Steven Universe: Onion Gang
September 15, 2016 4:14 PM - Season 4, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Onion introduces Steven to his group of friends.
posted by Small Dollar (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That was very strange. Very Lost Boys feel around it. But aww poor Onion.
posted by divabat at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2016

are these kids also fishermen's kids, who are only in port between seasons and speak the 'mahma' language?
posted by eustatic at 5:46 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

that as a strange and emotional episode. poor Onion :(
posted by numaner at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2016

I think we were supposed to feel sad about Steven more than Onion.

But what we really learned is that there are other, non-talking/nonsense-talking kids out there who are very very attached to vegetable identities (except for Soup, who seems more like a tribute to Undertale's Frisk.)

Soooo....what would happen if, say, one of Rose's vegetable warriors fell in love with a human. Say a fierce onion soldier, or bean, or squash? I've mostly not paid attention to the whole "Onion=not fully human" thing but the writers seem intent on saying something about why he might be called Onion, and his mom Vidalia, and so on.

The Watermelon warriors can't speak English either....just like Onion and Yellowtail can't.

Like I said, I thought it was too silly before, but this show tends to follow up on dropped hints.
posted by emjaybee at 6:22 PM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Maybe it's part of a religion? They name themselves after vegetables in North America, but Soup and Yellowtail are from ethnic subsections so they have different naming conventions.

A custom may be to allow children absolute freedom and to postpone the learning of language. Vidalia could be from a lax sect, and Yellowtail raised more orthodox.
posted by FallowKing at 7:39 PM on September 15, 2016

Building on my theory more, and because I have a hard time imagining an onion (however sentient) and a person getting it on, perhaps the vegetable people were originally some of Rose's more advanced experiments (though this could go down a very dark path--human experimentation, yikes). Or perhaps if allowed to form a culture/reproduce, they eventually evolve to be more human-like? The watermelons seemed to be doing so, though they were still melons, but they had a shaman/wise woman figure, a religion of sorts, and so on. What if several more generations start changing their forms as well as the way they live? And then maybe mating with humans, I guess.

I am intrigued by the idea of Vegetable Religion Naming Conventions in North America though, that would also be cool.
posted by emjaybee at 8:01 PM on September 15, 2016

I can't quite put my finger on why, exactly, but something about this episode really reminded me of "Over The Garden Wall."
posted by webmutant at 8:50 PM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Soup looks like Greg from OTGW because of the pot-helmet. If she's a reference to something else, it'd be more likely to be a cartoon on the same network that aired in 2014 than a videogame that came out a year ago today, just based on the lead times these things require.
posted by Small Dollar at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I stand by my prior sentiment that Onion needs a fucking social worker and a therapist. "Bye Mum gunna go play murder games in the woods with some out of town delinquents while you paint my dad in his underwear out in the drive." "Cool have fun."

Someone on Tumblr pointed out an air of foreshadowing in the bug smashing scene. Nothing is fluff in this series - I noticed the other day that Ronaldo's Princess Koala girlfriend runs the box office in Lion: The Movie. There's lots of little interlocking pieces, often not the whole episode but a small element. I'm also reminded that the whole purpose of Joking Victim, the episode where Steven works at the Big Donut, was to reveal the training video VCR so that when Lion 2: Straight to Video came up we knew that there was a player in the BD.

So I don't know what the tiny bit here is, but Steven being reluctant to kill even under pressure is likely to be it.
posted by Jilder at 4:57 AM on September 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would've been deeply disappointed with Steven if he had killed the beetle. Steven's done some dark things, like poofing Bysmuth and dooming Eyeball to the depths of space, but killing is too much. I agree this will be an important plot point, eventually Steven's gonna make a hard call on a big issue where his compassion will be important.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2016

There's lots of little interlocking pieces, often not the whole episode but a small element.

This is one of my favorite things about the show. I really get the sense that the Crewniverse has a very complete idea of the story they're telling and the world they've built, and are carefully and deliberately doling out pieces of it to us.

Having watched shows where the showrunners claimed to have a Grand Plan and clearly never did (lookin' at you, X-Files) this feels totally different. Like the difference between being handed pieces of a jigsaw puzzle by someone who knows what the picture on the lid should look like and wants us to figure it out for ourselves in a particular way, versus someone with a pen and a pair of scissors (lookin' at you, Chris Carter) handing out random pieces as they make them without caring how they'll fit together in the end.

Steven's universe feels thought out to the point that they could make (and I would SO WATCH) a show set anywhere on its timeline-- during the Gem War, buring Greg and Rose's courtship, back on Homeworld, anything. You could make a Silmarillion of Steven Universe. Honestly, I WANT a Silmarillion of Steven Universe.
posted by nonasuch at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2016 [17 favorites]

Honestly, I WANT a Silmarillion of Steven Universe.

