It seems to me that there are only nine characters on My Little Pony that are fully fleshed-out, multidimensional and consistent characters: Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Sweetie Belle, Applejack, Scootaloo, Fluttershy, Rarity, Apple Bloom, and Pinkie Pie. I would include Spike, but sadly, Spike at Your Service really fucked-up his character arc.
Now, this should surprise no one, since they are the main characters. But we’ve had many side characters pop up over the years that could’ve gotten proper characterization, but ended up as one-dimensional and bland caricatures. Some may suggest that this is okay for one-shot characters, and that they just don’t get enough screen time to show any real depth, but I don’t buy that. Take Sombra for instance. What did he do, and why did he do it? Something about slaves and taking over the Crystal Empire. But we get no explanation of what he actually did. He’s not so much a character, but a formless evil; which is just lazy storytelling if you ask me. He had a 45-minute episode where they could’ve spent three minutes explaining what he did that was so evil, and maybe even what his ultimate goal was. But we get none of that, and instead just focus on Twilight climbing stairs, and Fluttershy being shit at jousting. And don’t forget the two, frankly time-wasting, musical numbers.
Then we have the extras. Background characters who act like a single mass of idiots on a nearly constant basis. None of them have any personality! Which is fair enough since they’re background characters. But as a collective, they don’t act in a way any normal group would act. They all act as vapid and shallow morons. Not one of them takes a step to the side and realize the rest of them are idiots.
I might be misremembering things, but the second episode, The Ticket Master, highlights this very well, as the entire town begins mobbing Twilight for the extra Gala ticket. And I mean the entire town! We don’t see any background characters observing these events from afar. Looking over their newspaper as a mass of ponies mob the newest member of their community. And that bugs me. You’re telling me no innocent bystander feels the need to not join in with the crowd? None of them are patient observers? No! They’re all part of the herd!
I bring this up because a more recent episode did the exact same thing, but in a much more obvious way. And it makes me think the writers don’t even try to give personalities to characters that aren’t available on toy shelves.
Our tale features the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who have recently been spending a lot of time with Twilight Sparkle. She’s helping them train various skills they want to be better at, like Sweetie Belle and magic, Apple Bloom and potion making, and Scootaloo and learning to rebuild a unicycle of all things.
“These are the remnants of my shattered dreams.”
Anyway, they’re not that great at it. Sweetie Belle can barely move a broom, Scootaloo’s unicycle lies in tatters, and Apple Bloom is lamenting the fact that she can’t get a handle on making a growth potion. How does she know? No idea, because when she said that, she hadn’t even tested it. She made something though, but she hadn’t tested it. I have a feeling those lines were rearranged at some point, because it would make more sense if she tested it and saw it fail before whining. Actually it would’ve been much better if she acted as if she was a great potion maker, then tested the thing, and it burned a hole in the floor.
Anyway, the point is, they’re not that great at any of these things. But they’re trying, and they’re learning, and they’re working hard, and that’s all you can ask for, really.
Later, possibly a few days later, the Crusaders are playing ball with a character we haven’t seen since season two.
Oh, hello Pip. Haven’t seen you in a while. And he’s hanging with the crusaders. Does this mean he joined their group? Well, about time.
I mentioned this before. It seems quite odd to me that it’s still only those three (four if you count the one who lives in another city) who are part of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. And yet, there are at least half a dozen more blank flanks in that town that they haven’t bothered to recruit. It’s not because they don’t want new members, as we learned last season. So why are there only three?
The obvious out-of-universe reason is because the writers don’t want to have to deal with too many main characters. If the crusaders end up recruiting every blank flank in town, they’d have to characterize every single one of them, possibly even give them their own episodes, and it’s just not worth it.
The in-universe reason is non-existent. I mean I could buy a case of Apple Bloom declaring, ‘no, only us three.’ That would make sense, but it was contradicted when they recruited Babs Seed.
But now Pipsqueak’s in the group! This is fantastic! Isn’t he? Well actually, no. It appears he’s just playing ball with them for a few minutes. Because during the rest of the episode, he just ends up acting like every other classmate of theirs.
Case in point, when Diamond Tiara arrives to do some amazing acrobatic techniques, he joins the mob gathering around her; rather than stick with the crusaders, who are hanging back. So much for friendship.
Now, when I say Diamond “arrives to do some amazing acrobatic techniques,” what I actually meant was, “has her butler do it.”
