Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

Dear Frank,

shout_factory_my_little_pony_friendship_is_magic_season_1_dvd_setFun fact: My mom knows about Bronies. I found this out when I mentioned to her that I was telling you about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic this week: “That’s the show they like?” she asked, and I said yes. I did not say whether or not I understood why this group of young Internet-savvy men liked the animated rebirth of the franchise, because the honest truth is I don’t, really.

And I say this after having watched the two-part pilot episode of the series, written by now-legendary Lauren Faust and featuring no shortage of charm, adorable ponies, and surprisingly complex backstory. In fact, the plot for this show is so complicated that I’m going to leave the understanding-a-very-strange-subculture stuff for later. Right now, let’s meet some motherfucking ponies!

We open with a detailed trip into the history of Equestria, the magical kingdom where all the ponies live. The ponies are basically people, Frank, to the point where they’ve found unique ways of getting around that whole “we don’t have opposable thumbs or hands for that matter” thing.

Basic deal is that in pony lore, two ponies were Princess Ponies — Princess Celestia ruled over the daylight, and her younger sister Princess Luna ruled over the night. But Princess Luna got pissed off over how everyone would sleep through her reigning times, and thus decided to fuck some shit up. Princess Celestia, who was not down with that, defeated Princess Luna using the Elements of Harmony (whatever those might be don’t worry Frank we find out later) and then Princess Luna got trapped in the moon and was renamed Nightmare Moon for reasons.

This show LOOKS really really cool, Frank. Check out this exaggerated animation for the opening narration!

This show LOOKS really really cool, Frank. Check out this exaggerated animation for the opening narration!

This we all learn from Twilight Sparkle, who is reading a book of pony lore and is ostensibly our protagonist. We quickly learn that Twilight Sparkle is essentially a giant nerd — I’m thus pretty kinda on board with Twilight Sparkle, even though she does not think that FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC.

Twilight Sparkle quickly deduces from this book of pony lore that Nightmare Moon is about to come back and cause some post-apocalyptic shit — very specifically two days from now — and writes to Princess Celestia (who I guess in her role as Queen Bitch of Equestria is Twilight’s college professor) to let her know what’s happening.

How does Twilight write with her hooves? They get around that lack-of-an-opposable-thumb thing with Spike, the baby dragon who’s happy to take dictation for Twilight. She uses unicorn-horn telekenesis to read books. It’s a thing.

I hope Spike is getting work-study for his role as Twilight Sparkle's research assistant/scribe. Yeah quality academia joke right there. You know, it's never established in these episodes which accredited pony university is providing Twilight Sparkle a framework for her studies. Is independent pony study a thing in Equestria? I'm sure someone will end up explaining in the comments.

I hope Spike is getting work-study for his role as Twilight Sparkle’s research assistant/scribe. Yeah quality academia joke right there. You know, it’s never established in these episodes which accredited pony university is providing Twilight Sparkle a framework for her studies. Is independent pony study a thing in Equestria? I’m sure someone will end up explaining in the comments.

How does Princess Celestia respond to Twilight Sparkle’s warnings of DOOOOOOOOOOOM? She tells her to go oversee a festival in the hicksville town of (yep) Ponyville and make some friends. Again, yep. But Twilight does as she’s told, albeit very reluctantly.

First, she meets Applejack, who has a Southern accent and appears to be the food-loving pony of the bunch, largely because she has an apple orchard. Twilight gets guilted into a pie-heavy brunch at Applejack’s place, and then heads out to meet Rainbow Dash, a rainbow Pegasus in charge of weather maintenance. Rainbow Dash is kinda the daredevil of the bunch? Her life’s dream is to fly with the Wonderbolts, a group of awesome pegasus flyers. And she can move clouds around. Sure.

Finally, onto setting up the decor for the festival, which is where we meet Rarity. Spike gets a total hard-on for Rarity, who seems nice enough and gives Twilight Sparkle a makeover, which Twilight kinda hates? Twilight’s a bit on edge, after all, because of that whole thing where SHE’S PRETTY SURE THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS TOMORROW MORNING.

Also, that look isn't really her.

Also, that look isn’t really her.

But she promised to keep attending to arrangements for this festival, so Twilight Sparkle flees to meet up with the very shy Fluttershy, who’s in charge of music. Fluttershy thinks Spike is super-cute, which annoys the crap out of Twilight Sparkle because she is not into the whole things-that-are-keeping-me-from-preventing-the-Apocalypse thing.

As a result, Twilight Sparkle totally twat-blocks Fluttershy (FLUTTERSHY LITERALLY SCOOPS HIM UP IN HER ARMS AND TRIES TO TAKE HIM TO BED, FRANK). Normally, I’d call that a dick move, but Twilight’s trying to stop an apocalypse here and Spike’s the only one with thumbs.

