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”.
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?
The moment I saw the trailer for the Season 5 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I figured I was going to have to do a post like this. A villain goes around talking about equality and everybody being the same? In the culture of the United States, with its histories of “Red Scares” and the Cold War behind it, this sort of rhetoric immediately equates to “communism” or “socialism”, whatever word you pick. But is Starlight Glimmer, the antagonist of the two-part premiere, really supposed to be a representation of actual communist thought? In this article I’ll be giving what basically amounts to a brief “Marxism 101” lesson as we investigate Starlight Glimmer’s philosophy.
Is it possible that the episode “Rose’s Room” of Steven Universe may be able to help us determine what it is that we find worth living for? In this article, I compare Steven’s experience in Rose’s Room with the famous ethical thought experiment of Robert Nozick’s “experience machine” to explore this question.
In Part II of my “The Reformation of Discord: A Utilitarian Story”, I made a mention of the episode “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies” as showing the lesson of the importance of rational benevolence to Fluttershy. In this article I’ll explore this concept a little further, returning once again to our good friend Henry Sidgwick and his The Methods of Ethics. By doing so, we can further understand what Fluttershy’s Element of Kindness truly means. Continue reading
In Part I of this two part exploration of Discord’s reformation, I drew upon utilitarian philosopher Henry Sidgwick to argue that Discord’s reformation could be viewed as a story of the conflict between egoism and utilitarian ethics. Sidgwick argued that this conflict was logically irreconcilable as the decision to be one or the other came own to one decision: the willingness to put your own interests aside for the greater good.
In Part II of this exploration I will analyze Discord’s reformation through the lens of Sidgiwck’s view of the role of sympathy and the duty of benevolence in the utilitarian ethic. In doing so, I argue that Discord’s story can serve as an example of how one can transition away from the egoistic philosophy. In doing so, I can also explain why Fluttershy was the best choice of pony to reform Discord despite my arguments that Pinkie Pie is already a utilitarian of sorts. Continue reading