels ahead, Mermista pulls her back by her hair (just as Horde Prime does later), and is finally convinced of her good nature when Entrapta declares “Glimmer needs us!,” indicating she is willing to put herself in harms away as much as anyone else. As Crouse further outlines, while Entrapta’s action is similar to what she has done in the past, as she begins to explain how and why she acts and feels the way she does, gaining more friends along the way. Even so, she still clearly has trouble reading people, which is not “magically cured throughout this season.” While Crouse says that it would “have been nice to see Entrapta really feel the consequences of her dangerous actions,” I would counter and say she did grow a lot in this season. On the other hand, I agree with Crouse that it is “sweeter to see her pursue science and friendship” than just tinkering with technology on Beast Island. While I can see why she argues that Entrapta is annoying, she makes a good point that Entrapta is not letting her “loner tendencies turn into complete isolation, but nor does she have to completely change who she is.” As a side note, Entrapta cuts her own bangs, as Stevenson said once, although this is terrifying considering her power tools! Yikes!

Now, lets get to the elephant in the room: Entrapta flirting with technology. The first time this happens is in the episode “Launch,” declaring flirtatiously: “Hello. You are very technologically advanced” before almost being blown to smithereens by the Horde robot. Then, in the episode “Stranded” she says: “Darla and I are going to spend some quality time together,” again in a flirtatious manner, leading to confused looks from Adora, Bow, and Glimmer. Now, robosexuality, a term seemingly coined and/or popularized by Futurama, means the “love and/or sexuality between a humanoid and a robot.” From these two interactions you could say that she is robosexual. Let us consider what Stevenson said about Entrapta: that she is learning to connect and empathize with others, and sees humanity in everything, knowing their personality and how to connect with them. One fan put Entrapta very well, remarking that she is a functional adult who can make full decisions, arguing that she is “chaotic good with a bad moral compass who likes to fuck space nazis,” saying she makes bad decisions. I can agree with that to an extent, except to say that it makes sense why she ended up working for the Horde, since the princesses had not really liked/understood her before that point. Another fan noted, correctly, that Entrapta (and Scorpia) but had to earn the trust of the princesses in their own ways.

That’s all! Comments are welcome.


Notes

[1] In her first tweet, she responded to a fan who asked if entrapta is autistic, saying that “many of us relate to her and love her so much and it would mean a lot if we could get confirmation of her being autistic.” She responded by saying: “yes, we wrote her that way. One of our crewmembers was on the spectrum and related to her specifically, and had a huge part in shaping her story and character!” She further explained that “the crew member was board artist @Sizzlemanski. His first episode was Entrapta’s introductory episode in season 1 [System Failure] and he had a HUGE hand not only in defining her physical acting, but also pitched me several ideas for her arc early on! He basically became our go-to for Entrapta.”

[2] As Stevenson stated on Twitter, she hopes that in the future we stop thinking about LGBT representation as a “race or a contest” and as more of a “community effort to uplift voices that have not yet had their stories told,” with each individual piece of media as a “broadening of horizons.”

[3] When Noelle Stevenson was interviewed by comicbook.com, Nerdist, Gizmodo, A.V. Club, L.A. Times, Polygon, Digital Spy, GLAAD, EW, and CBR, the interviewers understandably focused on the Catra/Adora slow-burn relationship, but never asked a question about Entrapta. One interviewer for Collider asked “…So we’ve got Bow and Glimmer, we’ve got Sea Hawk and Mermista, we’ve even got kind of an interesting relationship with Entrapta and Hordak, and then obviously CatrAdora. But did you know from the beginning how everybody was going to pair off or is that something that kind of developed over time?” but she never specifically replied about the “relationship with Entrapta and Hordak.” Reviews of the show in The Mary Sue, PinkNews, LA Times, tor.com, and ScreenRant do not even mention Entrapta at all!

[4] On Instagram, Noelle Stevenson said that Entrapta would follow Hordak to Beast Island as his community services for his crimes and as a result, the “two would develop a romantic relationship and reunite with the bot she left behind in Season 4, keeping her promise to return,” so it sounds like it is leaning toward romance, as noted in a summary on her fandom page. Also see Emily Hu who noted they did board a scene with Entrapta and Hordak but it never ended up being included. There is clearly a connection between Entrapta and Hordak, but I’m still not sure if it is romantic or friendly. It could really go either way.

Reviewing Carole & Tuesday: LGBTQ representation and music industry woes

Readers: I thought I’d share a transcript of my recently created podcast, HermannView. Perhaps it could have been a bit more polished, I admit, which is why the second one will be even better! I’m new to this, so suggestions are welcome.

 

[Beginning music]

[Opening:] Hi, I’m Burkely. This is HermannView, a podcast, where I talk about anime, animated shows, archives, libraries and everything in between.

[Introduction:] Hello everyone! I’d like to introduce myself first before getting to the topics for this week. I recently earned a master’s degree in library science, also called a master of library and information Science or MLIS. And a couple of years before that, back in 2016, I earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History. So, some of my podcasts will focus on those topics, while others will focus on my interest in animated shows and anime, which started this past summer and has continued to the present. And with that, let’s get on with the show this week.

