Tag: Steven Universe

The Real Problem with Homeworld

golvio:

After listening to what Peridot had to say about Homeworld
in Gem Drill, I think I’m beginning to understand precisely what Homeworld’s
deal is, as well as why Rose and the Crystal Gems decided to rebel.

People assume that Homeworld is a cold, emotionless, evil
society where the upper echelons are comprised entirely of sadists who kill and
torture lower-class Gems for funsies. They assume that their attempt to destroy
Earth was done out of pure contempt for organic life. But the more we learn
about Homeworld, the clearer it becomes that things are not so clear-cut. Why
would Peridot get so teary-eyed reminiscing about Homeworld if it had nothing
positive to offer her? Why would Garnet and Pearl miss certain things about
their home planet and society, even if they gave up everything they knew for
the chance at a new life? Why would Lapis do anything to go back home, and why
did she still remain loyal to Homeworld even if she found nothing resembling
the life she knew when she returned?

Each new episode hammers home the importance of looking at
others with compassion. Every antagonist had a reason for doing what they did.
Even the Cluster, which was a terrifying abomination that should never have
existed, had their reasons, and they deserved to be treated sympathetically and
be heard. So what does this mean for Homeworld? What makes the Gempire tick,
and why didn’t they stop the war before countless lives were lost?

Seeing Peridot’s behavior this episode, especially after
Steven told her he loved her, made me realize that what is going on is not so
much a battle between Good and Evil, but a conflict between a heavily
individualistic model of society vs. a heavily community-oriented one.

Homeworld is a community-oriented model of society taken to
its most extreme. Their social structure is focused entirely on the greater
good of Gemkind. Every Gem’s life revolves around their job, and they are
tailor-made to fulfill a specific and necessary role in Gem society. They are
mass-produced according to demand to fill the quotas that their society needs
to function. Their expansion is phrased by Peridot in It Could Have Been Great not
so much as a conquest of lesser species, but as a means of acquiring valuable
resources which allow the Gempire to sustain itself and expand outwards to find
new resources on other planets.

And, despite fanon assertions that the Diamonds and
higher-ranking Gems love to shatter lower-caste Gems who displease them at
random for no reason, from what we’ve seen, Homeworld is very adamant about
preserving the living resources they have. Before Peridot let slip that taboo
word that starts with “C” and ends with “rystal Gems,” the eternally busy Yellow
Diamond was perfectly willing to spend time and resources on calling a nearby
transport ship to swing by and pick Pierdot up to take her home, even though
Peridot claimed that she singlehandedly botched the mission. Blue Diamond only
ordered Ruby to be shattered because she violated a major taboo of Homeworld,
not because she was in her presence while being lower-class. And they were
sending parties explicitly phrased as “diplomatic missions” before the actual
war on Earth started, rather than shattering Rose and Pearl outright. Their
actions were all about preserving Gem lives, even against the rebels, and the
war only started because both sides reached an impasse that neither could
surmount without resorting to violence.

And then there’s the matter of Peridot’s enhancers. Lots of
people love to speculate that the enhancers were designed as a prison which
kept Peridot from accessing “her true potential” by keeping her dependent upon
Homeworld. But, honestly, I see them more as assistive technology. I mean, it’s
not like Peridot’s actually going to become stronger by not having her
enhancers; Gems can’t build muscle mass, as their forms are fixed to a specific
template for their whole lives. But think about it: a Gem’s life revolves
around being able to do their job, to the point that their caste and identity
is based solely on “what they’re for.” Peridot, without her enhancers, clearly
has trouble with most physical tasks that Peridots are expected to complete,
such as removing metal panels or moving heavy machinery around. I’m willing to
bet that Peridot is not so much a prisoner so much as she’s like Amethyst —
something happened during Peridot’s incubation period that affected her form,
making her different Peridots are “supposed” to be, in her case, being smaller
and physically weaker. When viewed in that light, the enhancers are hardly shackles
of enforced submission; instead, they are a means of allowing Peridot to
integrate into Gem society by allowing her to perform her assigned function
just as well as all of the other Peridots. Rather than a Social Darwinist
society where all “defective” Gems are culled at birth, Homeworld’s government
is focused on ensuring that all of its citizens are given what they see as the
best possible quality of life, in this case, the ability to contribute to the continued
functioning and expansion of the Gempire without physical strain or unnecessary
damage. This is why Peridot spoke of Yellow Diamond as a champion of fairness
and justice; she may not have been warm and fuzzy, but she ensured that accommodations
were available to every stratum of Gem society, and went out of her way to give
help to the Gems who needed it most. It’s also why Peridot spoke so fondly of
even the inanimate version of Peridots, since her identity was so wrapped up in
her caste and her job, that sense of belonging to something greater than
herself, and that sense of contributing to Gem civilization at large through
her caste’s collective efforts.

