my favorite part of “Do It for Her” is…well, from “On the battlefield…” to “…that’s how you know you can win…”. particularly the latter. and it’s not just because “…you just think about the life you’ll have together after the war…!” never fails to make me emotional. (though that is a big part of it, admittedly.)
the way Pearl’s tone shifts…throughout, really…but particularly on “And then you do it for her…that’s how you know you can win!” is just…perfect, really, and I have to applaud the musical direction+Deedee Magno Hall’s talent & understanding of Pearl, because it feels like the best possible demonstration of how…multifaceted, and three-dimensional the episode’s themes are.
it’s all in the tonal shifts in Pearl’s singing.
we immediately locked on to the conclusion that Pearl’s behavior and conception of knighthood–both toward Connie and herself–are harmful and unhealthy, and that’s driven in by the harsher, more unsettling vocal shifts in DMH’s delivery of “Concentrate! Don’t you want him to live!?” and “…when you live for someone you’re prepared to die”…
…but, man, those shifts in the “On the battlefield…” verse, especially in “…and then you do it for her, that’s how you know you can win”…they’re so honest, so genuine, so heartfelt. and when you look at her body language–how confidently, gracefully, and proudly Pearl dispatches the Holo Pearl–and the kids’ reactions throughout that verse–Steven getting emotional over the holo-flashback; Connie’s and Steven’s awe at Pearl’s skill–it seems clear that it isn’t wholly negative.
on Homeworld, Pearl and gems like Pearl had their duties and functions–the reasons for their existences–determined by their model. Homeworld deemed Pearl “defective” for failing to live up to the standards expected of her model. after the first few thousand years of her life, living in Homeworld gem society, Pearl internalized the stigma of “defective” to the extent that, even when Rose Quartz looked upon her and saw beauty and loved her wholly and unconditionally–not just for her “virtues,” but for everything about her, every part of her–Pearl never stopped seeing herself as nothing, even though Rose made her feel like she was everything at the same time.
it’s extremely difficult to examine and root out internalized discrimination–especially those instilled in us by oppressive power and societal structures. Rose’s love inspired devotion and loyalty and bravery in Pearl, but it wasn’t until Pearl began to fashion something different for herself that she could begin to deal with that internalized defectiveness.
humanity’s concept of knighthood was what allowed Pearl to reinvent herself into something she could derive pride and confidence from. and for a marginalized/oppressed person whose terms for self-reference were always determined by the society and power structures that marginalized and oppressed her, that is extremely significant and absolutely not to be discounted.
Pearl decided to become “Rose’s knight”–not because Homeworld mandated it, or because that was what was expected of her model, or because Rose asked that of her. Pearl’s decision was as much of an act of love and self-determination as she could muster for herself at that point.
while that reinvention was colored by the wounds Homeworld inflicted upon her soul (her low self-worth; her willingness to sacrifice herself for the person she loves; her inability to approach Rose as an equal yet)…it is also a source of power, and pride, and confidence. a flawed step forward, of course, but a first step Pearl took on terms she determined for herself.
ngl, the need to firmly categorize any and all instances of behavior and personality as either “good” or “bad/harmful/problematic” strike me as extremely reductive. character traits are seldom uniformly “good” or “bad,” imo. they can feed into both “positive” and “negative” behaviors in different situations! for example, prioritizing someone over yourself to the extreme that you believe yourself to be worthless relative to them is undoubtedly “negative,” but the ability to sometimes prioritize others’ needs above your own and assume responsibility for your relationships is often integral to building positive relationships–and that’s a big part of what makes Pearl a good parent and mentor to Steven, and often shows up positively/benignly in her interactions with Garnet, Amethyst, and Greg, even.
so Pearl’s devotion? yes, it’s unhealthy in that it was initially predicated on and often still feeds back into her low self-worth, which propels her toward extreme self-sacrifice; it’s especially and unquestionably harmful when she uncritically projects it onto Connie; it’s difficult to watch how it feeds into her grief over Rose’s loss…
…but it’s also positive in that it impelled Pearl to take the first step in her self-determination and self-actualization! her confident body language and heartfelt articulation about her relationship with Rose…the image of Pearl, glowing with a confidence and love she’d never known before, following Rose into battle and fighting alongside her, thinking of the life they’d have and did have together after the war, and the years and years they spent, healing and moving forward together–that’s beautiful, and I think we’re supposed to perceive it as beautiful and affecting.
so, like, I don’t know what the point of this post is anymore, haha…. something can be positive/beautiful and negative/harmful at the same time, for the same or different reasons, I guess? “Do It for Her” is certainly both for me, at least.