The Next Noblesnake Review Will Be

Some of you may have seen this coming.

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Ponies and Introverts

Being an introvert mostly involves having people force you into uncomfortable situations and then blame you for not enjoying them. Our society doesn’t approve of those who prefer solitude or working alone: we want team players! Socially-well-adjusted youngsters! Collaboration! Synergy! Whatever other terms for ‘forcing people to act according to plan’ you care to name.

Reason number I-lost-count to love My Little Pony: it not only avoids this approach, but directly criticizes it. Yes, the show literally called ‘Friendship is Magic’ teaches it’s okay to enjoy solitude and unsocial pursuits, and that the more outgoing need to understand and accept that.

True, in the first episode Twilight is forced out of her comfort zone and becomes more sociable. But she doesn’t stop being an introvert. She still likes spending time alone reading or organizing her library (she does that a lot), and she’s not portrayed as being at all wrong for doing this. The show distinguishes between ‘enjoys spending time alone’ and ‘reclusive shut-in,’ with the latter being portrayed as an unhealthy exaggeration of the former. The point isn’t that spending time alone is bad, but that there needs to be a healthy balance between solitude and socializing, and that this balance will look different for different types of people.

It’s not just Twilight either: Fluttershy and Rarity are played as more introverted characters as well. The show even makes the point that Fluttershy choosing to opt out of some group activities and just stay home alone is perfectly okay if she doesn’t enjoy those activities. Likewise, when Rarity sometimes becomes too focused on her work to be polite it’s presented as a forgivable lapse rather than a fundamental problem in her personality. That she sometimes has to seclude herself to get her work done, that she draws energy from solitary creative effort, and that she has precise, high-class tastes that the others don’t really share are all portrayed as being a good thing: just part of her unique personality, to be accepted and appreciated rather than resented as ‘unsocial.’

Meanwhile, super-extrovert Pinkie has a couple episodes where she learns that some ponies simply don’t enjoy the kind of exuberant fun and socializing that she loves so much. Pinkie doesn’t mean any harm, of course, but it’s shown that she can be annoying to people who either don’t know her or who don’t share her taste in fun. In such cases, the lesson isn’t that they need to lighten up and be more outgoing, but that Pinkie needs to accept them as they are and befriend them based on their personality rather than hers.

Then there’s Maud. Oh, Lord, I love Maud! Maud is Pinkie’s older sister, who is pretty much her complete opposite. She’s extremely reserved, speaks in terse, laconic sentences, almost never shows emotion, and is completely and utterly wrapped up in the study of rocks. She’s so odd and so socially awkward that the others at first don’t know what to make of her, until they discover that Maud’s bland exterior hides very deep feelings, particularly when it comes to her little sister.

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The Introvert and the Extrovert

In other words, Maud is a non-specific, but very sympathetic portrait of someone with Aspergers, or some related condition. She’s not presented as being ‘broken’ or tragic; just as another person with her own unique personality. She’s difficult to get to know and not good with people, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with her.

One episode reveals that, much as she enjoys spending time alone with her rocks, she actually is lonely for a friend. She notes that “it’s not hard to find somepony I like. It’s finding somepony who gets me.” That’s a sentiment I can definitely relate to, and I love that this show is mature and thoughtful enough to understand it. When Maud does make a friend, it’s with fellow introvert Starlight, and they bond over quiet, thoughtful activities like kite flying and geology.

The overall message is that there are some people who are very outgoing, expressive, and sociable, and some people who aren’t, and that’s just how the world works. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, and both need to be allowed to be themselves.

I wish more shows, and more people, understood that.

Friends and Monsters Part Three

I finally published the last part of my My Little Pony-Godzilla crossover story! 

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Sample:

Godzilla’s arrival in Manehatten was accompanied by a massive tidal wave as his bulk displaced enough water to swamp the docks and flood the whole waterfront. He strode ashore, streaming seawater off his flanks as his feet crushed the wharves and warehouses. He was as tall as most of the skyscrapers.

“Remember,” said Twilight as she and Fluttershy flew close beside his head. “We need you to subdue, Mogu; not kill him. If you kill him, King Ghidorah’s spirit will be set free and still be able to menace Equestria.”

Godzilla snorted, then roared a challenge across the city.

“He understands,” said Fluttershy. The two ponies retreated to the Ponyville balloon, with which they had led Godzilla to Manehatten and his showdown with Mogu.

“Well, now we see if this works,” said Applejack as Twilight and Fluttershy rejoined the others.

“It will,” said Rainbow Dash, who had been receiving magical medical treatment from Starlight and Twilight along the way. “I’m definitely betting on the Big G there to win. I mean, I’ve fought him.”

