Television wasn’t a big part of my life growing up, since my parents refused to shell out for cable on principle. Now that I’m an adult, I feel like I’m making up for lost time in watching what is ostensibly kids’ programming. Like millions of others, my current TV-Y7 obsession is Steven Universe.
Created by Adventure Time’s Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe tells the story of a magical young boy whose adventures with three ageless, shape-shifting space rocks will decide the fate of the planet. It’s got all the absurdity I crave to take my mind off my own problems, but it’s also grounded enough to be intensely emotional, and the lessons it imparts can legitimately impact people’s lives for the better.
When I say “people,” I mean both kids and adults. For years, the common barometer of quality in an animated TV show or movie has been if grown folks can reliably find snippets of enjoyment here and there. With Steven Universe, though, nobody needs to go searching for things to enjoy; it’s sufficiently sophisticated to entertain adults and simple enough to hold a child’s attention. I had my suspicions from the outset, but watching a few of the best episodes with my mother really drove home how well Steven Universe appeals to folks of literally all ages. Here are five ways Sugar’s gay sci-fi masterpiece has achieved what some thought was impossible: a show kids and their parents can enjoy together in harmony.