Monday, September 04, 2017

Some pony thoughts

I haven't done reviews of the recent Pony episodes. I found some of them a bit...uneven, and I don't like to criticize things that maybe are a matter of opinion. The Spike friendship-problem episode was mostly not for me, as was the most recent one (though I liked it better than I thought I would, though I felt the writers were just skirting the edge of something they maybe felt they couldn't quite come out and say - or maybe I'm seeing something in it that isn't actually there).

The Apple Family "Pear"ants episode (where we hear of the courtship of their mom and dad, and learn that they're actually -gasp - half Pear) WAS good, and arguably one of the top five episodes of the series in terms of how the emotions and writing were handled. (Most fans believe, and the episode does nothing to dispel, the idea that their parents are dead). It's never SAID the parents are deceased - I think "gone" is used once or twice. But there are some things that hint at it - when Burnt Oak tells Big Mac, "Yes, I'd like that" when Big Mac asks if he can come back and hear more stories about his dad - and that is EXACTLY the kind of thing you say when you're reminiscing about someone you cared about and who died a while back - the pain never goes away, but it does recede to the point where remembering them is enjoyable and something you want to do. It's a very moving episode, and again it strikes me how emotionally involved I can get with the "lives" of cartoon equines.

I also loved the Campfire Tales episode. The sister (or "honorary sister," and we still don't know for sure what is up with Scootaloo's family) interactions are always fun, and here we got to see some Equestrian mythology get fleshed out a little. So essentially the Earth Ponies have Nordic (or perhaps vaguely Celtic?) roots to their mythos. And the Unicorns are more China/Japan (the aesthetics look more like China-inspired to me, but a Japanese friend of the family once commented that Japanese culture originally drew heavily on Chinese, so I don't know). And the pegasus are ancient Greece (or Rome, though I guess the the plumed helmets were more Greek). (And that reinforces my idea that there is a Sparta-like aspect to at least some of the pegasus culture - they were the warriors, and they do seem to have a quasi-militaristic organization to the Weather Corps).

I was most inspired by the tale of Mistmane (and again, it was one of those "making a big personal sacrifice for the benefit of others" stories, and I am a huge sucker for those), but they were all good.

But then there's the "friendfiction" episode. Or rather, the "copies of the Friendship Lessons" episode - where the Mane Six learn just how not-fun being famous is. Starlight makes clean copies of Twilight's lesson book (which, in its original form, is a mess, with one of Pinkie's confetti bombs in it, and a squashed apple on one page). And once the Mane Six have theirs, she makes copies for everypony. (And there's a clever little joke about her learning the spell in order to copy "an, ahem, certain manifesto")

Anyway. The book sells wildly, though not entirely for the reasons Twilight intends - she is doing it because (being her adorkable self) she thinks the ponies will learn from it and will become better at being friends. She is doing it to benefit the other ponies.

(And yes, I know, some see this as a shot fired 'cross the bow of the Bronydom, but I prefer to look at the OTHER moral, the one Our Favorite Fillies learn during the episode)

Instead, it becomes a "collectors edition" for some ponies. Or others tear the "boring" lessons (Twilight's) out of it in favor of the "exciting" ones (Rainbow's). Or they harass Fluttershy over "Why do you have to keep learning the same lesson OVER AND OVER again?" (and Fluttershy's response to this - fundamentally: Do you think YOU could change a major facet of your personality in one go? - is an excellent response).

And Rarity is emotionally destroyed after hearing other ponies talking about her behind her back. All the feels, because I've been there myself. (We probably all have). I didn't flip out and stress-sew as a result, but I do remember shedding at least a few tears.

And, there's also my new personal replacement for the "Everything is Fine" dog:

Eventually, the other ponies confront the Mane 6: you're different from who I thought you'd be! You're not entertaining us! You have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again!

And because this is Equestria, there's a song to explain it:

I like this song a lot. It's catchy, but also, I like the fundamental message. And it's something I have struggled so hard with in my life. ("I don't care if it hurts/I want to have control./I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul"). "Why am I not 'better'?" is a regular refrain I've asked myself, even when, objectively, I'm pretty okay at a lot of the things I do. But all too often, the image I have in my brain does not match up with what I can actually do (whether that's writing, or drawing, or, right now, my frustration, trying to get better at the piano).

But the ideas in that song - first of all, of being a "work in progress" and that being fine. A while back - actually, it was right after I got dinged on my PTR for "not being on enough committees" and I was complaining/whining on ITFF about "why can't I be perfect, I wish I were perfect" and someone with more theological background/grounding than I had gently reminded me that another synonym for "perfect" was "finished," and that she knew I wasn't ready for my life to be "finished," so I just needed to keep going and keep working. And of course she was right. But that is something I really struggle with and is one of the major sources of pain in my life - that what I can do never quite matches up with what I think I SHOULD be able to do.

But yeah. Also the "it's our flaws that make us work" and yes, that is true....but sometimes it's hard to see past the flaws and their problems. (I will not bore you with a discussion of my own perceived flaws).

And the idea of friends loving you BECAUSE of your flaws - that's always kind of a sticking point for me. I try to hide and cover up my flaws (and it's only after I've known someone for a while and fairly well trust that they won't start hating me if I let the cracks show a little) because I guess I learned early on (perhaps falsely) that I was a hard person to like because of my flaws, or that people wouldn't give me a chance or something....and so, as I said, I tried hard to hide those flaws. 

One thing the series does well - and this is hinted at in the song - is that sometimes weaknesses can be turned into strengths (I think of Rarity's drama-queening in "Dog and Pony Show," to the point where she rescues herself from the Diamond Dogs, by annoying them so heartily they let her go) but that also strengths can lead to weaknesses (Applejack's hard work and stubbornness have gotten her into trouble more than once). And I do think  that's true of all of us. My sense of duty and diligence is a HUGE strength of mine (and sometimes I think it's what sets me apart from the pack) but it's also a weakness in that I don't like delegating (because it means the other people might fail at their task) and I often wind up not taking enough downtime for myself because I just need to do ONE more thing, ONE more duty. (and I tend to suffer from "work expands to fill the time allotted" and give it far too much time).

So I focused mainly on that idea in the episode.

Oh, and at the end - a sweet little follow up that I suspect saves the whole project for Twilight: Toola Roola (yay earlier gen callback!) and Coconut Cream, here shown as young fillies, actually learned a friendship lesson from the book - and I suppose again there's the old moral of "I made a difference to THAT one", which is an important moral and a reminder, especially to perfectionists like me, that even if you can't do EVERYTHING, you can do SOMETHING, and that also that something may be everything to one person....

Oh, one last favorite image:

Fluttershy is best Botticelli's Venus. (Surely that was intended, equally with the "she's coming out of her shell" bit, no?)

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