Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Little Pony: Equality is a Social Construct

So I got talked into watching MLP a few years back by my roommate, who got in on the ground floor when 4chan originally had its pony explosion. I was reluctant. But I gave the show a chance, and will tell anyone who asks that it's really not bad. It's more intelligently written than a lot of kids fare, with positive messages and a clean art style, but I didn't watch much beyond the first season so I'm hopelessly lost on continuity. And that's all the time that I'm going to spend defending why I'm writing about it now. Not that I really need to, given Erin's loud and proud acceptance of it.

But I've no idea at all how this two-part episode was made, let alone green-lit. It's heavy subject matter, even for adult programming. The teal;deer of it is that the mane cast are called, via a magic map, to a town that may be in trouble. When they arrive, they meet something not unlike some Eastern Bloc village that wouldn't look out of place in 1980s Romania or Poland. Dilapidated, nearly identical houses, beaten-down looking people (er, ponies) with bags under their eyes and a smile masking abject terror of stepping out of line, a few with literal sack-cloth clothing. They're greeted by the townsfolk and their spokesperson, all of whom have an Equal symbol instead of the regular cutie-mark most characters on the show have.

We're given a run-down of the situation in the town in the form of a musical number which cements this as thecreepiest god damn cartoon I have ever seen, even taking into account any number of anime I may have attempted watching over the years. With lines like “No pony left behind” and “you can't have nightmares if you never dream” delivered through forced smiles and cracked voices it's obvious that this episode has a Message behind it. And normally, I can't stand Message stories, unless they're very well handled.

Which... this one is. Given the implication that any inhabitant of the town that steps out of line is quickly squashed, and that people are assigned work that they clearly are not good at nor have any desire to do so, the episode seems to be tackling the difference between Equality of Opportunity and Equality of Outcome. It's a difference that I think is an important one to acknowledge. One is a good thing. The other means that you're not letting people pursue what's important to them. Which should go without saying is not a good thing, but I'm sure there's people out there that don't feel that way.

This is, essentially, Harrison Bergeron for kids. Which is the most subversive thing I've seen since the Lego Movie, and that just tickles me to no end. The foreshadowing statement of “I bet there's some horrific monster behind it all” becomes especially poignant when the horrific monster turned out to be someone that thought they knew what was best for those around them and took steps to hobble the abilities and talents of others for the sake of everyone else. Even moreso when it turned out that the horrific monster had the rank hypocrisy to not only keep her talents but use them to enforce equality amongst the town. The very worst villain is the one that thinks they're the good guy.

Given all the recent advancements in outrage culture, this really couldn't have come at a more politically convenient time. Some form of equestrian Marxism, with the imagery of the equality symbol smeared across miserable people. I even cheered a little at the scene that mirrored the old Apple advert with the woman throwing the hammer at the Big Brother screen. Given that I've been questioning my own political affiliations based on the most vocal proponents of them and have seen good people smeared with terrible slurs against them for simply disagreeing with hivemind lock-steps, I can't help but feel it resonate when so many miserable faces are represented by an equality symbol, and the word equal used with such sinister overtones.

And don't think I didn't catch that Wilhelm scream during the final scene, Hasbro.

I've included a link, if you're interested in seeing a mature audiences, non-pony version of the episode.  

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