The fat bodies of Steven Universe leap off the screen and onto the page

When COVID weight reduction pointers began flooding my feeds, I sought after to fight the ones unhealthy takes by means of buying some fats frame artwork. Then I noticed I may just simply draw my very own. So I stripped down to underwear and stared at myself within the reflect, my sketchbook in hand. Shoulders, thighs, a dangling tummy: My frame translated into a sequence of spherical, assured, difficult shapes. On paper, I regarded robust. I regarded robust. I seemed like a Crystal Gem.

Steven Universe had sustained me in the course of the pandemic. As I binged episodes, and the twee theme tune wormed its manner completely into my mind, the display’s depiction of fats our bodies surprised me. Within the animated sequence from Rebecca Sugar, 13-year-old Steven is raised by means of a trio of robust otherworldly beings known as the Crystal Gem stones. Lithe, swish Pearl. Large, robust Garnet. Stout, compact Amethyst. And half-human, half-Gem Steven—quick and obese and fascinating, jamming on pizza and fry bits as he involves phrases together with his supernatural powers.

I grew up seeing fats our bodies in cartoons as dopes, like Homer Simpson, or villains, like Ursula the Sea Witch. Even standard, athletic Fats Albert used to be continuously the butt of the funny story. (Once in a while actually—in a single episode, his buddies inform him he should play the elephant’s bottom in the community circus.) In Steven Universe, Steven’s frame simply exists. There’s no morality in the back of being fats or skinny; no dialogue of “just right” or “unhealthy” our bodies. In 2020, as my frame shifted in lockdown and destructive ideas got here a-knockin’, I clung tightly to this reminder.

I’ve revealed my very own ’zines and comics for a decade. However I simplest lately began drawing myself as fats. I watched many of the display with a sketchbook on my lap, doodling away whilst Steven advanced his powers. He lifted boulders and leapt chasms and galloped throughout deserts on his magical puppy lion. His clumsiness got here from inexperience, and not from his chubbiness.

I’ve been fats just about my complete existence, but if I began drawing memoir comics in school, I drew my frame the way in which I sought after it to be: thin. I hardly ever noticed our bodies like mine mirrored within the protagonists of the comics I learn. I couldn’t lend a hand mimicking the narrow shapes of Ghost Global’s disaffected teenagers, or the willowy our bodies in Craig Thompson’s Blankets. My drawings regarded almost-but-not-quite like me. That they had my thick glasses and my swoopy bangs, yet they didn’t have my tummy or my thighs. In my first ’zine, revealed when I used to be 19, I drew myself with a “Doritos intestine” on one web page—a glimpse of my sloppiest, maximum secret self.

An international with out fatphobia method a global with out nutrition tradition. In Seaside Town, Steven frequents Fish Stew Pizza and The Large Donut with out a considerations about his weight. Actually, in the first actual episode of the display, the euphoria of a Cookie Cat ice cream sandwich turns on Steven’s mysterious gem powers. What a pleasant twist: That consuming for pleasure can release hidden talents. There aren’t any cheat meals, no to blame pleasures, no demonizing carbs or energy. Fry bits are simply fry bits. Steven’s favourite snacks don’t have any ethical status in any respect.

Staring at Steven’s frame transfer on display helped me take note of how fats our bodies transfer in their very own distinct techniques. Once I took lengthy walks in the course of the town, I taken with how my middle of gravity sat in my hips. I drew photos of myself strolling thru Chicago at night time, my limbs spherical and unfastened. Drawing myself this manner shifted what I noticed within the reflect. As an alternative of taking into account what I didn’t like, I eyed my mirrored image and concept, “Wow, how can I draw that?”

Screenshot: Steven Universe

If you happen to stay your eyes peeled, different recent cartoons are making growth on this house as neatly. Journey Time’s Lumpy House Princess continues a convention of brash plus-sized self assurance harkening again to Pass over Piggy. She-Ra And The Princesses Of Energy broke from the Nineteen Eighties Barbie-bodied supply subject matter to reintroduce characters with numerous frames. Princess Glimmer began with a stocky, wide-hipped construct—and a few enthusiasts had been disappointed when traumas (and a personality redesign) slimmed her down. (The plus-sized Spinnerella stayed that manner right through the display’s 5 season run.)

