Reason Redeems: A Look at Peridot’s Redemption Arc
By: Cathy Smith
Peridot’s redemption arc is, if not the best storyline in Steven Universe, then at least one of the most interesting. Our perception of Peridot has evolved dramatically since we first saw her in “Warp Tour.” She has gone from a mysterious, sinister villain to a Team Rocket/Invader Zim hybrid to a defenseless, angry little slice of pie. (And despite her objections, yes, she is extremely cute.) Her layers are gradually peeled away to reveal her essential vulnerability, teaching the lesson that appearances can deceive and that first impressions aren’t always correct ones. All Peridot is, ultimately, is just a person trying to do her job. The problem facing her, however, is that she is doing her job in a society that is corrupt and oppressive. Being isolated from that society is giving her the opportunity to slowly open her eyes to just how twisted it is in comparison to the outside. The outside being, of course, Earth.
Earth is a place completely new to Peridot and, from her perspective, potentially dangerous. She is used to knowing everything and being completely prepared for any situation. In this specific situation, however, she is faced with a slew of unknowns. The Cluster could potentially emerge and blow the place up at any moment. She eventually gets stripped of all technological aids equipping her for survival and informing her of the planet’s peculiarities (a wonderful symbolic touch, by the way). She becomes so paranoid that she views any object in Steven’s home as a potential weapon. Even rain, a phenomenon harmless to even humans, terrifies Peridot simply because she doesn’t know anything about it. These facts point to an important aspect of Peridot’s character: a need to understand the world around her.
This need doesn’t just exist as a coping mechanism, however. As shown in “Log Date 7.15.2,” she possesses a natural curiosity. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she is fascinated by Earth life. Her first reaction to observing a flying ladybug is to wonder if all Earth lifeforms can fly and to test that assumption by pushing Greg off the roof. While that assumption is based in fallacious reasoning, her approach is still rooted in the scientific method. She makes an observation, formulates a hypothesis, devises a test for her hypothesis, and observes the results of her test. Her test may be reckless, but it is completely innocent in nature and reflective of her drive to understand. (And really, how was she supposed to know that humans aren’t as durable as gems?) This drive also extends to Earth culture as well, with her becoming addicted to a single episode of a show called Camp Pining Hearts in spite of herself. In short, Peridot’s thought process is very scientific, with her acting as the gem equivalent of a biologist and anthropologist. Her mind is incredibly thirsty for information.
This curiosity and need to understand is the likely reason why she is so open to change. While she is initially very stubborn and rigid in her views, she is constantly met with new data to contradict those preconceptions. She meets a Pearl who is her equal in engineering. She observes how Homeworld’s beliefs can be hurtful to other gems such as Amethyst. She eventually understands that permafusions like Garnet aren’t Frankenstein-esque abominations, but simply gems who work well together just like Percy and Pierre in Camp Pining Hearts. And, while she has yet to fully realize it for herself, she is getting the impression from the Crystal Gems that Earth has something worth protecting. Peridot could have easily just disregarded all of this information and continued to assert that she was correct. But she doesn’t. Instead, she wants to make sense of this new data. She wants to make sense of the Crystal Gems. It is for this very reason that Peridot isn’t a bad person and can be redeemed. She is simply misinformed and can’t be faulted for that. The same principle applies to people in real life, as I can attest to personally. I grew up being taught many things that I have come to realize are wrong or too simplistic simply because I was able to consider viewpoints other than my own. Ultimately, what separates people who simply grew up around bigotry and people who continue to perpetuate bigotry is a willingness to try and understand others. Peridot exemplifies this truth. After all, reason is the enemy of bigotry.
As one could guess from the above paragraph (and well, the very title of this post), complementing Peridot’s drive to understand the world is her orientation toward logic and reason. Peridot wants things to make logical sense. She wants to be impartial, yielding to the world of facts and data. This is what allows her to confront Yellow Diamond. To Peridot, the Crystal Gems are irrational and biased. They are allowing emotion to give too much weight to just one side of the equation. As such, she wants to seek a rational compromise and hopes that Yellow Diamond (the most rational decision maker in the universe in her opinion), can see the logic in the standpoint that Earth can provide useful resources and is thus worth protecting. Yellow Diamond’s response, however, is not rational. Yellow Diamond simply wants the planet destroyed, regardless of whether or not it could be of any use to her. And, in responding to Yellow Diamond’s response, Peridot finally yields to her own emotions and chews out the leader she once revered.
On that note, it’s very interesting how Steven Universe handles the issue of logic vs. emotion. In most portrayals of this conflict, they are in diametric opposition. Furthermore, Steven Universe seems to most explicitly value emotion. Yet looking in Peridot’s case, it’s quite clear that both can work together. Here, emotions are just another form of data to consider in making rational decisions. Pure logic and pure emotion are both biased standpoints, and with Peridot’s experience, she may come to realize that the Crystal Gems represent a more balanced perspective than she initially thought. Reason redeemed Peridot, but she still needs to learn the value of emotion as well. With the way her character arc is progressing, it’s very likely that she will learn that lesson soon.