Me too. It's my hope that they publish something after the show's run. I don't want it now: I'm enjoying learning about the universe in the slow, measured way they're showing it off. But after, when they're ready to stop with the cartoon, I'd love a series bible and some essays about the whole thing.

I don't have a ton to add about this episode. To me, things like this often feel like the first half of a two parter, where you can't really judge it until the payoff. For now, I'm content to just add it to the pile of things I don't understand yet, but will eventually.

(In the meantime, I agree with an observation made at the AV Club page, that it feels like the Gems are a normal - if exotic - part of the world and history and whatnot, while Onion represents something truly weird seeping in from Elsewhere.)
posted by mordax at 10:07 AM on September 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Other kids who don't talk/have food names:

I feel like these kids aren't from a food-specific religion. I think Onion meets one of these kids at funland one day.. and since he doesn't talk/doesn't speak English.. finds an (actual) onion and holds it up to the new kid and new kid figures out that Onion is Onion. New kid, who's name is probably just John.. thinks to himself: huh Onion? Then I shall be GARBANZO!

Before long you have a group of not-your-run-of-the-mill children going by food names. It's sort of a way of being inclusive? That's my general impression.
posted by INFJ at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I got the feeling that the kids being mostly silent was in lieu of Sugar & Co. making up a foreign language or having to choose a foreign language that some/all of them spoke.

Parents often bring their kids on vacation to somewhere where the adults speak the language, but the kids might not, yet kids find a way to hang out with new friends all the same.

Or maybe they actually just took their lead from Onion and made a game of not speaking.
posted by explosion at 1:07 PM on September 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really like your take INFJ, but I'm leading towards Rose's weird plant experiments myself.
posted by comealongpole at 1:10 PM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The impression I got was just that these weren't anything more than noverbal human kids, maybe even coded neuroatypical, who were still shown as cool and fun and giving Onion a nice place to belong. To me that sends a more interesting message than them being vegetable aliens, but that's onion.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 5:22 PM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm with ariadne's threadspinner; they're mostly doing very typical kid things--well, except for hacking together a go-cart that can handle several kids at once. I wondered if maybe the reason they were taking off is that they were with migrant worker families.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:10 PM on September 16, 2016

Halloween Jack: The kids are in Beach City for the summer tourist season. Steven says something to that effect at the end of the episode - the holidays are over, so they go home.

I do like the idea that they're from far flung parts of the world and might not speak English. I know a lot of Chinese and Japanese kids over here in Oz for exchange programs often take an English name while they're here, and find the process of picking quite fun.
posted by Jilder at 2:28 AM on September 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was meh on this episode until I saw this post on tumblr about Squash and its follow-up, and now I am 100% on board.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:42 AM on September 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

I've been enjoying the Close-Reads Tumblr, and others here in the Land of Beanplating may like it too!

Most notably at present... here's a long post regarding this episode: Let's talk about Onion

The author notes in a followup: "I’ve been told that autism falls under the mental disorder rather than mental illness category. Will refer to it correctly from now on."
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

So I don't know what the tiny bit here is, but Steven being reluctant to kill even under pressure is likely to be it.

This has been a huge part of Steven's character. Bismuth got (re)poofed because Steven wouldn't use the Breaking Point. Steven healed both Eyeball's and Lapis' gem crack even though arguably it wasn't in his best interests. (It turned out well for Lapis, not as well for Eyeball.) And particularly, back in Onion Friend, he refused to feed the mouse to Onion's pet snake, even though it, as he said, "everyone's gotta eat." It's both like Rose (who also poofed Bismuth rather than use the Breaking Point) and unlike Rose (who reputedly shattered a gem matriarch).
posted by JHarris at 1:25 AM on September 19, 2016

I just noticed that the Gem War took place approximately 5,750 years ago and the current Jewish year is 5,776. Coincidence????
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 1:20 PM on September 20, 2016

I am intrigued by the idea of Vegetable Religion Naming Conventions in North America though, that would also be cool.

It echos manga naming traditions where characters can be named:

Sorcerer Hunters (wikipedia)
The plot focuses on the adventures of a small family group of Sorcerer Hunters, including the Glace Brothers (Carrot and his younger brother Marron), their childhood friends, the Misu Sisters (Tira and her older sister Chocolate), and Gateau Mocha.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:20 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of Steven's few phone contacts is Mayor Dewey. Hah.
posted by duffell at 4:04 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

We saw in The Return that two other contacts are Onion, and Lion.
posted by JHarris at 4:28 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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