Pony Thought of the Day: Violence and Ponies

A commenter yesterday noted that one of the issues they have with the MLP comic is that the ponies ultimately resolve the crisis and defeat the villain with violence. I don’t have a problem with this, for a couple of reasons. First, there’s plenty of precedent; Fluttershy defeats the dragon and the cockatrice with intimidation, which is close enough to violence as to make no odds, and Discord, Crysalis, and Sombra are all defeated violently in their respective two-parters. I don’t see any way to interpret turning someone to stone, hurling them thousands of miles, or vaporizing them as anything other than violent acts.

The main reason I’m okay with this, though, is that I think we need more kid’s shows where girls solve problems with violence or open aggression and boys talk things out and achieve a peaceful resolution. I am not at all a violent person–I have not raised a hand against another person since I was 15–but I think the number of people who figure out violence sucks is a lot higher than the number of people who figure out that gender roles suck, so subverting the latter in our kids’ shows is more important.

0 thoughts on “Pony Thought of the Day: Violence and Ponies

  1. So, let me say first off that I absolutely agree with you that the subversion of gender essentialism in MLP is more important than presenting nonviolent conflict resolution, and I'm certainly not arguing that the show should replace the one with the other. Most of all, I am not arguing that MLP should feature nonviolent conflict resolution BECAUSE it's a “girly” show. (I think more shows should feature nonviolent conflict resolution because it's more interesting than “I punch him until he's dead or good.”) Furthermore, I absolutely see where you're coming from with your examples of precedents of violence in MLP. I may be too generous in my interpretation of those incidents.

    For example: The dragon didn't attack the ponies after Rarity tried to rob him and Pinkie did… whatever Pinkie did; he counterattacked only after Rainbow kicked him in the face. Fluttershy's intimidating display de-escalated the conflict and encouraged the dragon to talk about his feelings of anger and hurt rather than continue to lash out – in that context, Fluttershy was functioning like a kindergarten teacher putting an unruly child in a care-hold, because in MLP all dragons are apparently children. Similarly, Stare aside, Fluttershy's threat to the cockatrice was to tell its mother that it's been misbehaving.

    Sombra is an interesting example. I just went back and watched the climax of Crystal Empire, and what I saw (again, generous interpretation) was Sombra start to turn into crystal like the others, resist by summoning his dark magic, and get torn apart as a result. In other words, Sombra was destroyed by his own choice to use violent means.

  2. Actually, the dragon NEVER attacks the ponies. As I pointed out in my vlog on “Dragonshy,” the dragon only uses intimidation tactics on the ponies, and appears to (consciously or otherwise) take steps to avoid hurting them. So if his actions are to be taken as a form of violence (or at least coersion via the threat of violence, evne if no violence occurs) then so must Fluttershy's.

    I don't recall seeing that at all in Crystal Empire, and it'll be some time before I can rewatch it. Anybody that's seen it recently available to corroborate or deny this reading?

    Can we at least agree that the precedent of Crysalis being defeated by violence was firmly established in the series?

  3. I'd forgotten about your read on “Dragonshy”: it makes a lot of sense and weakens my point considerably.

    The Chrysalis thing is funny to me. Intellectually, I agree with you – a massive magical shield hurtling the changelings to the horizon is clearly a violent and aggressive act. Oddly enough, emotionally it doesn't feel violent to me and, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm having trouble putting my finger on why. Maybe it's Chrysalis' cartoonish leg-waving as she's blasted away or the fact that the shield is powered by love lets me hand-wave it or… yeah, I don't know.

    So, yeah, argument retracted. The show does establish a clear precedent for the judicious use of violence when the circumstances call for it.

  4. I haven't actually read the comic so I can't say anything about it, but in the episodes I think it's less about “was violence what solved the problem” than “was violence the most important/prominent part of solving the problem”. The two Fluttershy examples I'll set aside since intimidation isn't quite the same and the conflict (or in the latter case lack thereof) was really about being brave for others' sake. In the discord example they DO turn him to stone but the climax, and the main point of the episode, was subverting his mind control/inversion/”discording”. Which was done entirely on an emotional level.

    Chrysalis, though, as much as the weapon was technically “true love” violence took center stage in that episode. Celestia thinks she can beat the villain through (completely unmasked) violence but fails against an overwhelming force. The mane 6 think they can solve their problem through (completely unmasked) violence, put up a good showing and then fail against an overwhelming force. Then Cadence somehow beats the mind control on Shining (I can't even remember how), and then they think they can defeat the villain through (barely masked) violence, and succeed due to possessing an overwhelming force.

    Maybe we should have been calling THAT episode out on the use of violence to solve problems.

  5. I know this is perhaps a weird position for a pacifist to take, but I generally have very little problem with the use of fictional violence to solve fictional problems.

  6. I dunno, I guess for me the problem is if it makes it look like the happy ending was fully dependent on the protagonists' ability to win in a fight. Since that implies a might-makes-right attitude that's a great recipe for dictatorship, colonialism, war and all that other great stuff you'll find in a newspaper and/or history book.

    In the Discord episodes, it was taken as premise that using the elements against Discord defeats him (heck, it'd *already happened* in the past) and the conflict was about being able to do so. In the two Fluttershy episodes, there is no conflict once Fluttershy decides to use the stare; it's all about getting her to that point. But part 2 of A Canterlot Wedding is basically a string of violence-backed one-upsmanship that ends when the good guys acquire a strong enough weapon to beat the bad guys.

    Oh, and I forgot Sombra in my last post. For that one, again the conflict was all about becoming able to use the plot artifact that the very premise declared was capable of defeating the villain (and just like the Discord episode a big part of that was changing people's emotional staes, though not entirely). The actual “fight”, if it can even be called that, was less than a minute's screen time.

  7. See, I don't think it necessarily does imply a might-makes-right attitude so much as might-is-sometimes-regrettably-employed-by-right-when-no-other-option-is-available. Which is still problematic, but not as much so as might-makes-right.

  8. Maybe so, if not for two factors: First, the prevalence if not oversaturation of (often brute-force) violent solutions in other media, and more damningly, the fact that this is what the ponies fall back on *in their season finales* (this show's openers are functionally identical to its finales so I'm treating them as the same thing). Finales, as in the episodes where problems are “biggest” and the most long-term change is supposed to be accomplished. So no, violence isn't the solution to every problem–just the biggest, toughest ones. Out of six such “finales”, in four the protagonists defeat, rather than talk down, an opponent. The two exceptions are conveniently the only ones that didn't warrant a two-parter (not to say Mystery Cure wasn't great). Can there not be a problem that takes more than 24 minutes to solve but can be solved nonviolently?

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