Spoiler Warning! This post discusses key spoilers for the Steven Universe episode Room for Ruby. Go watch it first before reading this recap.
Let’s start off from the fact that the Crystal Gems embody difference. This is a well known fact. They are women, they are refugees from a difficult culture, they are queer characters. They are different, cutting against the mainstream culture. The metaphor here standing in for mainstream culture is the Earth’s changing and harsh weather. Ideally, women, people of colour, and the LGBTIQ community would receive acceptance, and lead lives without oppression and maltreatment. In reality, woman, people of colour, and the LGBTIQ community face oppression. The weather is not stable and easy like it was back on the Crystal Gem Homeworld. There’s rain here.
Because of the oppression, they need to work harder. Society does not reach out and meet their needs (marriage equality, workplace practises, physical safety, to name a few). They have to adjust. For example, the work that the Crystal Gems needed to put in to convince Cousin Andy that they could keep and maintain the barn back in Gem Heist. This is despite doing a good job of running it themselves without oversight.
Ruby seems to adapt to oppression quickly. This annoys Lapis.
I’ve felt this way before, and I’m sure many others have too. The sense of loss and insecurity cuts harshly. Where you see someone seemingly living with oppression with far more grace and energy than in your own life. And then you compare yourself to them. The whole process makes you angry.
Lapis questions herself – if Ruby is adapting quickly to this oppressive status and world, why is it so hard for me? What is wrong with me that makes adaptation so hard?
I was thrilled to see Steven Universe explore such an important, but rarely discussed, emotion.
Ruby’s grace falls away – the little liar was really after her spaceship, the Roaming Eye. She and the other Rubies left the ship behind when they failed to fight off the Crystal Gems on the Moon (At the end of season three) and were launched into space. Steven is not judged for the trust he placed in Ruby. Lapis feels vindicated for her mistrust, saying “I was right! No one could be that well adjusted.”
The conclusion drawn from this episode is about not being convinced, or drawn into the illusion of a completely positive experience. Most people have more going on under the outward appearance of their lives.
The larger comment, I think, is don’t question your self worth by comparing your experience to another, especially if you are a woman, person of colour, or have an identity that rests within, near, or is a distant tie to, the LGBTIQ community.
At the same time, there is a message to exercise caution. If a person seems overwhelmingly positive and embracing of everything in a culture without any reservation, then maybe there is something worth discussing in more depth.
Despite the lack of judgement and accusation against Steven, the Crystal Gems lost their ship. Now what? How are they going to travel into space? I wonder, what value Room for Ruby is to the audience, in regards to acceptance?