Steven Universe - Episode 14 "Lars and the Cool Kids"

Steven Universe - Episode 14 "Lars and the Cool Kids"

Ep. #14
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
Mar. 10th, 2014
SONG:
No
SYNOPSIS: Steven hangs around with his “best buddy” Lars who in turn wants to hang out with a bunch of cool kids.

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The Crystal Gems are concerned over the rapidly growing moss floating atop a lake deep in the woods. These were specifically cultivated by Rose back in the days; she would climb to the top of a hill every spring to keep the moss in check. With her gone though, the plants are growing out of control. An ecstatic Steven listens as Pearl explains Rose's fascination with Earth, finding beauty in everything, even gross things like the moss. Fortunately Pearl has an idea to keep the greens from endangering any humans. With dramatic grace, her gem glows as she summons...police tape. Pearl figures this is enough to convince humans to stay away from the area until they tame the moss. Oh Pearl, your assumption of the human order is adorable. Goodness, she even makeshifts a bow with the police tape.

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Steven suggests lunch, but none of the Gems are interested, so he goes to Fish Stew Pizza alone. He spots Lars loitering in the corner of the restaurant and runs up to give him a high five. Lars tries to shoo the kid away, but Steven is glued to him. Lars is trying to act cool to get the attention of a group of popular teenagers. They comprise of Kiki Pizza's twin sister Jenny, the major's son, Buck Dewey, and aspiring DJ Sour Cream. Steven thinks Lars should just talk to them, but that's not the "cool" thing to do. You got to make them want to come to you! Steven ignores Lars' advice and innocently approaches the trio. The introduction goes well and after a brief talk, the Cool Kids invite him and Lars for a ride. Lars is stunned that Steven won them over so easily, but now's his chance to get in with the crowd, so he tells Steven not to embarrass him.

Steven converses with the Cool Kids with ease, but Lars keeps flubbing up his lines or misunderstanding them. Jenny suggests a trip to Dead Man's Mouth. Steven has no idea what the place is, but he's raring to go. He immediately regrets it because Dead Man's Mouth is the same lake where the moss is. Steven tries to ward them away, but they refuse to listen and bypasses the police tape. Pearl's greatest weakness: teenage rebellion.

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The teens take a dip in the lake, alerting the moss to their presence. Steven saves Lars in time, but the rest are covered head-to-toe with the stuff as it slowly suffocates them. Steven and Lars tries to pry the moss off of them, but it keeps growing at a pace neither of them can catch up to. After Steven let slip that his mother created these plants, Lars tearfully chews him out. He knew Steven would somehow embarrass him and now he'll never be friends with them, all because of his "weird mom." Well, he's done it now, Lars has successfully pulled something rare and nigh-impossible: he made Steven mad. Steven rightfully yells back, telling him his mother saw beauty in everything, including jerks like him. How poignant that Steven is ready to defend his mom without ever knowing who she really is. All he has to go for are the numerous high praises the Crystal Gems have given her and his father's continuous affection for his late girlfriend. After all, she planted beautiful flowers and lead a rebellion that saved Earth, who else would she be but a saint in Steven's eyes? 

Steven orders Lars to help him lift the moss-covered trio into Jenny's car so they can drive to the hill. With little time to spare, the two drag the teens up, barely making it in time before the moss consumes them as well. For a while, that seems to be the end. Thankfully they managed to reach enough of a highpoint for the sun to hit the moss, causing them to bloom into beautiful pink gem flowers. Steven realizes this is what the moss wanted to do all along. As the flowers drift all over the area, the rest of the teens wake up. They don't really know how they got here, but the hill has an amazing view of Beach City. Lars is about to explain that Steven brought them here, but Steven credits him for the surprise trip. The Cool Kids are impressed and Lars appreciatively high fives Steven.

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It's weird looking back at my teen life where the biggest conflict I've had to deal with besides school was the added pressure amongst my peers. Lars' struggle isn't exactly what I went through - I was too shy to make many friends - but the constant struggle of being teased by the seemingly cooler, better kids for daring to be different and non-conformist was an all-consuming fear that drove my high school experience. Back them, if you didn't adhere to a certain definition of what was popular, you were an outcast and "Lars and the Cool Kids" dives into a familiar issue many adolescents face. It's not a particularly interesting or dynamically different concept, Lars' desire to be cool by pretending to be someone he is not has comfortably driven teen-centric narratives for decades.

The neatest part of the episode is the character interaction between Steven and Lars. The latter is an interesting mixed bag. At the beginning of the show, he is introduced as the rudest of the reoccurring cast members, disdainful and insulting to Steven in spite of the boy's friendliness towards him. He slacks off at work and constantly argues with his fellow co-worker Sadie. Lars is, quite simply put, a bully. He's a teenage ruffian who doesn't have anything better to do than be lazy or dismissive unless something catches his eye that is deemed worthy of his attention. The irony of course is that Lars tries in vain to hook up with peers he considers better than him while Steven already thinks he's cool.

I appreciate that Steven isn't completely naive to Lars' bitter streak though. By default, Steven sees the good in people and remains friendly because as far as he's concerned, people are worth seeking out and if need be, given second chances. It takes a big push for him to see differently and when he does, he tears Lars a new one. Deservingly so.

I never gravitated to Lars much, but his jerky facade is really just that, a facade. It doesn't make him the most endearing of the secondary cast, but it invites episodes that centers on this feeling of insecurity and frustration; of seeing teenagers dealing with complex emotions and harsh lessons that'll eventually prepare them for adult life. Oh, Lars, someday you will grow up and realize how little any of this matters. 

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Updated 09/8/2017 By neoyi in the fan site Steven Universe

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