“We all fought him,” Applejack reminded her.

“I really don’t think you can call what you did ‘fighting,’ AJ,” said Rainbow smugly.

“Girls, that’s not really the point here,” said Twilight a little testily. She was nervous, and Rainbow and Applejack’s usual bickering was not helping.

Godzilla roared again. From the top of the Equestrian State Building, Mogu gave an answering cry and sprang into the air.

The dragon flew straight at the monster, lifted his head, and unleashed his heat beam. It lanced across Godzilla’s chest, and the monster roared in pain and stepped back, but stayed standing. His dorsal plates blazed blue as Mogu flew past him, banked, and turned to make another run. The Atomic Ray burst from Godzilla’s jaws, slicing across the skies after Mogu. The dragon yelped and put on a burst of speed, trying to escape the destructive beam. The ray cut through a skyscraper, blowing off the top floors. As Godzilla cut his ray, Mogu banked and flew straight for him. The monster roared in rage and charged up Harness Boulevard to meet the oncoming dragon. Mogu struck him head on, sinking his claws into Godzilla’s gills and pivoting around to dig his back claws into the monster’s side.

With a howl of fury, Godzilla twisted his head around and bit hard into Mogu’s arm, at the same time pummeling the dragon’s body to dislodge him.

Mogu shrieked under the terrible blows and tried to fly away, but Godzilla maintained a bulldog grip on his arm, twisting and pulling him around and slamming him into a hi-rise apartment. The impact shook Mogu free of the monster’s grip as the building collapsed about him. Godzilla closed in, seeking to finish him off, but Mogu’s tail swept out and slashed across his face, giving the dragon the chance to take to the sky once more. The dragon banked and flew at him from behind. Godzilla twisted his head to follow his progress, but seemed to make no move to avoid the attack.

Idiot, Mogu thought. Looks like he’s too slow to keep up.

Don’t underestimate him, fool! Ghidorah snapped.

Come on; he’s not even turning…

Then, just before he reached him, Godzilla suddenly ducked and twisted, swiping the air with his huge tail. It slammed into Mogu and sent him careening through the skies and into the side of an office building. Before he could recover, Godzilla’s massive fist slammed into the side of his face, smashing it back into structure. Steel beams bent and concrete shattered as Godzilla pummeled Mogu, pushing him further and further into the building until, at last, it collapsed into rubble on top of him.

Great Humor, Great Morals, and Why Having Your Heroine Be a Music Box for an Episode Makes for Good Writing

So, this week’s episode of My Little Pony was pretty fantastic (full disclosure: I actually saw it a week or so ago. You see, since FiM is produced in Vancouver, Canadian audiences get to see episodes up to two or even three weeks before the rest of us. The magic of the internet, however, allows some leeway to this). It was pretty much everything the show does best; strong writing, great characterization, solid moral lessons, and some fantastic humor. Season Seven has been mostly strong so far, about on par with the previous season, but I think A Royal Problem is the best one since the season premier.

Among the many, many reasons to love My Little Pony is the fact that it remains remarkably creative, even in its seventh season. Just as an example, this episode had Twilight magically project herself into a music box so as to keep in touch with Starlight on her first mission. So, we have our protagonist as a tiny, mechanical ballerina for most of the episode: who would even think of something like that? This leads to a lot of great gags (“I’m here if you want to talk. Or listen to music!”), culminating in a frustrated Starlight chucking the music box – Twilight and all – into a drawer.

Even better, it’s a gag that fits within the established universe (Twilight’s already projected herself into a book and talked to someone as an illustration a few seasons back) and serves only to enhance what made the character funny in the first place (Twilight’s freak outs are always hilarious, but when she’s a three-inch golden ballerina figure, the fun is doubled). The humor builds on the character and doesn’t feel forced, even in such a ridiculous situation.

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“The one and only thing that I am here to bring is music!”

Finally, from a story perspective, this device also serves the purpose of 1). Giving Starlight someone to talk to, 2). Keeping Twilight involved in the story, and 3). Emphasizing why Starlight, of all ponies, was the best choice for this particular mission even as it seems to be spiraling out of control, and 4). Providing a means to showcase Starlight’s second-guessing and self-doubts, furthering her character development.

All that from what is, at best, a tertiary element in the episode.

Oh, and speaking of great morals, the episode’s climax involves Princess Celestia coming face-to-face with the manifestation of her own darkest desires and temptations. This creature (called ‘Daybreaker’) declares herself to be “everything you want to be” and taunts Celestia with the fact that she could quite literally do anything, if only she stopped caring about other people so much, especially her sister.

