"Here comes a thought" - Steven Universe, and the impact of art tackling mental illness
|All images in this post are the property of Rebecca Sugar and Cartoon Network|
The episode "Kiki's Pizza Delivery Service" in season 3 was all about the stress of being overworked, how some people have anxiety around the idea of saying no to people, fear of failure, fear of letting other's down, and the negative impact of bottling up emotions vs. how facing your fears and creating boundaries can be an act of self-care, all of this packaged in the character development of a young, black woman (my speculation is that the family is Ghanaian, simply because the dad's name is Kofi).
The episode talks about the importance of self-care, all the while giving an alternative spin on what black womanhood looks like in modern media. Not all of us are confident, and minority mental illness is real and frighteningly overlooked both in and outside of our own communities. I wonder how many introverted little black kids are growing up seeing themselves in Kiki, and seeing how important it is to look after themselves.
I got emotional watching it, because I wish something like this had been available to me when I was younger.
This episode made me emotional because it made me happy. I got the feeling it's going to give sad, panicky kids like me solace in the fact that the characters they love on TV really understand how they're feeling, and not only that but they've been given tools to deal with those feelings that they might never be taught any other way.
Some schools, in recent years, have integrated mindfulness into their routines for younger children to see how meditation can improve focus and enjoyment in school. But even if you think the idea of children meditating is a silly one, there's still something to be said for teaching children to be comfortable with their own feelings, to take time out and feel sad, afraid, frustrated, and to understand what bad feelings are so they can grow as human beings.
It's not always easy to teach these slow processes to children, they want things quickly and to be immediately satisfied. But if the art they consume holds the same messages, from cartoons to film to music and anything else, the work becomes easier for the older people in their lives. And let's not forget all the older people that watch this show and feel that same resonance, that can see something they might deal with so regularly described in such an honest and beautiful way. I'm really grateful to Steven Universe, the writers and artists and everyone who comes together to create such an important show. They're doing good work.