This article contains spoilers for recent episodes of Steven Universe Future.
After “Mr. Universe” a lot of Steven Universe Future fans are probably as mad at Greg as Steven was. I mean look at it, he tried to force his way of figuring his life out onto him! Steven got so mad he told Greg off and drove the van off the road! It makes you think back to how Greg wasn’t always there for Steven. How for so much of the show he lived with the Crystal Gems. Why was that? Was it because Greg was really a bad father and Steven was too young to realize it until now? Only as a teenager could he conceive that his whole upbringing was messed up? Should we write Greg off as “awful” from now on?
Let’s not be so hasty. Yes, Steven was mad at Greg in this episode but I doubt he’ll stay mad. He’s just finally processing all the negative emotions he’s never really let himself feel in his life and that includes some about his dad. He can have negative emotions towards Greg and Greg can still be an okay dad.
What even makes an okay dad is up for interpretation. Some may say that anything but perfect makes you a bad dad. Some may say just being there in even the smallest ways makes you a good day. There’s no one answer and Steven Universe, a franchise that never tries to cast anyone as all bad or good, is more than likely not using “Mr. Universe” as a way to demonize Greg. In fact it’s doing the opposite. It’s humanizing him.
Up until now Greg’s history was always a bit vague. We never knew exactly why he decided to live in a van or why he left his family behind. We finally get those answers here and they’re not easy ones to hear. Greg’s parents were super strict and seemingly very conservative in their views. They had Greg’s whole life planned for him and any deviations were met with resistance.
He pushed back against their wishes and went the total opposite direction. While his family wanted him to live a structured life, he went out on the road. His parents made all his decisions for him, so he gave his son complete freedom. It makes sense. It’s all implied that the time Greg spent under his parents thumb left some mental scars that haven’t quite healed, to the point he even has to sneak into his old room.
It’d be one thing if his decisions only impacted him but they impacted his kid as well. As much as Greg was trying to give Steven what he never could, he went a bit too far in the other direction. As Steven says in this episode, he would have loved the structure Greg avoided. He would have loved boring meatloaf instead of being attacked by aliens. It’s missing what you never got to have and Greg never considered what his son might want could be exactly what he was avoiding.
Does that make Greg a bad dad? I don’t think so. It makes him a flawed one but that makes him just like the other characters in this show. We’ve been consistently shown that all the main characters in Steven Universe have messed up in their lives. They’ve hurt people, they used to work for the diamonds, and they’ve even killed. No one is perfect but they’re learning and growing and trying to be better. In the end that’s what makes them, not “good,” but better than others.
Greg is the ultimate definition of the “good enough” parent. He doesn’t always get it right and he’s failed more than once but he’s trying his best. He may not have taken Steven to the doctor but that’s because he truly had no idea how to handle having a half-alien kid. What if the doctors had taken Steven away? Even if he couldn’t be there for Steven he at least provided for him. We saw in the Extended Music Video for the original opening theme song that Greg built the house Steven and the Gems lived in. He also owned a car wash that he presumably used to give Steven money. Perhaps he was providing for all the Crystal Gems!
We also saw, especially in the first season, that Greg and Steven regularly hang out. He’s not an absent father. Plus, Greg did try and reach out to his family. He didn’t deny Steven anything; it’s just that his family never responded. Greg’s life story is complicated and can’t simply be used to label him good or bad.
The show is from Steven’s perspective however and how Steven perceives his father is what betters to the show and to the audience watching. Maybe after this episode Steven will hate his father. Maybe he just got mad like any teen does and he’ll accept that his father isn’t perfect. That’s part of growing up, something Steven is wrestling with in figurative and quite literal ways.
At the end of the day, Greg is trying his best. No have him a handbook on how to deal with a half alien kid but he’s making it work. That makes him an okay dad in my book.