Even though Steven Universe is technically about a bunch of sentient rocks whose humanoid physical forms are just hard light constructs, the show’s gems are presented as female and the emotional relationships between them are coded as queer.
Steven Universe’s queerness is fascinating because as undeniable as it may be when you watch the show now, in its earliest days, there was still a fair amount of misdirection used to keep audiences guessing as to what certain characters’ motivations were. We know now that Pearl’s undying love for Pink Diamond/Rose Quartz is what pushed her to join the Crystal Gems’ rebellion, and it’s also what makes her relationships with Steven and Greg so complicated. Still, though, all of those layers of emotional turmoil and loss haven’t kept a number of Steven Universe’s fans from imagining a time in another universe where Pearl and her Diamond might have been able to live a simpler and more romantic life.
For the past few months, Mexico City-based artist Carla Barragán has been posting small slice-of-life comics featuring Steven Universe’s Homeworld Pearls and their Diamonds on her Instagram and Tumblr pages. Unlike Steven Universe’s intricate plots, which can take ages to unfold, Barragán’s stories move briskly and tend to center around the Gems goofing off and aggressively flirting in their downtime.
The overall lighthearted cheekiness of Barragán’s illustrations really makes you appreciate just how serious Steven Universe can sometimes take itself. In her art, you can see the kind of queer intimacy that the show typically only hints at with subtle winks, nods, and the occasional wedding.
These are the kinds of moments one imagines Pearl dreamed of in the thousands of years she spent with Pink Diamond before the Gems first started colonizing Earth. It was a simpler time before the Gems’ lives were complicated by humans, a time when Pearl still believed that she might just be enough to make Pink happy. That time’s passed in the show obviously, but at the very least it can live on in the fandom’s imaginations.