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The Mare Mystique

So, a strong female character is rebuked for not making the most of her abilities and is told she can “have it all” (the phrase is actually used) if she would only forget about her obligations to her family, nation, and morality. Said character’s triumph comes in forcibly rejecting this temptation. All in an episode about appreciating the different roles we all play in the world and not assuming you have it worse than anyone else.

Man, this show is awesome.

FAN Fiction!

Dipping my toes in the semi-embarrassing, but oh-so-fun world of fan fiction. I believe the below image speaks for itself.

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Here’s a sample. Read Part One here (Part Two will be up in a few days):

“So, that’s all I know,” said Twilight as the six friends finished up their cider. “And I couldn’t find one word about any of this in any of my books.”

“I gotta say, Twilight, that’s weird; even for us,” said Applejack. “And you have no idea who this here ‘King of Terror’ is?”

“None whatsoever,” sighed Twilight. “I even asked Sunset, but she doesn’t know anything about it either, so it’s not from her world.”

“And we’ve been combing the library all morning looking for anything that might even remotely be related, and came up with nadda,” Spike said.

“Hm,” said Rarity. “I suppose if it comes from another world, there wouldn’t be anything, would there?”

“But then how are we supposed to prepare for it?” said Twilight. “What was the point of warning us?”

“Apparently, not so that you could read up on it,” said Rainbow Dash.

“Yeah!” put in Pinkie. “If that was it, I’m sure the Shubba-Wubbas would have told you what book to read.”

Twilight elected not to address Pinkie’s pronunciation of ‘Shobijin.'”

“Okay,” she said. “But how will we know how to fight the King of Terror? Or even who he is, or when he’s started his attack?”

“Uh,” said Spike, looking out the window. “I’m pretty sure we’ll know.”

He pointed. The ponies all looked and gasped. A huge shape was approaching at high speeds, beating the air with enormous wings.

“Dragon!” Rainbow Dash shouted. Fluttershy shrieked and dived under the table. Twilight telekinetically pulled her out and the six ran to meet the oncoming monstrosity.

“You think that’s the King of Terror?” asked Applejack.

“It’s certainly scary enough,” said Pinkie.

“But it’s just a dragon,” said Rainbow Dash. “You’d think something from another world would be, you know, different. I mean, we have dragons; there’s nothing special about them.”

“Yes, there is!” said Fluttershy, still trying to escape Twilight’s magic. “They’re terrifying!”

The monster dragon soared lower and lower, making for an empty field about a mile or so outside of Ponyville. The six raced to intercept him. Then Spike realized something.

“Hold on,” he said. “That’s Torch!”

“Who?” asked Rainbow.

“The former dragon lord,” said Spike. “What’s he doing here?”

“So…not the King of Terror?”

“No way,” Spike answered. “Just an ordinary, home grown…giant dragon.”

Fluttershy squeaked in terror.

“Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” said Spike. “He’s…well, he’s not nice, but he’s all right as dragons go.”

“Besides, he’s Princess Ember’s father. You like Ember, right?” said Twilight.

“Yes, Ember’s nice,” said Fluttershy, who seemed comforted enough to at least stop trying to fly away. “I hope her dad isn’t angry about anything.”

The six ponies and Spike galloped into the field before the enormous dragon. Torch was almost as large as Twilight’s whole castle, and he looked exhausted. Not only that, but he was bruised and bleeding from numerous fresh-looking injuries, and his armor was rent and dented in places. His daughter, Princess Ember the Dragon Lord, was riding on the top of his head. The blue-and-gold dragon was considerably smaller than her father; not a whole lot bigger than Twilight, in fact. She soared down to meet them, looking just as haggard at her father, though she was free from injuries. The Bloodstone Scepter that marked her status was still in her hand.

“Spike,” she said. “Princess Twilight. We need help.”

“What is it?” asked Twilight. “What happened?”

“We’ve been overthrown,” Torch growled.

“What?”

“You remember Garble?” said Ember. “Well, he’s back. And he’s…different. Bigger; a lot bigger. And much more powerful! He must have gotten his hands on some kind of magic or something; I’ve never seen anything like it! He just suddenly attacked this morning and overwhelmed us.”

“I don’t understand,” said Spike. “Shouldn’t the Bloodstone Scepter make it so that he can’t do anything against your orders?”

“Yeah, it should,” said Ember. “But it didn’t do anything! He didn’t even flinch when I ordered him to stand down. He just flew right up and attacked my father and…well…”

“‘E threw me about like I was a tiny manticore!” Torch admitted. “Absolutely destroyed me. Never had anything like that happen in a hundred years!”