[Commentary beginning:] This week, I’d like to talk about a show that I just finished watching. It’s called Carole & Tuesday. It focuses around two characters, one who comes from a very rich family: Tuesday, and another one who is a former refugee, and is often fired from her part-time jobs and is relatively poor. That’s Carole. Both of them are musically inclined. Carole has a keyboard and Tuesday has a guitar. So they’re both drawn together in the first episode of the show. And from then on, the main theme of the show is them trying to climb up the ladder of the music industry. Going from being little-known music artists to becoming a popular sensation. I’ll talk more about that later. About halfway through the show, the 11th episode, is when Tuesday is kidnapped by goons sent by her mother, Valerie, to abduct her and bring her back home. And her mother is a prominent politician who’s running for the presidency of the planet, which in this case is Mars. That means that the show has some sci-fi themes to say the least. [laughs] From then on, that’s episode eleven, the show starts to take more of a political slant in terms of criticism and commentary. Her mother ends up being sort of like the current U.S. president, but also a little like Marie Le Pen in France. That’s what she reminded me of, at least. In that way, the show becomes a commentary because the mother of Tuesday has a very strong anti-immigrant message. This becomes a sort of a sub story of the show, with there also being journalist who’s investigating it. This is tied into Carole and Tuesday trying to move up this music industry ladder.

There’s also a number of other topics which are worth noting. I have this nerdy sort of quest, as I call it, to watch animated shows and anime that have LGBTQ characters. With that, I’d like to highlight a number of LGBTQ characters in the show. The first of them is the agent and parent of Angela, who is a competitor to Carole and Tuesday. While I’m not going to give any spoilers on that, she basically doesn’t have a determinate gender because of the influence of the Martian environment. So she is what they call androgynous or you can call genderqueer or non-binary, whatever label you want to use. They call themselves androgynous in the show. Similarly, there is also Desmond, who is a highly respected solitary artist, and they describe themselves as androgynous also because of the radiation that falls on the planet, noting that they were, “originally a man but am turning into a woman” and are feeling emotionally as a man and a woman at the same time. They later play their last song for Carole and Tuesday, their manager, Gus, and Roddy, who is also one of their friends and a sound technician. However, they later return in the show’s last episode, singing with a bunch of other well-known music stars on the planet. There are also a few other characters, three of whom are bisexual. One of them is Ertegun, who is a major DJ on the planet of Mars. In one of the earliest episodes, he says he has love for “only capable dudes and great chicks.” That means he is bisexual. As the show moves forward, he has a big role as a secondary character.

There’s also Marie and Anne. Marie used to date Gus, who is Carole & Tuesday’s manager. But now she’s in this relationship with Anne, kissing her in front of Carole and Tuesday, surprising them, and both of them plan to get married. Since Anne is implied to have a male partner before Marie, this means that both Marie and Anne are bisexual. The weirdest character in a way, in terms of the fact that she is undoubtedly a stereotype, is Cybelle. [1] She is the biggest fan of Tuesday, but has a pretty dangerous obsession with her. And at one point, bites her on the neck, a la Marceline the Vampire Queen in “Red Starved.” It gets weird. [laugh] Tuesday realizes that she can’t let this person have this obsession with her anymore and rejects her. Cybelle becomes emotional wreck as a result. She puts a present in Tuesday’s dressing room. Inquisitive, Tuesday opens it. She screams, Carole comes running and sees that this present has blown up, injuring her hand. This means she can’t play guitar in the upcoming show. Tuesday still plays a song with Carole despite her arm being in a sling. They sing the first song they came up with together. After that, Cybelle is taken away and we never see her again for the rest of the show! But other than that, other than that character, the LGBTQ representation is pretty good.

Coming back to Cybelle for a second. Cybelle is about as bad as O.D. If any of you have watched Gatchaman Crowds. And there is a character named O.D. who is a horrible stereotype in that show. You could argue they are maybe genderqueer or non-binary. It’s never really established. Cybelle might be better, but it’s not very good representation. Other than that, I like the show a lot and its pacing. Its a very good show in terms of the episodic format, which others, like Steven Universe and Adventure Time have struggled with in the past, having occasional “filler” episodes. I wish Carole & Tuesday was longer and think it wraps up too quickly. That reminds me of what people say about the season five finale of Steven Universe, “Change Your Mind.” People say that the show wrapped up so quickly and they were rushing to get to the end. While this has has some validity, the show still holds together. In any case, the show’s creators, like Rebecca Sugar, moved the story forward quickly due to the possibility they would be cancelled, even over the lesbian wedding in “Reunited.” [2] I’ve read all sorts of different stories and watched different videos about this. So, I kinda know about it a little bit. Despite the problems with Awestruck Vox [he beefed with a fan back in 2017], or Kevin Williams, on The Roundtable, he has some good videos about this that I’d recommend people check out if they are interested. As for the new Steven Universe Future series, which is basically the final/capstone/epilogue series for the Steven Universe franchise, people have said the same thing. In terms of the cast and crew behind Steven Universe, they’re probably going to move into games and comic books and those sorts of things. I seriously doubt that they’re going to move toward any future animated series. Maybe I’m wrong and they will have a new show on HBO Max like Adventure Time. That’s always a possibility. I kind of doubt at this point, but maybe they will surprise me, even having a special on Lars in the Stars [I was trying to refer to “Lars of the Stars” here] or something like that. We’ll see what happens.

