"Garnet only talks about Fusion stuff now"
So I’ve got some stuff to say about my favorite character: Garnet!
It’s kind of in response to some criticism I’ve heard: specifically, that Garnet became nothing but a Fusion poster child who thinks about and talks about nothing but fusion since the time her Fusion status was revealed at the end of Season One.
But I’m not really arguing with the perspective so much as trying to bring some nuance to seeing why Garnet is written the way she is–by examining how her focus has changed over time and what I think we’re going to see the show do with her in the future.
Okay, so to some extent? Yes, Garnet’s inclination to talk about fusion all the time went into overdrive after the reveal. Garnet says very little about herself for an entire season, doesn’t find excuses to bring up fusion, doesn’t seem particularly eager to extol the virtues of fusion or fuse with others (though they seem excited to fuse with her, for sure!), and only has a couple little hints about being a giant fusion-fan dork when we see her reaction to Stevonnie.
But keep in mind that in Season One, Garnet’s few attempts to open up were not rewarded. For instance, Garnet felt punished for revealing something about herself–her Future Vision–to Steven late in Season One, and it was clear that she risked it because the possibility of being closer to him was worth so much. She learned that her words have incredible power, and that this power is magnified when she’s letting others into the reality of her existence. Garnet is … let’s be serious here, Garnet is majestic and bafflingly cool but she can be kind of awkward. She seems like a stoic badass most of the time when she doesn’t open her mouth, but she can REALLY be a mess when she starts talking and doesn’t think it through first.
She’s completely in her element when she’s talking about fusion, though–and it’s not just because she is a Fusion and loves being one. It’s also because she was the FIRST of her type of Fusion, and she had to fight so hard on so many levels to be allowed to exist. Her existence has, for so long, been ABOUT being allowed to exist.
I’m going to take a weird turn here and talk about Amethyst. But it’ll connect in a minute, I promise.
Amethyst was the clear outsider of the Crystal Gems. She arrived after the war and has no idea about a lot of the events from Gem history. She spent most of her life with no idea that she was “supposed to be” big like Jasper, or what it was like to live on Homeworld, or what other Amethysts might be like, or what her status would have been if she’d come out on time.
And I imagine Rose ADORED THAT.
I suppose Rose was DELIGHTED at the idea of a Gem being alive for the first time in known history without that programming. What it must be like to NOT be indoctrinated into Gem culture, the worst parts of it anyway, not have to fight to oppress others and steal resources for your world and worship your Diamond, just to LIVE as part of a family, somewhat like the humans Rose so admired. Amethyst was a clean slate!
I don’t know how much she came out of the ground knowing, but it’s clear she was NOT programmed with any idea about what Gems are “supposed to be” like. It was news to her when Peridot said she was supposed to be twice her size, was supposed to outrank everyone on her team, was this mysterious thing called a Quartz.
It’s a lot like being adopted: she never knew any other family, and she loved her family and her home, but what is it like, to use an inappropriate human analogy, to find one’s BLOOD? When you’re the only one in your family who never knew it?
It was satisfying to her to find her Famethyst at the Zoo. Seeing other Amethysts (and Beta Quartzes), knowing that most of them might have been huge but ended up total goofballs like her, with her ancestry, with the answer to her original name (which to her wasn’t an automatizing reduction of identity to an alphanumeric designation, but instead represented CONNECTION, HISTORY, ANSWERS). What it must be like to her to find that family and know something she’d never known–something Rose didn’t want her to ever have to know, but still had meaning to her.
Back to Garnet.
Garnet is a Fusion, and she can never QUITE be an individual the way single Gems can. She doesn’t consider that a failing, and even though she almost always feels like one being, her Fusion identity IS her. “This is who we are” and “This is who I am” are both statements about her that are true, even though they suggest duality and individuality at once. Garnet has no one to talk to about that, and she’s used to keeping it inside. But no Gems who meet her are ignorant that she’s a Fusion. They immediately see it, looking at her, knowing that’s what she is and carrying whatever judgment they might have about it.