“I ordered every dragon in the area to help, but all it did was slow him down a bit,” Ember went on. “Finally we just flew for it, leaving him in control of the dragon lands. We came here hoping you could help us.”

“Of course!” said Spike. “We’ll do everything we can!”

He turned to Twilight.

“Uh, which is…what?”

Twilight tapped her chin, thinking. This had to have something to do with the King of Terror…but that couldn’t mean Garble; she’d met Garble before, and he wasn’t from any other world.

“First of all, we should discuss this with Princess Celestia. If Garble’s taken over the Dragon Lands, he’ll be heading for Equestria next. Come on, Ember; there’s something I need to tell you about on the way…”

7 Things I Hope to See in Season 7

Yes, yes: I’ve been on a bit of a pony kick recently. So sue me; it’s my blog.

Season Seven started this weekend, and the first two episodes were really good, so I have high hopes for the future. Mostly I just hope they keep providing quality storytelling the way they’ve been doing, but I have my specific hopes as well. Here are the top seven things I’m hoping we’ll see in Season Seven.

I’m going to try to keep this as specific as possible, so not just “more Discord/Fluttershy scenes” or “More Discord/Trixie scenes” or “more Discord/Maud scenes” (Discord makes everything better), but actual, specific developments and storylines I’d like to see them tackle this time around.

Oh, and obviously there will be spoilers for Seasons 1-6.

  1. Villain Team Up:

“Villain team up, villain team up…”

I put this low because if it does happen it won’t be until the end of the season. We know that Queen Chrysalis is out plotting revenge, so what would be more natural for her than to figure out a way to break Tirek out and join forces with him? Then they could also bring on some other, lesser bad guys to serve as their henchmen: Sombra’s dead, but Garble would be a good fit as dumb muscle, along with a bitter and vengeful Wind Rider or Lightning Dust (actually, it’d be interesting to see her return in any capacity), and maybe even the Flim Flam Brothers. The point is, something like an Equestrian Sinister Six would be really cool, make a lot of sense given the position the characters are now in, and be a way to up the ante over previous season finales.

 

  1. Button Mash:
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    “Psst! This guy!”

    It’s the biggest long shot on this list, but I can hope. For those who don’t know, Button Mash is the fan name for the colt playing a video game in Hearts and Hooves Day, who has since garnered something of a cult following thanks to an abortive fan-made series focusing on his life, and has become one of the most popular characters to pair with Sweetie Belle (even her voice actress supports that pairing). Considering that the writers have incorporated fan notions of Derpy, Doctor Hooves, and so on, I’d really like to see them to do the same for Button.

 

 

  1. The Return of Diamond Tiara:
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    “Now that you don’t hate me, can I come back?”

    Never thought I’d be asking to see more of that little brat. But we haven’t seen anything of her since her reformation in season five; what’s she doing now? In fact, what’s she like now? It’s kind of hard to picture a non-bullying Diamond Tiara (which might be why she hasn’t been around). We don’t necessarily need a whole episode centered on her, but at least having her show up as a supporting character so that we can get some idea of where she is now would be appreciated. Maybe have one of the CMC feeling down and have her come over to talk to them, or do a school-centric episode where she and the CMC end up as rivals again and they both have to deal with old feelings of dislike surfacing in the heat of competition. With how well they’ve handled other reformed villains, I want to see them deal a little more with her.

 

  1. Gabby and Gilda Episode:
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    “Please, please do an episode with me?”

    After meeting the adorably overactive Gabby the Griffin in Season Six, and with Gilda now reformed, I think a griffon-centric episode just begs to be written. Gabby’s ultra cheeriness combined with Gilda’s sullen sarcasm could be absolutely hilarious, and it would let us see how Griffonstone is coming along in the friendship department, as well as further developing both their characters (frankly, we need to see more of ‘good Gilda,’ since she’s been so hated for so long and thus far we’ve only seen her good side in the denouement to one episode and in a silent flashback in another). So, yeah, a griffon episode seems to me to be exactly what’s called for.

 

  1. Spotlight One of Pinkie’s Other Sisters:
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    “How come we don’t get more screentime!?”

    I love Maud, as does pretty much everyone, and I believe we’re getting a Maud episode early on in the season, which is great. But I would also like to see Pinkie’s other two sisters, Marble and Limestone, receive more development. We know Pinkie spends a day with each of them; what easier than to show us one of those days? I’d especially like more of Marble, who’s adorable (Limestone’s kind of a jerk, but that might make her relationship with Pinkie all the more interesting). Maybe give her actual dialogue this time? It’d be nice to get a better idea of their relationship, whether they’re as close as Pinkie and Maud, how Pinkie handles Marble’s shyness, and so on. Have Fluttershy or, alternatively, Rainbow Dash join them and the potential for sweetness and hilarity is through the roof.

