ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Mar. 19th, 2015
SYNOPSIS: Steven takes Connie to Rose’s room so they can recreate a better ending for her favorite book series.
Connie waits with bated breath as Steven finishes the last book in the Spirit Morph Saga. She asks how he feels, but before he can articulate his thoughts, she nosedives into a lengthy criticism on the unexpected, lame ending that undid everything the series stood for. Steven nervously agrees and wishes he could give her a new ending. His gem reacts, opening the temple door that leads to Rose’s room. Steven has an idea! Rose’s room lets him imagine anything he wants, so he and Connie can create a new ending. Connie is game!
Steven advises Connie to create something simple, so they settle on making costumes of the main characters form the book. Steven is Archimicarus, the main character’s spirit companion. Connie naturally takes on the role of the central figure, Lisa. Since Connie can’t summon an outfit of her own, Steven imagines a costume shop for her. An excited Connie mediates on how she wants to look, but Steven impatiently asks her to come out so he can see the results. She immediately walks out with a wicked cool costume.
The original ending of the book had Archimicarus turn human and marry Lisa (much to Connie’s disgust), so they both want something better, but when Steven asks what Connie wants, she diverts to him. It’s a weird gesture from the previously opinionated girl, but Steven doesn’t notice right away. He cooks up a few scenarios, but when he starts to struggle, Connie offers no help. Now he’s worried. Steven did this for her; he wants to hear her suggestion. Connie is confused by this contradiction and starts to malfunction. Steven realizes that this Connie is a fake, having been created because he accidentally told the room he “wanted to see her” while she was still in the costume shop. The real Connie could still be in there!
Steven is done playing, so he demateralizes the imaginary world and tries to do the same with Fake Connie, except she won’t go away. After all, he did tell her NOT to do what he wants. Steven tries to resist Fake Connie, but she pins him down just in time for the real Connie to arrive and quickly drive her away. She’s weirded out, but savvy enough to know a twin doppelgänger when she sees one! I really like that about Connie; she’s grown with fantasy novels and other fictional stories that she knows the narrative and archetypes by heart. When she sees one in real life, she acts accordingly the way her heroes would.
Fake Connie won’t disappear, not without dropping some major truth bombs about Steven’s crush on Connie and how that crush motivated him to create this room for her. In reality, he didn’t have the heart to tell her that he actually liked the ending of the book, but is now forced to confess in order to drive away Fake Connie. Steven was so afraid that Connie would think less of him that he pretended to agree with her about the ending. Connie tells Steven that the Spirit Morph Saga is just a book series; she cares about him more. Having made their peace, the kids leave Rose’s room and have an amicable debate on their differing tastes.
I’m curious why Connie didn’t react when her false counterpart pointed out that Steven liked her. This hasn’t been addressed in later episodes either even though it’s clear the two share an innocent, puppy dog crush with each other. Perhaps because she feels the same and is equally awkward about their budding preteen romance, she chose to ignore Fake Connie’s declaration. Connie isn’t ready to express how she feels and she should only do that when she’s comfortable.
Puzzled plot point aside, “Open Book” is a thorough examination of nerdy passion. We’ve been there; we had out favorite books, games, TV shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment that has stood with us for various reasons. Our love for it drove us to write or draw fanfic and fanart; create costumes for conventions; buy their merchandise; anticipate upcoming plots; and importantly, identify with the characters. It’s an excuse for us to indulge in silly fantasies and scenarios in our head with our favorite character. It offers us a means to create our own self-inserts with a canonical cast member or write “what if” plots. It’s through our love for the source material that we fans engage in their universe and leisurely – enthusiastically – play with it.
And then some jerk ruins it for the rest of us.
Unfortunately, passion works the other way and a heated opinion can be blindingly aggressive. Connie was too wrapped up in her own frustrations over the ending of the book that she failed to notice Steven’s discomfort. Hate is a strong emotion and it often overpowers everything, forcing the other person who viewed it favorably to assume they’re an idiot for daring to like what they don’t. It’s hard to enjoy something when you have a naysayer constantly judging you (or at least feeling like they are.) “Open Book” realizes the harmful effects behind this phenomenon: the aggressor takes away something the other used as a healthy coping mechanism and transforms it into a shameful activity. I’ve known people who hide their fan projects behind closed curtains because of the embarrassment they would feel if they released it to the public. I’ve seen people discouraged for their activities that they stop doing the thing they love and even walk out on the franchise they once poured their heart into.
“Open Book’s” solution is simple: respect the other’s opinion even if you don’t agree with them and realize that they’re human and their feelings come first. While Steven and Connie managed to put aside their differences with maturity, such is not the case in the real world. The episode offers a pinpoint analysis on how far fandom can take their passion and the damage this can have on one’s own self-esteem. We’re allowed our escapism as long as it isn’t hurting us or anyone else. To have it be criticized otherwise only ruins it for everyone. Steven Universe wants you to know this is possible to achieve and that’s an especially important lesson for its target audience.