there used to be this fandom misunderstanding where people thought steven had no negative feelings about those who hurt him, and that he had completely forgiven everyone with no bitterness or trauma... but now, i fear that’s now been replaced by people thinking steven is completely and solely transactional in his willingness to help others.
some have posited that the Only reason he doesn’t kill is that he’s either weaker than his enemies or thinks not killing them will lead to a better outcome. as evidence, they show the anger he’s suppressed beneath his helper boy facade.
essentially, the argument is that SU is showing, through steven, the strategic value of being nice, at the exclusion of actually caring about others, where being merciful is just a means to an end.
but i will argue that the thing about SU is that it does both. it argues from a practical AND moral perspective.
and steven, personally... still cares about people beyond their strategic value in making peace and dismantling the hierarchy. yes, even “jerks.” yes, even when they make him uncomfortable or he suppresses trauma-induced anger.
he really does value his own ability to be a “nice” person, as well as the lives of others... and, because the diamonds are beloved and most of gemkind believe in the system, shattering them would be practical / strategic suicide, if you wanna make peace & help homeworld.
to prove that it’s not all political realism (knowing that his enemies are stronger and adjusting to this), i will argue steven objects to shattering and death regardless of strategy. if the only “real” issue was the practical sociocultural impact on homeworld (see: how most gems hated the CGs after pink was “shattered”), then why would he object to this before knowing pink was shattered & its impact? he thinks it’s bad for its own sake, and wants the crystal gems to not kill anyone. he doesn’t wanna be like homeworld.
if it’s all strategic, there’s certainly no reason to feel guilty about shattering jasper. jasper is a hermit who lives alone in the woods. there’s no “useful” reason to help jasper; it doesn’t make anyone else’s life better. steven WANTS to help her for its own sake.
why? because helping people is who he wants to be. it’s core to steven’s sense of identity. hurting others is the last thing he wants to do, even when his trauma gives him negative feelings he’s not prepared to deal with.
the point i’m trying to make here is this: even if it made strategic sense to shatter everyone, he wouldn’t want to do that. that wouldn’t result in steven being like “sweet, finally i can show how i Really feel”.
because it’s really not the sum of how he feels - he has trauma-induced fear and anger, but that doesn’t mean that’s aaaall he thinks of the people who hurt him. he doesn’t want to kill spinel - he is genuinely happy for her chance to be with the diamonds, even if he himself doesn’t always feel comfortable around her.
steven is a man of multitudes. he can feel uncomfortable around people who hurt him AND care about them & want them to grow as people. it’s more than just “grin and bear it for the sake of my grand masterplan.” he wants everyone to get better. that’s not fake, it’s sincere and an important part of him.
steven feels good about himself when he’s able to help people. he has come to, like gemkind, seek having a purpose in life. helping the crystal gems and playing therapist for them after rose’s death gave him an immense sense of guilt and taught him to suppress his feelings... but it also gave his life “meaning”. everyone loves Kind Little Helper Boy steven. so that’s who he wants to be.
i can’t see him having such a panicked reaction to his intrusive thoughts about shattering white for purely strategic reasons. that wasn’t him having a carefully calculated thought about “hmm, shattering white might compromise era 3”... that was him feeling like a terrible person. because of his own values and morals.
and yes, steven can experience all of this at the same time.
he can have suppressed trauma that leads to anger AND think, morally speaking, that shattering is wrong AND care about others AND have his strategic considerations match up with that, in terms of “using” the diamonds to heal the corrupted gems.
he's not this cold, strategic mastermind who secretly hates everyone he helps. that’s just... not who he is. he genuinely wants to help people, and no, being uncomfortable around the diamonds and spinel doesn’t stop that from being true. he’s just gone so far in the purpose-driven direction that he’s neglected his own trauma. he wants to be helpful and cares about others, even when they hurt him. it’s all a part of his complex, individual feelings.
if it was all strategy, then idk what your main source of thinking that is, because that’s not what we saw in SU future.
if it was all strategy, that’s not what we saw when he fixed jasper. or when he felt awful for thinking about shattering white. or when he tried to help bluebird. or when he filled his schedule to the brim with every way to help others, even when it was exhausting and had little strategic value.
if it was all strategy, there would never be a reason for him to feel like a monster.
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