When Twilight tries to get some apocalypse research done at the library, though, that’s fucked up by a welcome party for Twilight Sparkle, thrown by the ditzy bouncy Pinky Pie. Twilight bails on the party, but can’t sleep because of the noise — the ponies literally party all night long, gathering for the sunrise, at which point Twilight joins the festivities.

Man, I hate it when bitches won't stop partying long enough to let me get some sleep and/or stop the apocalypse!

Man, I hate it when bitches won’t stop partying long enough to let me get some sleep and/or stop the apocalypse!

During the dawntime party; reference is made to “gentlecolts” — for the record, we have not yet met a single male pony. So personally, I’m not buying it. (Okay, in episode 3 we do get around to meeting some duders, but STILL.)

Princess Celestia is supposed to show up at the dawn celebration, but instead that bitch Nightmare Moon escapes from the moon to bring forth eternal night. Eternal night: Brougthen! Whoops!

And that’s the end of part 1! Cliffhanger!

Here in Part 2, we now hit the books under the blanket of eternal night, as Twilight continues her research into the Elements of Harmony, with which Nightmare Moon was first defeated. According to a book they find in the library, the Elements of Harmony might be found in the Everfree Forest, which is a dark and scary place.

"Well, I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely."

“Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.”

In investigating said scary forest, the ponies all suddenly topple off a cliff, but the two winged-enabled ponies save the ponies who don’t have wings, and Twilight has an intense moment with Applejack where Applejack encourages her to trust in her fellow ponies — which Twilight does, leading to her salvation.

And then the ponies have to get past a manticore, who charges angrily until Fluttershy realizes that he has a thorn in his paw and we get all Androcles on this bitch.

And then all the trees turn evil, which is scary, until Pinky suggests laughing at the trees with a musical number, and that works out just fine. This is about the point at which I started feeling like I’d been doing drugs.

Frank, just a heads-up: Pinky’s big thing seems to be musical numbers. If that’s an issue for you, steer clear.

By the way, the cliff fall and the paw thorn and the monster trees are all caused by some weird purple smoke, which the ponies figure out when they meet a river dragon who complains about having half his mustache ripped off by “some very tacky purple smoke.” Rarity emphasizes with him, and gives him a bit of her tail to make up for the lack of his mustache — this calms the river monster enough to let them cross.

Let's just say this guy is...foppish.

Let’s just say this guy is…foppish.

A fallen bridge is their next obstacle, which Rainbow is happy to fix with her pegasus powers, but then the Shadowbolt flyers (who are the evil version of the good pegasus flying team and are also maybe an illusion created by the weird purple smoke?) try to seduce her into joining their cause? Rainbow is sorely tempted, but sticks with her friends because I don’t know if you heard, Frank, but FRIENDSHIP? IT’S MAGIC.

It’s all very touching, and then at last we get to the Elements of Harmony, hidden in a crumbling castle. Only five are there, though — oh, right, this was explained before — Frank, the sixth necessary element of harmony is supposed to emerge when the other five assemble. Twilight tries an experiment with the elements where she uses her telekinesis to make them swirl around her and the swirl becomes a tornado-portal-vortex which sucks her up!

Once sucked up into the tornado-portal-vortex thing, Twilight is in another chamber with Nightmare Moon, who is all “hahahahah check out my evilness” and shatters the five elements! Oh no!

But Twilight’s companions find Twilight and Nightmare Moon, and Twilight, realizing that she’s happy to see the other ponies (and I don’t know if you’ve been counting, Frank, but Twilight has FIVE companions and so far there are FIVE Elements of Harmony) and she realizes that each of them, based on their actions during their travels through the Everfree Forest, represent one aspect of harmony, and that the sixth element is MAGIC.

Which of course means that as soon as she realizes it, the sixth element appears, accompanied by the sounds of a Vegas slot machine.

SUCK IT, LEELOO DALLAS MULTI-PASS WOW THAT'S A REALLY COMPLICATED REFERENCE TO "THE FIFTH ELEMENT" WE'LL SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE GET IT.

SUCK IT, LEELOO DALLAS MULTI-PASS WOW THAT’S A REALLY COMPLICATED REFERENCE TO “THE FIFTH ELEMENT” WE’LL SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE GET IT.

And then the crushed elements swirl around each pony and become fancy pony jewelry and also rainbow beams shoot out of them and incapacitate Nightmare Moon.