I bring this up because people make the same sorts of criticisms when it comes to Carole & Tuesday. Some don’t like the pacing of the show or the fact that all the songs are in English. Building on that, this show is very song-intensive and the songs are in English, English language to be specific, despite the fact that all the characters are speaking Japanese. If you were watching the dubbed version of the show it might not be a problem. But it’s weird if you’re watching the subbed version of the show and then you have these songs in English. That’s an executive decision they made. Moving on, almost every episode has a song in it. Additionally, every episode title in Carole & Tuesday is named after a specific song. I haven’t dug into it that much but every episode title seems to relate to what is happening in that episode specifically. That’s something I haven’t really seen before. While I haven’t watched a show specifically focused on music before, I have watched shows that have musical characters like Marceline in Adventure Time, voiced by Olivia Olsen, a singer, and she sings all sorts of songs.

Nerdily [laughs], in late 2019, I put together her whole music arc. I posted that on Reddit, along with a listing of all the episodes she’s appeared in within all the Adventure Time seasons. And you can put together that into at least 40 minutes of songs that she’s sang during the whole series. That’s only one example of shows that have musical characters. Just take Steven Universe: The Movie as an example. The whole thing is a musical, although not every line of it is sung like Les Miserables. [laughs]. Generally, Steven Universe, is stocked full of songs, although in Steven Universe Future so far, there’s only been a couple of songs that have appeared in the episodes, something which surprised some who had watched the movie. Coming back to Carole & Tuesday, this series specifically focuses on music, which is unlike any other animated series I’ve seen, as I noted earlier. As an additional plus, the show has a lot of LGBTQ representation in it. Furthermore, it focuses on a lot of struggles that people have in terms of getting through the music industry and tries to make the characters more realistic, especially when we come to Carole and Tuesday and the struggles that they have to go through. Although they have all this popularity, begun when Roddy uploads a video of them playing in the Immigrant Hall, which goes viral, they don’t have that much money. Carole is always getting fired from these part-time jobs. Tuesday has a part-time job at a food stand. I think the fame they get at the end is getting them   some money. But they’re really scraping by unlike some of their competitors.

One of those competitors is Angela, who helps them later on. And she has all this money. In fact, she works with Tao, this music producer who uses this advanced A.I., which reminds me a little of Rui in Gatchaman Crowds who has an A.I. and cross dresses. But I’ll talk about Gatchaman Crowds in another podcast in more detail. Back to Carole & Tuesday, let me continue talking about Angela. She doesn’t even come up with the songs she sings. Rather, Tao’s AI comes up with the songs and she just sings them. She doesn’t even write them or anything. She has this immense privilege that Carole and Tuesday don’t have at all. Carole and Tuesday are, in contrast, trying to come up the ladder, without a major record label behind them or anything.

Let me talk about Angela just a little more. In the second half of the show, she has an emotional breakdown almost equivalent to Angela Moss’s breakdown, Angela Moss played by Portia Doubleday, in Mr. Robot. The breakdown happens not in the recent season of Mr. Robot, because I haven’t seen that one, but the one before it. I think Season 4. In the Carole & Tuesday show, Angela not only loses her mother but Tao leaves her. There’s a person who’s stalking her. The so-called Black Knight who spies on her. So she really has a lot of trouble during these episodes, which Netflix divided into two parts, which you could argue are two different seasons. I say it’s all just one, but people watching Netflix probably think of it differently.

Another one of my favorite parts was Episode 9, “Dancing Queen,” where there appeared this Drag Queen quartet, The Mermaid Sisters, and they sing the funniest moment in the whole anime. They sing a 1-minute song named “Galactic Mermaid” with the most expletives ever, which is stopped by one of the judges, and they threaten the judge as a result, for being discriminatory. With that, they should be seen as LGBTQ characters as they call themselves “not men or women” and a “new kind of human” when they perform. I couldn’t stop laughing when listening to it. [laugh] That brings me to another reason to watch the show: comedic elements from episode to episode. At the same time, the show doesn’t always hold together as well. But I still really like it. And I think it is a really interesting show and I would really recommend it to anyone if you haven’t seen it. The episodes are about 22 to 23 minutes long, so you might feel that is too long or you be annoyed by the animated opening. That’s fine. I’d like to stand by the show in this respect however, since the episodes were the right length, in my opinion, and I enjoyed the animated opening, which was the same for the first half of the episodes. Up to episode 11 or 12 there is the same opening at the beginning and then they change it in the last half of the show.

