MLP Essay "The Best Night Ever" analysis
Posted 15 November 2011 - 11:13 AM
The first minute of the show tells us exactly how the whole plot is going to go down. Twilight turns an apple into a coach. Then she turns mice into mice horses. . . that don't look quite right. The horses get spooked and run off. In a bit of comedy, Rarity gets some boys to pull the coach for them.
Just from this little snippet we know how the whole episode will go. It's a fantasy fairy tale like Cinderella. The first half (the coach) will go fine, but things won't turn out quite right (the mice horses). By the end of the ep everything will be resolved in a bit of light comedy (Rarity getting help).
The Cinderella themes are all plainly evident. The Gala song tells us what all the main ponies imagine the perfect night at the Gala to be. Just by knowing the structure of that first minute, we already know to expect that all their dreams will go awry. By the end of the night, everything's blown up in their faces and they run from the castle. Rarity smashes her glass slipper so the jerk-Prince can't find her.
The episode ends in a donut shop, which is about as far as you can get from a fantasy setting. The night ends with everyone laughing and enjoying the company of their friends.
Another thing- there's that big moment where all the Ponies decide that no matter what, they're going to MAKE this the best night ever. So they work even harder, but it still goes all wrong. This is kind of a contrary message to what kids are always told. You know, work hard and you can accomplish anything or make your dreams come true. Why send this message to kids?
I think what's going on here is, all the ponies are trying to make everyone around them conform to what they had imagined. Twilight wants Princess Celestia to spend some quality one-on-one time talking with just her. But this doesn't take into account Celestia's duties as the hostess and princess. There's no way Celestia can ignore her other guests.
Applejack can't sell any of her apple snacks. The upper class ponies don't like her kind of food. So she decides that her food is fine, she just needs to make it look like it's fancy. In effect, Applejack isn't giving the customers what they want. She's telling them what they want.
Pinky Pie tries to force people to dance and party the way she likes to party. Take into account that even her close friends get annoyed by her sometimes (Twilight and Rarity at the start of this episode) and you see that it's not so much an argument about upper class ponies being stuffy while middle class ponies are fun and exuberant. This is literally Pinky trying to force people to party how she parties.
There's parties for little kids (Pinky style) and there's formal parties like the Gala. Pinky is unable to adapt to the formal setting.
Rainbow Dash does get noticed by the Wonderbolts and invited to hang with them, but it's not enough for her. They have to be paying attention to her. It's the same thing as the situation with Twilight. They're both with the people they want to be with, but the setting prevents them from having any quality time.
Rarity blends in perfectly among the upper class, again making this not an argument about class, but about how reality doesn't live up to her fantasy. Prince Blueblood is a jerk. He's vain and arrogant and self-centered and un-gentlemanly and a royal pain in the ass. Rarity tries to teach him some manners, but he's too stubborn and pig-headed.
And then there's Fluttershy. Like Rarity, she wants to be loved and make new friends with all the critters in the garden. The gardener she keeps running into is chipper and happy and would accept her as a new friend. But she doesn't want to be friends with a guy that tends to the gardens and the animals in it (he's basically doing the same job she does in Ponyville). Nevermind that befriending the gardener would probably get her closer to the animals since they're comfortable around him. But Fluttershy can't force the animals to love her.
So the big point of it all?
1. A cartoon about talking ponies and dragons is telling its audience not to live in a fantasy world.
2. You can't force people to be the way you think they should be. Well, maybe you can, but it's wrong.
3. Good friends can make even the worst of times better.
Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:06 PM
Posted 15 November 2011 - 11:35 PM
Even in cartoons where the heroine is supposed to be strong and independent (like Belle in Beauty & the Beast), a lot of the time the "payoff" is "getting" the handsome prince. Whereas here, the turning point of the evening is Rarity asserting herself by screaming at His Royal Rudeness and crushing her glass slipper, then bailing and finding her friends.
Edited by Legion Maximus, 15 November 2011 - 11:35 PM.
Posted 16 November 2011 - 07:40 PM
I'm going to be sure and go into how all the main pony girls initiate the action, which is something you don't often see in how girls are portrayed in the media. I hope my initial ideas for this essay weren't sounding too down on the girls, like they were being selfish or something. This is a common mindset that people have when they go on vacations or go to parties. Lots of people think only of what they're going to get out of it. I'm cautiously kicking around the idea that Spike was the one person that wanted to do something for everyone else, instead of thinking of himself, but even then, he had this idea in his mind of how he was going to give all the ponies a personal tour of the castle, not taking into account that maybe there were other things they wanted to do. But he did custom tailor his ideas to the girls (showing Rarity the prized crown jewels, taking Pinky to his favorite donut shop).
