sometimes I see stuff like character criticism and whatnot that just seems to totally forget or ignore the fact that conflict and drama are necessary parts of a narrative structure in order to make a work of fiction actually interesting. In real life we try to minimize these things, since they cause stress and are often not good for us (although conflict is pretty necessary at some points in everyone’s life). In real life, ideally things would progress slowly and calmly without the need for big dramatic events (not that it ever works out like that but that’s the goal). But in fiction its the opposite, conflict and drama are how plot and character development occurs and its necessary for moving things forward. If the work is well written, conflict and drama always mean they’re moving toward something (even if it doesn’t seem that way early on) because its how plot and character development progresses - with big, splashy, interesting to watch moments.
so arguments like “Steven shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff, he’s just a kid” or “[character] needs to deal their problems in a more healthy way” are kind of silly to me. I mean, they’re not wrong, per se, they just completely ignore the fact that we’re watching a work of fiction, not real life, and we need to allow things that would probably not be OK in real life in order for the story to actually be something worth watching.
Yes, Steven is a kid and in real life I would definitely not approve of him (or Connie) being involved in some of the things he does. However, he’s the protagonist, the show revolves around him and as such he needs to actually be involved in plot and character resolution. Both because if he isn’t we wouldn’t get to see it and because in a good story the protagonist is actually an active player rather than someone who just passively watches the story happen
and yes, characters like Pearl would certainly be better off channeling her problems in a healthier way, talking them out or not involving Steven in them. But where would the show be if that happened? If Steven wasn’t involved we wouldn’t see it, if it was a calm and rational way it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or impactful, lacking the emotional weight that usually only comes from either living it yourself or seeing a dramatic conflict centered around it.
Watching 11 minutes of Steven safely practicing swordplay in a structured environment or Pearl calmly talking out her problems with a therapist would not be nearly as interesting as watching their storyline develop with big eventful conflicts and drama. And neither alternatives would be as memorable as what the show actually does. Fiction is hyperbole, its a more extreme version of real life in order create the emotional impact you’d usually require a distinctly personal connection for. Feelings and character development are invisible so you need to write it in a way that the audience will be able to see and feel it and for that you need conflict.