Initial Thoughts: Rocknaldo

I liked the new episode a lot. At the heart of it was good social commentary. Often when talking about a cause or a movement, there are always attempts to undermine those who are actually in it. Fighting for X? Are you even X enough? 

People asking for the same rights granted to everyone else are often discredited, because people think it’s far easier to err on the side of giving no one the same respect because of a few possible “fakes.” 

And that’s not great. Because that does make it all about the majority and what they’re comfortable with, rather than the people whose lives could change drastically with every decision made.

I liked how the episode started with Ronaldo telling the gems he was wrong about them, and saying he wanted to champion their cause. A lot of the time, people earnestly believe they’re doing the right thing. 

Hurting others isn’t the end goal for the reasonable person; it’s just, they don’t see their actions in perspective, like when Ronaldo kept criticising Steven.

These days, a lot of bias is deep down. It’s harder to root out because no one believes they could be “guilty” of such an abhorrent thing, like discrimination, like prejudice. 

But in refusing to acknowledge that some of our actions might be tinged by our contexts, we benefit none

I applaud the subtlety in the episode. It’s a good springboard to talk to anyone about these issues. But it shouldn’t end there. I mean, the episode is a start, but it isn’t the answer to systematic marginalisation. That requires a lot more effort, just like how picking a gem name, without the love and acceptance, harms and hampers the cause more.

And it was helpful to present Steven as not dismissing Ronaldo. Each time Ronaldo misrepresented the Crystal Gems, such as with the first Ronaphlet and again as Bloodstone, Steven talked to him. And it wasn’t always without opposition, but Steven didn’t just fence of Ronaldo and refuse to educate him. 

I feel that’s what made the difference. It’s not an easy thing, to face someone who’s causing hurt and refuses to believe it. It’s not a responsibility forced on everyone, but in choosing to engage and educate, a change happened for the better. I hope we keep getting this sort of slice-of-life episodes.

Stevonnie Maheswaran

While staying over at the Maheswaran house for the weekend, Steven and Connie accidentally fuse right in front of Connie’s parents. Stevonnie is so rattled by the incident that Steven and Connie are unable to separate, leaving them fused for the foreseeable future. While Stevonnie awkwardly tries to avoid the Maheswarans, Doug and Priyanka eventually affirm that they’ll always be proud of their daughter, even if they don’t really understand fusion yet. Steven and Connie un-fuse just in time for dinner.

Gem Class Analysis: Pearls

Prior to the recent Steven Bomb, some of the most divisive fan theory characterisations have been for Blue and Yellow Pearl. Theories would range from their having a close and intimate relationship with the Diamonds, to their being physically abused, to it sometimes being a mix of both.

And we can understand the source of what seems like a contradiction. That these Pearls, in particular, are serving the Diamonds directly puts them in a very privileged position, not exactly in the modern sense of the word.

That Pearls are in such close contact with the ruling elite makes them privy to the goings on of upper Homeworld that other gem classes would remain ignorant to. At the same time, they’re also living objects, dehumanised and treated as utilities rather than individuals.

It’s a unique position of power and powerlessness and, unconsciously, we as fans pick up on that; hence, the muddled characterisations of what their relationship with their Diamonds would have been like.

In the latest Steven Bomb, we got to see more of all of these characters and we know now that their relationship isn’t one or the other but somewhere in between.

“Oh no. It was very serious. When I still served Homeworld, I saw it myself.”

In that regard, I want to talk about how Diamonds and their Pearls relate to each another, and look at the implications this has for our very own Pearl, who admits she served Homeworld at one point.

1. The function of the Pearl class

To get this out of the way as early as possible, Pearls are being dehumanised. It’s not right to limit an entire class of gems to objects and prevent them from having individual inclinations, when other gems can manage some level of individuality. Pearls are individuals with their own capabilities, thoughts, and feelings.

Even before we knew about the Diamonds, the way other gems like Peridot initially treated our own Pearl showed us that Pearls are one of the lowest classes on Homeworld.

Words like “owner,” “stand there,” and “hold your stuff” were being thrown around. Not much was expected from them.

In light of all the new information received, a consolidated understanding of what Pearls were expected to do on Homeworld would help in the succeeding discussions. And what we know is that Pearls were gems created specifically to serve particular individuals. This service did not entail doing a job like other gem classes.

Other gems serve a specific function in servicing gem society as a whole. Like builders, soldiers, technicians, and leaders.

This public- or collective-oriented approach to organising gem society makes a lot of sense considering the way the gem life cycle is perpetuated.

The reason we don’t have gem classes specifically for private affairs, like the home life, is because their concept of “home” is much different from ours. Gems are born as full adults; they don’t need to eat or sustain themselves physically. That means a lot of our human necessities don’t apply to them.

That in turn puts the service sector of Gem society, where Pearls are, as something extraneous to functioning. 

It’s much the same for social constructs. Would the Ruby Squad consider themselves a “family?” Probably, but not in the way we understand the word. Instead of families, gems are groups into classes. And in these classes they socialise each other on what it means to be the gem they are.

The best example of this would be the soldier gems, who train each other and depend on each other in missions.

Leggy, the newbie “just born yesterday,” according to Rebecca Sugar’s early sketches of the Rubies, was being oriented by her more senior teammates.

Even though we felt threatened by the Ruby Squad, and Eyeball in particular, Leggy had absolutely no fears hiding behind the latter and it’s more than clear their shared experiences made them more cohesive as a unit.

In that way, gems don’t seem to spend a lot of time with gems outside their class.

The very “function” of Pearls is very different from that of other gems. Their work is relegated inward into the private sphere. They attend to very specific individuals. They are always with gems who aren’t like them.

And the key to this is the value system on Homeworld.

I talk about the utilitarian nature of Homeworld a lot of the time. So in a society in which utility is one of the key aspects, having work that is visible, like the creation of buildings or the colonisation of planets, puts a high premium on certain types of gems.

Service is invisible.

It’s not as easy to measure the impact of telling people they’re great everyday has on the rest of their lives. But this is the work Pearls do. Their work makes Pearls appear like they’re of even less use, which in turn puts them lower down in the eyes of individuals.

It’s very similar to how the work of medical nurses wasn’t recognised as legitimate until very late on in the history of medicine. Nurses comforted patients, checked on them daily, and attended to them, while doctors stepped in for a diagnosis and prescribed the treatment plan.

Because one involved something tangible and the other involved the daily grind of caring for another human being, the “usefulness” of latter was taken for granted.

It was (and in many places still is) very difficult to quantify the effects of their contribution and they were viewed lowly.

2. Servicing the Diamonds

Now to the specific question: What exactly do Pearls do?

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Ronaldo inducts himself into the Crystal Gems, and we learn the valuable lesson on when to tell people to fuck off.