Good evenin’ everyone, it’s time for a tasty bite of some Food for Thought! Tonight, we’re going to have a chat about something that’s a little slice-of-life, a little cute, and very much a celebration of the epic of the everyday: the uncanny hero! You know the type, that kind of person that probably shouldn’t evoke feelings of the epic, but is blithely tossed into high adventure and (maybe) romance–it’s something that is perhaps played up for comedic effect but can be kind of inspired, actually.
And, as of late, two new, exciting cartoons/webtoons are driven by the uncanny hero and their quest(s) to find their way with super cute musical interludes — yep, I’m talking about Steven Universe and Bee and Puppycat.
So why do we love watching the everyman, the uncanny hero, this source of lame mediocrity that entire shows/movies/books/what-have-you are built around? Because if every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hotdogs.
Awhile back I talked about how excited I was for Steven Universe, the brain-child of Rebecca Sugar of Adventure Time fame. In my own words, I described Steven Universe as a coming-of-age story–essentially a process. A process that promises change–which is at the heart of the uncanny hero. Take an everyman, the stand-in for the audience, and toss him into the tempest of action and suspense that they willingly (or reluctantly) bumble through. They might begin their journey perhaps as a dork–perhaps retains that dorkiness–but ultimately proves themselves to be brilliant in their own special way.
Hence, why I find the uncanny hero utterly charming; because really, celebrating mediocrity is a Thing that should be done every once in awhile, right? And Rebecca Sugar’s uncanny hero, Steven, has charm in spades.
The young Steven Universe–along with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl–is a Crystal Gem, a guardian of the world devoted to protecting all of humanity through the powers of their magical gems. Steven is the youngest member of the core group and, arguably, the most refreshingly normal.
He’s a bubbly, dorky little guy with a love of food and good music–however, he can barely fight and cannot access the Crystal Gem power he inherited from his mother. BUT, none of these traits are “faults”; rather, they are unique quirks that make the character so well-loved. In-universe characters adore Steven for being who he is, and thus far he has received some pretty positive audience approval. He’s a people’s person, and a people’s hero–we love him for his bright-eyed love of all things that involve being a “hero”, and for also retaining those little snippets of humanity, his joy in the simple things in life: ice-cream sandwiches, the leftover bits of French fries, and good music. (Which, if you haven’t noticed by now, the show has in spades–like seriously, if you’ve loved Rebecca Sugar’s catchy little Adventure Time jingles, you’ll love her work on Steven Unvierse to keep it upbeat)
And come on, this song is an anthem for the uncanny hero, that whole “I’m not the best but I’ll try.” feel
Overall, Steven Universe is worth a watch not only for its charming little hero–who proves that kindness and a willing heart can do wonders–it is a pretty well-done spin on what appears to be a superhero sitcom. Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are lovely characters (With lovely designs that push the bounds of exaggeration in comparison to the pilot), who are sweet and share their own quirks, but seem to be set “apart” from the other human characters. Steven acts as a neat middle-ground between the typical action-and-adventure embodied by the Crystal Gems, and the everyday happenings that help keep their town running.
Toss in Steven’s “deadbeat”, ex-musician dad, with his unique, rather sweet brand of philosophy/words of wisdom and you have the makings for a pretty darn heartwarming, unconventional family-sitcom-with-superheroes headed by our uncanny hero.
Another show as of late that’s been making waves along with its own Kickstarter to create its own, separate show is Cartoon Hangover’s Bee and Puppycat.
Besides the fact that Bee and Puppycat was made by a woman–the lovely Natasha Allegri who also got her start on Adventure Time–about a young woman, and pretty much advocates more shows about awesome female protags–I think the show’s titular protagonist, Bee, speaks to plenty 20-somethings rolling around nowadays. Beyond its awesome art and homage to 90s anime and the magical girl genre, Bee speaks to the “losers” out there, bumbling through life, love, and I suppose aliens.
I mean, I guess the aliens aren’t really that much of an issue for most people–but the whole bumbling through life is a Thing that people find utterly compelling about Bee and Puppycat. Cute art, cute characters, a funny reference to Vocaloid and magical girls–and a hero that isn’t particularly the most heroic but damn entertaining to watch.
Maybe Bee will become better at this whole “temp superhero” business, but otherwise her bumblings are the beginnings of a journey that–if the Kickstarter is any indication–people do want to see and are cheering for. Heroics by mistake and loser-ish failings definitely contrasts with typical “heroes”–perhaps, such as MCU Captain America who already has an idealized vision of what it means to be a “hero”, and who grows from his humble beginnings into the first superhero. Even characters like Korra–who definitely need time to mature and develop–start their journey with a kind of swagger and confidence in what they’re doing and the great deeds they can achieve with their powers (And not to mention the firepower to level cities and stuff, but that’s part of the shonen hero angst I suppose).
Steven and Bee, though, are lovely reminders that there still is the epic in the everyday — and it’s a type of hero that is well-loved and just fun to watch.
… ANYROAD – the whole point of this post was to celebrate the uncanny hero, especially two new uncanny heroes created respectively by Rebecca Sugar and Natasha Allegri; definitely check them out and check out their lovely work! For other “uncanny heroes”, think of characters like Bilbo Baggins, or even Neville Longbottom, and I’ll even argue Homer Simpson has his moments–some of our favorite “side” characters can have the greatest of heroics, for all their mediocrity would suggest otherwise.
And that’s all there is to this week’s Food for Thought — tune in next time when we over-analyze other aspect of pop-culture, yay!