He has no idea what a Fusion is for most of his life, and has no idea that he might need to see Garnet as fundamentally different from his other “parents.” That may have been sort of freeing for her, I think. Not telling Steven was really her only chance to know what it’s like to look into someone’s eyes and know they just think of you like one being.
Let’s remind ourselves who told Steven about fusion. It wasn’t Garnet! Amethyst brought up Opal. Pearl explained what fusion is. Opal was the first Fusion Steven met while knowing he was meeting a Fusion, and he felt a little weird about it at first because he didn’t know who she was and was worried she wouldn’t know who he was. Steven still has no appreciable relationship with Opal. Just with Pearl and Amethyst.
Garnet is a perma-Fusion and she isn’t going to spend much of her life unfused. It’s what she wants and it’s what Sapphire and Ruby want. Steven obviously wants to understand them, and he has more of a relationship with them than with Opal, but I doubt Garnet wants him to get too used to it. She’s the permanent fixture there. She’s going to stay Garnet. And she wanted Steven to love that she is Garnet without feeling a weird sense of loss over the idea that her presence prevents him from seeing Ruby or Sapphire.
But during Season One, Garnet found that presenting herself like a single Gem means keeping a secret and not opening up much at all.
She became more demonstrative after the reveal because she COULD be–and someone she loves so much has crossed the threshold where he could have judged her or been upset, and he WASN’T. You could see she felt guilty, but also so relieved.
She is free to talk about it now, to show him who she is, to help him understand his own fusion capabilities and fusion identity when he’s part of Stevonnie or Smoky, and for once, she gets to be the mentor to someone about something so sacred to her.
There is more to Garnet than being a Fusion–much more. She has a personality. She has strengths, and interests, and fears, and quirks both adorable and troubling. The show does continue to explore those, and I think sometimes people forget about it when this show focuses on her relationships.
In “Reformed,” Garnet explored her influence as a leader and what “being too hard on” Amethyst inspired in her; it was an Amethyst episode, but Garnet learned too, and it wasn’t “about” her being a Fusion.
When she was frozen in horror under the Kindergarten when she met the fusion experiments, of course this related to fusion and was particularly upsetting to her because it’s a perversion of her identity, but she also explored her feelings of guilt and grief, and discussed the importance of consent with Steven.
And the consent issue came up again with Sardonyx, which again, though it focused on fusion, it was not exclusively about Garnet being a Fusion. It was about trust with Pearl, betrayal, and again, the important heaviness of being the leader, being the one everyone looks to for what to do–even when she’s falling apart, she has to be the example. “Always the bigger Gem,” indeed. Interesting how in that case, her Fusion status made her more vulnerable to taking that betrayal so much more personally.
Since then, yes, we’ve seen a LOT of fusion-centric stuff about her. Peridot’s Very Special Episode with Garnet was about understanding fusion, but also about understanding GARNET. As is necessary with understanding Garnet, seeing her as a Fusion is an important part of understanding her as a whole. It’s not the only thing to understand, but it is FUNDAMENTAL.
The episode “The Answer” was the story of her relationship and how she became herself, but it was also about her being literally unmasked for an entire episode, coming forward to tell Steven an important foundation of her character, having the chance finally to reveal personal information to him NOT under duress, in a way she chose and planned and had complete control of. And then having Steven appreciate and accept THAT. Not in a terrible situation when they’d been kidnapped and Ruby and Sapphire were wrenched apart and revealed to him in such a traumatic way. This time, it’s HER way. Garnet got to do that, and got to include him, on her terms.
“Monster Reunion” had important Garnet stuff in it–it wasn’t a Garnet-centric episode, but it involved Garnet first denying Steven’s request to help Centipeetle, and then giving in, and then acknowledging that letting him follow his heart had been a good decision.
In the “Bismuth” episode, Bismuth kept bringing up Garnet’s being a Fusion as a sort of breaking-your-balls kind of ribbing, but at the point when they’d known each other, that was a new thing, something she was probably actively trying to develop pride in, just like Pearl and her pride in belonging to no one.
