Character Analysis: Peridot and autism

Out of all the Steven Universe characters, Peridot by far is the most favorite, especially among those with autism. This is mostly due to the fact that they can identify or relate with her. Now, whether or not it's been intentional, she does seem to portray a lot of characteristics most autistic people have. In this analysis, we're going to see what makes her so relatable, and in what ways she could make people understand autism better.

The Great and Lovable Peridot

The Great and Lovable Peridot, foiled by a child safety lock
In order to properly analyse Peridot, we need to figure out who she is. Peridot, or more specifically, Peridot Facet-2F5L Cut-5XG, is an Era 2 Peridot. Because she lacks special powers like Era 1 gems do, she relies on technological enhancements, and is useless without them, or at least that's what she claims. Later she finds out she has ferrokinetic powers. She has a superiority complex, although there occasionally are hints of self-doubt. Her self-imposed title is new leader of the Crystal Gem.

Aside from her ferrokinetic powers, she's technically inclined. She is shown to be able to fix machinery as well as create new ones. Oftentimes, she comes off as rude or arrogant, though she doesn't realize it.

She first started out as an antagonist, being tasked to monitor the Cluster. After she got stranded on Earth, though, she slowly began to turn into a close ally. She still has a lot to learn about human life, but already is appreciating life on Earth. Most importantly though is that she's a fan of Camp Pining Hearts and that she shows a tendency to ship people.

All she has

Peridot using her tablet as a distraction

When Peridot first appeared, she had limb enhancers. This made her look imposing, but it was also a crutch for her. To her, they were the only things she had, the only things that made her useful. But one scene that really resonated with me was the scene in Too Short to Ride where Amethyst is talking to Peridot. While she's telling her that she doesn't need special abilities to be their friends, Peridot is seen playing with her tablet. Or rather, she's seen typing the same word over and over.

These are two things that people with autism exhibit. Most rely on technology, though not because they actually need it or have to use it. In fact, most autistic people could do better without technology. The reason they do though is because it's their safe haven. It's all they have. With it, they can escape from the world around them. They could have used anything, like books or LEGO, but technology nowadays is more accessible.

When Peridot was using her tablet, she tried to shut herself off from the world around her. It was her escape to somewhere more safe. That way she wouldn't have to deal with whatever upset her. Sure, it's only a fake escape, and really it doesn't work, but it's the only perceived solution. Amethyst trying to interfere with it could have gone both ways, and the only reason it didn't escalate was because Peridot figured out her ability right after the confrontation. I guess that's also a reason why she hid herself behind her tablet, to avoid confrontation. She didn't want the situation to escalate.

Stop breaking my stuff!

Peridot tries to murder a kid and his family

There's another reason Peridot clung onto her tablet though, and that's because, simply put, it's hers. When she was still with Homeworld, she often complained about the Crystal Gems breaking her stuff. Most people with autism don't like it when you touch their stuff, because that means it messes with their environment, and for some, it's almost like violating their personal space.

A trait that's associated with autism is that they always want things in a certain way, and if just one thing gets changed, if an office chair's height is adjusted for example, they'd get upset. And while they might have valid reasons, their main reason is that you just messed with their stuff, and it causes them discomfort.Having things their way is in a way a crutch. It's their way to limit the amount of uncertain variables. If only one thing changes, things become an uncertainty. Not knowing things is scary, and for people with autism, this feeling is tenfold.

CLODS CLODS CLODS CLODS CLODS CLODS CLODS

We can't deny the fact that Peridot is pretty sociable, she doesn't avoid contact at all. But it doesn't take away the fact that she also isn't good at being social. A common misconception is that people with autism aren't social people. The truth is, they can be, but most of the time, they don't know how to. People with autism have a specific mindset, a specific focus, and if you try to talk to them about other things, simple things like the weather or personal feelings, it's hard for them, because they often don't know what to say. Plus, it also ties into the uncertainty factor, people just aren't as predictable.

And then you have those who just have no filter. Having no filter can be pretty common with autistic people. Often it's not because they can't stay silent, it's because they don't know when to not say certain things. Peridot pretty much belongs in this group. She can essentially insult somebody without meaning to, although there are enough times she does mean to insult people.

A great example of her inability to filter what she says is the episode Too Far. When she noticed that her comedy was appreciated, she didn't know the point when she would go too far with her jokes, that they'd actually hurt somebody, that they'd hurt Amethyst.

Again, note that every person with an autism spectrum disorder is different. There are enough who do somewhat know when to stop, and others have actively taught themselves to pick up certain queues.

Learning curve

You're... welcome!

And that's a thing that Peridot shows. She learns. She's not just some machine that can't learn new things, Peridot actively learns things. This doesn't just apply to factual knowledge, this also applies to her social interactions. When she began her journey she couldn't even understand simple social interactions, but as time progressed, she slowly learned how to become better at talking to people. A great example of when Peridot learned was before she became a Crystal Gem. Leading up to her capture, she would mimic Steven more than once.

But she also learned how to adapt to each situation. With every confrontation with the Crystal Gems, she found a way to counteract their previous tactics. If an attack worked once, she finds a way to negate that attack. It's how Peridot was able to adjust to living on Earth.

Loyalty first

Peridot out!

One aspect that people don't really know is that people with autism can often be very loyal. This aspect can certainly be seen with Peridot. Right up until the point where Peridot became a Crystal Gem, she was very loyal to her leader, Yellow Diamond. She admired her diamond for her ability to look at things logically. There was a genuine respect.

Her view of Yellow Diamond was shattered once it was shown that Yellow Diamond's actions regarding Earth were more based on emotions, and while Peridot probably didn't know what the backstory was, she did see that Yellow Diamond was being unreasonable, not willing to listen to Peridot's suggestions.

It was only after she called Yellow Diamond a clod that she shifted her loyalty, mostly because she actively disobeyed her diamond, but in a way, you could see that she was actually a bit proud of herself. A big part of her wanted to die, sure, but I guess that the main reason she shifted towards the Crystal Gems was that, despite her being a jerk towards them, they were still open to her, accepted her readily. Not because they needed more troups, but because they actually cared for her.

It's a whole spectrum

Peridot receiving her prize

Peridot shows us that autism isn't just one defined thing, and that's something people need to understand. No two autistic person is the same, and the way they act is different. Not every autistic person is anti-social or introvert. Peridot shows just one side of the autism spectrum disorder, but there are many sides, more than a dodecahedron.

I want to thank somebody who helped me write this article, Cherry. Without the help I would have overlooked certain points.

Also, make sure you visit the Autism Speaks website if you want to learn more about autism.

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