It’s been a brief dry spell for lore episodes, but Story for Steven has turned that around. What did we learn from it? Other than Greg Good, Marty Bad? Still a good amount. (Flashback episodes do have that power!) Just sit back and see what we’ve learned.
Keep off of the beach… Please
Well, in Full Disclosure they mentioned that there was once a fence keeping people off of the beach and away from the temple (aside: though Story for Steven was initially meant to air before Full Disclosure, Full Disclosure sounds like it was meant to be when the fence was introduced).
In Story for Steven, we actually get to see that fence (and drive a van into/through it!). When you combine this with Pearl’s and Garnet’s attitudes towards Greg’s presence, we see how much things have changed since Steven’s birth: before, humans were summarily dismissed. Pearl thinks humans should stay on the other side of the fence where they belong, Garnet is simply going to throw him, and even Amethyst thought it was strange (in a fun way) that a human talked to her.
Now they not only receive mail, they take Steven out to Funland and visit the arcade with him. They’re still not great at interacting with people, but they’re getting better.
Amethyst was somewhat interested in Greg, though mostly as a curiosity. Rose Quartz was clearly the one most open to actually interacting with him; when Greg came back to Beach City for her the only thing stopping her from hanging out with him was concern for his welfare, not apathy. She was also interested enough in humans to stop by Greg’s concert and briefly chat him up in the first place, despite the fence’s physical and psychological barrier to contact.
In this world of Gems…
There is a very interesting contrast in Story for Steven about how magic is reacted to by humans: Greg’s reaction, upon Amethyst (shapeshifted into the form of an owl) talking to him, is not primarily surprise or confusion. While he is clearly somewhat unsettled by an animal talking to him, all he does is gulp then ask a followup question. Magic weirds him out, but he doesn’t have any sort of a “that’s impossible” reaction.
Marty, however, doesn’t seem to know about the Crystal Gems. When Greg describes their shape changing and the warp pad Marty acts as though he was merely speaking poetically. Even when Greg insists that he’s being serious, Marty isn’t concerned.
It’s entirely possible that Marty and Greg aren’t up on their schooling, but the fact that neither of them has a reaction along the lines of “oh, hey, that sounds like something they tried to teach me about back in history class” is another sign towards humanity being studiously ignorant of Gem activity. It seems that neither Gems nor humans wanted much of anything to do with each other back when Rose Quartz was still leader of the Crystal Gems (and before a human-Gem hybrid was in training to take up the leadership role.)
It used to be just the Beach City residents who reacted like this, and we could always say that they were just used to the presence of the Crystal Gems. With two people from out of town reacting the same way, however, it seems that we have on Steven Universe a world in which magic, while not being something people seem to believe in or care about, is still something people are not surprised to encounter. It is at once exotic and mundane, like a resident of a city encountering a cosplayer who is on the way to some convention. It is definitely not something you expect to encounter (or perhaps even something you ever imagined), but it’s not something to react to strongly either.
(On a potentially related note, back in the time of Story for Steven the lighthouse was apparently still active. Though if the lighthouse is/was truly involved in keeping people from thinking too hard about the Crystal Gems, we’ll need to watch for more clues.)