Saturday, August 06, 2016

"Runnin' down hill"

Yeah, this is about the most recent MLP episode.

So this week carts are a thing. There's the equivalent of the Soap Box Derby in Ponyville.

Little sidenote: I grew up not too terribly far from Derby Downs and I remember seeing the track on some of the trips we took into Akron. (Most often when we went to the U of Akron stadium, which was un-euphoniously named "The Rubber Bowl." Heh. I wonder if they've changed that given that little rubber manufacturing still takes place there, and that there is that unfortunate double entendre)

Anyway. We see Cheerilee again! Teaching high level physics to little ponies!

Okay. I don't remember much of my physics but honestly that thing in the lower left looks more like the SIR models I cover in the disease-transmission and populations section of ecology.

But anyway, this isn't even a MacGuffin, because apparently the only physics we need here is "stuff with wheels at the top of a hill will roll down that hill" (Yes, Snails, you can relax: you're not going to have to learn anything)

Anyway. This is a CMC-centric episode. (I am beginning to wonder if maybe they are being groomed to be the Lead Ponies of Gen5....or something like that. There have been some strong hints in stuff going on lately that there's going to be a Season 7 but I know this current incarnation can't go on forever).

There are, oh so conveniently, three prizes: one for fastest, one for "most creative*," and one for "most traditional"

(*In my youth and childhood, "most creative" was often a booby prize: as in "Oh, isn't that......creative." A consolation prize given to the poor flopper kid who worked so hard on something but it was still a mess**. But apparently in Ponyville a Creativity Award is a GOOD thing)

(** I may have....once or twice....won "creativity" prizes in things because while my ideas were good my execution was often terrible because of lack of proper tools or because my parents were unwilling to buy the supplies I needed to do it right)

Convenient, because there are three Cutie Mark(ed) Crusaders, so they won't fight over who should win. Also convenient in that there's one each one wants. But it's not what you'd expect!

The expectation is:

Scootaloo = Fast (because Pegasus, because of Rainbow Dash hero-worship, because of scooter)
Sweetie Belle = Creative (Because Rarity, and because she's shown some creative decision making in the past)
Apple Bloom = Traditional (because she's an Apple, and dangit, that's what Apples DO.)

But in fact, Scootaloo wants to branch out from "fast" and try to be creative. But that's just fine, because Sweetie Belle has gone into hipster mode and wants to make an old-skool cart. And Apple Bloom has the need for speed.

So, doesn't look like there's a friendship problem here.....except there is.

Their sisters.

The sisters (well, I'm counting Rainbow Dash as an "honorary" sister and I wish they'd do SOMETHING to clear up the Mystery of Scootaloo's Origins) are much more set in their ways, so

Applejack = wants her sister to make a "traditional" cart
Rarity = wants her sister to "be creative"
Rainbow Dash = well, do you need to ask?

And so there's the tension. The older sisters presume they know best, and also, there may be an element of "Let's not depart from our wheelhouse" and they essentially force the younglings into doing what THEY, the older sisters want.

Two side notes:

1. In my experience, departing too far from one's wheelhouse as an adult - unless one specifically wants out of a comfort zone - isn't always so great an idea. I've referred to that old 1970s chestnut The Animals' School before, especially when I've been frustrated by the person who's just bought into the new edu-fad going "What? You teach statistics by working through example problems and having the students follow along? That's SO old-fashioned. You MUST have discussion in class and let the students collaboratively discover the stats formulas on their own!" (Okay: exaggeration for effect but you get the idea). And I know the times I've tried to do OTHER than the style of teaching I am comfortable with, it has been awkward, test scores have gone down, and the students haven't been as happy.

2. A simpler solution here - but maybe one that would wrap up in too much less than a half hour - would be for each sister to go with the cart most fitting her desire. So Apple Bloom could team up with Rainbow Dash, and Sweetie Belle with Applejack (that already almost happened once before, at Sisterhooves Social Day), and Scootaloo with Rarity (which in itself would, I think, bring up a level of funny interactions)

But anyway. The older sisters go full Dance Mom (or as Calpain, from Equestria Daily said: like those parents who make their kids' science fair project for them) and force their own ideas on the girls. And yeah, a lot of fans complained about this and the Idiot Ball that Rarity and AJ and Rainbow carried this week was an awful heavy one, but whatever.

