I’ve been pony this week – a little ho(a)rse 😉 – so apologies for the delay again. Over the holiday period weekends get chewed up and spat out like gum so I hope to be a little bit more timely after the round of endless trips to the cinema and landing a job on Crossrail for two months next year and so on.
This episode opens in school, so it’s a CMC episode. I like the CMC, they’re cute, although with Twilight Sparkle gaining her wings (that was a heavy night on the Red Bull for her), I’d like to see the episode where the CMC get their cutie marks.
Enter Miss Horsewhinney and Rainbow Dash as an advocate for the Equestria Games, which are about to open, and they need a flag-carrier for Ponyville.
Horsewhinney is a little tired of ‘Ms Dash’’s overenthusiasm, and to be honest, it’s hard not to be, when she keeps interrupting the advocate, who gets really quite angry. Really angry. Like, you’re off the team if you’re not Professional. The way Mizz DAAAASH drips off Horsewhinney’s lips, in quite a good display of a reasonable reaction to RD. (Although I suspect the writers don’t agree with this assessment.)
The CMC are go! And they haven’t mentioned their cutie marks …yet. Their aim is to show Ponyville’s diversity – hearts as strong as horses. (This raises a question: where do horses fit in in Equestria? Are Celestia and Luna horses themselves? I know a pony is not necessarily anything different to a horse except in size, but there is no explanation for this in canon. Maybe they are comparing themselves to an ancient race, or maybe the princess ponies/alicorns are horses ruling over a race of what to them are dwarfs. In this regard, I am expecting Twilight to grow to horse size like Cadence has.)
Song – hearts as strong as horses :D. I really want the showrunners to release a songs album.
During the song we see that fat Pegasus from season 3. Which is nice, but not as good as having a certain Ms D Hooves back. That S2 gaffe cost Hasbro pretty dear, which is unfortunate: while I’m not really offended by the ‘D’ word, I am very strong on not using things that could be construed as slurs in children’s television. Apropos of something else, I did some research into the BBFC rating system and found out that what they look for in children’s media is not just the absence of sex and violence, it’s the presence of uplifting themes and correct moral attitudes. While morals can be relative, I don’t think a Mane 6 protagonist making fun of a pony widely regarded by the fans as being disabled was a good idea, and although you could call the BBFC system censorship, I think kids need to grow up with a lot of diversity and respect for difference in their media diet, and they do a good job trying to cultivate those attitudes in the media to which children are normally exposed. MLP is generally pretty good on that score, particularly having a mane 😉 protagonist who could be taken for non-white, and giving little girls a range of role models. So that’s just my take. We mustn’t forget – not like I did a few weeks ago – that this is still a children’s show. 4chan and what is acceptable in South Park, which is generally regarded as merciless satire for adults, shouldn’t be calling the shots.
Anyway, enter Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. And I mean CRUSH. And here it goes – the three CMCs are still blank-flanks, who won’t be chosen. The bullying gets nasty here: this is perhaps why I find CMC episodes a little tedious, because unlike with Twilight and her friends, the story never progresses. The three CMCs and these two obnoxious twits are locked in a never-ending catfight.
OK. The two bullies watch the CMC routine, ‘The Town Where Friendship Reigns’, speculating on how bad it’s going to be.
Dashie is ‘happy’ with it. But RD has to remain professional. Keep the emotions in check. So her enthusiasm has to be curbed. The bullies are trying to find a new way to get under their skin… or wings.
They walk onto the stage try being saccharine-sweet, and let loose with the ableism on Scootaloo. They tell her that Horsewhinney will never choose a Pegasus to represent Ponyville who can’t fly. With obvious and predictable results. (Now THAT is the way to portray being nasty to someone who is disabled. Make it an obviously villainous character, and direct it at a protagonist who is thus probably bullied into showing those two little trashcakes she can stand up for herself, without the use of slurs related to that disability. I know blank-flank is a slur too, but it’s a fantastical one with no real cognate in reality. Kids are cruel, but you need to make c)
So Scoots is desperate to fly. Back to practise, and offscreen tumble. It’s unclear here, actually whether she’s unable to learn to fly, or whether she is simply physically incapable of it. Either way, it seems to be a
And she tires them out. With obvious results.