After all, trauma—and months in lockdown all over an never-ending pandemic—could make us achieve weight, too. As my frame shifted from March to December, I fixated on one Steve Universe persona normally. Steven’s absent mother, Rose Quartz, gave up her shape to deliver him into the arena. She’s remembered as a chum, a lover, a protector, and the fierce chief of the Gem revolt. And he or she’s fats. I in particular love the animation of her obese arms and wrists. I grew up self-conscious of my arms, one frame phase specifically I may just by no means cover. However in Steven Universe, I noticed a caricature hand that appears like mine, hooked up to a frame that appears like mine. And the nature used to be a badass battle chief with an enormous purple sword. She’s a complete babe. In a flashback episode, Steven’s dad Greg remembers assembly Rose Quartz whilst he’s traveling as a suffering musician—“8 ft tall, gigantic purple hair.” Her largeness is the very factor that attracts him in. He woos her with an XXL excursion T-shirt. I want I’d watched that scene quicker in my existence. It took everything of my twenties to be told that any individual may well be interested in me now not regardless of my fats frame, yet as a result of it.

Screenshot: Steven Universe

And why now not? Fats our bodies rule! I understood that an increasing number of, as I drew what I noticed within the reflect. However ahead of I may just draw myself as a fats lady, I needed to see myself as a fats lady. Now not as a secret to be hidden in the back of flattering cuts and vertical stripes. Now not as a “ahead of” image in a nutrition advert. And now not because the cartoons I watched at the weekends, the place fatness signified laziness or stupidity or greed.

Rose’s fats frame indicates ferocity and compassion and gear. Which brings up crucial level within the display: On Earth, all our bodies are relax. However on House Global, the Gem stones are dominated over by means of the chilly, flawless Diamonds, who be expecting everybody to suit explicit parameters. Any Gem who breaks this protocol is categorised “off-color” and shattered on sight. The entire level of the Crystal Gem stones’ revolt is that Earth is a spot the place “flaws” can also be celebrated or, even higher, seen as no large deal. The display’s large expose—spoiler alert—is that Rose Quartz is in truth a Diamond in conceal. I really like that the shape Rose chooses to constitute revolt and freedom is a fats frame.

Loving my frame went hand-in-hand with including fats our bodies to my media intake. I watched Divine cavort and contort in John Waters films. I constructed outfits impressed by means of plus-sized influencers like Gabi Contemporary and Tess Holliday. I smashed like on Instagram accounts like Fats Artwork Historical past and Ancient Fats Other people. And I paid consideration to my very own reactions, from Steven Universe to Hulu’s Shrill to my very own frame within the reflect. Those pictures shifted my mind from normalization to admiration—after which I began admiring my very own frame, too. Right through the pandemic, I’m studying that our bodies will at all times trade, however the techniques we like our our bodies can stay steadfast. I’m seeking to see my frame with gentleness, gratitude, or even a little bit awe. That takes a large number of paintings.

Representation: Megan Kirby

What a reduction to peek into Steven’s international, to look what occurs when a boy grows up with not anything yet love and toughen. Positive, Steven Universe has shape-shifters and intergalactic teleportation and a complete island stuffed with sentient, Steven-shaped watermelons. However my favourite little bit of fable is that Steven grows up in a global with out the slightest whisper that his fats frame will ever cling him again.

Have you ever ever drawn a blind contour? The entire level is that you just don’t glance down at your paper. You stay your eyes at the matter. As you center of attention on its traces and curves, your pen corresponds at the web page. That’s how I drew my frame within the reflect. And I noticed it for what it used to be, freed from judgement, now not something I’d trade or cover. I made 3 portraits this manner, after which I coloured them in brilliant vegetables, pinks, and yellows. I pinned them above my reflect, the place I will be able to see them on a daily basis.

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