There is one consistent part that stays in the animated opening of every episode: the so-called seven minute miracle, narrated by Gus, where all these musicians come together from across Mars and sing this song of freedom. This happens in the final episode, where Tuesday, her brother, and others have realized that Tuesday’s mother, Valerie, was manipulated by political consultant who wanted her to take all these anti-immigrant positions. So, she drops out. The final episode is the one where they ramped up too quickly, I’d argue. The song they sing is like We Are the World or even like that Simpsons parody where they’re all singing for Bart Simpson in the well in a song titled “We Are Sending Our Love (Down the Well)”. And it turns out to be a total fake, although he later falls down the well himself. You could say that the song in Carole & Tuesday and the idea it will “change” the world is unnecessarily idealistic. Perhaps that is true, but not everything in anime or animated shows is realistic, and there is no reason it should be.

I don’t have anything else to say about the show, except that I like the the realistic elements of it even though it is set on Mars. And some of the sub-stories, about Gus and all his connections, since he was former music producer, is sort of funny, the sleazy DJ, Ertegun, the AI music, Dunn, the father of Carole who finds out she is on Mars or the A.I. robot, which helped Carole and Tuesday produce this music video, which then later ends up to be a scam. So that doesn’t really work out. [laughs] Before ending this podcast, I’d like to focus on the importance of race in this anime. On the one hand, Carole and Tuesday are a multiracial musical duo, since Carole has brown skin and Tuesday has white skin. On the other, the immigrants who are arrested by the equivalent to ICE have the same skin color as Carole, which is part of the reason she is more sympathetic to them, at first, than Tuesday, who has immense privilege without question. I’ve read some reviews which argue there are racial stereotypes in the show itself. Personally, I think the show has some strong brown-skinned, or Black, if you are to use the racial categorization used primarily to refer to those who reside in the United States, characters, like Ezekiel, a rapper who immigrated from Earth and the rest of his “crew.”

There are all these other characters which I find fascinating. One of them is Tobe, a legendary record producer who works for Carole and Tuesday and he is a horrible person, along with being an asshole. Even so, he pushes them forward despite the fact that he really seems like a drunk when they first meet him, a terrifying scene. That scene makes it clear that socioeconomic differences are part and parcel of the show’s themes. Not only is there a clear difference of class between Carole and Tuesday and their competitor, Angela, but when Carole and Tuesday go to the favela, the slum, in the city, they are scared about what will happen to them. Such a response indicates their sensibilities: although they are also poor, they are scared of how others, who are poor, are living. This is more forthright than shows like Classroom of the Elite, for example, which only focuses on struggles between characters, in different school classes, aspiring to enter the highest class in Japanese society, some classes scheming against each other. I don’t want to spoil anything more about that show, but I will say it does focus on struggle between socioeconomic classes, in an allegory of sorts, although Carole & Tuesday is arguably stronger on this point since the two protagonists are relatively poor as I mentioned earlier.

With this theme and others, I would say this show holds together, in general. This is despite the fact it should have been a longer show as I noted earlier. All these these 24 episodes should have been part one. And then, there could’ve been another season. But, that’s not really the direction they wanted to go. The end of the show sets the stage for anyone writing any fanfics about Carole & Tuesday, with already 66 fictional works penned for characters in this anime on Archive of Our Own.

That’s about it. I don’t have anything else to say at this point. I’ve exhausted everything I’ve had to say about Carole & Tuesday and any related shows. Thank you, everyone, for listening. And I hope to see you next week.

[end of commentary]

[Closing:] You’ve just listened to an episode of Hermann View by Burkely Hermann. The opinions expressed in this podcast are my own and not reflective of any institution. Follow us [on podcasts.com] if you liked what you heard and share it with your friends. You can follow me on Instagram at historyhermann one word or on Twitter at history_hermann.

[ending music]


Notes

[1] When I tried to add an entry for Cybelle on the Wikipedia page, “List of animated series with LGBT characters” one user, apparently from Ontario, declared that “Cybelle’s sexuality is just as Ambiguous as Pytor and Benito (male mar’s brightest judge). Even the site TV tropes has her as ambiguous” and that “Cybelle from carole and tuesday in 2019 was never confirmed to be a lesbian. Just like Pytor and Benito haven’t been confirmed to be LGBT either.” My original text, which uses episodes 9, 10, and 11 as sources, along with a CBR review, a review in The Daily Dot, and the official character description which simply called her “Mars’ Brightest contestant and Tuesday’s biggest fan”. I used the following text along with classification of her as lesbian:

As Tuesday’s biggest fan, she has a dangerous obsession with her, leading the former to ultimately reject her. Cybelle becomes an emotional wreck because of Tuesday’s rejection, conducting an attack on Tuesday, hurting her hand with an exploding present, in an act of jealousy, minutes before they are supposed to play on stage.

There seems to be some that think she is lesbian on certain subreddits, with some even questioning what gender she is, while others classified her as a “creepy lesbian,” a description which is definitely accurate.

