One moment we’re saving the kingdom, the next moment we’re the sports ball coach. It’s time for some more bonus content, as we dive deep into the show-in-transition that is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 3.
Guest hosts include Thomas Pandich, Neil Nadelman, and Kara Dennison. CLICK HERE or on the image above to download our review of the show:
Review in a Nutshell: Discussion includes an uber-nerdy argument about free will vs predetermination, the nature of heroes, speculation about where the show is going, reflections on where the show has been, opinions about the visibility of the fanbase, and numerous other topics.
As I told you on FB, Paul, this is a show I never watch because my need for a “WTF Are You Watching That Anyway?” show is amply fulfilled by CASTLE – but I find your talks about it endlessly entertaining.
Paul, I just want to ask you without any prejudice or scorn. Do you have a poster of a unicorn above your bed?
I promise I won’t mock you.
if the answer is yes…hahahahaha
Oh man when you guys were talking about how Twilight Sparkle becomes a princess I was like “this is totally like when Hot Rod opens the Matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime” and then you guys agreed.
Must be destiny.
Great review Paul. I was wondering if you think there are any main characters that are undeveloped or have lacked major development this season? I was really disappointed how both Pinkie and Rarity were both left as the comic relief characters or just ignored. The only characters I feel got any real development this season was Twilight, RD, and the CMC. Both AJ and Spike, two of my favorite characters, both progressed and regressed in terms of development although personally I think these characters have great potential for in depth development whether its AJ and her interactions with her family/parents’ role in her life or Spike’s interactions with both a new princess Twilight and possibly Rarity.
Paul, great show as always! I think my concern regarding Luna being a Dreamwalker, and the continuity issue, has nothing to do with the moon. It’s all about what her roll was originally. If that had been part of her duties, why would she get angry about ponies only coming out during the day? One could argue that she was MORE intimately involved with everypony than even Celestia. So why would she try to take over? That seems like a continuity issue to me. Unless this is a new duty since returning from the moon. Or, as someone mentioned in the show, maybe she only shows up when she is needed and ponies in Ponyville are so well balanced they never need dream therapy. But that couldn’t possibly happen, right? Regardless, Dreamwalker Luna was the best thing to come out of this season. Followed closely by this episode of GME.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. Absolutely agree with you guys about the show’s aims struggling against its boundaries. Practically every episode in S3 could be called rushed. I hope some of that was a product of the short season and a first time story editor finding her footing, but I think some of it’s inherent to the show’s design.
Regarding the short season: it was definitely so Hasbro had the option to cancel the show at 65 episodes. With the production lags on this show, all of the major S3 decisions got made right around the time of the S2 premiere. At that point, the phenomenon still looked like a fad to Hasbro, based on interviews with a few of their higher-ups. It wasn’t until later in S2 that they really started to get that the adult fandom was going to stick around and make them some actual money.
Regarding what changed Twilight: the transform spell comes out of Twilight herself on the astral plane. It’s not Celestia. The way I see it, the spell itself is a marker of whatever power was inside Twilight being ready to come out, presumably as a result of her being ready to become a leader. (Reflected in the fact that she knows her friends well enough to get them to help each other rather than doing it all herself.) But I’d agree with Neil that it’s not the most tightly constructed narrative ever. As for the aftermath, the S4 opener is supposed to be a 2-parter focused on Twilight dealing with her change. If the book released tomorrow is any guide, she’ll probably still be staying in Ponyville for much of season 4 but the plots of her episodes will change a good deal.
Regarding the ending of Wonderbolt Academy: McCarthy tweeted a deleted script portion that suggests RD has advanced to prospect status, but nothing major has changed yet. Why that didn’t make it in, who knows. It might again have to do with preserving the option to end the show at 65 episodes.
Regarding pandering: I really think the most we’ve seen in the show so far was all the Derpy appearances in S2. The Trixie script actually dates back to Faust’s tenure on the show and just got bumped to S3, so it’s amusing to read complaints about that episode. I would perhaps agree that a couple of the continuity bits Larson added were a bit awkward, but they seem to drive some people absolutely nuts.
Also, Paul, if you like the Grimm’s Fairy Tales side of MLP, you should definitely check out the main series of the IDW comic (available globally in digital form on Comixology!) Hasbro is being a lot looser with the property in print, perhaps because they view the primary audience in that medium as the adult fans.
Paul, Tammy was sort-of listening while I was playing the podcast, and I have to say – you stating that “fantasy is a deterministic universe and nobody has any choices” had her sit up and yell “WHAT THE FUCK?” She went on to, well, rant back at your podcast that fantasy is all about choices – Frodo chooses to take back The Ring and continues to choose to take it to Mount Doom when he could just as easily have thrown it in the water or down a well; Hercules chooses to undertake the Labors as expiation for having killed his first family (even though it could be argued Hera drove him temporarily insane),and chooses to remarry despite knowing Hera has it in for him (Not All Decisions Are Good Ones!); and Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion chooses to follow orders without thinking them through because she believes good fighters and leaders are Good People, despite evidence to the contrary (see, Not All Decisions Are Good Ones).
For that matter, Tammy’s heroes make choices all the time – they’re not dragged along by circumstance, because that’s Just Bad Storytelling (for instance, Alanna could have chosen not to study to be a knight – and could have married Prince Jon rather than George, the King of the Thieves). Even when they’re initially steered into a situation, they use their own agency and choices – heroes can’t just be, they have to consciously do ….
Tim, I don’t really want to rehash that argument, but I’m not saying that all fantasy is deterministic. Just huge chunks of it, especially once someone starts invoking concepts such as “destiny”, which this version of My Little Pony has been doing from the very beginning.
