Pearl is a fictional character from the 2013 animated series Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar. She is a "Gem", a fictional alien being that exists as a magical gemstone projecting a holographic body. Pearl is a character with a low self-esteem due to the way she is treated in Gem society. She is frequently praised for being a positive depiction of a queer character, though her strong obsession with fellow character Rose Quartz has been described as "unhealthy". She is voiced by Deedee Magno Hall.
From the Pilot to "Gem Glow", Pearl underwent a total redesign. Originally having orange hair styled in a quiff and a much more intricate outfit by "Gem Glow" Pearl had the ballerina-esque design she retains for the first part of season one before her regeneration in "Steven the Sword Fighter". Pearl's voice actress, Deedee Magno, started voice acting at a young age for The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. She moved on to do Broadway performances in the 1990s and 2000s, such as Miss Saigon and Wicked, but was contacted by Rebecca Sugar to portray a role in Steven Universe in 2013. However, Pearl was her first major role in an animated series.
Alongside Garnet, Amethyst and protagonist Steven, Pearl is one of the Crystal Gems, a group of Gems that protect humanity and the Earth from danger. Pearl has been described as "intense [and] with a laser focus".
In the fictional Gem culture, Pearls are said to be "made-to-order servants" who serve other more important, higher-class Gems. Due to their status as simple servants meant for "standing around and looking nice and holding your stuff", they are seen as status symbols. Pearl displays a strong inferiority complex and issues with self-esteem stemming from the fact that, as a Pearl, she wasn't made to fight and therefore is weaker than others who are, like Amethyst, a Quartz, and Garnet, a fusion. Despite her struggles, Pearl learned to fight and became a formidable swordfighter.
Pearl shows to be strongly devoted to Rose Quartz, the mother of Steven and former leader of the Crystal Gems, who gave up her projected body so her son could be born. According to Vrai Kaiser of The Mary Sue, Pearl deals with severe unresolved grief, coupled with deep-seated issues with self-worth, resulting in her falling prey to "powerful, impulsive emotions" whenever Rose is mentioned. Naith Payton of PinkNews described Pearl's devotion to Rose as "unhealthy and obsessive". Pearl works to correct these issues, and the show is written in a way that allows watchers to sympathize with her. yes.
Ben Bertoli of Kotaku stated that Pearl is a character that a viewer may dislike at the start of the series, but that she becomes more relatable as the story continues and the viewer learns more about her. Sara Goodwin of The Mary Sue even described her as "the most human" of the Gems because of how she struggles with "bitterness, thoughts of inadequacy, and jealousy". Though she stated that Pearl can often be "insufferable", Goodwin likes the character for her humanity and hard work.
In 2014, Deedee Magno won a Behind the Voice Actor Award, in the category "Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical", for her portrayal of Pearl.
Pearl was very positively received for being a queer character in children's animation, following a pattern of LGBT themes in animated series such as Adventure Time and The Legend of Korra. However, this aspect of her character has also received some criticism: Pearl's jealousy when Rose shows interest in a male character in flashbacks has been described as operating under a "psycho lesbian" trope, which assumes queer women are "predators of would-be heterosexuals".
A short flashback scene in which Pearl intimately dances with Rose in the episode "We Need to Talk" was controversially censored by Cartoon Network UK for British audiences, as they felt that "the slightly edited version is more comfortable for local kids and their parents".