The episode opens with Steven finding Ronaldo giving out pamphlets on the boardwalk. He takes one to read, only to find out that it says a lot of mean stuff about ‘rock people’. He calls Ronaldo out on this because what are described as ‘rock people’ also applies to the Crystal Gems (“Also, don’t say ‘rock people.’ It’s offensive”), which Ronaldo didn’t seem to realize until Steven pointed it out. Good thing, only Steven has actually taken a pamphlet. Ronaldo then goes off, saying he needs time to think about things.
Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 17
A long time ago, the Steven Universe team decided to cross-breed the most annoying corners of Tumblr and Reddit, dress the resulting offspring in a flame-covered shirt and cargo shorts and call him Ronaldo Fryman. Over the course of the series, Ronaldo’s mostly been used as a meta-critique of online fandom, living his life largely on social media and spouting conspiracy theories like a fire hose.
As an erstwhile Redditor, I recognize that the parts of Ronaldo that I find obnoxious are my own worst online instincts: the obsession, the detachment from reality, the breakdown of normal social interaction that can happen on the Internet. And given that the Steven Universe fandom has gotten ugly in the past, Ronaldo is a crucial grounding mechanism.
That said, he’s become most notable as a Cassandra whose wild speculations about the Great Diamond Authority and a human zoo have turned out to be correct. It’s a delicious twist of irony that the show’s chief skewerer of online fanaticism has only stoked that fire.
With “Rocknaldo,” though, we see a departure from Ronaldo’s purpose to date. The only conspiracy theory to be had is destroyed at the beginning of the episode, and then Ronaldo’s off the Internet for the remainder. What transpires next is a scathing take on how not to be an ally, a hugely important topic for the queerest show on television.
Later, Steven and the Gems are reading Ronaldo’s latest post — saying he’s shutting down his blog for good (again) — only for a new post to pop up a few seconds later. The new post has a video of Ronaldo showing his regret for mixing up what is right and wrong and saying mean things. Sounds good so far. Then he suddenly declares that, in order to make up for all that, he has decided to join the Crystal Gems.