Something I’ve found kind interesting is the general fandom opinion (as in, what’s the popular interpretation) regarding Blue Pearl and Yellow Pearl. In general, folks like both of them but view them very differently. The average opinion toward Blue Pearl is sympathetic, people feel sorry for her, want to rescue her, view her as someone who desperately wants to get out of the situation she’s in. By contrast, the average opinion of Yellow Pearl is that she’s smug, superior, content and proud to be working for Yellow Diamond. There’s comparatively few people who feel Yellow Pearl needs to be rescued from the situation she’s in than those who feel Blue Pearl needs(or needed) to be rescued.
But, objectively speaking, we have more evidence that Yellow Pearl is in an abusive situation than Blue Pearl. We’ve only seen a little of both of them, but with Yellow Pearl we have several instances of flinching and cowering, something we don’t get with Blue Pearl. Mind you, they’re both in abusive situations and I’m in no way suggesting that one ‘has it better’ or worse than the other. I just find it interesting that despite Yellow Pearl displaying some of the more classic signs of abuse, most people more readily read Blue Pearl as an abuse victim than Yellow Pearl, due to the perceived personalities of the two characters
I think certain types of behaviors reduce our inclination to be compassionate towards a person. We have a model of what a sympathetic person is in our heads, its generally someone quiet, meek, sad, subdued. We have an expectation for what a person who has had a trauma, has been abused, is like. When people deviate from that, our ability to sympathize with them reduces. More than anything, people cannot stand aloofness or an air of superiority or smugness. We feel compelled to want people who exhibit these traits to ‘be taken down a peg’, because we hate the idea they think they’re better than us (a really disturbing amount of kids movies support this, I mean how many school-centered stories have a popular kid who eventually gets dragged through the mud by the end?). We tend to not view people like that as people with any sort of bad things going on with them and we think that no one in a bad situation could be smug or act like they’re superior
and its unfortunate, because that sort of behavior is a pretty common response to anxiety and trauma. Aloofness is a very common response to anxiety, smugness/superiority is often a result of feeling inferior in certain parts of our life. People respond to trauma in different ways. We respond and adapt to the situation we’re in, and we can take pride in the little victories or things that make us feel like we’re not the most worthless/disliked person in the room. It might not be a sympathetic trauma response, but it is one. There’s a lot of behaviors like that, that deviate from the sympathetic model of a victim people have in their heads. And its unfortunate, since it causes a lot of people to write off people who exhibit these traits as ‘not a victim’ and in some cases actively punish them for these behaviors.
I’m not chastising anyone who viewed the characters this way, I totally get it, and Yellow Pearl was definitely acting smug. We’re meant to notice and respond to this aspect of her character. There’s a lot of neat art and interpretations of her as having genuine pride in her job, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think about it a lot whenever I see fandom stuff about her. I feel like this is what the show is going for, to present the character in a way that’s unsympathetic (her being combative with and smug toward Peridot, a character we know better and thus are more likely to sympathize with in general) and then have us learn more about her to demonstrate that first impressions can be deceiving. They very deliberately paid attention to showing her fear of Yellow Diamond, so it really does seem like something they’re going to expand upon in the future. Perhaps it might even help some folks realize there are other, less sympathetic responses to trauma (maybe just wishful thinking there, though)