“Mindful Education” wasn’t just about fusion training or learning to cultivate balance; it was also about mindfulness meditation in general, and though it focused on how being out of sync is particularly confusing and lethal for Fusions, it had very good lessons about handling trauma and reminding yourself where you are, which can be generalized for Steven and Connie even when they’re not Stevonnie.
“Three Gems and a Baby” did sort of oversimplify each of the Gems’ misunderstandings of what Steven might be–Amethyst trying to see the glow as evidence of shapeshifting, Pearl trying to see the glow as evidence that Rose is operating by known Gem logic and is trapped but not gone, Garnet trying to see the glow as evidence that Steven is a complex Fusion with human organic material and is trying to unfuse.
I’m not sure exactly what Garnet was thinking was going to happen if she was right and he unfused into two beings, but she evidently STILL thinks of Steven as a type of love Fusion if you assume Guide to the Crystal Gems is accurate. It’s pretty typical to draw common ground between yourself and someone you want to understand or be closer to. And if you think about it, this episode also showed that Garnet, despite her attempts to be a calm voice of reason, REALLY MISSES ROSE and was showing how desperate she was to see her again. Yes, she focused on fusion, but it was something larger in context–just like she is.
And then “Steven’s Dream” happened, which involved some pretty heavy stuff between Garnet and Steven. She withheld the truth, she didn’t know how to make him stay out of danger, she felt powerless and helpless to stop him because she still has so much fear of the Diamonds and what they can so easily take away from her and her planet and her friends. She gets a lot of criticism over this episode because she fumbled SO epically when almost all of us can think of something we could have said to stop Steven from going to Korea if we’d been partial to Garnet’s visions. But that was an episode about their relationship, her shortcomings, her WEAKNESSES, and both of the times she expressed her helplessness, she took her visor off like she always does in super sincere moments.
This whole dynamic was very important, and though it did lead to a plot line that made her unfusing necessary, I think a lot of people overlook “Steven’s Dream” as a significant Garnet episode. It is. Garnet screwed up and it had nothing to do with her being a Fusion and it had everything to do with how she can fall to pieces in other ways if she’s made to face her fears–to even consider being face to face with Blue Diamond.
“Room for Ruby” had a couple Garnet moments too; it opened and closed with Steven interacting with Garnet, and though not much went on, it seemed like she is still trying to figure out how much to put in Steven’s hands …
And I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s wondering when and if and to what extent Steven can share the burden or take over as leader, like his mother. Because I don’t think Garnet particularly likes leading the team. She does it because she can handle it, but she’s not always the best strategist. She can be emotional in ways that make her short-sighted, and that’s when–like Ruby–she punches first and asks questions later, and–like Sapphire–she puts on a mask and pretends everything is very fine and no one needs to worry. Garnet struggling with this, and with being wrong, and with her role on the team, is sort of subtle compared to Fusion-related material, but it’s very much there.
I am in agreement with some of the folks who would like to see some straight-up individual character development for Garnet when she’s not talking about fusion or focusing on being a Fusion or educating someone about fusion. I’d like to know more about her hobbies–what would she do with a day if she had one all to herself without worrying about capturing Gems or leading missions? I’d like to know more about her funny little competitive nature. I’d like to see more of those quirky behaviors come up, where she does something unexplainable because she’s just kind of a weirdo (you know, like putting Steven on her head and walking away, or drawing a picture of herself when everyone else is drawing suspect sketches, or jumping out of the van instead of telling Greg to turn the music off).
But I think it’s unrealistic to expect Garnet to be much more expressive than she is now, because she just isn’t that demonstrative and THAT is part of who she is.
She’s a pressure cooker. She keeps things inside and she resolves them internally–which is probably partially a consequence of being a conversation. Sometimes, like a pressure cooker, she can explode, and you’re going to see her truth in those moments and in a few quiet moments when she chooses to tell a story.
You’re not going to see the kinds of feelings and spoken desires you get from Steven, Amethyst, or Pearl (who all also have very different ways of expressing themselves, but at least tend to DO SO in more overt ways than Garnet does). If they kept journals: Steven would have a sketch diary and would make an effort to end even his sad entries on a happy note. Amethyst would make fun of everything and occasionally write an angry rant. Pearl would write sad poetry and shopping lists and occasional heartfelt observations. I think Garnet wouldn’t keep one. She doesn’t seem to feel comfortable with words taking her feelings up for her, and she guards what she feels closely. The fact that she doesn’t tell us things actually tells us things.
