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Caerdwyn
Witness for the Prosecution
United States
Former artist. Just on the sidelines now.
Go here because :iconbaron-engel:

That is all.
Over the years, we've seen My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presenting stories and using techniques that are more complex than you'd expect for the "target demographic". By now, one might think that we shouldn't be surprised any more when a serious topic is raised in this show. Y'know. Heavy.

And then there was the season 5 opener.

Where to begin? There are so many different themes this two-part episode touches upon (or, at least, can be reasonably read into it). Each of these themes has been argued to be the "meaning" of the episode, and has sparked some very serious discussions.
  • Communism/Marxism. (Why aren't people using the obvious pun of "Trotskyism"?)
  • Cults of personality
  • Enforced conformity
  • Utopianism
  • "Informant" societies
  • Brainwashing/indoctrination

Really? A show intended to sell plastic toys encouraging parents to discuss these topics with their kids, and perhaps to examine their own views while they're at it? Investigations into the human history that made these themes relevant? What's the world coming to...

So what about these themes?

Communism/Marxism: The ponies in the Unnamed Village all live in identical (drab) homes, with their leader's home differentiated by position within the village. While nobody appears to be really badly off, any sort of achievement or "getting ahead" is explicitly forbidden. We've seen how this plays out in our own world. Heck, we even write songs about it:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Conflating "equal rights" with "sameness" under the umbrella label "equality" is not a fallacy unique to megalomaniac ponies.

Cults of Personality: My name for the village is "Ponestown". This is an admittedly sick pun on the worst mass-suicide in modern history: Jonestown. Follow the link. You have some reading to do. This is serious, serious shit that makes Heaven's Gate look like mere amateurs. It's always the same: a leader who has somehow gotten the One True Way where billions of others have failed appears; the leader promises heaven on earth, if only you will give up your free will and materialistic ways; equality is promised but somehow there is always an enforcer-class that is more "equal" than others; but if the outside world threatens it is better to destroy everything... and yourself... to achieve this paradise. And nosey outsiders? Assimilate or slaughter.

Enforced conformity: Wow, they even came right out and said it... "no pony left behind". Everyone even had to have the same mane-cut. Sure, it's an attractive idea on paper. But when conformity is valued above performance, brutality towards the "different" becomes acceptable, even encouraged. We've all seen this, and some of us are guilty of it. Dress wrong in school? Maybe a beating from a bully will teach you. Or being expelled by the school administration, that's acceptable response too. The solution? Uniforms! Just like you were in an army, or a prison, or a cult. And if you love wrong...

But hey! Didn't that marching look snappy? And that music... nothing bad could ever come from oompah-band music...

Utopianism: "One man's utopia is everyone else's hell". Utopias are xenophobic. Utopias require enforcement. Nobody ever leaves. All of this is present in how Prophet Pony has hidden what she's doing from the rest of the world, spreading her beliefs through predation. This, too, has tragic analogues in the real world. Though the first words spoken are always "anybody can leave any time they want", the truth is inevitably the brutal opposite. After all, the apostate and the heretic are always hated more than the unbeliever... if somebody who had experienced Utopia subsequently rejected it, it can't very well be as perfect as advertised, can it?

Informant societies: The ever-persistent threat of the internal dissident. Fearless Leader Glimmer thrives upon informants and the persistent threat she creates of any sort of disagreement (not just with each other, but especially disagreeing with her). She suppresses any sort of questioning, and cultivates informants (what was the price of Fluttershy's freedom?). Does any of this sound familiar?

Brainwashing and Indoctrination: As creepy as the invocation of the marching hammers from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was, the scenes showing what was being done to the Mane Six to break them were darker. That shit is real. It's used everywhere, from Chinese reeducation camps to GITMO to supermax prisons. The BATF used it in its attack upon the Branch Davidians. Compare what you saw in those scenes with what is used in reality.



I don't believe any of the above were intended as the "message" of the episode; that would have been heavy-handed, and would have been far too obvious. The themes are intended to ask questions, and allow the viewer to come to his own conclusion. This is similar to something J.R.R. Tolkien said:
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
The more I think about it, the more courageous this episode seems. This is taking on some of the darkest, most reprehensible behavior used by self-styled prophets, charismatic dictators and authoritarian governments throughout the world. I never, ever would have expected this, not even after the Michael Bay-class explosionfest that was Twilight's Kingdom.

Is it therefore too much to hope that the topic of Applejack's parents will be addressed, as it was in the magnificent Sesame Street episode 1839? I've heard some of the writers say "no way", thinking that this would never be approved, but I would bet the cost of a White Dove Luna plush against a blind bag Lyra that every last one of those writers would love to be given the chance. Hasbro, do you have the courage?

Please, say Yes.


