What I Value in Analysis
So Nightsphere the Gnostic asked me what do I value in analysis and what I think about the different kinds of analysis. So I answered his question.
So I was asked by Nightsphere the Gnostic some questions about analysis and its value to the MLP community. First, “what do you think is the value (intrinsic or extrinsic) of analysis is in the context of MLP?” Second, “And what kind of analysis-reviews/theme based/character based/literary/philosophy, etc. do you think are most valuable?”
My answers to these questions are going to meld together pretty quickly, but I do want to say something in response to question one and about why I am supportive of analysis of media in general.
If there is anything I am learning from my psychology studies, it’s that the human mind is built to learn through stories. Everything from advertising to news tries to package information in a narrative of sorts to make it easily digestible. So whenever we consume any kind of media, our minds are working to take that information and add it into already existing narratives or building new ones. These narratives, of course, affect our behavior. Therefore, for me, the value of analysis is as a method of critiquing the messages being presented in media and being an active watcher instead of being a passive one.
Now then, onto the categories of analysis! I can probably skip over my thoughts on theme-based analysis as by now it should be obvious I hold them as rather high in value. After all, if I find the value in analysis is to keep us aware of the messages being broadcast, I would obviously find analysis that focus on the themes and messages of a show to be rather important.
So then, first off, reviews. Generally speaking, I would consider reviews the least valuable analysis, and often times I don’t consider it analysis at all. That is, if we’re talking about a review in which a person is simply discussing what they liked or thought interesting about an episode. For MLP in particular, there’s also a bit of an over-saturation issue as well since many of the major reviewers have started doing series-wide episode reviews starting from season 1. I am, however, much more forgiving if a review of an episode makes efforts to incorporate some of the other categories of analysis Nightsphere provided. The best example I can give is probably Rookiewompus’s review of “A Dog and Pony Show” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5HKaLsfibU, in which she reviewed the episode from a feminist perspective.
Next, literary analysis. I’ll admit this seems quite a broad category, and I’m pretty sure some of the other ones fit under here. So for the purpose of this discussion, I’m limiting this to analysis that focus on analyzing the underlying structure of the series. Since we’re also dealing with a media that includes visual and audio, I’ll also throw in any analysis that looks at the use of visuals and music in the series. Even with this, the value of this kind of analysis is quite broad. It can be anything to instructive by showing how the various elements all work together to pull off a good episode, to an exploration of themes through the underlying structure. There is, of course, also the value that the field of literary analysis is pretty well-established, so it also really helps improve your vocabulary and makes it much easier to explain concepts and ideas. The best example of this kind of analysis that I can think of is CloudCuckooCountry’s “Friendship is Magic and the Hero’s Journey.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDa8vrzpt-8
Next, we got philosophical analysis, which is what I wound probably consider the thing I mainly do and is Nightsphere’s expertise as well. I have to admit though; I find it hard to distinguish it from themes in terms of value, except maybe add an additional educational value as it helps expose people to philosophical ideas and theories. So instead, I’ll treat it as more of an approach, a ‘tool’ of sorts that can be used to provide a more indepth analysis. The field of ethics in particular is quite useful in this regard due to, well, the conflicts of the show. Anytime there is conflict, there has to be some kind of resolution. The discussion of whether or not the resolution was the right thing to do is always brimming with possible analysis. But of course there is more to philosophy than ethics, and so admittedly you can be free to explore the series in any manner you like. Whatever you do, approaching analysis with a philosophical framework in mind really does help, I think, in focusing your analysis and providing the vocabulary to explore some really cool ideas.
Like philosophical analysis, I also don’t character analysis to be its own separate category of analysis. Instead, I treat it as more of a unit of analysis. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically the “what” or “who” you’re trying to analyze. For MLP, unit of analysis could be anything from the series as a whole to a season, an episode, a character, or whatever. Because of this, the value of a character analysis is dependent on what kind of analysis is being done to it. For an example of a good character analysis, with a literary analysis direction, is Bronycurious’s “Why I Love Trixie So Much.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN9xi6IuOcs
So then, I think that just about covers everything….*ending spiel*
Rookiewompus “A Dog and Pony Show”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5HKaLsfibU
CloudCuckCountry “Friendship is Magic and the The Hero’s Journey”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDa8vrzpt-8
Bronycurious’s “Why I Love Trixie so Much”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN9xi6IuOcs
Jowybean’s Title Card: http://jowybean.deviantart.com/art/Reform-FIM-title-cards-series-361680486