Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Tear Jerker / Steven Universe

Go To
"...I think you're pretty great." note 

"The Crystal Gems, they're made out to be a magical force while sidelining as Steven's three stepmothers. As you would in the perspective of a child, one is under the impression your parents are in total control of a situation and have all the answers. But as Steven matures, the realization chips away that they're just as flawed and clueless as to what's going on as anyone else. They're a broken family missing both a leader and Steven's real mom, confused to what Steven's existence really means."
Pan Pizza, explaining why the show has such a long Tear Jerker page.

The bright colors and quirky characters set quite the cheery tone, but if you're at all familiar with Rebecca Sugar and her previous work, don't be surprised if you find yourself occasionally reaching for the tissues.

Spoilers Off applies to all Moments pages, so ALL spoilers are unmarked! Proceed with caution.

    open/close all folders 

  • Greg and Rose's relationship is a Tear Jerker in and of itself. Even if birthing Steven hadn't killed her, it would have been sad. Crystal Gems are The Ageless, so the other option for them was Rose watching Greg slowly die in front of her while being powerless to do anything about it.
    • Greg in general is a broken man: he lives in his van, owns an under-performing business, and is still deeply in mourning over his wife. However he keeps his upbeat attitude and hopefulness despite his personal tragedy.
    • The extended theme song adds another kick in the gut for Greg. Steven didn't always live with the Gems. The song starts out with Greg and the Gems building the extension to the temple which functions as Steven's more "normal" house (as opposed to the supernatural weirdness of the temple rooms). Greg's pretty upbeat, jokes about how difficult it is to build a house, and encourages Steven to sing his song for the Gems. However, during Pearl's first verse, we see one of Steven's earliest nights at the Gem house — possibly the first. Greg reads to him and Steven falls asleep. Greg tucks him in... and then heads downstairs to leave. He shares a long look with the Gems, who are gazing up at Steven's room. You can actually see the moment when Greg hands over guardianship of Steven to his wife's friends, and it wasn't something he did lightly. He lost the love of his life, then circumstances dictated he had to hand over his son as well. That had to sting.
  • The Gems are still mourning Rose. Rose was implied to be like a mother to Amethyst, and the reason Amethyst lashes out sometimes probably has something to do with her being gone. Pearl loved Rose with all her heart, and Rose returned that love — which for someone with Pearl's self-esteem issues and apparent history ("defective") must have felt incredibly rare and precious. Garnet's relationship with Rose is more ambiguous, but she was more emotionally open before Rose passed.
    • Garnet's relationship with her is that Rose was the only Gem to have wholly supported the intimate aspect of Fusion and Garnet being the living representation of Ruby and Sapphire's relationship, which is a stark contrast to Homeworld's feelings on the matter (Fusion is something "weak" Gems use to become stronger). Combine that with how Pearl and Amethyst treated the idea of fusing with her ("Cry for Help", "Coach Steven"), then you've got someone who was seen as either a weak Gem and a "shameless display", or something to latch onto and use in order to feel better about themselves. Yeah, Garnet's got it pretty bad.
    • Rose Quartz is implied to be the Gem who took Amethyst in from the Kindergarten after many, many years (possibly thousands, who the hell knows with this show). As Amethyst is insinuated to have been left completely alone in the abandoned canyon with numerous 30-foot-tall virus-looking machines, it's made clear why Rose seemed to be like a mother to Amethyst. Without someone there for her, as is gone over in "Maximum Capacity," Amethyst has no clue what do with herself and the guilt she feels due to her origins.
  • Out of all the Gems, the one most clearly and obviously still suffering from the loss is Pearl, who has been heavily implied on numerous occasions to have been deeply in love with Rose Quartz. Years after her death, during the present time in the show, as the episodes come out, it becomes increasingly alarming just how deeply in grief Pearl still is over the death of Rose and how much it has traumatized and utterly wrecked her confidence and mental state of being. Their known history together only makes her depression more tragic; she loved Rose to the point of learning to fight even when it was not her purpose and recklessly sacrificing life and limb to ensure her safety, even when it was unnecessary. Then when the war is over and they can finally live a life of peace with the other Crystal Gems, thousands of years later Rose falls in love with Greg and chooses to have a child with him, the process of which kills her. This leaves Pearl lost and without the guidance of the love of her life, all while she has to suppress those emotions in order to help raise the child Rose died for, and who is a constant reminder that the one she loved so dearly is gone.
    • Even worse, the episode "Rose's Scabbard" implies some deeply-suppressed resentment towards Steven on Pearl's part, as his existence means that Rose's is gone. To see someone blame a child for the death of a loved one is truly one of the most heartbreaking things to see in a children's show, yet sadly it is not very uncommon in Real Life.
    • "A Single Pale Rose" makes it even worse. Rose Quartz was actually Pink Diamond, and Pearl was her personal Pearl. From the moment she first formed, on the most fundamental level, Pearl existed to serve Pink Diamond. Rose's "death" didn't just take away Pearl's love, it took away her very reason for existing.
    • It gets worse. The Gems are thousands of years old at least, and Rose only died about 14 years ago. Fourteen years is nothing compared to perspective like that. This is someone they've known and loved for millennia, and so far as they're concerned she might as well have died just a few hours ago.
  • Also counts as nightmare fuel and irony. Rose Quartz dying from giving birth to Steven is quite sad. A 6000+ year old all powerful Gem warrior/matriarch/godlike figure dies from child birth. The fact that such a powerful alien can die such a human death is heartbreaking on its own. And in children's cartoons, death from complications of child birth is quite a rare way to go.
