Seems to be a lot of hatred for “Rocknaldo” online immediately after its air date. Some people are just pissed that a CN promo made them think we’d be meeting a new Gem instead of watching Ronaldo choose a Gem nickname (I didn’t believe we’d be getting a new Gem for a second, given the style of the tease). But most of it’s just Ronaldo hate in general. Ronaldo’s a jerk, etc. Well yeah. He’s a jerk.
But here’s why I think this episode is important. Not Ronaldo’s redemption / apology / stating outright that he was wrong, though that’s good too. Not Steven giving chances to people for trying to understand, though again that’s good too. It’s important because in a simplified way, this brought to light how people who claim to want to understand us and help us can frequently engage in self-serving, counterproductive behavior.
I can’t even count the times in my life that someone “interested in” one of the several marginalized communities I’m part of has committed to a poorly organized, cursory study of my outsider group and then confronted me with claims that they understand what I should be doing better than I do. This is how I should handle my activism. This is the way I should prioritize my goals. This is a behavior or perspective of mine that’s alienating “normal” people like them. They accuse us of hypocrisy or misguidedness because they think it isn’t working if it’s not designed to serve and center them, and then they claim they have a better grasp of my mission than I do.
But this is my whole life. These are our whole lives.
Perspectives from outside are usually welcome, but not at the expense of ours. Not in place of and prioritized over lived experience. They should be learning from us, not striding in and telling us as an ally, they know better than we do what would forward our cause and what would bring us all together for good. Ronaldo in this episode is the worst kind of false ally. He came into Steven’s life with a so-called interest in what the Crystal Gems do, but applied his own ideas of what they’re like:
- Expecting to be “issued” a Gem
- Telling Steven he should be proud and show off his Gemstone even though he had misgivings about it
- Focusing on how “cool” he sounded with his new label
- Challenging more established members as to whether they really belonged there
- Explicitly accusing established members of having false and invalid reasons for being included
- Forcing himself to conform to imagined standards of the group even though they weren’t natural for him (not sleeping), then bragging about how Real Crystal Gem it made him
- Responding to challenges by telling an established member that HE needed to go think about his validity to the group
These are all fake ally techniques most of us have seen with people who aren’t REALLY here about forwarding the cause. They give it a cursory study (if that), they slap a star on their shirt and use a new name, and they seek to climb the ranks of legitimacy by knocking down people “above” them who have done their time. Are you sure you really care about this mission? Don’t I seem to have a considered opinion because I’m being critical? Aren’t you really being the hypocrites by claiming you want to help and protect humanity but not accepting ME as I twist your mission statement to fit my agenda? The agenda, of course, just like with Ronaldo, is making THEM feel good.
If they truly understood, they would apprentice themselves to those for whom THIS IS THEIR WHOLE LIFE, and they would listen FAR more than they would talk. This is not only a way to offer respect and deference to their expertise; it is EFFECTIVE. It is the best way to get an education about what actually helps in a cause. Your ideas may be valuable and your questions are worth asking, but as a person who is perhaps trying to enter a movement alongside those whose very lives are consumed by it, you must listen hard, and listen first.
Ronaldo still doesn’t totally get it at the end. He thinks the real problem is he’s just too much of an outsider, even for outsiders. At least he’s closer to the truth now and isn’t actively spreading harmful lies, but well-meaning allies who don’t listen can still be more hurt than help. He seems happy emphasizing the imagined mystique that comes with being the “ultimate outsider,” but really, he’s a person who wants a cause more than he actually cares about any causes.
The Ronaldos of this world want to have done but don’t want to do. They want to skip to the part where they’re the hero of the battle, but not have to be humbled by the long hours and days of injuries, practice, concentration, and dedication. They want glory, and they have the mainstream perspective that they must be aggressive, confident, and competitive against others on their same side before they’ll come out on top. If you are an outsider to a movement and you truly want to be an ally, you must know why. Ronaldo couldn’t have answered the first question about what the Crystal Gems fight for. He never demonstrated that he could be trusted with the answer, though Steven was tolerant enough to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt.
A good lesson I took from this episode is this: If a Ronaldo is trying to infiltrate your inner circle and he’s already billing himself as an expert above people with more life experience, keep in mind that he is there to make everything about your movement conform to an ideology that serves HIM, and if necessary he will warp it and turn it against the people who are living it. And even if you’re part of a movement but have some similarities to Ronaldo—like Steven sharing Ronaldo’s experience of having an organic body and not being trusted on missions at first—don’t let a superficial similarity be misinterpreted as a substitute for authentic lived experience on the axis you’re examining here.
Invite new allies slowly, with caution, the way Steven and later the other Gems began to welcome Connie into the fold after she demonstrated solidarity, respect, and patience. If they show up on your doorstep with a suitcase and they’re asking why THEY don’t get your mother’s sword within a day, that is a red flag. They will divide and damage your core team in search of personal glory, and if you can’t get them to curb this behavior and sit down, you may have to turn them away for your own safety. Don’t let them take the glory from you, and if you do that, they will find a “better” cause that serves their REAL agenda soon enough.