My first pithy little reaction to the episode “The Maud Couple” was essentially “Maud is dating Sheldon Cooper now and we got to deal with it”. Feeling the need to elaborate on that more, however, is what has finally motivated to actually write out an episode review, something I haven’t done since the Season 6 Finale “To Where and Back Again.”
Look, PhD programs don’t leave a lot of time to write pony episode reviews. But nothing tends to get my urge to analyze something going as much as a show attempting to make the audience have to like or tolerate a character without actually putting in the work. That is, essentially, the major flaw I have with the episode “The Maud Couple” and is what makes it an ultimately inferior episode to its most easily comparable one, “Maud Pie”.
Spoilers ahead for the episode “Dewey Wins”.
Another Steven Bomb has exploded, giving Steven Universe fans a series of episodes dealing with the immediate aftermath of Steven’s surrender to and return from Homeworld. The first of these episodes, “Dewey Wins”, has Steven deal with his damaged relationship with Connie, who is mad at him for having surrendered to Homeworld instead of fighting. Steven is perplexed at why Connie was mad: after all, he did it to save her and everyone else, and it turned out alright in the end. No harm no foul, right?
What makes the episode odd in the eye of many viewers, however, is that Steven eventually comes to understand Connie’s feelings through his failed attempt to help Mayor Dewey win re-election. Specifically, after his attempt at trying to take the blame for everything fails, Steven tries to help Dewey in the election against Nanefua Pizza, but when the latter proves a much more inspiring politician, Dewey quits. Steven’s disappointment in Dewey quitting supposedly leads him to gain an understanding of Connie’s feelings, an outcome that had many viewers going “Huh?”
I’m glad to see that, for once, my political science background means I can finally offer some insight on a cartoon that doesn’t involve stuffing utilitarianism into as many things as I possibly can. Specifically, as a person who studies partisan identity, Steven’s behavior and feelings actually don’t surprise me all that much. So, by exploring the concept of partisanship, I argue that Steven learning to understand Connie’s feelings by working on a campaign isn’t as weird as it might seem.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a reaction/review-ish piece for an MLP episode. While there have been episodes of MLP I’ve thought good, I never really got the same sort of spark for wanting to say something about them as I’ve done in the past.
Part of it is burnout for sure, and of course graduate school isn’t exactly known for giving you free time. But a lot of it was honestly just didn’t feel like the show or was offering much that I could work with as someone whose main interest is getting at it from a background in political science and ethics/political theory perspective. Sure, the return of the best background character ever, Trixie, in “No Second Prances”, got me excited, but didn’t exactly give me room to ramble on about introductory Marxist theory like Starlight Glimmer’s first episodes or the countless articles I’ve done on utilitarianism.
But seriously though, this episode alone would have been enough to make the season for me.
Fortunately for me then it appears the somewhat contentious season finale –at least from some initial reactions I’ve seen – finally gives me a chance to dig out the old MLP analysist in me. Because if there is anything that gets the urge to ramble on about something, it’s controversy. So let’s dig in to “To Where and Back Again”, and what the conclusion of the two-parter says about the nature of the MLP Universe.
After over 100 episodes, I finally found an excuse to combine two of my favorite things in the world into one: the cartoon series Steven Universe and John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian ethics. That it took so long to do so is more of a testament to the high quality of the show than anything else. The sheer expanse of the show and the topics it deals with – from basic lessons about friendship to in-depth explorations of grief, loss, and trauma in the aftermath of relationships and war – kind of makes it a bit intimidating to get a grasp on it. What finally inspired this long-awaited excuse to stuff utilitarianism into yet more cartoons (see my long, long list of utilitarian ethics inspired analysis of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) was the two-parter episodes of Beta and Earthlings, the 100 and 101the episodes according to the Steven Universe wiki.
As usual, I’m a little late to the punch in writing up a reaction to the 100th episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic entitled “Slice of Life”. The basis of the episode, a focus on the large cast of side and minor characters throughout the series getting ready for the wedding of Matilda and Cranky Doodle Dandy, seemed a rather fun idea. In practice, the episode was a big shout out to the fandom, being stuffed full of fanservice and shout outs to ideas spread throughout the fandom. For the most part, I did enjoy the episode and found it rather fun. There was something that bothered me, however, about the Lyra and Bon Bon scenes and what they mean in the context of Lyra/Bon Bon being one of the earliest and most prolific non-heteronormative ships within the fandom.
Before getting to that, however, let me start with some of the other things about the episode.
At the end of the two part season premiere “The Cutie Map”, Starlight Glimmer is exposed as having never given up her own cutie mark despite her claims that possession of a cutie mark leads to fighting and breaking friendships. This, of course, turns the entire town against her as they call out her “hypocrisy.” As she points out, however, it wouldn’t have been possible to remove every-ponies’ cutie marks without her magic, which requires her cutie mark. The town doesn’t buy it, but what if, assuming her morality was correct, she had a point? Is it possible that hypocrisy like this can be moral? In this article we’ll investigate by asking if morality must be public or can there be justified reasons for it to be secret?