I do love that Rarity only wanted to get away from her prince. It was a great twist on a cliched trope. And by societal norms, Prince Blueblood was being arrogant and self-centered and showed no manners whatsoever. That Rarity gave him chance after chance says a lot of her character. And after they all had their big turning point where they resolved to try even harder to make the night work, I don't think Twilight was shown again until after the ballroom was destroyed. Applejack I can see having a point. Maybe by dressing her food up, she was trying to trick the crowd with a placebo effect.
I guess I should've mentioned that I'm analyzing this episode with a sociological method. A marxist approach could've been interesting with all the class conflict going on, but there was an equal amount of class agreement going on too. Rarity easily blended in with the elites. Twilight is personal friends with the Princess, who is shown to be kind and benevolent. Prince Blueblood was a jerk. The Wonderbolts represent a more middle class group and easily blend in with Rainbow Dash and Applejack (dude loves AJ's pie and RD is invited to hang with them). Pinky fails miserably though, so it's not a case of the middle class being shown to be superior to the upper class. In many shows the upper class is usually depicted as snobbish and looking down upon the middle class, but we didn't see that too much in this ep.
So yeah, that was the long way of saying that I think a sociological approach would be more interesting.
Posted 02 December 2011 - 07:03 PM
?Women are all too frequently treated only as sexual objects, used for display or portrayed as dummies,? writes Arthur Berger in ?Media Analysis Techniques. Sexism in the mass media is commonplace to the extent that examples of women being portrayed in empowering roles is the exception rather than the rule. I wanted to find an example of such an exception and believe I have in the form of the cartoon, ?My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, (MLP)? which began airing on The Hub in October of 2010. The main and supporting cast is primarily female with a scant few supporting male roles. Each of the female leads creates rather than consumes. For example, Rarity is a fashionista, but rather than being portrayed as a shopaholic, she?s the owner of her own boutique and makes the clothes that she sells. The manifest function of the show is to entertain a demographic of young girls. Its latent function is to teach lessons and instill values about friendship.
With such a positive buzz about it, I have chosen to examine a single episode of MLP; the season finale, ?The Best Night Ever.? As the season finale, this episode stands as a major statement on what the creators of MLP would like its audience to come away with. It?s an episode about hopes and dreams and choosing to live in reality rather than a fantasy.
I use a sociological approach to examining ?The Best Night Ever.? There is a case to be made for using a Marxist analysis since this episode deals with interactions of various classes ranging from the upper lower to the upper upper. Also, it can?t be denied that all the characters exist as cyphers. It?s an unavoidable fact that MLP was created for the sole purpose of advertising the line of toys produced by Hasbro. A Marxist view might consider this cartoon to be nothing more than a half-hour commercial.
Despite it?s capitalist origins, I?m using a sociological approach for a couple reasons. First, the show?s creator, Lauren Faust, has stated in an interview with Equestria Daily that, ?I was also so passionate about making quality entertainment for girls, and I didn?t want to be responsible for adding to the pile of entertainment garbage that?s so often targeted toward them? (Equestria Daily). Fausts? determination to make a great show for girls is first and foremost, while she makes little mention of the Hasbro-made toys except to say she played with them as a kid. Secondly, if MLP is nothing more than a half-hour commercial, then that begs the question, what ideas and values is this commercial selling? To find these answers, I briefly examine the role each character plays in this episode and illustrate the pattern of behavior that gives this episode its informally socialized message..
?The Best Night Ever? follows five multi-colored ponies: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinky Pie. Together they journey from the small town of Ponyville to attend the Grande Galloping Gala at Princess Celestia?s Cinderella-inspired castle. They all arrive to the Gala with dreams of having the best night ever, but each pony?s dream is shattered by night?s end. The Gala is destroyed and the night ends in disaster. The group of friends flee the castle and recount the night?s events in a donut shop, laughing about it afterwards. The formally socialized message of the episode, delivered through dialogue, is that even the worst of situations can be made better when you?re with your friends.
The entire plot is cleverly staged in the first one-minute, 44 seconds of the show. Twilight Sparkle casts a magic spell that turns an apple into a coach, in a bit of intertextuality that calls back to the story of Cinderella. Twilight casts another spell that turns some mice into horses. Unlike the fairy tale, the transformation isn?t quite perfect and the horses still retain mouse features on their faces. A cat pounces on one of the mice/horses and scares them off. In a bit of comedy, Rarity simply asks some nearby male-ponies to pull their coach for them. She bats her eyelashes, smiles, and they happily agree.
From this skit we know exactly how the whole episode is going to play out. The first part of the evening at the Gala (the apple) lives up to their dreams. The second part of the evening (the mice) sees the Gala destroyed and all their hopes and dreams dashed. And like the mice/horses, our ponies flee the scene. The episode wraps up in a donut shop with everyone laughing off the night?s worries, much like Rarity getting the men to pull their coach generated a couple laughs.