 

  1. Scootaloo’s Parents:
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    “Doesn’t anyone care about my home life?”

    Six whole seasons and we still have no idea who is responsible for this kid. I’d really be interested to see some of her home life, especially to finally learn who her guardian is, and whether she lives with both parents, one, or someone else entirely (I get the sense her home life isn’t very happy: it might be interesting to explore that). We could also see how her parents/guardians deal with her apparent disability, what they think of her relationship with Rainbow Dash, and so on. You could also use it as a chance to bring back Diamond Tiara, with the two of them bonding over their shared experience of an unhappy family life, in contrast to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. This is a storyline bursting with potential just waiting to be tapped.

 

Before Number One, some Runners Up:

-Another Pet-centric episode: Because the pets need more screentime.

-Ember comes to Ponyville: A friendly, but not-too-friendly dragon princess comes to Ponyville; this practically writes itself.

-Owlowicious and Spike centered episode: These two play off each other so well it’s a crime they don’t have more time together.

-Princess Celestia fighting and not losing for once: Yes, yes; need to preserve the drama, but come on! She’s supposed to be one of the most powerful characters in the series and she’s won precisely one on-screen fight this whole time…and it was a flashback!

-Another Rainbow Dash solo number: She’s voiced by a professional singer: let’s take advantage of that, shall  we?”

And the number one thing I’d like to see:

 

  1. Sunset Shimmer Comes to Equestria:
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    How can you say no to that face?

    Now that she’s taken over the role of protagonist in the Equestria Girls films, I would love to have a cross-over episode where Sunset temporarily returns to Equestria. I’d like to see her struggling to readjust back to being a pony after being a human for so long, see her getting to know the pony versions of her friends, and especially have her meet Starlight. The two characters fulfill basically the same role, so bringing them together would be a great opportunity to highlight their differences. Plus it would be interesting to see them compare notes on being reformed villains mentored by Twilight (I’m thinking something like the “two assistants” episode of Monk). I also think the two would play off each other really well, with Sunset the more active, take-charge figure and Starlight the more cerebral, bookish character. Basically, this could be a fantastic and exciting storyline and a great chance to develop one of the coolest characters in the series, so…make this happen.

 

My Federalist Little Pony

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Stop the Presses!

I just got paid for writing about My Little Pony: Achievement unlocked!

Read the whole thing here:

One of the best characters on the show is Luna, the Princess of the Night. She starts off as the villainous Nightmare Moon in the pilot episode, but after her defeat and redemption becomes a recurring heroic figure.

Her first appearance after the pilot has her trying to adjust to a world that is not only much different from the one she remembers (she was trapped in the moon for a thousand years; long story), but one in which she is basically the boogey man. Nightmare Night, the Equestrian equivalent of Halloween, is even based around placating her so she won’t gobble up young ponies.

Luna is understandably put off by this. She wants to be loved and admired, but the other ponies, especially goofball Pinkie Pie, constantly act afraid of her, and her odd, intimidating manners don’t help. She gets so offended that she threatens to eliminate the holiday.

But then, when Twilight (the show’s protagonist) finally catches Pinkie and tells her she doesn’t have to be afraid of Luna anymore, Pinkie cheerfully responds that she isn’t, really. It’s just being scared is part of the fun of Nightmare Night. Having the real-life Princess Luna there is like having Count Dracula show up to your Halloween party.

Then Twilight convinces Luna that, instead of trying to escape her spooky reputation, she should embrace it. As the reformed Princess of the Night, no one really knows how to take her. But as Nightmare Moon, the terrible mistress of darkness, she’s just an extra-special spooky attraction who makes the celebration that much cooler. Her willingness to play along makes her much more approachable.

We complain a lot about stereotypes, but I think most stereotypes are only harmful when applied indiscriminately to real-life people. But just in fun, or as part of a story, there’s nothing harmful about them. They’re part of our shared heritage and can serve as a link with different kinds of people. The incorrectly familiar is still familiar, but the unknown is simply unknown.

Embracing the horror-show version of herself instead of demanding to be accepted on her own terms gave Luna a connection with the other ponies, who then felt at least some familiarity with her and thus could relax in her presence, which allowed her to alter their preconceptions in a more organic and mutually respectful way.

That’s because whether someone’s ideas about you are accurate or even offensive is less important than whether they can actually talk to you, and you can’t talk to someone whose main topic of conversation is “Your ideas about me are wrong.”