I don’t think it’s lazy writing or turning her into a one-note character to have Garnet frequently putting her life in context through the lens of Fusion.
Fusion is the reason she exists and it is, to be quite literal, who and what she is. It was a radical act that she pioneered, and it must have been amazing to become someone who could define her own life instead of going along with her ingrained Ruby or Sapphire programming. Garnet was more an individual than either of them could have been at that time in their lives, even if that sounds like a contradiction. She’s still creating that person, and still conceiving it as a radical, beautiful act just to be herself. That’s why she’s so great.
I don’t want the show to stop exploring what that means to her, and what that means to everyone around her. I’m not tired of it. I think her character can find new things to talk about, sometimes incorporating information and experience surrounding fusion, and sometimes having it be irrelevant or tangential. But just like those of us who, for example, live with a marginalized sexual identity, something that fundamental to who you are and that different from most people you know always seems to come back into relevance, sometimes when you’re not even steering the conversation.
I think some of you will know what I’m talking about when I say it does just always seem to come up, because it’s an interesting thing about you that people who aren’t like you can’t fully understand, and sometimes you want to tell everyone all the things and sometimes you just really want them to leave you alone. But it’s definitely part of your truth, and it’s something you want people to understand about you and accept about you, and you might feel a little like you’re lying if you haven’t told someone or you just let them think that important thing is not there.
Garnet’s identity is a lot like that in some ways–there’s no “Jailbreak” episode where you come out once and then you don’t ever have to do it again. Garnet keeps having to demonstrate and identify what is different about her, and it continues to be very, very relevant in her life, affecting her relationships and the way she sees the world, how she looks, what her comfort with herself is, what abilities she has, what people think of her. It’s everything. And that fact doesn’t make her lesser, nor does it oversimplify her.
I don’t know what direction the writers will take us with Garnet, but I trust that it will be something I want to know. I find her really interesting and for many reasons very personally relatable. If there’s still more to hear about fusion from her, I want to hear it all. If there’s less related stuff, I want that too.
Pearl’s been struggling toward defining herself separately from others, separately from her grief over Rose. She’s making progress. Amethyst’s been struggling toward building self-esteem and understanding her place in the world. She’s making progress. Some people say Garnet stopped being interesting once she threw out her big revelation in “Jailbreak” and then didn’t evolve from there.
I want to know what show they’re watching.
There’s been so much with her, and I’m not going to say she doesn’t struggle, but unlike the others, Garnet’s struggles aren’t about making peace with HERSELF. She probably did have that struggle when she was new, but she knows who she is now, and that she’d rather be herself than anything she was designed to be. When you have a stable self-identity and step onto that pedestal as a mentor, you can end up giving more than getting in these kinds of stories, but HER struggles seem to be with how much she can give to others without compromising herself.
She’s not self-destructive like Amethyst was, or self-sacrificing like Pearl was. But she gets punished a lot for coming out of her shell, and I think her story is largely going to be about letting others in and dealing with what it means to reach out. Garnet does seem to want connection, and I mean that as an individual. She treasures her relationships with the others, and sometimes despite her being kind of a dork with words she honestly knows the right thing to say.
To sum up, if you think Garnet’s become a one-note character, I encourage you to listen for the subtler harmonies. She’s got a really interesting duality, both subtle and blunt, and I’m here for all of it–including when it seems to contradict itself. Who isn’t a contradiction sometimes? What she’s taught us about her identity is really complex and weirdly relatable for something so alien to humans. I think it deserves at least as much attention as it’s getting.
I still agree with the people who don’t want fusion to be the center of every story about her, but I think they’re wrong if they believe that’s how it is right now. Or rather, that it’s ALL she is, or that what they’re showing us is simple and uncomplicated enough to be unworthy of further exploration. It’s just that SHE is the center of every story about her, and she is a Fusion, so that affects everything she sees and does.
We should expect it to.