(One gag I totally missed until rewatching: Apple Bloom trying to sneak a spoiler onto the "traditional" cart Applejack was making. Hah!)

So the sisters do what they want and don't listen to their little sisters' protests.

And so then race day comes.

(And I am sure I am not the only one who squealed at DERPYCART!!!!! and apparently she now has a canon younger brother? Whose cutie mark looks like a bubble popping? We need to see more of this). And there's also Diamond Tiara, racing with her butler rather than a parent. I'm just gonna put this into a "nicer" headcanon here that says the butler really LOVES racing and has always wanted to do it so DT asked him to race with her. Because Diamond Tiara is supposed to be reformed, right?

And the racetrack is koo-koo crazy. Apparently civil engineering is not canon in Equestria. It's like those terrible old slot-car tracks (Wasn't there even one CALLED "Criss Cross Crash"?) where part of the game was seeing how many near misses you could have with the cars crossing paths, and of course most kids just set it up to have the highest probability of a crash possible.

None of the CMCs is thrilled. Sweetie Belle seems scared at her seat atop the giant swan-boat monstrosity Rarity has made (and really, isn't it cheating, to use wings as a "blocker" for other carts?). Scootaloo notices a loose wheel on the RD Express and worries her way down the track. And Apple Bloom is also screaming - but for another reason. Her cart is TOO SLOW.

At any rate. There's a cute song with definite callbacks to the old "Speed Racer" cartoon (the old original one, not the goofy movie reboot) and also possibly Wacky Racers. (The writers, at least some of 'em, MUST be Gen-Xers. Which is probably partly why I like this show: they are my people)

At any rate - rather like last season's Sister(Brother-in-drag)Hooves Social episode, the mostly-grown-ponies get way too wrapped up in the competition.....and there is the inevitable crash. Oh, nopony is HURT, this is Equestria after all*

(*The bouncing tire, I admit, was a little uncomfortable: I had a friend in grade school who lost a little sister to a racetrack accident where a tire wound up flying into the stands after a wreck and hit her. This is apparently a not-uncommon event in racing)

And Rainbow Dash even tries to PUSH her wrecked cart across the finish line.

A do-over is proposed (Cheerilee seems to be the One Sane Pony in this episode, I think). And each of the CMC gets what SHE wants: so Apple Bloom builds the closest thing to a Formula 1 that you can make out of wood, Sweetie Belle makes a surrey with the fringe on top, and Scootaloo.....well, she makes a Phoenix Car (her original design, apparently, was for a Chicken Car, which, even though a lot of fans say is a played-out meme, I still laughed).

And the "grown-ups" are exiled from the race, thanks to the bad behavior of our (supposed) heroines.

I admit, I could see a couple "cynical" morals from this:

1. Adults stink so they need to be excluded from fun things. (If my headcanon about Diamond Tiara's butler is correct, he was probably crying into his cider somewhere over being closed out of a second shot at running the race). Though then again: soccer moms and dads are a thing; I have seen signs on playing fields reminding the parents about "sportsmanlike" behavior. Which is sad, and maybe it's more a "one bad apple means the rest of you don't get to take part in fun things" than a blanket condemnation of adults.

(Also wondering if it's a wee tiny jab at the adult fandom who complain about minutiae in a show that's really aimed at small children and whose fundamental purchase is to sell plastic ponies)

2. Adults need to shut up and let the youngsters do what they want. And I admit, as someone who has had students challenge me on silly things like "Why do we have to have due dates for papers," I can say there's no group that has a monopoly on wisdom, but that those of us who have been around for a few more years just MIGHT understand some of the practical implications of things better. I'm not saying there aren't cases where a student could say, "Why don't we do it this way?" and I would go, "You know, that's a good point, let's try it your way" but often the "We need to throw out years of tradition and replace it with what I want" leads to problems. And yeah, yeah: "It's sometimes hard for young ponies to speak up." But there are also some "young ponies" in my world that might be better off remembering God gave them two ears and one mouth....

1 comment:

CGHill said...

Let's not even consider how Scoots got up to Dash's house in the first place.