The MLP analysis community is extensive, and is one of the core elements that helps sustain the community's existence. There are many insightful fans who have produced excellent, insightful, and occasionally-maddening work. One of the best, Tommy Oliver, recently addressed what the existence of the army of analysis has done to and for the community. His thesis statement was "the analyst community might have caused damage".

This is my response, taken from his Patreon. While it was addressing Tommy directly, it also addressed something that has been bothering me for a while: people have been performing critique and calling it "analysis". Tommy has asked "what should we do about the harmful aspects of analysis", and my response is "separate analysis from critique, and label them accurately".

Tommy has opinions, you have opinions, I have opinions. MY TURN.

ANALYSIS VS CRITIQUE

While criticism tries to see "what's done well" and "what's done poorly"; analysis tries to see "what's here that we might have missed". The two have been conflated, and mixed together, not unlike what goes on with news and editorials.

Are you a critic (nothing wrong with that), or are you an analyst (nothing wrong with that either)? Perhaps you should separate the two, do both, and call out the difference? The other factor is that you, and others in the analysis community, mess with others' head-canons. Given that the weight of fan-made material is AT LEAST as great as the "canon" material due both to its overwhelming quantity and frequent very high quality, when you voice opinions on fanon you're going after the very root of why people like MLP:FIM. It's a minefield, and one that might belong in its own series of videos.

In fact, untangling fanon and trying to see where specific fanon tropes came from--who, when, why--can be its own video series.

Okay, the above is what YOU can and have done. There are parts of the problem that no matter what, you can't affect beyond refusing them admittance to your part of the world.

First is the tribalistic "before there is an Us there must be a Them" mentality. The fandom is far too large to be homogenous, and it is natural (and regrettable) that when a community reaches a certain size it starts to Balkanize. This is hardly limited to fandom. Cars-->Ford/Chevy-->Camaro/Corvette-->Supercharge/Turbo... and the vitriol you see from some of these folks on forums over something as stupid as whether you supercharge or turbocharge your 2013 Chevy Camaro is as epic as it is stupid. Serves 'em right for not getting a 2014. The point is that people will seek out fault lines, then define themselves by which side they stand on. They need that definition, because without such definition there is no identity, and no identity means no community. Us/Them again. Ugh, primates.

The second is the lowering of commitment. By this, I mean the degree to which someone identifies with the fandom. Early on, it took someone who was hard-core about it to find others and to attach part of their self-image to the brony community. Think about it... they were not calling themselves "MLP fans" (definition by what they were a fan of), but "bronies" (definition by each other). That's what built the community, and it's almost intoxicating, especially to people that have never had that feeling before. However, as time went on, the commitment from newcomers wasn't quite the same, and as such, the sense of unity lesser. In gaming, it's the "filthy casuals", in sports it's the "weekend fans"... the "tourists". These folks are certainly enjoying their time here, and there's a lot of them. All to the good, as they also buy pony swag and make Hasbro glad they've been tolerant of fan activity and thus incentivise them to keep making the show and new swag. But to go back to the intoxication angle, this is watering down the booze. The community doesn't have the same "kick" to it which it once had, and this is upsetting to the core fans, even if they can't quite articulate why. And thus a new fault line is created.

The third is context. This is a cynical, deconstructive age, a trait which the Internet emphasizes and rewards, and which YouTube in particular distills to toxic levels. Given that you operate in the YouTube portion of the world, you're going to get it more than say, the FIMFiction community, or the convention-going community, or the DeviantArt community. And no matter where you go in the ocean, you're still going to get wet. These negative influences are pervasive, and unless you start a commune on an isolated tropical island it's always going to seep in. It can be controlled and limited, but it takes work to do so... work that will never end. The gates must always be manned, and the constable must never stop his patrols (if even simply to remind people that he's there).

So. What to do? To sum it up, consider explicitly separating critique from analysis from fanon. Do all three! More material, more videos, more to talk about, and separate the critique-tribes from the analysis-tribes from the fanon-defense-tribes so they don't go to war on your doorstep. This, and recognize the inevitables (YouTube toxicity, varying depths of commitment as the fandom grows/changes, the need for eternal vigilance to keep it civil) and accept those inevitables as part of the package.

Celestia is love, Tirek is hate, Discord is chaos, and people are people.

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:iconmonkeythechimp:
Monkeythechimp Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Hai der Monkey here! Suddenly decided to follow ya because... Euh.... I dunno because why not.. I... guess... anyway have dis Llama! 
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:iconcaerdwyn:
Caerdwyn Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2016
Llamas are delicious, thank you :)
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:iconmonkeythechimp:
Monkeythechimp Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Indeed they are though Alpaca is rather bland I find... and guinea pig is nice. (I went to Peru hint hint) :P 
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:iconjghgrh:
jghgrh Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
I love how you keep the stream going for all of us that come to watch you guys do your art thing.
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