[2] Other articles show how Sugar and others fought for this to be a reality. When I say the possibility they would be cancelled, I think I was remembering this line in an article in The Guardian back in October 2019: “The wedding decision was not taken lightly. Sugar was aware that the episode, as well as her decision to come out as bisexual, could lead to funding being pulled or the show being dropped altogether.” Even that Reuters article, reprinted on another Reuters site, says that Sugar “had to battle for years to include it [the lesbian wedding between Ruby and Sapphire] in her show, which has been censored in multiple countries.”

Steven Universe, vegetarianism, and media representation

My response to how some fans feel about Steven as a vegetarian. Cropped screencap from one of my favorite scenes from “Snow Day”

On December 23rd, “Snow Day,” the 8th episode of Steven Universe Future (herein SUF), the mini-epilogue series to cap out the Steven Universe franchise, apart from possible games, aired on Cartoon Network. Among some fans there has been  anger and annoyance with the line by one of series protagonists, Steven Universe (voiced by Zach Callison), in declaring to his friends/guardians, Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst, that he has been a “vegetarian for, like, a month,” saying it goes against his character and is “wrong.” I’d like to defend this development, using existing canon, explain its importance in the show as a whole, and media representation of vegetarians. On this occasion, I have to laugh at that article in VegNews which claimed Pearl was a vegetarian because she is grossed out by eating and “…the only thing we see her consume is tea…[and] we’re willing to bet she’s not adding honey or milk, either.” [1] Some of these sentiments are summarized from my Reddit comments.

Let’s start with the episode itself. With that, warning of spoilers ahead for that episode if you have not seen this episode on Cartoon Network or any other platforms. As the episode begins, Steven is overworking himself, waking up early in the morning, preparing for a day full of activities to help those un-corrupted at the end of Season 5, helping them learn how to express themselves and enjoy themselves in a universe free of the repressive rule of dictators (as Steven called them in “Famiilar”), figureheads at this point. He leaves the house without breakfast, only taking a protein shake, decides to not take his novelty backpack, and drives to the school after Pearl bundles him up for the cold, saying he had “errands” to do. When he comes back that night, the Gems (Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst) greet him, trying to cheer him up, but he rejects their entreaties, rejecting activities and foods (like a pepperoni pizza) he enjoyed in the past. The next day, he wakes up at the same time, rejects his classic meal (a “together breakfast“) as having “too much sugar,” and tries to leave his house, but the snow stops him. As such, all the classes are cancelled and he gets out his notebook to work on changes to the third-quarter schedule. Amethyst sees he is too stressed out and begins a game of Steven Tag, last featured in “Keep Beach City Weird,” a season 1 episode, when each Gem tagged becomes “classic Steven” (i.e. Steven from seasons 1-5), later joined in by all the Gems. The episode ends with Steven, after he is tagged and turns into “classic Steven” criticizing his fellow Gems not seeing him as grown up but rather a kid. They come around to this and rightly apologize to him. He wakes up the next day and travels with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, riding all in the car together, Amethyst with her own protein shake!

Perhaps that summary doesn’t do the episode complete justice, but it sets the stage for the next part of my analysis: the importance of Steven becoming vegetarian (not a vegan). Steven is changing and maturing just as the world is changing, as he isn’t the same person as the one who liked shows like Dogcopter (or “pupcopter” which is one for younger children), ate meat, and used a Cheeseburger backpack, like he did in the past. People like the cute, younger Steven but he is 17 years old now and fans should treat him that way. Without a doubt, he is putting a lot of emphasis on his responsibilities and it is stressing him out. You could even say that his rejection of a lot from the past is dangerous. However, he is still making his own choices, just like every character, trying to cope with the stress, as he has “his own skin-care routine” noted by the fandom page for the episode. Steven’s development reminded me of Connie in her debut in “Bubble Buddies,” who talked about how her parents won’t let her eat donuts because they have trans fats, although there is isn’t an exact parallel of course. He seems to be cutting himself off from almost everyone, dedicating himself to his work, with Connie nor Lion making an appearance in the episode. I’ll expand on that a bit later on.

Steven’s choice goes beyond seeing the error of his past ways (being a meat-eater) or the possibility he is like “every teen” now (he isn’t). He was acting within character, as some fans reminded us of how he acted during “Warp Tour” toward the Gems (the debut of Peridot, an autistic character like Entrapta):

In snow day he just gets kind of exasperated with the gems treating him like he’s still 12, which is a totally normal way for him to feel. Part of growing up involves growing out of old interests. In the end he was happy to join them playing the new updated Steven tag and bring them with him to help do errands, and the next episode [“Why So Blue?“] had Steven being his usual happy self enjoying art and dancing and singing and stuff. So Snow Day honestly wasn’t out of character for him imho.

This refutes the claim that he is “out of character” or the supposed “manipulating fan service” that some fans claimed. For those that say its a “betrayal” of his dad or of the saying “if every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs,” because that saying is supposed to be symbolic, and he is not the same as his dad, Greg, who can do what he wants. As one fellow user put it,

Steven has always been incredibly sensitive to the welfare of other living things, and that’s only grown as he’s gotten older. Honestly, for years now I’ve been predicting that he’d become a vegetarian eventually, although I wasn’t sure if they would ever actually say so on the show.