    • Overlapping with Heartwarming, the fact that she knew that she would have to sacrifice herself just to make Steven a complete being and... was completely okay with it. In the tape she left behind for Steven, she is ecstatic about the possibilities for the new life she's about to create, and has accepted her fate with more grace and dignity than can reasonably be expected of anyone. She's not scared, or sad, or angry; she's just happy that she's going to contribute more intimately to human life than she ever imagined. It's very rare to see someone accepting their impending doom (who's not a villain) in such a healthy, positive fashion on a children's show.
  • The series as a whole tends to re-examine the nature of dreams and wishes, flying in the face of the "dreams+dedication=success" rule of most children's shows. In this show, you don't always get everything you want, choices you make have consequences, and living with those choices is a major theme. For example, you can either take your shot at fame and fortune or stay behind to pursue a relationship, but no, you can't have both (Greg). No, You Can't Go Home Again (Pearl)... and if you did, it would probably be disastrous (Lapis). Yes, you are too young and inexperienced to be doing these things (Steven). Yes, you are capable of doing amazing things and you can become a great fighter in your own right, but at the same time having a disability (whether it's physical or mental) will restrict and limit some of your abilities no matter what you do (Amethyst). And yes, you can romantically pursue anyone you want, but your neighbors and your society might persecute you for it, and it’s very likely you have to abandon your old life in order to remain with the one you love (Ruby and Sapphire's fusion as Garnet). While the series does give its characters their triumphs, it also draws attention to accepting their limitations, and giving up is presented as a sensible option in many cases. As Greg says in "Space Race", "sometimes, you just gotta know when to bail."
    • And maybe you want to do something, but you simply weren't built for it (Pearl, Peridot). As much as Homeworld's caste system is completely wrong, the fact that Gems are made with specific functions is significant. This is one of the reasons why Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond wanted to live on Earth and ultimately, have Steven.
  • The new ending theme as of "Nightmare Hospital" The second verse of "love Like You" is extremely short compared to the first, but is much more of a tear jerker. It sounds like someone's singing about crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
    I always thought I might be bad,
    Now I'm sure that it's true,
    Cause I think you're so good,
    And I'm nothing like you...
    • What's worse is that it's hard to tell who might be singing it; common theories include Malachite, Lapis, one of the Crystal Gems, Peridot, a Forced Fusion, one of the Diamonds, Rose herself, or even Steven. One of the commenters on the wiki put it best:
      Commenter: It's kinda sad that a lot of characters from the show could be singing this...
    • Perhaps even more so, it's been pointed out on Tumblr that the new ending theme slots perfectly onto the end of the previous one, making it obvious when they're listened to put together that they're part of the same song. That person from "Love Like You" seems to be losing hope.
    • The full lyrics just keep going, contrasting the singer's intense love for the subject with their own utter self-hatred:
    Look at you go!
    I just adore you,
    I wish that I knew,
    What makes you think I'm so special...
  • The second new ending theme from "Back to the Barn" is also depressing, it shows Steven's clothes hanging from a tree, and there's no singing, only a somber guitar playing in the background.
  • The "Kindergarten Kid" ending theme has no music or any songs playing at all. It's just silence and the sound of the ocean, implying that whoever was singing has finished their piece, and we won't be hearing from them again.
  • Even if Pearl and Mystery Girl get together, she'll die eventually, leaving Pearl heartbroken again.
  • Steven's emotional trauma throughout the series — In the beginning, he starts off as childish goofball who has to be saved by the Crystal Gems. Over the seasons, he becomes more competent as a person and a fighter. However, he also is forced to confront the fact that the ones he's deeply idolized, the Crystal Gems, are flawed individuals with personal problems of their own. He learns that his mother, who the Crystal Gems have always pegged in a positive light, wasn't as perfect or innocent as he was told. Steven confronts situations that he can't handle like he could with the Crystal Gems, and he's forced to learn that sometimes Violence is the Only Option. Then, there's his huge Guilt Complex of taking more responsibility than he should for the problems others committed that wasn't his fault (i.e., he blames himself for Lapis stealing Earth's ocean); this complex most likely stems from how he feels the Crystal Gems blame him for his mom not being there. And he's fourteen years old. By Future he's become what feels like a shell of his former self who has devoted his entire life to helping and fixing people, so much so that he doesn't know what to do when he isn't.
  • The verses from the extended theme where the Crystal Gems describe their motivations are pretty bittersweet. Steven says, "I will fight to be everything that everybody wants me to be when I'm grown," which is just not a reasonable thing to expect of yourself! And Pearl is fighting for her dead girlfriend, Garnet is fighting "for the place where I'm free/To live together and exist as me", and Amethyst is fighting because "the Earth is everything I've ever known". Somehow even though these are good motivations and all that, it's phrased in the most bittersweet way possible.
  • The fact that throughout the entire series Spinel is just waiting in the garden, as many YouTube commenters have pointed out. It's really a horrible thought to have that the gem is still playing the game while the rest of the universe is being saved.
    • Those YouTube comments are nothing compared to this Tumblr, which every day since September 6, 2019 has uploaded a picture of Spinel happily waiting in the garden. The saddest part has to be the page's description: "counting the seconds until my best friend comes back!!!"

