Spoilers for Steven Universe.
Pearl takes on many feminine roles on Steven Universe. She takes on much of the traditional parenting of Steven, worries over him in battles, and uses ballet and other delicate maneuvers in battle and in the rest of her life. Even her outfit is the most feminine of the three, featuring pastel colors and ballet shoes. Much of her story revolves around her coping with the loss of Rose Quartz and loving Steven, a child who is not hers, but for whom she cares deeply anyway.
It’s an unfortunate trend that the representation of lesbians on television is largely skewed towards telling the stories of femme lesbians rather than butch or androgynous lesbians. This largely is the cause of attempting to tell a “safe” LGBTQIA+ story: one that can still be told through a heterosexual lens. Though this trend was different in the 90s, now lesbians represented on television are often a male fantasy of a lesbian: a very feminine, beautiful woman with an equally feminine, beautiful girlfriend, both of whom still have to be saved by men. It’s important to tell the story of all LGBTQIA+ people, but this story is often not authentic.
Pearl is definitely a femme lesbian, but she manages to avoid many harmful stereotypes. Though she is graceful and delicate and emotional, she is hardly a male fantasy. Pearl has two substantial relationships with men on the show: Steven and Greg. Her relationship with Steven is mostly parental. She cares for him and teaches him lessons through her successes as well as her failures. She is also one of the closest connections he has to his mother.
Her relationship with Greg is much more tumultuous. She openly dislikes him, nags him, and they often only get along for Steven’s sake. Greg takes a pretty passive role in their relationship. He allows her to keep Steven primarily with the gems and take him into potentially dangerous situations. He also lets her quietly blame him for Rose’s death. While many relationships in media revolve around a man, their’s revolves around Rose Quartz. Neither could have her the way the other could, so their relationship revolves around trying to get over their quiet contempt for one another for Steven.
However, Steven is not Pearl’s only interest nor passion. As all children are, he is a big part of her life, but she exists outside of him and his needs. Though she has her insecurities and need for constant validation, Pearl is incredibly strong; she chooses to fight for the causes she believes in rather than to exist in servitude. At her worst, she betrays her friends’ trust, lashes out, and makes others feel as inferior as she herself often feels. Like all of the Gems on the show, she has her flaws as much as she has her strengths. But, what is fascinating about Pearl is that she takes feminine and lesbian stereotypes, and she turns them on their head.