To be fully fair, we should have seen it coming. As Leah said on Twitter, this should be a natural confusion based on all the hints in season 1 that “showed he was somewhat uncomfortable with meat.” Certain users have cited the cookout at the end of Change Your Mind, that Steven seemed to eat pepperoni pizza in “Guidance,” and other examples (like eating a hotdog in the openings to Season 1 episodes), we have to recognize that Steven has only been a vegetarian for ONE MONTH, so those examples are mute. Additionally, the time period between “Guidance” and “Snow Day” is not established, but is more than a month, as its assumed to be winter in “Snow Day” but perhaps summer or fall in “Guidance.” Some have said that Sapphire may have made it snow, but I’m not sure she has that power, unless she worked with Lapis, of course, but Lapis didn’t appear in the episode, so I don’t know about that at all. He also had only potatoes and veggies during “Rose Buds” as one user pointed out, another detail worth noting.

Some can say that the episode was “depressing to watch” or grumble about Steven supposedly “starting to become unlikable and that’s not good for your protagonist.” The latter especially is absurd because people disliked him at the beginning (and the show in general) BECAUSE Steven was annoying. As I noted elsewhere, there is no doubt that SUF has a different tone, but Steven and the Gems are trying to deal with the aftermath of their victory in “Change Your Mind,” and enforce the victory, dealing with the changes. Additionally, the Steven Universe franchise, itself, is about people changing. Not everyone stays the same and even though Steven is changing, the other Gems (Amethyst, Pearl, and Garnet) don’t see it or fully recognize it, hence offending him with Steven tag, treating him like a kid. Steven has felt they don’t completely understand him in the past, so this isn’t a new sentiment. Those that say that Steven becoming vegetarian made them “legitimately nauseous” are about as bad as the person who argued with me on Twitter last week. I rather sympathize with a fan who said that the development is on-brand for Steven, adding that:

It shows growth and maturity; it shows that he finally understands the hypocrisy of “everyone is equal” but continues to contribute to animal agriculture. I know everyone won’t agree with me, and that’s okay.

Building upon this, I would say that his switch to vegetarianism, which is a recent development in the show, is an indication, among many others, that Steven is becoming more mature and modified, although not completely different from his youthful self. As one reviewer put it, “the world strikes on and Steven is shifting with it.” Perhaps you could say he is doing a “speed run to adulthood,” but he is growing and changing, with the show striking a much more mature tone. This is understandable because has a lot of work to do to maintain the “established peace across the stars,” disbanding the “tyrannical and colonizing ways” of the Diamonds “to improve Gem life on the Gem Homeworld and Earth,” as it is an ongoing struggle in an imperfect universe.

It’s not flimsy that Steven is vegetarian, its awesome, showing a degree of maturity on his part and a representation of change in and of itself. I don’t need funny memes to tell me that either. Sure, he needs therapy, without a doubt, which is a focus of later episodes. This brings me to the most important part of this post: representation. Before this episode, some of the best representation vegetarians had in animated shows was Lisa in “The Simpsons,” still a canon vegetarian and Stan in “South Park” (not a canon vegetarian), so it should be praised that the Crewinverse and Rebecca Sugar allowed this representation in a show with great LBGTQ representation in the past, meaning that has done a good step forward. More than that, this shows “natural growth, hes becoming a teen and changing” as one user put it, and fits with his generally pacifist attitude and/or adopting the ideals of his mother who seemed to love all living things.

You could say that Steven’s line about vegetarian is a throwaway line. It’s not like Lisa Simpson who had a whole episode dedicated to her vegetarianism (“Lisa The Vegetarian“) where Lisa reaches a compromise with her father, Homer, while spending the “majority of the show being ridiculed and ostracized by her family and friends.” That leads to some songs like “you don’t win friends with salad!” chanted by Bart, Marge, and Homer. At the same time, Lisa disrupts a community event, is “saved” by vegetarians, with her belief tolerated but “for the price of no longer being a vegetarian outcast and being accommodated,” in a show that has a strong tolerance for meat eaters. You could say that Lisa’s moral outrage is muzzled. In fact, if we use Frinkiac as a measurement, the only other episodes that even mention the word “vegetarian” are in Homer’s Phobia (in passing), Blame It On Lisa (Homer tries to convince Lisa to cheat on vegetarianism), Grade School Confidential (Bart threatens her with violating her values), Lisa’s Wedding (a vision of the future), and jokingly elsewhere. This is still often cited as an example of representation in media of vegetarianism and veganism. [2] I think the one critic who noted that while it seems to be preachy, it is “overflowing with great individual scenes: the opening trip to Storytown Village; Lisa’s revelatory moment at the dinner table” with the Meat Council propaganda video as “the funniest isolated segment in the history of the show”:

The fact that Steven is a vegetarian now is positive and fits with existing canon. Its really about damn time for this development, even if it is, ultimately, “pretty insignificant” in the show itself. Likely Steven will be like Mr. Peppy in Futurama: he’ll be vegetarian but not “preachy about it.” Nevertheless, it is worth highlighting, in part because it puts Steven among other noteworthy vegetarian cartoon characters like Tish Katsufrakis in The Weekenders and Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the latter compared to Steven. [3] While it’s hard to say that someone like Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time is vegetarian, we could easily assume that Perfuma, the hippy princess in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, is vegetarian, and maybe even Lapis and Peridot in Steven Universe, if they eat food at all, like in my fan fics, lol. Of course, that’s just speculation. On an additional level, this is important due to the “pattern of vegetarians making people uncomfortable in the media” (indicated by annoyance from some parts of the SU fanbase in response in “Snow Day”), along with common “negative representation of vegetarians and vegans in the media.” This episode counters that sentiment on its head. I am reminded of But I’m a Cheerleader, a great film if you haven’t seen it already where the emissary of the conversion therapy camp, “True Directions,” Mike, declares that vegetarianism is a “homosexual tendency.” It’s so absurd I have to laugh.

The fact Steven is a vegetarian is not only confirmed by further developments, like Steven eating a cheese pizza at the end of “Prickly Pair,” but fits with two episodes which aired on December 28, the last two SUF episodes before the beginning of the hiatus, likely less than previous hiatuses in 2019, which was, by far, “CN’s most sparse release schedule for the show as they released the show in three chunks with massive hiatuses in between” as one fan noted in their statistical analysis of the show. We are all, clearly, being Spinel’d, but that’s beside the point, lol. There has been a lot of chatter about these episodes. The first of these, “Little Graduation,” begins with Steven looking happy and overjoyed, a good sign to see due to everything he is been through. But this doesn’t last long: he is quickly depressed by the fact that his friends Sadie and Lars are not together as he had imagined in his mind (he was literally shipping them, like a sizable portion of the fanbase), with Sadie now dating a non-binary individual named Shep (which would may make Sadie pansexual or queer), voiced by Indya Moore, Lars & the Off Colors are going back to space, and sadly…Sadie Killer & the Suspects are breaking up! [4] The latter development is no surprise, however, as Buck Dewey predicted this in “The Big Show” where he said that their rise to stardom will be “followed by the inevitable infighting and creative disagreements that will tear us apart in a beautiful explosion of emotions,” which Greg dismissed as hogwash. It didn’t pan out exactly this way but, the band still broke apart nonetheless. Anyway, in “Little Graduation,” Steven’s emotions get the better of him and he almost kills everyone by suffocation, turning into Pink Steven, including the new graduates with a rose-colored dome, which is only stopped when Shep tells Steven that he needs to figure himself out and give his friends space to grow rather than suffocating them (literally). Symbolically the dome represents, as one fan put it, “Steven’s inner perceptions of reality” since he has always worked hard for his friends, but now his friends are growing up without help from him (and moving on), as he feels neglected, combined with abrasive feelings he has toward his mom along with his own problems. And the toxicity bubbles up into a dome itself.

This episode was one of the best so far, as Steven realizes that not only does the world not revolve around him, but things happen when he isn’t there. At one point, he asks when Lars and Sadie talked, declaring angrily, “but when did this happen? I didn’t see any of this!” to which the response is that it was private, which makes sense. This also pokes at the fact that the show is, basically, all from Steven’s perspective. I think the parallels between Lars leaving Steven and Pink leaving Spinel behind is a good one, which portends problems in the future without a doubt! Anyway, after freeing them and everyone departing, the episode ends as he contemplates by himself, in a scene reminiscent of the ending of “Mother Simpson” as AwestruckVox pointed out in his analysis on The Roundtable. In the latter, Homer sits and pensively stargazes, realizing that “Homer’s long-lost mother may disappear again, but he learns that she loves him, and that’s enough,” with the ending serving as “a model of restraint and a signal to start crying…[and] a sobering reminder of how powerful silence can be.”

The focus on Steven’s issues is continued in “Prickly Pair,” where Steven uses his new hobby, planting, as a form of therapy, connecting with his love of nature and life (another reason he is vegetarian). The Gems see this as clearly unhealthy, as he is naming plants after his friends likely a reference to the “stress free environment” (see up to 1:04 in the video above) created by Billy Rosewood (played by Judge Reinhold) in Beverly Hills Cop 2, and give him space, as he thinks he can solve all these problems himself, bumping through his teen years. This doesn’t work out, ultimately, as he forms a cactus monster who he treated like a therapist, which hurts his friends (or guardians as you could call them), Amethyst, Garnet, and Pearl, not only physically but emotionally as the monster blurts out his personal feelings about them. While the cactus monster, which Amethyst names Cactus Steven, leaves his house, blowing off the front face of it, similar to the damage it sustained during the battle with Blue Diamond in “Reunited,” Steven is clearly in emotionally (and mentally) rocky state by the end of the episode. You could even say that Steven and Cactus Steven represent part of the cycles of abuse. The absence of his father, Greg, his girlfriend, Connie (I hope they don’t break up), and others, is disturbing enough, as the feeling he can’t talk to anyone about problems, likely suffering from depression and other mental problems. [5]