Now, in that sense, Homeworld is fantastic at providing for
the physical needs and wellbeing of their subjects. But we also have proof that
they are absolutely crummy at ensuring the psychological fulfillment and well-being of their subjects at an individual level.

When everything is about the community and the greater good,
individual needs tend to take a backseat. Selflessness in moderation builds
character, but when you’re constantly expected to work for others without
taking care of your own needs, it can rapidly become unhealthy. On Homeworld,
the focus isn’t on how you feel, but what you can do. We see the consequences
of that in Peridot.

Peridot worked seemingly from the day she was born. Her
entire life revolved around doing her job and doing it well. But even though YD
went out of her way to provide physically and practically for Peridot, she failed
to acknowledge Peridot as her own person, or even look her in the eye. Peridot
has never had those basic psychological needs for validation and affection
fulfilled, to the point where it’s implied that Steven’s “last words” were the
first time someone, anyone, outright told her that they loved her and cared
about her as a person, not just as a valuable “human resource” or Resident IT Guy.

Her strong flinch response to suddenly being touched or
having physical harm threatened to her also suggests the possibility that she
endured bullying or interpersonal abuse in her early years. Now, to me, this
doesn’t suggest that all of Homeworld is evil so much as that, due to their
priorities, they don’t have an effective system in place for dealing with
corruption or abuse on an individual, interpersonal level. After all, if
everyone is virtually interchangeable, then how could one Gem make others
suffer unnecessarily due to their own issues? This ineffectiveness is also due
to being a massive intergalactic empire. Even empires on Earth don’t have the
manpower required to surveil everything that happens in every tiny province, so
it’s easy for abuses of power to proliferate on the local level as long as the
higher-ups or the central government don’t hear about it.

It also suggests that there aren’t really any therapists on
Homeworld — so long as you’re capable of doing your job, no one feels the need
to check up on you. A Gem who shirks her duties can put a spanner in the entire
system and get slapped with a report, but a Peridot who bullies other Peridots
or a supervisor who loves terrorizing her underlings isn’t going to be
investigated so long as the consequences don’t impact or inconvenience the
system at large. In such a system, it would be very easy for an emotional
abuser to cover their tracks so long as their victims appeared perfectly
functional. Heck, threatening to impede their ability to do their jobs would be
enough to scare their victims into silence. And if a Gem falls apart due to the
stress of being abused, rather than being taken care of or the perpetrator
being dealt with, they’re probably just reassigned to somewhere else to prevent
further conflict, and the cycle begins anew with the Gem who replaces them. Homeworld’s
greatest issue is not so much outright maliciousness as it is emotional neglect
of themselves and others, allowing interpersonal and societal problems to stew
and fester by being ignored in favor of “the greater good.” As long as everyone’s
physical needs are provided for, what right do they have to complain? To do so
would be ungrateful for everything that’s been done for them, and so they keep
silent.

That laser-like focus on providing for their own species
also gave Gemkind a tendency to trample upon the rights of all non-Gem species
who happened to get in the way of their goal. It’s colonialism at its purest
essence; everything is about acquiring resources and land for the mother
country and ensuring that all citizens of the empire have access to their
promised supply of tea, sugar, and microchips. The fact that there may already
be people who live on that land or might be harmed by the process of extracting
those resources is treated as a mere inconvenience to be brushed aside so long
as everyone in the motherland is happy.

This is why Rose’s fixation on individual experience and perception
was considered so radical (and dangerous). Prioritizing, even celebrating, the
individual over the community was virtually unheard of in Gem society. Even the
Diamonds, whose iconography covers every inch of Gem art, are defined not as
celebrities with a cult of personality, but as Gems whose function is to govern
and ensure the well-being of all of the other Gems.  Rose’s entire army was composed of Gems who
weren’t happy with the role that was determined for them before their own
birth. Pearl was from a caste that was so encouraged to put their needs aside
for others that they were treated as literal objects, but despite being raised
in such conditions she believed that she deserved autonomy and the freedom to
choose her own path. Garnet, who preferred existing as herself rather than two
separate Gems who were divided by a massive caste gulf, had to abandon her home
planet and flee to Earth just to live her life in peace. In the end, they were
happier on Earth than they were on Homeworld, because on Earth they were free
to decide who they loved and how they lived.

