Pink Diamond Was the Villain of the Decade

Illustration for article titled Pink Diamond Was the Villain of the Decade

For multiple seasons, Steven Universe hid the darkest and most devastating of its truths in plain sight. Save for Pearl, none of the Crystal Gems knew the reality of who Pink Diamond was as a person and just how profoundly her actions would hurt them all. Even now that everything’s been brought to light, Pink is still managing to hurt the people who loved her most in ways that can only be described as deeply villainous.

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Steven Universe Future’s central focus has been the fact that, after convincing the homeworld Diamonds to calm down and accept peace as a way of living, Steven and the Gems don’t really have all that many pressing matters to deal with. But even though the Gems no longer have to really worry about fighting a war, they’re all still working through the existential turmoil that Pink Diamond brought into their lives with her plan to pass herself off as a Rose Quartz in order to escape Homeworld.

Initially, Steven Universe poked around the truth of Pink’s deception in a way that made you feel sympathetic to her cause. Homeworld was a dangerous, oppressive place and the other Diamonds put all their energy into trying to make Pink be like one of them—cold, heartless, and unfeeling. But that was far from the reality. Powerfully destructive as the Diamonds were, Pink was unique in that she had the capacity to want more for herself and was willing to break Gem laws in order to make herself happy.

But Pink’s uniqueness, the thing that made her the first Gem to try to live amongst humans, was ultimately something that would come to hurt the Gems who swore their lives to her cause. When we think of villainy and evil as existential ideas, we tend to focus more on people who are monstrous and physically abusive. Thanos, for example, is a famed villain because of his willingness to murder millions of people simply because their deaths fit into the delusion about the balance that he was so committed to. Emperor Palpatine was a villain because of his commitment to the dark side of the Force which he believed would make him a stronger, unkillable Sith.

But the harm that Pink Diamond inflicted upon other people was of a different sort because she hurt those who genuinely wanted nothing other than to make her happy. Even though the other Diamonds might have spent thousands of years looking at Pink as being their lesser, younger sister who was never going to be properly equipped to manage her own colonies, they all loved her and wanted more for her. When Steven Universe Future reveals exactly how Volleyball, the Pink Pearl, got her cracked face, the series is cluing viewers into the specific reasons why the other Diamonds were reluctant to give Pink what she wanted. It wasn’t just that she was inexperienced, but rather she was inexperienced, dangerous, and all too capable of letting her powers run wild in ways that would actively harm others.

While Pink was living, she was impulsive, reckless, and more than willing to ignore the difficult realities that she created for herself by being the way she was. Pink was a chaos agent in the sense that she gave into her id more often than not and in the end, that aspect of her personality is what made it possible for Steven to exist. There’s no doubt that Pink-as-Rose loved Greg Universe, but her decision to have a child with a human and give up her physical being came from a place of pure want and, arguably, a desire to run away from the massive mess she made. Had Pink-as-Rose made any sort of attempt at letting the other Gems know what the truth of their entire situation on Earth was, one could make the argument that she was trying. Trying to be the kind of leader who would give their followers the crucial kinds of information that would make it easier for them to avoid danger and trauma. But that wasn’t what Pink did.

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Instead, she essentially left all of her untied ends to Steven as a warped, emotionally-charged gift of sorts that he’s still only just beginning to process and understand. Over the course of Steven Universe’s run and even now in Steven Universe Future, you see just how Not Over™ Pink basically all of the Gems still are. Pink’s legacy is one of the lasting, seemingly unending sadness that the other Gems are attempting to work through. The majority of them don’t feel much ill will toward her, but she’s still hurting them in ways that only the dead and dearly missed can. There are Gems like Spinel who have all the reasons in the galaxy to hate Pink, but that’s not really where any of the people in the series are coming from. Rather, everyone’s in different stages of mourning and not a single one of them can really be sure if and when the pain they’re dealing with is going to go away.

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These are all things that any one of Pink’s Sapphires could have told her would be the outcome of her actions, had she been willing to ask them. But rather than trying to be responsible (and, to be fair, ruining any chance at escaping her claustrophobic life), Pink took things into her own hands and went for the messier route that was paved with lies and deceptions.

Pink Diamond wasn’t a bad person, but she was a villain. A villain in a sense that she brought chaos into the world with the deftest of hands and even when she saw firsthand how she was hurting people, she didn’t stop. Because she couldn’t stop. Her villainy was a byproduct of her being true to herself, which is a kind of tragedy in and of itself—one that Steven has to contend with now because she’ll always be a part of him.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

DISCUSSION

Pink is indeed a marvelously flawed character, but I think this article misses the mark on a number of points.

Homeworld was a dangerous, oppressive place and the other Diamonds put all their energy into trying to make Pink be like one of them—cold, heartless, and unfeeling. But that was far from the reality.

Except it still is the reality. Pink’s recklessness and selfishness and anger doesn’t negate the fact that Homeworld was oppressive and dangerous, and that the other Diamonds were abusively controlling of Pink.

But the harm that Pink Diamond inflicted upon other people was of a different sort because she hurt those who genuinely wanted nothing other than to make her happy. Even though the other Diamonds might have spent thousands of years looking at Pink as being their lesser, younger sister who was never going to be properly equipped to manage her own colonies, they all loved her and wanted more for her.

This is — a disturbing take, and one that I think vastly underplays the abusive circumstances we’re talking about. “She shouldn’t have fought against the other Diamonds because they really did love her and wanted more for her!” She was only given options within a very strict societal structure that was fundamentally dehumanizing to every sentient being who lived in it. This was not just a situation of a teenager getting rebellious with some mildly overbearing family. Pink was growing up in an abusively controlling situation.

It wasn’t just that she was inexperienced, but rather she was inexperienced, dangerous, and all too capable of letting her powers run wild in ways that would actively harm others.

The Diamonds don’t care about harming others; we see them regularly destroy and shatter other gems at minimal provocation. You could say that the Diamonds didn’t want Pink to make a mess out of a valuable resource that a new colony would be, but the idea that they’d be trying to protect others from her is not at all supported by their behavior on the show.

There’s no doubt that Pink-as-Rose loved Greg Universe, but her decision to have a child with a human and give up her physical being came from a place of pure want and, arguably, a desire to run away from the massive mess she made.

That’s pretty speculative. The question of “Why did Rose have Steven?” is still one of the biggest ones left hanging. The truth is that we don’t know why she decided to give herself up to become Steven.

The article also seems to be laced with the sentiment that, because Pink was a selfish, reckless person, and because maybe her reasons for starting the rebellion on Earth were also selfish on some level, that the rebellion itself was actually a bad thing. Or that she should have not decided to take up that fight because it might have ended badly. (Remember, Sapphires can see numerous futures; I think the Crystal Gem rebellion was so complex, taking place over such a long period of time, that a Sapphire couldn’t just confidently state at the start how it would definitely end.) The article reduces the fact that the rebellion was an intrinsically worthwhile fight to have. That the Gem Empire was intrinsically oppressive and destructive.

The fact that Pink/Rose has become an increasingly messy figure, that we see just how flawed she truly was, isn’t supposed to instruct us that the entire rebellion was just a childish mistake. It wasn’t wrong just because people got hurt. They were fighting for a cause that was worth fighting for, and, in the end, it was the other Diamonds who were the ones to corrupt them.

I don’t disagree that Pink did some monstrous things. But I think that minimizing other monstrosities to make it sound like the good things she was able to finally grow into doing were also bad is the wrong take.