a TV show about a boy being raised by three alien women superheroes. It’s funny, campy, and quirky, pays tribute to video games and other shows, has amazing music (including but not limited to chiptune), and ultimately draws you in with its story and characters.
Steven Universe manages to be entertaining and often irreverant while still being incredibly wholesome and supportive of emotional health and expression, and its increasingly large cast of characters are one of the ways that it does that. Today I want to focus in on a character introduced early in Season 5: Padparadscha.
(Moderate spoilers for Season 5 from this point on. I’ll leave out plot details, at least, but most of what we know about Padparadscha so far will be covered.)
The episode that changed my view of Padparadscha was the recent “Your Mother and Mine”. This was a great episode, particularly in the art and the music, but it also did feature a little bit more of Padparadscha than we’d seen before.
To talk about what was different in this episode, I’m going to have to go back to how she was introduced. Sapphires normally have the power of prophecy, but Padparadscha instead “predicts” events that have just happened, a few seconds past. As the Steven Universe Wiki describes,
Despite actually witnessing the events she “predicts”, her visions always seem to surprise her, making it possible her vision and sense of time as a whole is delayed.
(spoilers in the full article)
So, okay, Padparadscha’s got a pretty useless power; she may even be worse off than if she had no special abilities at all. That’s fine, though. She still deserves a chance to live and be happy. The show uses her as a joke a few times, and it gets a little old.
In “Your Mother and Mine”, though, we see something new from Padparadscha. She’s still on a delay, but there’s something different about her “predictions”: they’re insightful. Consistently throughout the episode, she puts her finger on something the others have missed. And that’s…amazing! The writers have taken a character I felt sorry for and had mostly dismissed and showed how she could contribute too, not in a generic way but something only she could do. And it feels natural: there’s insight in retrospection, and on top of that Padparadscha’s vision could very well be guided to significant events like Sapphire’s.
So here’s how Padparadscha can contribute. She’s not just along for the ride; she’s a valuable resource and friend.
…she shouldn’t have to “contribute” to be worth my time. After all, if I really believed she deserved a chance to live and be happy, I shouldn’t also be tallying up her efforts to support the group. So when I got the idea for this post, I also uncovered something about myself. Hm.
(And I’m not tempted to just write this off, because this kind of situation very obviously applies to people—humans—with all kinds of disabilities. People should be able to live and be happy regardless of what they “contribute”.)