“Little Graduation” and “Prickly Pair” sets up an interesting set of episodes ahead, even if you think SUF isn’t “kid-friendly” anymore (as the fan base is growing up) as Steven will have to come to a more balanced state of mind and body (as he is acting a bit contradictory right now) working out his serious problems, making it possible for him to control his new powers, realizing that he should change, just as everyone else is changing, something he hasn’t completely done yet. This would be much better than forcing others to not change, which is not healthy at all! Whether he talks the Diamonds about this (oh no) or his “uncle” Andy, or someone else about his problems is anyone’s guess. [6] This is nothing new as he had similar struggles as shown in episodes like “Mindful Education,” and other times before that, but the fact that he has the power to hurt others is scary, so I’m excited to see what future SUF episodes will bring. Perhaps Steven should take the advice he told Lars back in Season 5 to heart, although he may not.


Notes

[1] At the same time, however, the article listed racial stereotype Apu in The Simpsons, Bobby in King of the Hill, Velma Dinkley in Scooby-Doo, Draculaura in Monster High, Doug Funnie from Doug, Heffer in Rocko’s Modern Life; Dil, Chuckie, and Susie in Rugrats, Pac-Man, Eliza Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys, Popeye, as some of the greatest “vegan cartoon characters.” So, he got Pearl wrong, but perhaps he got these others right.

[2] Allyson Koerner, for instance, lists Lisa along with Monroe in Grimm, Phoebe Buffay in Friends, Angela Martin in The Office, Sara Sidle in CSI, and Temperance Brennan in Bones. Others list Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars, Rachel Berry in Glee, Phoebe Buffay in Friends, Angela Martin in The Office, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Britta Perry in Community, Phoebe Halliwell in Charmed, Topanga Lawrence in Boy Meets World, and Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, alongside Lisa as vegan/vegetarian characters. Kristen Martin, on the other hand, notes five fictional vegetarians who “defy stereotypes” while Jamie Gerber explains various superheroes and villains who are vegetarian (Todd Ingram, Damian Wayne, Iron Fist, Connor Hawke, Bruce Banner, Magneto, Zatanna, Scarlet Witch, Superman, Kitty Pryde, Ozymandias, Beast Boy, Karolina Dean, Animal Man, and Wonder Woman).

[3] Some on My Anime List have claimed that Rei Ayanami in Evangelion, Taikoubou from Houshin Engi, herbivores in Monster Musume, a vegetarian elf in Isekai Shokudou, Nadia in Fushigi no Umi no Nadia, characters in Nichibros, Denpa Onna, Kemono Friends, Happy Happy Clover, Hamtaro, and Shirokuma Cafe, the latter three only if animal characters count, along with the Circumstances of a Vegetarian Child Wherewolf.

[4] Some fans adored Shep and loved the representation, while others didn’t get their gender and thought Shep was transgender (there’s no indication that is true), or hated Shep for some reason, the latter falling into the category of “annoying fans.”

[5] I think its worth quoting the psychological analysis of Steven by one fan here, as it says more than I could put forward:

What is happening to Steven right now is a consequence of three situations:

-Being a half gem.

-Being adolescent.

-Trying to carry the weight of other people problems in your back

Why you ask? in adolescence, you try to wonder who you are, what you want to be in the future. And sometimes that bring negative emotions like angriness and confusion.

Before Steven Universe Future, his reason to be was to be a hero, helping others. Now, that reason is partly gone because the worst part of the conflict is over, and even when he still wants to help people, he looks at the lifes of other humans and starts to wonder what else could be.

Thats it because as a crystal gem, fighting and helping comes as something natural; and in the context of their long life spans this objective doesnt seems to change much. In the counterpart, humans tend to change life perspective more frequently because we live less, and our fragility doesnt makes us want to fight intergalactic conflicts (instead, we choose to share with others, get jobs, and try to enjoy life).

In the initial part of the show, things seems “inverted” because humans gave Steven a sense of continuity (“i want this to stay the same”), and gems a sense of something that needs to be changed (“i want this to be different”). When we reach SUF, humans are changing and gems are remaining the same (mainly enemies), so Steven starts to be greatly frustrated.

He doesnt wants to recognize this, clearly, because he is the person that “helps”, not the one that needs to be helped (that would mean he is a burden to others). So, his emotions (anger and confussion, normal for adolescence) start to emerge as unstable powers, which causes a mayhem so big that Steven has to begin to recognize his emotions.

PD: So…if you have superpowers and feel like this…go therapy.

[6] Some fans hope Steven lies on a bed at the end of the series and talks to a therapist, while others just say he needs “serious therapy.”

Update:

I am so glad to get one positive comment on /r/stevenuniverse, which makes me smile. I am glad to see it.