I think one of my favourite things about “Steven Universe”, and one of the things I find most touching and personally affirming, is the relationship between Rose Quartz and Greg.
I mean, here’s Rose, who’s represented as this powerful, intelligent, charismatic, beautiful woman, respected as both a warrior and a leader. She travels to Earth and decides to spend her life there, and in 6000 years, the human she decides is most interesting, most engaging, most beautiful…is Greg.
Greg is a doofus. He’s bald. He’s fat. He’s a slob with no sense of style or grooming. He’s practically homeless. He’s a failed rock and roll star whose dreams of fame and fortune ended with him running a small town car wash and living in the back of an ancient van. In any other show, he would be the loser of the cast, the fuck-up, the somewhat lovable, helpless goofball who can’t be counted on for anything.
But Rose thought he was beautiful.
It’s something of a sitcom parody; the dimwitted, ugly, slovenly husband with the beautiful, intelligent wife. Fred and Wilma, Archie and Edith, Peter and Lois, Homer and Marge. But Rose and Greg’s relationship isn’t like that. Even in my favourite of those relationships, that of Marge and Homer, Homer is presented as more than a bit of a jerk. Oh, he’s a fundamentally decent man who genuinely loves his family and treasures his wife, but he’s also selfish, thoughtless, more than occasionally neglectful, lazy, and self-centered. And more than that, in those shows, the husband is really the main character. Most of the wife’s role is reacting to his antics. But that’s not Rose and Greg’s story.
Greg is a good man. Not just a decent guy under the jerky exterior, but a truly and fundamentally good man. He stands up to his misogynist buddy. He adores and encourages his son in every way. He is kind and giving to everyone he meets. He works hard, even though it’s a job that he never wanted and that has taken the place of his dream. Speaking of that, even though he’s never seen even a lick of the stardom he dreamed of, Greg has never lost sight of his ambitions. He still plays music, still sings, still performs, still writes albums. Greg may never make it as a rock star, but he will never stop trying. This is what Rose saw. This is what Rose, one of the most powerful and respected warriors and generals of her people, came to love.
In a world where success and worth are measured primarily in material gains and career-based achievements, Greg is a reminder of what’s truly important. In the show, his failed music career, his chubby build, his sloppy clothes, his poverty…they don’t matter. What’s emphasised is the true, human beauty of Greg; the warmth, the kindness, the courage, the imagination, the dedication to art and devotion to family. It’s a reminder to all of us who have been pushed to be “successful”, been hassled about when we were “going to get serious”…that even if we are living in poverty, even if we have no real career, even if we’re not conventionally attractive or haven’t achieved all we’ve wanted to…we still have value. We still have beauty. And we are still loved.