Episode Reaction Ramble: Flight to the Finish

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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.”

Dammit Hasbro.

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.

And then…

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.

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14 Comments

Filed under Episode Reaction Rambles

14 responses to “Episode Reaction Ramble: Flight to the Finish

  1. PastAnalysis

    Wow, WhammyAnalysis. I’m a little surprised. I loved this episode to bits. HECK, its my SECOND FAVORITE episode of the series, right below Hearths Warming Eve. My second favorite episode before this point was unclear, but this has decisively taken that spot from Lesson Zero, Hurricane Fluttershy. It was that freaking amazing in my eyes.

    It also confirmed SCOOTALOO as my FAVORITE CMC! She started competing with Sweetie Belle after Sleepless In Ponyville and now she HAS BEATEN SWEETIE BELLE!

    All fangushing aside, I think they did a great job. They would be at risk either way. If they made it 100% clear that she is disabled than they’d be at risk from the same parents who threatened with Derpy. I don’t want them to potentially shoot themselves in the foot. If they said they could fly then they’d be shooting themselves in the foot from the fandom. This means that both groups can get what they want, and I’m fine with it being not 100% clear. They made it BY FAR clear enough for me that she is disabled. Its cool that you dislike it, I’m just surprised. I see your point though.

    • First: I’m part of the group that does in fact believe that Derpy’s initial showing was problematic. I can guarantee you that the reasons for that are not simply because she’s disabled. Heck, I explicitly talk about it in this very article. Surprised you didn’t notice that.

      Second: I don’t care if they upset the brony fandom because the show isn’t for them; it’s for young children, specifically young girls. And increased representation of diversity is particularly important for entertainment aimed at that age group. The show is doing well, but this episode presented an opportunity to get even better by introducing a disabled character.

      Third: In response to your other comment, “Confirming without actually confirming” is the most bullshit thing you can do. You don’t get credit for half-hearted kind of representation that gives a veneer of plausible deniability for people to latch onto. You either go all out and state it, or don’t bother at all.

      • PastAnalysis

        I understand your first two points Whammy, but you have to know your in the minority here. I just was surprised is all, but it really doesn’t matter whether your minority or majority. Either opinion has its validity.

        I, on the other hand, am with the majority here. I loved what they did and I don’t see many flaws, if any. I also think “confirming without actually confirming” was what we needed. By not having her learn to fly, they made a clear indication to us that they will never make her fly. Why on Earth would they choose against making her fly now, only to make her fly later? That makes no sense.

        They could’ve taken the risk, but for what? They’ve implied things to the fans before, that go underneath the radar of children and parents. Why can’t they just do that here? It puts them in a safe place, and they still made a ballsy move by making her unable to fly here.

  2. PastAnalysis

    They basically confirmed it, without confirming.

    • Not letting me reply to your newest comment for some reason so just replying to this.

      First off, no, they didn’t make it clear she can’t fly; they left enough plausible deniability that, if they wanted to, they could have her fly later as part of a late bloomer thing. And you know what? If they had done it in this episode I would have been fine it with. If they had made it more explicit that this was in fact simply an issue of late blooming I would have been fine.

      And the reason they can’t just leave it at “implied” is the same reason why it wasn’t good that JK Rowling said Dumbledore was gay in an interview and not in the books: It isn’t actual representation. Implications are no substitute for explicit statements.

      And when you’re dealing with matters of representation, such as disabilities, race, gender, sex, etc., you can’t half-ass it; you either go all the way or don’t bother. It’s not ballsy to tease people with possible representation to then just go and pull “or maybe they aren’t”.

      • PastAnalysis

        Why would they make her a late bloomer?! That’s stupid as crap to do. They had a decision to make her be unable to fly. The fact that they avoided that flight path means that THIS IS IT! She cannot fly and thats final. If they went back on it and said in a future episode she can fly, I’d be surprised. Its not about what they said in the episode, its the meta concept. WHY WOULD THEY NOT DO IT HERE, JUST TO DO IT LATER?! The answer is they wouldn’t, they ain’t going back on it. Its final, she CANNOT fly. Think of the meta.

        I’d rather they go as far as they did, with an implication. Going direct WAS A RISKY MOVE! MAKING HER BE ABLE TO FLY, WOULD BE EVEN STUPIDER! I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth! THIS WAS A MILLION FUCKING TIMES BETTER THAN MAKING THEM TAKE THE FULL FLIGHT PATH!

        Remember I like your stuff, and I’m a fan of your work. I also respect your opinion, but if you will challenge me. I WILL NOT BACK DOWN!

