Alright, so, currently home for break and did not bring my recording equipment with me. So for the next, oh, five weeks or so the Episode Reaction Rambles will be done in text form. Lacks some of the same level of unedited-ness but, eh, oh well. Anyway, let’s get to it with the first written Episode Reaction Ramble: “Flight to the Finish.”
Seriously, I am actually rather disappointed about the outcome of this episode. Before I can really explain that, however, I do need to reiterate some of my statements from the Season 4 Animatic Preview reaction. As I mentioned in that video, this episode was the one I was most looking forward to out of everything that had been shown. The reason for that was I believed that it could serve as a second chance for Hasbro after the mishandling of Derpy Hooves appearance in “The Last Roundup” had been off.
Note that I don’t have anything against Derpy Hooves; many of the fan interpretations of her are some of my favorite fan characters (see: Doctor Whooves and Assistant, for example). But the Derpy, as originally presented in the show, was exhibiting characteristics that have long been stereotyped as “cognitive disability” and, due to the destructive nature of the joke she was involved with, was presented as being a burden. I talk about it more in the original reaction video, but the point is I did not believe the original Derpy scene, and the resulting mess afterwards, was handled well.
So with that background out of the way, back to my hopes on the episode. Since it had long been a fanon view that Scootaloo was disabled in some manner that prevented her from flying, being given an episode clip that showed her being teased by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon for not being able to fly had gotten me intrigued. Granted there was always a chance that she could end up learning to fly, and that would have been okay, but the chance at getting a major secondary character revealed as disabled was much more interesting. More importantly, it would give representation to those with (physical) disabilities that was, hopefully, better handled than Derpy had been.
So I got myself comfortable and sat down to watch it, the knowledge that McCarthy had sent out a tweet the day before that guaranteed we’d be talking about. Since this seemed to suggest that something “big” was going to happen, I was rather hopeful about the episode.
And for most of the episode, everything looked good. Everything seemed to be suggesting that Scootaloo’s ability wasn’t simply an issue of not enough practice. They had Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon using ableist language to suggest that Scootaloo wasn’t a “real” pegasus. Even had segments showing Scootaloo trying over and over and over to fly because she thinks all she needs to do is “work harder” and she’d get over it. Which is something that I’m sure many people who’ve had learning or other developmental disabilities are familiar with, and I do appreciate that they were showing that no, these sort of things aren’t something you just “work” through and get over.
All and all, everything was going right and it seemed like it was well set to being one of my favorite episodes.
Rainbow Dash: Listen, Scootaloo. Maybe you’ll fly someday, or maybe you won’t.
They didn’t do it. All this build up and anticipation for this wonderful opportunity to give some kind of representation to those with disabilities and they pulled this “maybe you can, maybe you can’t” bullshit.
Why? What was there to gain by adding that line in? If they had made it clear that yes, she wasn’t going to fly, we would have had representation for those with disabilities, and the moral of the episode would have been much stronger. The whole “it just doesn’t matter if you can fly or not” seems a little weak if they can, at another point in time, just go “Oh, yeah, she can fly.” Especially since you have Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon implying that if you can’t fly you’re not a real pegasus. If they keep it in this limbo state and then allow Scootaloo to fly later on, then in a sense it’s a retroactive admission that they were right.
If you wanted to let her fly, they should have just went ahead and done it in this episode. It would have still been a good episode (even if I would have been a little disappointed still). But by doing it as they did, with making Scootaloo’s ability to fly exist in a state of limbo, they placed themselves in a spot where they can either allow her to fly later on and thereby retroactively make this a bit of a broken Aesop or they just always keep it in limbo which basically means we get a “she’s disabled but we just can’t say it in canon” crap. That kind of half-hearted representation, of course, is a truly problematic thing and does absolutely nothing for representation.
In short, it feels like this episode basically became a way to do an episode about disabilities without actually having to commit to having a character with a disability. And in doing that, an episode that could have been okay (if confirmed she could fly) or wonderful for increasing representation (if confirmed she couldn’t fly) turned into one of the biggest disappointments for me in the entire series.