The skit concludes and the intro song begins playing. This title sequence plays at the start of every episode and introduces the characters and their key personality traits. The imagery shows Twilight and her dragon companion, Spike, descending from Canterlot Castle to the small town of Ponyville in the valley below. The song lyrics sing, ?I used to wonder what friendship could be until you all shared its magic with me.? We can derive a couple things from this and its implications for how the rest of the episode will play out. Twilight Sparkle, lacking friendship in Canterlot, ventures down into the valley to find it among the commoners. And who and what does she find there? The song continues, ?big adventure (Rainbow Dash), tons of fun (Pinky Pie), a beautiful heart (Rarity), faithful and strong (Applejack), sharing kindness- it?s an easy feat (Fluttershy). These are the qualities that Twilight Sparkle was unable to find in the royal court of Canterlot. The tension and conflict then revolves around how introducing those qualities into Canterlot will play out. From what we know of the opening skit, it won?t go well.
After the title sequence we find Spike (a boy) banging on the door to the girls? dressing room, demanding to be let in. Rarity reacts in terror when the more tomboyish Applejack and Rainbow Dash are about to open the door. The others reason with her that they don?t usually wear clothes anyway, so there?s no harm. Rarity groans in defeat, opens the door herself and says to Spike, ?Sorry, Spike. Some of us do have standards.? Spike seems not to notice or take offense to Rarity?s comment and instead gushes excitement about the Gala. He wants to spend the whole evening with all of them, but the others tell him that they?re going to be busy. This scene establishes Spike?s feeling of alienation from a group of friends that, up until this episode, had never excluded him before. His alienation is the focus of his (and everyone?s) character arc through the episode.
The scene transitions to their journey to the castle with Spike driving. He has the whole night planned despite the girls having other things they wanted to do at the Gala. Spike is still trying to live his fantasy as royal tour guide. His intentions are good, but they don?t take into consideration the girls? wants and desires.
Upon arriving at the Gala, Spike opens the door of the coach and the ponies step out wearing formal evening gowns. Spike exclaims, ?You all look amazing!? but his compliment goes unheard as the ponies break into song. Spike slides into the scene on his knees rocker-style just as the song ends and is again overlooked as all the ponies run off to live their dreams. He sadly realizes that his dream of spending the night with his friends isn?t going to happen. Just as the first skit previewed the entire plot, so too does this scene reiterate that. Spike?s fantasy didn?t hold up in the real world.
We later catch up with a solemn and angry Spike in a donut shop, where he?s badgering the waiter. Like a drunk, Spike demands ?another donut! Extra sprinkles!? after the waiter has tried cutting him off. Just then all his friends walk in, their fine gowns in tatters. Spike immediately perks up and asks how their ?best night ever? was.
When Spike last saw his friends, they had just sung about the Gala. The song establishes what each of the ponies? hopes and dreams are. Twilight wants to spend quality time with her mentor and friend, Princess Celestia. Applejack wants to sell lots of her apple treats and make money. Rainbow Dash wants to be noticed by the stunt flying Wonderbolts and join them. Rarity wants to find her ?Prince Charming.? Pinky Pie wants to have fun and party with everyone. Fluttershy wants to see the royal gardens and make friends with all the little animals there. All of their dreams seem reasonable. The Gala song certainly bills it as the kind of life-changing event where, ?All our dreams will come true right here at the Gala! At the Gala!? The consistent references to Cinderella in addition to the Gala lyrics call to mind commercials
for Disneyworld, which have been singing for decades now that, ?When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you? (elyrics). It?s not by accident that such strong parallels are being drawn to Disney and its properties. Where Disneyworld tries to make the fairy tale come to life, this episode warns against living in a world of fantasy.
The ponies run off to make their dreams come true. Twilight Sparkle gallops into a large hall and spots Princess Celestia. She is warmly greeted as Celestia says, ?I want you right by my side the entire evening, so we?ll have plenty of time together.? Twilight is overjoyed. The evening takes a sour turn, however, when it turns out that Celestia?s duties as the hostess of the Gala prevent them from having any quality discussion. The depersonalization Twilight feels is the byproduct of bureaucracy. Celestai is shown greeting guests, but never calls anyone by name. A real-world equivalent might entail a little girl going to Disneyworld, eager to meet her favorite princess. But, like Celestia, the actress playing the princess can?t spend all her time on one guest.
Elsewhere Rarity spots her Prince Charming.?He?s everything I ever imagined,.? she says. Even better than I imagined.? She initiates the conversation and he identifies himself as Prince Blueblood.. His stunning looks quickly give way to vain, self-centered behavior. He refuses to perform even the most basic of chivalrous acts such as opening a door for Rarity. She gives him chance after chance and tries to teach him some manners, but the harder she tries, the more she fails. This is a common theme among all the ponies and their disastrous night at the Gala.
