(spoilers for Steven Universe episode, Alone at Sea)
The thing about Alone at Sea and the “big reveal” about Lapis and Jasper’s relationship (via the fusion Malachite) is that it does portray a different type of emotional abuse that people aren’t used to seeing on media and thus don’t know how to understand it.
I know there’s a lot of backlash for this episode. People saying that Jasper is the victim and therefore Lapis has nothing to ‘complain’ about, people saying that Rebecca Sugar is a terrible person for writing their relationship this way.
I’ll be honest, when I first thought about Malachite as an unhealthy relationship, I did think it was the more ‘traditional’ version of abuse I’ve seen before–with Jasper as controlling and violent and Lapis being trapped and forced to endure. This is what their relationship was before they were fused–with Lapis literally as Jasper’s prisoner–and so I assumed that this dynamic continued into their fusion.
Which, as stated in the episode, is clearly not the case.
But that doesn’t make their Malachite relationship less abusive. And while it may seem that the direction of abuse has changed, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t still a vastly unhealthy relationship for both Lapis and Jasper. Lapis isn’t less of a victim in their relationship than she was before the fusion.
Because here’s the thing: yes, Lapis was controlling and hurtful–these are canon by admission–but just because Jasper was the target of this, just because Jasper has become a victim as well, does not mean Lapis is any less. In unhealthy relationships it’s not always one victim and one abuser–things aren’t as straightforward as all that, it’s not just a one way street.
Both (assuming non-poly relationships for the sake of this post) participants in a relationship can be horrible to each other, can be hurtful and mean and abusive to each other. It doesn’t invalidate one’s abuse towards the other.
As Malachite–a fusion which Lapis entered under duress/dubious consent, I’ll remind you–Jasper and Lapis spent the entire time at the bottom of the ocean, fighting each other for control. Lapis won most of the time but that doesn’t mean she has all the power in this relationship.
Consider dating an addict; one whose addiction is dangerous not only to themselves but to others around them. So as this addict’s significant other, either you’re an enabler or you’re trying to stop them. You cut off access to their addiction. You invade their privacy to make sure they’re not hiding stashes from you, keep track of where or when they are to make sure there aren’t opportunities for them to indulge, prevent them from talking to others who you know also partake in the addiction even if those are ‘friends’.
It’s not a healthy relationship even though you’re trying to get your partner clean. But it’s also not solely your fault. True, you could break up with them, but couldn’t they also break up with you? You’re with them for a reason, even if the addiction has become the prevalent, unhealthy part. You love them, not their addiction, and maybe that’s what makes you stay. Maybe they even play on that to make sure you stay. You are as trapped in this relationship as your partner even though it does look like you’re the one with all the power.
It doesn’t have to be romantic relationships.
And, sure, in the case of Jasper and Lapis that addiction is more like “destroying Earth” but the point still stands. This is an unhealthy relationship that Lapis has been trapped in, and even if its not, from the outset, the same tableau of abuse we’ve seen in the media over and over again, it doesn’t make it any less valid.
tl;dr: Abuse and unhealthy relationships aren’t just one abuser and one victim. Jasper being a victim doesn’t invalidate Lapis as a victim, either.