I’m going to ramble for a bit here because I’ve been thinking but I don’t really know where I’m going with this so its just, like, loosely connected thoughts regarding Rose and Pearl’s relationship and, like, whatever else ends up spinning off of that.
I don’t think loyalty and devotion are ‘natural’ traits of a Pearl, I don’t think they’re actually made to be particularly loyal or devoted. Loyalty and devotion, in general, imply at least some semblance of belief or faith in what you’re following. You are loyal because you have faith in who you are loyal to, you are devoted because you enthusiastically believe in who you are devoted to. Pearls are described as needing to be told what to do and so far it seems like they’re not supposed to have much autonomy or personal thought. It doesn’t seem like they’re made to believe in anything, just to follow orders. They’re not made to be loyal or devoted, but rather to be obedient. To blindly follow orders and to not think or feel anything about what they’re doing, it is not important that they believe in anything, just that they obey. To make them feel loyalty or devotion would take their feelings into account, it would make them feel like they want to follow someone, which I think Homeworld would see as irrelevant. They don’t need to want to follow someone, they just need to do it.
So, I think Pearl’s (albeit extremely intense) loyalty and devotion to Rose were entirely of her doing. Perhaps piggybacking off her natural disposition to obey, but it being all her own. She has faith in Rose Quartz, she enthusiastically believes in her and her cause, she loves her. She feels, and it informs her actions, which is something I’d wager Pearls are not meant to be able to do. The ‘love’ part is important, there’s no way Pearls were made to love, given everything we know, Gems don’t seem to understand love at all and likely don’t “naturally” love at all, they wouldn’t make Pearls to feel affection for their owners. How a Pearl feels about anything doesn’t matter, they’re just supposed to obey, its unnecessary to give them a ‘reason’ to follow orders.
But I don’t think there just happened to be something about Pearl that made her special, that made her defy her purpose while all other Pearls just comply. Rather, I think what allowed Pearl to develop into her own person was that she was given the opportunity to think for herself. She happened to get into a situation where she had relative freedom to think for herself, to choose to do something rather than just follow orders.
One of SU’s major themes is choice, the importance of choice, of choosing who you are, how you are the one to define yourself. Another major theme I think is nature vs. nurture - what you’re made to be and who you can be when given the freedom to grow into something new. There’s a lot of time spent seeing how people are being raised. The most central of which is, of course, Steven, who has 4 parental figures each with entirely different ways of doing things but who all give him the freedom to grow and learn as he does. We see how other characters nurture too - we see Vidalia allow her sons to express their creativity even when its disruptive, we see both Connie and Sadie be stifled under the overprotectiveness and oversupportiveness (respectively) of their parents. We see how we treat and interact with people has an impact on how they change and grow. Under Homeworld rule, Gems aren’t given the freedom to be their own people and its so ‘natural’ to them they don’t even think to question it. Crystal Gems, it seems, are given the freedom to be who they are and are allowed to become new, unique people.
At current, I’m of the belief that Rose Quartz was not naturally compassionate or kind. I don’t think she was especially cruel, but that she acted in the way Gems had always acted, which we’re seeing was not particularly kind. I think Rose used to be a model high-ranking Gem who bought into Gem society entirely, enforced it, believed it. I think she was probably fairly terrifying, back in the day. But something happened, something rattled her worldview significantly enough to plant a seed of doubt within her, so she could no longer just fully accept everything she was doing on Homeworld. Just a tiny little nagging doubt causing her to actually think about how she was acting and how she was treating others (Gems and beings on other planets). If we believe Pink Diamond theory (which I personally do), and we separate it as Homeworld Rose was Pink Diamond, then this ‘seed’ is what eventually allowed her to grow into being the Rose Quartz that Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and Greg have such admiration and affection for.
And so if Rose was starting to change (slowly, of course, because Gems are essentially rocks and rocks don’t change particularly quickly, and in this case we’re taking it metaphorically) because of whatever shook up her worldview, even a little bit, this would start to have ripple effects. Small acts that deviate from the expected in how she treats other Gems would cause other Gems to start thinking a little differently too. Not HUGE differences of course, but in small ways. Tiny, needling feelings of doubt that things have to stay the way they’ve always been.
I could easily see, very very early in Rose’s personal journey in becoming this new, more compassionate person, her very slightly changing how she interacted with Pearl (assuming, of course, that Pearl was always Rose’s Pearl and was so long before Rose’s point of view changed). After years and years of being treated how all Pearls are treated and never even thinking anything of it (it would not be in her natural capacity to do so), one day, Rose makes a small gesture regarding Pearl as her own Gem. Nothing actually intending to be an act of kindness, nothing like Rose deciding “I’m going to be nice to this Pearl”, but rather something naturalistic. Perhaps she gave her a choice, a small, seemingly insignificant choice (left or right? blue or red? sit or stand?). Something Rose wouldn’t think twice about but something that was Earth-shattering to a Pearl, because they just aren’t expected to ever do such a thing. Just, something very very small that gave the barest impression of Pearl being her own person. And that tiny action planted a seed which allowed Pearl to start thinking for herself in very very small ways. To start having feelings or thoughts on things she never even considered doing before. A small change, inspiring a change, which snowballs into eventually completely changing their way of life
And I believe that was when Pearl started to fall in love with Rose and feel the capacity to love for the first time, and not a second earlier. Not all at once, I’m sure, but a feeling that grew over time to become love and loyalty and devotion. Love, mind you, not infatuation. Infatuation is unreasonable and foolish admiration, its shallow. Rose and Pearl’s relationship was very very complicated, but it certainly wasn’t shallow or foolish at all. Pearl’s feelings for Rose were based on Rose making her feel like she mattered, making her feel like she was everything even when Pearl herself thought she was nothing. That’s significant, that’s important, that means something. And this is also the reason I think its very very important for Pearl’s love, loyalty, and devotion to Rose be of her own volition, rather than stem from her being subservient. It’s something that means so much to Pearl and who she is and how she regards herself that I feel it has to be something unique and specific to her.
I dunno. Like I said, I don’t really know where I was going with this, I just wanted to get my thoughts down.