Aside from all of the wild, Gem-related things Steven Universe is able to do, his greatest superpower has been his ability to bond with people who want to kill him and—through the power of song and friendship—convince them to change their minds. But what does Rebecca Sugar think about his latest attempt? Gizmodo spoke to her to find out.
Though Steven was able to help make that change for essentially all of the Homeworld Gems, by the end of Steven Universe, Jasper was one of the few holdouts who was still unwilling to accept that Era 3 was ushering in, well, a new era for Gems’ social dynamics.
The latest episode, “Shattered,” put Jasper and Steven’s still complicated and ultimately unhealthy relationship front and centre. While Steven was able to bring Jasper into the fold, it only happened because of some most devastating events.
When we spoke with Rebecca Sugar about it recently, she explained that while this wasn’t always the plan for how she wanted Steven to win Jasper over, “Shattered” ended up becoming an episode with one of the series’ most impactful messages to convey.
Gizmodo: Was the point always to have Jasper be the last Gem that Steven won over? And did you always intend for it to happen in this really violent and traumatic kind of way?
Rebecca Sugar: Sometimes we’ll start with a set piece or a visual, and we wanted the Jasper/Steven training montage for years. We wanted to find a way to make that happen.
Gizmodo: You can kinda see that in “Jail Break.”
Sugar: I find Jasper really interesting as a character and I wanted to explore all the aspects of her. In terms of the show covering so many different stories of self-destruction, I think Jasper is a really specific and interesting character because she’s very loyal. She was very, very loyal to Pink and without someone to look to and someone to protect, she struggled. She struggled with her sense of self because she’s from Earth—that’s a big part of why she behaves the way that she behaves. She wants to be better than the place that she’s from. She really doesn’t and can’t accept that she was born out of the failure of a colony.
She failed at her mission, which had everything to do with protecting Pink Diamond. So her state of mind in Future, it’s actually not that unlike what Steven is going through, because she really craves somebody to be looking to to tell her who she is. She a very strong sort of individual identity, but she wants to look up to someone. She wants to be there for someone.
Gizmodo: But she can’t see that Steven could be that for her.
Sugar: In a way, yeah. She wants to fight for someone and she can’t have that, so she’s just sort of really checked out. With Steven…one thing I really wanted with Jasper and Steven was that visual depiction of having Steven literally making boundaries that she’s just shattering. Like just punching the walls he’s creating into pieces—in and of itself an unhealthy situation, but he needs someone to basically push their way through and into what he’s going through. His family’s not doing that because they are worried about him, but the distance between Steven and Jasper makes her able to do that and push him to really arrive at the height of parts of himself that he’s afraid to explore.
Gizmodo: Is that something reflective of Jasper’s own difficulty with her existence?
Sugar: Ultimately, she struggled with her value as an individual, and in terms of the way that she’s self-destructive, you know. Steven’s ability to destroy her is what made her respect him in a way that is very unhealthy. He knows that the second it’s happening, that is not a good situation He’d been looking for her as a role model, but that….unhealthy place? That’s really where she arrived and that was a situation that scared him very much.
Gizmodo: Was that the lesson that you always intended for Jasper to teach him in, you know, her own twisted kind of way? Like, even though she’s been a villain Jasper has taught people things: “Don’t be like Jasper; don’t do this.”
Sugar: Exactly. But well, she also I think…she has a history of hurting him.
There’s something to the fact that he went to someone who he knew could hurt him, and that’s very real. That’s something that I really wanted to show. Because when you’re in a self-destructive place, you are drawn to people who don’t like you and you trust them because they are being like you. You say “This person who said this horrible thing about me is more right and is more real because that’s how I feel about myself.”
That’s really what’s happening. To go to her and to have her, you know, work him to the bone and bring out the worst parts of himself, that’s something that makes sense to him in that moment, because he’s really in the hole. He could go be close to the people who love him, but instead, he goes to someone who, you know, doesn’t like him in order to hear what she thinks, in order to be there with her.
Steven Universe Future’s final four episodes air this Friday in the U.S. on Cartoon Network.