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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Steven Universe is one of those Adventure Time-esque animated shows that's more for teens and tweens than young kids. Its ultra retro, stylized design and kooky plots will appeal to teens who enjoy Cartoon Network's more offbeat offerings. That said, there's a truly likable group camaraderie and lots of strong female characters, especially Steven's cohorts the Gems, both of whom benefit Steven as he matures in his powers and as a boy. You'll see a fair amount of fighting, hastened by the Gems' powerful weapons, and some creatures' bloodless deaths, but some problems are solved with words rather than violence.
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What's the story?
STEVEN UNIVERSE is an animated adventure series that centers on the youngest member of the Crystal Gems, a group of guardians tasked with protecting Earth from a variety of unwelcome visitors. Steven (voiced by Zack Callison) inherited his Gem from his late mother, and as the show progresses, his powers evolve with the help of full-fledged Gems Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno). Also present is his dad, Greg (Tom Scharpling), who compensates for his lack of superpowers with an abundance of love and protective instincts for his son.
Is it any good?
Created by former Adventure Time artist/writer Rebecca Sugar, this is a quirky cartoon whose off-kilter comedy sometimes leans on stereotypes and crudity for effect. None of it is intentionally harmful, but parents may question the need for recurring potty humor and junk food consumption (ice cream and "fry bits" are a couple of the characters' favorites) that's mostly limited to the show's portlier -- and, it's implied, less healthy -- characters. On the upside, as the series evolves and Steven matures, more attention is paid to his assuming equal status and responsibility among the Gems, and Greg takes on a more significant mentoring role for Steven's character development, to surprisingly positive results.
As in Adventure Time, Steven Universe is a cartoon that isn't really meant for younger kids, thanks to some mild sexual innuendo and general crudity, among other snags. Its bizarre premise and throwback animation style may appeal to tweens looking for something that's off the beaten cartoon path, though, and they will be able to see past the characters' flaws to recognize their positive traits better than younger kids would.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of fantasy stories like Steven Universe. Why is it fun to imagine supernatural forces at play around us? How would it change the world if such things could be true?
The Gems teach and mentor Steven. Can you think of any other shows where female characters are as powerful as the Gems? What qualities do each of them have?
Some animated shows contain both comedy and drama in their stories; this one, Legend of Korra, and others. What do you think about this trend? What can animation do that live-action can't?
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