I’d also argue on the meta-level, characters are predetermined by their authors to make the choices that they make, so invariably as readers and viewers we’re not talking about real agency, but the illusion of it.
The argument Neil and I were having ultimately boils down to the difference between “will” and “intent”. Neil wanted Twilight to choose to become an alicorn, but no one involved in watching the show knew that transforming into an alicorn was even possible within the rules of the world the show creates. They even address it with a line where Rarity, in response to Twilight’s transformation, states plainly: “I didn’t even know that was possible.”
Good episode guys as always! I haven’t watched the show past some choice episodes of the first season, so it’s nice to be spoiled on what is happening so far. Too bad about Derpy though, but it was obvious, much so as the fan-oriented “Fighting is Magic” game I’ve heard of (nice that Lauren Faust offered her services on it if it ever comes out, lord knows Hasbro wasn’t looking into doing that or the fans who do make money out of IP they own).
Derpy actually showed up very clearly in at least 3-4 spots in the season finale, and arguably several more depending on whether you count distant background shots. It was kind of an overload and it was pretty weird considering her ban from the rest of the season. I kinda suspect that suddenly some good Derpy toy sales numbers came in when they were animating the season finale, enough that Hasbro decided it was worth the risk. Again, keep in mind that with production lags most of the layout for the season would have been done in early 2012, right as the controversy was at its peak.
I’ll be interested to see if she’s back for season 4 or if it was intended as a merchandise-supporting sendoff.
::I’d also argue on the meta-level, characters are predetermined by their authors to make the choices that they make, so invariably as readers and viewers we’re not talking about real agency, but the illusion of it.::
And yet, Paul, if a story is to live and breathe on the page and be, well, readable, it often changes as it’s being written as the author discovers more during the writing of it – so it’s again, a matter of choices. Deterministic stories feel, frankly, mechanical and lifeless – because the act of writing is the act of making choices, not of following a preset path…. (That isn’t Tammy – that’s me.)
How often is, in the real world sense, a person or country’s “destiny” an ex post facto justification of why they deserved to win to shore up their legitimacy?
Paul, while I disagree with you on a lot of your points, I give you props for calling out Doctor Who. Denying up, son!
Bronies aren’t different? Really? Cause I’ve been a huge nerd all my life, and this fandom seems waaaaay different from anything I’ve experienced. powerpuff isn’t even close. And I don’t think the word brony has clop connotations. That’s a little insulting. Near as I can tell the word means older male fan of mlp. Other than that, you guys seem to be among the smartest talking about the show. Kudos.
I think we’re having a disagreement on “different” versus “special”. MLP fandom is different in the same way that tabletop RPG fandom is different, or Doctor Who fandom is different, or anime fandom is different. But it is not the appreciation of the show itself that is “special”. The artistic output that the fans create – the music, the PMVs, the comic strips, etc. – that is special. Merely liking the cartoon is not. And liking a cartoon despite not fitting into its target demographic doesn’t really entitle a person to any sort of unique identity politics, in my opinion.
As for the term brony, I’m afraid we’re just going to have to disagree on that. Unfortunately, the baggage that attaches to any pop culture fandom is often defined by its most extreme element. I’m an anime fan, but I don’t self-identify as an otaku, because “otaku” is a word loaded down with all sorts of negative connotations. Likewise, I’m a fan of MLP, but I reject the term “brony”, even though under your definition I would qualify, because I don’t want to assume all of the baggage that other people through their words and actions have attached to that word. It isn’t fair, but we don’t necessarily get to choose what connotations become attached to a given term.
All that talk about destiny just completely blew my mind.
Well shame about quoting that nationalist Sam Harris. I dunno this episode kinda bummed me out, but did have interesting points. I do agree about the brony label having some bad baggage, then I don’t quite understand the seething hate against the bronie whatever they may be truly as a collection of beings. Late night writing affecting mah grammars
Personally, I think Sam Harris is a tool, but he did write a book that had some cogent things to say about the subject of free will in a deterministic universe.
Haha indeed Mr. Chapman getting away from the freewill rabbit hole, I was also wondering what you thought about Equestria Girls anthropomorphizing? I found the skirting of the race issue interesting that they did choose to have their skin rather than just their clothing represent their Pony colors, and it seems they got away without having to make them ,what I assume would have been, “white” human females.
Also FOX is attacking the Bronies, I guess that’s news now.
I think I can clarify Paul’s position on destiny vs. free will like this: All of us are born with innate qualities, and it’s those qualities that determine how we react to things and what choices we make. But some of those qualities will not be realized until we do something to bring them out. So I might have the innate talent to be a fantastic swimmer, but if I never get in the water, that talent will never be realized.
This is comes into MLP in the form of the cutie mark. The cutie mark represents some innate quality in the pony, but they cannot know what that quality is until they do the action. When they do, they have the moment of clarity and the cutie mark appears.
The whole thing with Twilight becoming an Alicorn is the same thing. She has the innate qualities of a princess. But those innate qualities can only be realized through the actions she performs. Princess Celestia helps the process along by putting her in the situations and giving her challenges where her innate princess qualities will come out, and once all of those qualities come to the surface then she becomes a princess.
It can be summed up like this:
Destiny = Innate Qualities + Situation
You could also replace “Destiny” with “Choice” or “Actions” or even “Change”. I think the theme of MLP is that you have to work hard to come to the realization of who you are and what your destiny is.
There’s more to say about it, but as far as MLP is concerned, that’s the idea they are trying to get across.