    Side/Promotional Materials 
  • The Crewniverse zines from SDCC 2016 are mostly funny, but have some moments of this.
    • The "Everybody Loves Amethyst" one ends with a page of Rose embracing a young Amethyst, and the panel below showing present-day Amethyst lying dejected on the ground surrounded by rose petals.
    • The "All You Can Do" comic (though it seems to double as a self-aware jab at Pearl's relationship with Rose).
    Pearl: I miss Rose. Guess I'll just fold this shirt.
  • The Extended Opening is a mostly-heartwarming short, but one line sticks out among the others. The part where all the Gems are singing about their own personal motivations proceeds as you'd expect; Garnet wishes to protect the place where she can be herself without fear of judgement or retribution, Pearl vows to uphold Rose's legacy and continue to fight for everything she believed in, and Amethyst does the same for the planet she was made on and is everything she's ever known. But Steven's verse is "I will fight to be everything / That everybody wants me to be when I'm grown". All of the other Gems' motivations (though rooted in personal traumas and fears) ultimately speak for their own goals and highlight what pushes them forward despite their pasts, while Steven's speaks for his desire and desperation to live up to the expectations of everyone around him and his continued uncertainty that he will ever manage to do so. It's painful to be reminded of how much Steven's self-worth is dependent on the Gems' approval.
  • Peridot's Twitter account is mostly used for jokes, but then the posts for "Alone at Sea" end with her day alone at the barn coming to an abrupt end when Lapis comes back with news of what happened with Jasper. For the first time Peridot turns off her caps lock to simply type "Oh," and then says she'll come back later, clearly going to console her.
  • The trailer for Diamond Days, an arc involving Steven trying to convince White Diamond to help cure the corrupted Gems (assumedly), just released, and while it doesn't seem sad at first, Fridge Tear Jerker sets in when you remember that Steven is constantly being forced into situations that no kid his age should ever be in. This, however, takes the cake, as not only is it made clear that he's being expected to live up to his mother's legacy of being one of Homeworld's rulers, but doing so is going to cause a lot of grief for the other Crystal Gems, especially with Pearl being a member of a Servant Race and Garnet being an official Maligned Mixed Marriage.

  • In-universe in "Steven Reacts," Pear crying because no one came to their breakfast party. It quickly becomes Tears of Joy when their friends do arrive.
  • In the short "Video Chat", Peridot speaks with Steven over Skype or a similar video chat software, and wants Lapis to see. Lapis immediately panics and assumed he's trapped in there, turning the tablet over and wondering where his gem was. Though it was most likely meant to be funny, remember how long and how horrific Lapis' imprisonment in the mirror was.
  • In "Steven's Songtime," Steven sings about the events in season three, and starts to cry about it. They're cathartic tears, however, and he encourages other people going through a rough time to write a song.
    I sure have made my fair share of mistakes
    I didn't know that Rose Quartz
    Was such a big deal
    There are some wounds that even
    Healing powers can't heal
    Oh, I feel like I've messed up
    This magical destiny really kicked me in the butt
    We've had some good times and some pretty bad luck
    But we're still in this together and we're still not giving up

  • Jinkx Monsoon was subjected to online abuse after their portrayal of Emerald in "Lars of the Stars".
  • Steven's VA Zach Callison, while building his career, tweeted about having panic and anxiety. Then, in January 2019, he announced he's being treated for a severe mental illness. Quite some time after that, he blacked out all his social media.
  • The confirmation that Steven Universe: Future is the end of the series.