      • No, it’s not final because they didn’t say it is. Even if they never, ever do an episode allowing her to fly, the potential to do so is there. And there are plenty of reasons for possibly doing a late bloomer story if they wanted to.

        And I’m looking beyond the meta at this point; I’m looking at the treatment of persons with disabilities by society. There is absolutely no reason for them to decide to make her inability to fly a permanent disability and to not say so, but instead give us the maybe she isn’t thing, except bowing down to those societal pressures.

        So no, this isn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth, because this wasn’t a gift; this was taking advantage of the disability storyline without actually making that commitment and giving persons with disabilities representation. And the only reason to have not done so, and keep it all in implications, is to bow down to societal pressures regarding disabilities. And I am not going to applaud that.

  3. PastAnalysis

    Them I think we should agree to disagree. We’ve circled back on things we’ve already said.

  4. I have to disagree with you sir. I thought it was obvious from how hard Scootaloo was trying to overcome her inability to fly, that she couldn’t and the reaction from her friends. Her home is a house, not a bunch of clouds. What else are you going to tell a child? Let’s say you have a handicapped kid that can’t walk, you have to handle things gingerly. “Maybe you’ll be able to walk someday, maybe you won’t” those words are the sort of thing you tell someone who in the back of your mind you know there’s no hope without totally breaking their heart and ease them into accepting themselves. Let’s be honest, Scootaloo isn’t going to be able to fly. She isn’t. But you can’t just TELL a child that they can’t do something, you soften the message and say exactly what Rainbow Dash said. Really, can you look a little child in the face who’s on crutches and really tell them they’ll never be able to walk? I can’t, but then again I’m a pansy. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t try to brace the kid for the possibility that they will never get over this and try to urge them towards working to skill themselves around their handicap. Now would I say the same thing to a kid where I didn’t know the answer? Yes, but I’d definitely tell it to a kid where I DID know the answer. Perhaps that’s a little too deep for a kids show, but I think the writers have shown the intelligence to understand that they can put subtle things like that in. The fact they tackled this issue at all shows maturity in the show. Especially since the handicapped individual is a child.

    • Yes, it is heavily implied that the character is handicapped, but implications are not a substitute for explicitness when dealing with the issue of representation. As it is, they can easily have an episode in the future where she learns to fly, and thereby removes her as a representative of a person with disabilities in the show.

      Also, yes, generally speaking when you have a child and they are handicapped, you tell them and the family what the condition is so they can begin treatment (if it’s treatable) or how to begin living with it. I mean, you know kids with handicaps exist right? Because they do, and they are generally pretty aware that they are handicap and what that entails. Hiding it and acting as if it’s not there is not the right response; being open and addressing it is. Because admitting that the disability exists and facing it is how you move on, not sticking your head in the sand and acting as if it isn’t there.

      Now granted I don’t expect Rainbow Dash to know the full medical condition of Scootaloo, but seeing as this is a television show and not a reality show of actual events I can say things “instead of doing the scene like this, the scene should have gone like this” and introduce an alternative scene because hey, the staff can do what they want since they are the ones making the stuff up. So in my view, the situation would have been better if, instead of the scene we got, we had gotten a different scene that clarified that Scootaloo does in fact have a handicap.

      I mean, we could have easily cut out the song or something and added a scene right before Rainbow Dash visits her she runs into, say, Scootaloo’s mother and she informs her about the difficulty that Scootaloo has had accepting that she won’t be able to fly and then basically proceed as it is now (minus the “or maybe you won’t” part of the lines) with maybe some adjustments.

      • Hrm. You make good points, but there are a few nitpicks. While kids with handicaps do exist and are aware of it, I was putting this in a “this is just coming to light” thing where people do tend to go into denial. I admit you may be changing my mind here. But of course I know real kids exist with handicaps and you make a good point, I was just assuming this was just when the kid is learning about their disability or an accident happened that made this happen. Obviously they come to accept it. However, I admit that now I am starting to think this over, it’s possible that I could just be wrong and it could be more ambiguous than I thought. Hrmmm.
        However, with Scootaloo’s mom thing there’s the distinct possibility that she could be an orphan (although that’s speculation) thus meaning we couldn’t have a scene with her mother. However that’s up in the air so I won’t pursue it further since we don’t actually know.

      • With the Scootaloo mother thing, nothing in the show suggests she is an orphan; that is simply a fan thing. Also, even if she was an orphan and she was staying, say, with another family member or even an orphanage, whoever her guardian was would still know of her condition and be able to tell RD. I simply went with her mother off the top of my head; whoever it was that would tell RD isn’t that important.

  5. Pingback: “Slice of Life” Reaction: Some Likes and Disappointment | Analysis is Magic

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