I’m a brony. And I don’t care who knows it. But there are a lot of bronies around, and here three of ‘em help you through all the episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Not that you should need any help, because it’s a great show and you can just start watching, but hey. Not everypony is ready to just jump straight into good things. So here we are to help, episode by episode, pony by pony.
Tyger: On the way to meet Fluttershy for their weekly date at the spa, an elegantly dressed Rarity runs into the well-known fashion photographer Photo Finish. Impressed with her style, the celebrity wants to do a photo shoot of Rarity’s shop and designs, so Rarity talks her reluctant and elegant pal into modeling for the shoot. Even though Rarity tried coaching her to show “attitude and pizazz” while modeling, the intimidating Photo Finish brings out and then focuses on Fluttershy’s shy and timid side. The shoot goes well and to Rarity’s delight, Photo Finish announces that she has found her next fashion star in Ponyville and schedules a second photo shoot for the following day. Her excitement at the career breakthrough is short lived however – at the shoot it is revealed that Fluttershy is to be the star and Rarity’s presence is no longer needed. Fluttershy doesn’t want to go through with it, but Rarity insists that “she must” do it as a friend. So she makes her debut on the catwalk and becomes an overnight sensation.
However, as her modeling career progresses, all is not well. All of the attention, notoriety, and constantly being rushed to “the thing at the place” does not suit the normally placid Fluttershy. And as her star shines brighter and brighter, Rarity becomes increasingly jealous and angry because she feels that the place in the limelight is rightfully hers. Thus begins a pattern of mutual deception between the two friends. During a missed connection at the spa, they confide in turn to Twilight Sparkle – Fluttershy hates modeling and is only doing it for Rarity, while Rarity is hiding her jealousy and being supportive because she thinks Fluttershy loves modeling. Twilight wants to help resolve things, but has been recently warned by Pinkie Pie that “losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose a friend…forever!” After an conspiratorial attempt to sabotage Fluttershy’s career proves ineffective, Twilight has to choose between her desire to help the two friends reconcile the problem, and the fact that keeping a confidence is the right thing to do…
This is without a doubt a top-shelf episode and one of the strongest of the second half of this season. Its strength lies in the fact that is works very well on a couple of different levels. On one hand, it’s just a clever, funny and well-written story. While some might consider “Dragonshy” or “The Stare Master” to be the touchstone Fluttershy focus episodes, for my money, this one is the real deal. She has great dialogue and the animators do a lot of really expressive stuff with her character model. Between that and the kind loyalty to Rarity, her personality is wonderfully showcased in this one. Moreover, the episode character Photo Finish is hands down one of the funniest secondary characters in the whole show. They really nailed the whole Warhol/European jet-set artist vibe with hilarious dialog. And of course Pinkie Pie constantly appearing out of nowhere to chide Twilight is just vintage Pinkie.
But on the other and more important hand, they weave two interesting and valuable morality plays together. First is the main situation between Fluttershy and Rarity. They both start out with good intentions – the desire to please and be supportive respectively – but the fact that they are unable to just be honest with each other is the grease that causes the situation to slide out of control. And like most scenarios of deception, maintaining it only becomes more problematic and volatile the more time passes. In the end, a valuable lesson about honesty was learned. I’ll pause here and also give a shout out to Rarity in this episode. I tend to be more critical of her behavior and some of the things that the writers do with her. I did like how even though she was being jealous and somewhat petty, she was aware of, honest about and remorseful for that fact. A little mini lesson in being reflective and honest with yourself.
Of course the other morality play was with Twilight Sparkle learning the value of confidences. When she realized what was happening between her two friends she wanted to help, and in her more analytical view it “only made sense” to reveal the truth to the two friends to ease the tension they were experiencing. Similarly, she thought it a touch silly to “keep” the not-at-all-well-kept secret that her buddy Spike has a crush on Rarity. But Pinkie Pie is relentless (and rightly so!) in driving home the point that no matter how Twilight justified it, she had no business second guessing what to do with information and feelings that were given in confidence. With so many adults running around that haven’t learned this simple lesson of trust and courtesy, I think that both of these morality plays are useful for the target demographic – and they are both very well conveyed in this story.
Fluttershy being awesome? Well written dialog? Good jokes? Well thought out morality play? Well, I’ll just have to give this one my stamp of Canonically Awesome. I’m sort of torn on if it would be a good starter episode. It is very high quality, but like “A Dog and Pony Show”, it does rely heavily on character personality. We’ll see what The Rev says.