But that’s also why Lapis claimed that the Crystal Gems “didn’t
care about other Gems.” Every member of Rose’s faction prioritized their own
individual happiness above the well-being of all of Homeworld, to the point that
they were willing to destroy the system and kill their own kind, and for what? To
humans, who are used to regarding themselves as individuals, such a motive is
perfectly understandable, but to a Homeworld Gem it’s unnatural, even
monstrous. All they were accomplishing was denying the Gempire valuable
resources that could have ensured the well-being of existing Gems and the
potential to create new ones. People who prioritized their own happiness over
the good of their species were seen as selfish, defective, and were treated
like outcasts. It’s why Peridot called out YD’s behavior when it became clear
that her Diamond was acting based on her own emotions rather than for the good
of Homeworld. It’s why Homeworld cut all ties to Earth and effectively exiled
the surviving Crystal Gems rather than saying, “Hey, maybe these guys have a
point and we should reform the system.” To the remaining Diamonds, Rose and the
Crystal Gems were behaving selfishly, subverting their own best interests by
interfering with the colonization effort for no discernible reason, and needed
to be stopped for their own good and the good of all Gemkind.

However, this viewpoint also prevented the Homeworld Gems
from examining their own actions, and from realizing that something had to
change. This is why I think Steven is so important to the reconciliation of
Homeworld and Earth: he’s not just a bridge between humanity and Gemkind, but
also a balance between selflessness and self-care. He cares about others, and
will frequently put himself in danger to protect those he loves, but at the
same time he acknowledges the importance of being in touch with your own
feelings and taking care of yourself, and judging by a recent interview, his finding
that perfect balance will become a major part of his personal growth over the
series. Hopefully he’ll bring those lessons with him to Homeworld when the time
comes.

the-homeworld-speech:

Daurulin/Daurulim [daʊɹulɪn / daʊɹulɪm] (noun r.): Coral (gem caste).

Notes: From daur, “organic”, and ulim, referring to any small tentacled creature. Coral Gems are fully artificial creations, sort of like a reverse robot; they’re organic material that has been transformed through Gem technology into something approaching a more silicate life-form. As an experimental form, they have little set purpose, but, as semi-organic creations, their ability to repair themselves continually rather than only after retreating into their gems makes them useful for hazard work.

Gem Biology Time

the-homeworld-speech:

Okay, so I said I wasn’t going to deal with Gem reproduction, but that was before two things happened. One, Peridot said that Gem creation requires “resources” of which Homeworld is running out, and two, Gem corruption has been confirmed as being caused by sound. I’ll explain the significance of these as we go.
So: We already knew that the bacteriophage drills were used somehow in Gem creation, which involved implanting them in a planet’s crust, but we didn’t know whether or not implantation was their only function.
My hypothesis is that they do in fact have another function: that of extraction, as well as implantation. Because of Peridot’s “resources” comment, as well as her “lava is made out of the same stuff as Peridots” comment, I posit that Gems aren’t made from the physical material of other Gems: Gems are physically created from gems.
Now, unless life on Homeworld is significantly different from Earth, I don’t mean to suggest Gems have used drills for their entire existence (although it would be a truly STUNNING plot twist if Gems are entirely artificial, engineered by a completely different species). I think the drills are just a way to make the reproduction process faster – a reproductive process that begins with a nonsentient mineral.
However, I didn’t come up with a mechanism by which this could occur until Monster Reunion, when the mechanics of Gem corruption were revealed. I considered physical carving when Peridot said “I like the cut of your gem”, but I didn’t really feel like that would work. So when Centipeetle described the corruption superweapon as a sound, everything just clicked. If a sound can cause a Gem to lose control of their manifested form, might it not also give a Gem the ability to manifest that form in the first place? Even to think?
My hypothesis is that Gems reproduce through vibration, setting up specific harmonies in nonliving crystal in order to give it life. I know I’ve left most of it up to quantum, but I don’t think the concept of Gems as a self-repeating harmonic life-form is totally far-fetched. I’m not sure how this will make itself manifest in the lexicon, but I did want to post this here as a basis for future entries.