And then Princess Celestia shows up! Everybody bows. We learn lessons about how we should be friends, because it turns out that Princess Celestia knew that the solution to the Nightmare Moon Apocalypse was for Twilight Sparkle to make some goddamn friends. Again, seriously, not exagerrating.

Then, Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon Princess Luna make up, and the ponies have a big pony party! Yay for that. Twilight Sparkle is reassigned by Princess Celestia to study the magic of friendship — not fucking making that up, that’s what happens — and gets to stay in Ponyville and we all live happily ever after for at least three more seasons! Bully.

YAY FOR FRIENDSHIP, FRANK! By the way, obligatory "damn, girl, way to pass the Bechdel Test like a mo-fo" mention here.

YAY FOR FRIENDSHIP, FRANK! By the way, obligatory “damn, girl, way to pass the Bechdel Test like a mo-fo” mention here.

Here’s one thing I gotta say about this show: For something in theory created to sell plastic ponies to young girls, the plot moves hella fast — I at times could seriously not keep up with my notes on these first two episodes. And that’s a good thing!

Plus, there’s decent banter and strong characterization in play here: I could try to put each of the ponies into blunt restrictive categories (AKA “Leonardo leads/Donatello does machines”), but those categories wouldn’t encapsulate the depth of humanity (for lack of a better word) brought to them by the wriitng and voice acting and whatnot.

Also, it’s fun and silly in a way you don’t necessarily get from television meant for young people; It’s definitely interested in teaching lessons, but it’s also not afraid of tangents and musical numbers and anything else that makes an animated series feel like a real television show, as opposed to a textbook.

I feel like I would have to watch a whole lot more MLP:FIM to properly understand the Brony phenomenon, Frank. But I’m okay with my ignorance on that subject, except for this: I don’t think less of the gentlemen who buy MLP hoodies and go to conventions.

Rock it, you sassy thing.

Rock it, you sassy thing.

Because to try and judge fandom is to shoot blasts of hared at love, and for some reason, watching MLP:FIM has me convinced that there’s little to no irony to the love these guys have for the show.

And as someone who loved her My Little Ponies, as someone who used them as the characters in the first stories she ever told, I’m in no position to judge. At the time, sure, I was five years old. But age ain’t nothing but a number.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on January 15, 2013, in Some Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Noticed Doctor Who’s pony in the background? His official description: “Time Turner, the pony responsible for keeping Ponyville’s clocks in sync, setting the hourglass for cider competitions, and pretty much all things timey-wimey.” And no, I’m not making this shit up.

  2. Zidders Roofurry

    I’d like to preface this reply with a sincere thank you. While I consider myself to be on the outskirts of the brony fandom (i’ve been in the furry fandom for almost 20 years..while the two are completely separate entities, they have a lot more in common than not (It would have been very odd of me indeed NOT to have gotten into the show and, subsequentl,y the fandom). This is why I understand that this particular fandom has drawn its share of negativity from people who aren’t a part of it and don’t understand why grown adults can love it, too.

    It’s pretty much because Lauren Faust, the creator of this iteration of the MLP franchise, has worked in animation for years (she helped co-create the Powerpuff Girls as well as Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends) and has wanted to make a series that stepped aside from gender stereotypes and focused on presenting realistic (or as realistic as a cartoon gets) multidimensional characters that anyone could identify with-boys, girls, parents too. She specifically wanted girls to be presented in a realistic fashion. She wanted to show that girls could be more than just pink bows and frilly dresses and easy bake ovens.

    She meant to show to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The people who write and create the show draw from a myriad of influences. Disney, Warner Brothers cartoons, Pixar, classic cartoons as well as nods to pop culture…imagine a team of creative people drawing upon every single artistic and cultural influence they’ve experienced and then distilling it, refining it and, finally, polishing it and infusing it into the plot, writing, music, animation and characters in a way that kids and parents can understand and learn a valuable lesson from.

    It’s still a show that is primarily meant for children, so it’s not going to be TOO esoteric yet the little nods to this or that influence and especially the nods to the fandom itself are what has seared the name of this show like a hot brand on the flanks of and in the hearts of the Brony fandom. While the fandom isn’t always perfect (they are human, after all. Most bronies are more than aware of this), many of the people within it have used the inspiration they get from the show to do some amazing things.

    Bronies have raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity, they’ve created fantastic pieces of art and literature and music, the fandom continues to grow and amaze and the main reason I’m proud to consider myself a brony is the same reason I’m proud to consider myself a furry:both fandoms are full of people who are kind, loving, and accepting, despite the fact that they quite often bear the brunt of more than a bit of unkindness and hatred due to some peoples lack of empathy and ability to appreciate the kindness and charity of others.

    Thanks again for the awesome article.
    Brohoof (\^&^/)
    -Zid

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