Why do they not just tell RD or whoever what the trashcakes said and have them deal with them? I know it wouldn’t make for an entertaining show , and I know some people are cynical about the way schools deal with bullies, but the secret I suppose is to show why they can’t just circumvent this issue, much like the initial The Hobbit film left out the crucial explanation as to why the eagles couldn’t just whisk them away to the Lonely Mountain (in the book it’s explained that they don’t fly near lands occupied by people fearful for their sheep, lest they get shot, which is a pretty damn convincing reaction, all things considered), therefore spawning a lot of internet arguments normally ending in ‘quit complaining about me complaining about you complaining!’. In this case, however, without any external canon to go on, it would be nice to show them at least attempt to complain about the bullying and get rebuffed, particularly because it hits on a physical characteristic relating to Scootaloo’s wings and is therefore probably likely to be taken a lot more seriously in ‘The Town Where Friendship and, like, you know, Diversity and Cake and other nice things Rei(g)n wink wink nudge nudge say no more about that horrible, horrible pun I just inserted into the title of their song, mind you a rein is probably a horrific instrument of torture in Equestria so forget I said that’.
Anyway, RD needs to go coach some other ponies and they mustn’t miss the train to the Crystal Empire. The one thing I like in this is that again we see a multi-part – and multi-season – arc relating to a big Equestrian event, just like the Grand Galloping Gala in series one. Given this, I suspect we’ll see the CMCs getting their mark: since there is some continuity and the series isn’t just pressing the reset button or ignoring what was decided in earlier episodes, there’s that chance. I for one would like to see their CMs. It might even be a fitting series finale when Hasbro finally puts the kibosh on the series and moves on.
Scoots is devastated. We have five minutes now to resolve this. On your marks, get set…
Applebloom and Sweetie Belle are scared Scoots will miss the train. She’s the weak link, and she’ll fall or flop. Better off without her. Applebloom’s reaction is quite surprising. If she’s gonna quit, WE don’t need her.
And thus we get the Town Where Friendship Argues With Itself. RD is excitable about their routine. And AT LAST! The CMC tell RD about their problem. RD instills them with the fighting spirit to, erm, abandon the train to the trashcakes.
They hook up with Scoots, who makes the proper noises for a few seconds. RD speaks for the others when she explains how diversity actually works. RD was from Cloudsdale
The disability plotline is worked out: we find out about Scoots’ disadvantage in not currently being able to fly, but maybe she will, maybe she won’t – but she’ll still be the best li’l pony in town. And it’s Dashie who is making up for her teasing of D. Hooves in S2. :D. This Asperger’s blogger, who has tried for ten years to get into the position in which she can get and hold down a job, can sympathise with that – Scoots wants to fly, and she’s not going to let anything stop her trying. She’s not just sitting back and saying ‘I can’t, so I won’t’. But at the same time, now the girls have finally approached someone else over this situation, they’ve found it doesn’t really matter, because every person has their own unique talent…yeah, you can see where this is going. The CMC episodes are about ponies – well, people – trying to find their niche in life. This ep has been all the better for not fixating on the blank flank aspect and getting another angle in on the kids finding out what they do best. Scoots is disappointed that she can’t fly, of course, which is another layer to the inspirational message here. Sometimes you can’t do the things that others can do, and that can lead to being bullied. But on the other hand, finding what it is you can do bolsters your confidence in different ways and in time will make you just as good and as valuable as everyone else. This is a message particularly valuable to people held back through handicaps which are no fault of their own, a bit like Scoots’ underdeveloped wings.
Which is better than keeping an animation glitch around for mane protagonists to laugh at.
Cue motivational song and a reprise of Hearts as Strong as Horses.
The inevitable happens when the CMCs are chosen to carry the flag. Even Horsewhinney (Dashie actually says Harshwhinney) is overenthusiastic and Dashie gets in a dig. The trashcakes look on, going a nice shade of green to clash with their dresses.
And the stinger? They are like totally going to get cutie marks in flag-carrying.
OK, I’m giving this episode 10 out of 10. The standard of writing is amazing, they wrote a decent disability episode to make up for the D. Hooves incident, and the Hearts as Strong as Horses song is just about the best one in all four seasons. I’ve largely gone over what I wanted to say, but this is an episode in the fine tradition of the series, all about ‘you CAN do what you want to do’, with a side order of ‘disability is something you have to adapt to, but it shouldn’t hold you back’, which is what I needed to hear a few months ago when I was struggling to get a job (I now have had a couple of days temping and start a contract job in January) and feeling that my lack of ability in the past to get much more than voluntary work was holding me back. I’ve largely accepted that an academic career is what I’m after in the long run, but I have office skills, and that has got me interim projects to work on.
You CAN do it. Good luck.