Rev. Syung Myung Me: I like this one a lot, too. Lots of cool in-jokes and stuff make this one really work. Photo Finish is based on Anna Wintour the fashion magazine magnate — an amusing reference for the show to make, along the same lines as Karl Lagerfield’s cameo in “Suited for Success”. Another in-joke I liked was that Rarity shouts “brava” for Fluttershy — which is correct, as that’s the feminine form of the word… while the ponies in the audience who initially turn on Fluttershy then decide that she must be great because someone else likes her performance shout “bravo” — the more common, but incorrect masculine form. Rarity’s the real deal.
The Twilight subplot is pretty good — though I honestly think it’s there just to keep the A-story from being an idiot plot, since, well, the story would be derailed if Twilight just told each pony the truth when she finds it out. (Which’d be about the halfway point of the episode.) But though it’s there to keep the mechanics of the plot working, it IS a good lesson. I think we’ve all learned that same lesson by revealing a secret we THOUGHT the other party knew… mistakenly. So, even though, in this case, revealing each side’s feelings probably WOULD have been a good thing… it’s one of the few cases where it would have worked out well. Pinkie’s right — and her policy is a good one to keep.
This one, too, looks a lot better than “A Dog and Pony Show”; lots of expression in Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie, and it just seemed much smoother and less “Flash-y”. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the background music at all, either — I loved the Photo Finish cues from William Anderson. Really cool little bits of Euro-Dance that mix well with the more pastoral cues for Fluttershy. The entire show is very well put together, and it’s just really fun to watch something so well made.
Bridgeport Cat: Yes, yes, I’m basically going to love any Fluttershy/Rarity centric episode. Yes, I loved this episode as well. Photo Finish is a great character, and I hope that she finds her way into more stories. The main moral, about being honest with your friends, is executed in a hilarious and well-written fashion and I have no complaints about it at all. I adored Fluttershy’s various costume changes and overnight popularity, and Rarity’s barely held together contempt for the situation is well-done as well. I can’t say more about it than to say that I completely agree with what Tyger and Rev have said.
However, while I can unequivocally recommend this to any adult fan of the show, it’s the second moral that I can’t really say I’d actually like little girls to take to heart. Telling young kids that they absolutely MUST keep their friends secrets and tell no one about them or forever damage your friendship sounds innocuous enough, until you dig a little deeper into child psychology and education. This is going to be kind of depressing and filled with stats, so you might want to skip it if you don’t want your pony coverage to dissect the culture of child abuse.
Back when Mr. Snuffalupagus was introduced on Sesame Street, it was a running gag that only Big Bird could see him and that the adults never believed that he existed. Big Bird would go on and on about how Snuffalupagus was real, but the adults would dismiss him at every turn. A funny gag, yes, but Sesame Street is specifically written and funded to be an educational resource for poor preschoolers/kindergarteners. After a while, one of the educational experts on the show told the writers that having a character have adults constantly not believe them, even as they tell the truth, could send a devastating message to kids. Research and government action was finally being taken on the culture of child abuse and kids were finally being encouraged to tell trusted adults if and when they experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. However, the message that the Snuffalupagus gag was teaching kids is that even if you’re telling the absolute truth about being abused, adults won’t believe you so why bother. The writers at Sesame Street quickly introduced Snuffalupagus to the adults and all was well.
Over half of women who are raped are raped when they are under the age of 18. The majority of sexual abuse towards young girls is done by adults whom they know very well, and most of the time they are told to keep it a secret through threats and coercion. While we tell kids to tell adults if they’re being abused, most feel far more comfortable telling their friends since child abuse absolutely starts an erosion of trust of adults. I looked, but couldn’t find any statistics about the rates that kids tell adults when their friends are being abused. I could guess due to my own experience as an abused kid myself, but I don’t want to get into that game. From my own life, however, if you tell a friend not to report your abuse they typically won’t.
This is a monumental problem that a lot of childhood educators have been trying to deal with. It’s good and all to keep a secret, but what if that secret your friend told you to keep is destroying them? Our society puts a ton of effort to tell kids not to be tattletales and gossipers, to the detriment of abuse victims everywhere. We’re told not to tell by our abusers and then told not to tell by our society, but then told “Well, maybe it’s OK to tell if it’s a stranger” and even that’s twisted in the wind. Considering the rates of abuse young girls go through and the awful, horrible shame we put on them for abuse that isn’t their fault, there’s nothing of the b-roll moral that I find redeemable. A show that wears its feminism on its sleeve is doing a great disservice to little girls everywhere by telling them to keep every secret their friends tell them or they’ll destroy said friendship.
As an adult, I love this episode for what it is. It’s fun, it’s well-written, and it’s a delight to watch. As someone whose dealt with the culture of child abuse personally, I hate this episode for perpetrating the ideas that keep children from being able to come forward with their abuse.