Applejack sells an apple pie in her first minute, but nothing else for the rest of the evening. After a run-in with Rarity and Blueblood, she realizes that the elite guests don?t like her ?common carnival fare,? as Blueblood put it. Instead of making something they would like, she declares that, ?my downhome apples are plenty good enough for this crowd! I?ll just dress ?em up a bit and prove it to ?em.? In this case, she?s not giving the people what they want; she?s telling them.
Rainbow Dash meets the Wonderbolts, and they remember her from a previous encounter. They were already impressed with her prior to the Gala, and invite her to come hang out with them. But, like Twilight, the party is huge and Rainbow doesn?t get to spend any quality time with them or prove her abilities in this setting. In an attempt to get them to notice her, Rainbow accidentally sends several columns falling over like dominos and destroys the ballroom.
Fluttershy makes her way to the gardens and mistakes the whistling of an old, cheerful gardener for the calling of a bird. The gardener says, ?Yep! I just love whistling while I work!? This time the intertextuality calls back to Disney?s ?Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?, and of the scene where all the forest creatures flock to Snow White. In this case, the animals run away from Fluttershy despite her best efforts; another case of alienation and trying too hard like the others. Frustrated to the point of insane rage, Fluttershy resorts to setting snare traps and chasing a stampede of fearful animals into the already destroyed ballroom, where she yells at the top of her lungs, ?You?re going to LOVE ME!!? Here she?s trying to force them to love her.
Pinky Pie?s excitement is shown as an annoyance to even her close friends at the start of this episode, so it?s no wonder then, that her desire to turn the formal Gala into an informal dance club meets total failure. Pinky brings in her own music and actively tries to force the other guests to swing and dance. It ends with a stage-dive that results in a chain reaction of events that destroys the Gala. Five out of five ponies have had their dreams crushed from trying to force others to conform to how they thought the Gala should be. The consistency in their behavior and the results of their actions are too similar to be accidental. This was a deliberate message being sent to viewers.
The informally socialized lesson that this episode of MLP teaches is that you can?t live in a fantasy world; an ironic statement coming from a cartoon about the magical land of Equestria and its cast of talking ponies and dragons. The opening skit establishes the theme, when, even with the use of magic, Twilight was unable to recreate the fairy tale in the real world. Spike?s early dismissal from the episode reiterates this message as his dreams of being a royal tour guide are dashed. And then one by one, each of the main characters find that their fantasies don?t hold up to reality either.
There is another way to interpret this episode, and that?s to see it as a negative message to girls. We see a group of female ponies who have their dreams crushed. Rather than giving up, they work even harder to make them come true, but are further crushed. Thus, dreams and fantasies aren?t worth pursuing and you?ll only wind up hurt and dejected. What this interpretation doesn?t take into consideration is the reason each of the ponies failed to achieve their dreams.
As stated, each of their dreams were common and down-to-Earth: make money, make friends, talk with friends, prove your worth, meet someone nice. These are not unrealistic dreams to have. What the ponies didn?t do was take into account that for their dreams to come true, the people around them had to act in certain ways, and when that didn?t happen, they tried to force those people to behave in the ways they wanted.
Imagine if Rarity, for example, told off the prince sooner. Instead of wasting so much time trying to make him into a gentleman, she might have found her real Prince Charming. The caveat; her real prince likely wouldn?t look anything like what she had imagined. And in fact, Rarity was the one person who finally stopped trying to make her fantasy real. Her dressing down of Blueblood is one of the biggest payoffs of the whole episode. When she loses her glass slipper as she flees the castle, she runs back and smashes it so her prince can?t find her.
Even MLP creator Faust had to acknowledge reality and develop the show within the set guidelines she was given. An example of this is Princess Celestia?s title. Faust had originally designated her Queen Celestia, but was informed by Hasbro that queens are seen as old, while princesses are young and vibrant. So while Faust translated most of her childhood fantasies onto the screen, some things met a big brick wall called reality. ?The Best Night Ever? says it?s okay to have dreams, hopes, desires, wants, and fantasies, but a firm grounding in reality is just as, if not more, important. You can?t live in a fantasy and you can?t force others to conform to your fantasy. It?s not healthy nor desirable.
Rogers, Amy K. "The Best Night Ever." My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. 26 May 2011. Television.
Tekaramity. "Exclusive Season 1 Retrospective Interview with Lauren Faust." Equestria Daily. 16 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.equestria...spective.html>.
"WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR Lyrics - DISNEY." Elyrics.net. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.elyrics.n...r-lyrics.html>.
Edited by Mako Crab, 02 December 2011 - 07:05 PM.