Because, as we all know, Diamond Tiara is a tool. Then everyone fawns over her for doing nothing! Well, everyone minus three. You see, this brings me to the biggest problem I have with the episode. The crusaders seem to be the only sane ones in the entire school! No one else seems bothered by the fact that Diamond doesn’t actually have any practical skills. She just ‘has money.’ You know, I was joking before, but in all sincerity I think being born rich really is her special talent. She sucks that much.
And so, her royal suckatuge trots over to the crusaders and says, ‘hey, if you’re going to Manehattan soon, you can join me in hanging out with celebrities.’
Which is stupid, and shallow, but a nice offer at least, until we learn that they sorta expected them to say they weren’t going to Manehattan any time soon. So, they were basically just bragging that they hang out with celebrities. … Pricks… just… pricks, they’re pricks.
But in the end, it’s not something to really brag about. Oh you’re friends with a celebrity… so? I’m friends with an Argentinian. What’s your point?
But the mockery quickly gets to Sweetie Belle, who retaliates with: “Oh, yeah!? Well… we hang out with Princess Twilight all the time!” And this, for some reason, surprises Diamond Tiara. Uh, two out of the three of them are directly related to Twilight’s best friends. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.
Anyway, Diamond and Silver Spoon ask to join them for “Twilight Time,” because, as she puts it: while Twilight was just an ordinary unicorn, she didn’t matter; but now she’s a princess, holy shit!
Look, I know we’re supposed to hate her, but they’re laying it on a bit thick.
Anyway, Sweetie Belle has the great idea to let them come, because then these two idiots will have to learn new skills as well. So they go over to Twilight’s place, and Diamond is so excited to meet the princess and–doesn’t Twilight live in a public library!? That’s what I always assumed. If so, why is it such a big deal to meet her?
Anyway, they go over to Twilight’s place, and she’s surprised to see that they brought guests. And after she says she’s all for helping ponies learn new things, she says she’s not gonna teach those two anything. No, instead the idiots just end up watching the crusaders fail. So, the crusaders aren’t making that mistake again.
Later, a mob shows up asking them to make that mistake again.
Yes, it appears that everyone’s now fawning over the crusaders, because they’re friends with a celebrity, and Sweetie Belle has the bright idea to take advantage of this. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s sarcasm.
It starts out well enough, as Twilight doesn’t seem that bothered, despite the fact that she ended up getting mobbed by the paparazzi outside a fast food joint.
It’s only starting people.
Then, ponies start doing favours for the crusaders, and giving them all sorts of free stuff.
Oh, how nice of them.
Then, it’s Twilight Time once again. And when the crusaders say it’s just the three of them, things go bad.
After all the favours they did for them? Well then, they weren’t favours were they!?
But apparently, Twilight’s okay with it. Which doesn’t surprise me. It’s a public library. Do they not realize that they just have to go to the library and say they want to borrow a book? It’s not that complicated!
And everything goes perfectly. Until Pipsqueak decides to just blurt out that everypony’s been doing favours for the crusaders, because they’re friends with a celebrity.
And this is where things really get stupid. Instead of giving these three fillies the benefit of the doubt, or pulling them aside to ask what’s really going on, she then assumes the three of them spend time with her, not out of a desire to learn, but because she’s a princess.
Twilight, you’ve known them for about three years, at least. Don’t you think they deserve at least a little credit?
No, they must be shallow and two-faced, even though they never shown any indication of that before now. And, let’s put Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo aside for a minute. Do you really think Applejack would raise her little sister to be that shallow and manipulative? I don’t!
No, instead she assumes the worst, and demands that the three of them prove otherwise. How? Well, by demonstrating the skills they learned. Because if they were sincere, they’d be perfect at them right now! That’s–no! Twilight, you’re an idiot! That’s not how it works! I assume they didn’t just start work on this stuff yesterday. And given that they didn’t master these things during their last two visits, what makes you think things would suddenly change this week!?
And they actually do try. But of course they fail. Well, Apple Bloom was at least partially successful. She blew up an apple with a magic potion. That deserves at least partial credit.
And so, because they’re not perfect at something they just started learning, Twilight decides to end the whole thing, but not before dressing down the crowd for not caring about learning either. And I have to object. I estimate three… maybe four dozen ponies in that room. Not one of them was interested in learning something new? Not one of them raised their hoof and said, “actually, I’m kinda interested in astrophysics.” Or, “you know, I’ve always wanted to learn how to make lasagna.”
None of them!? I don’t believe you.
It is an innate desire of all intelligent beings to learn. Scratch that, it is an innate desire of every single, living, thinking creature to learn! It’s just, humans are already the best at it. I guarantee there is not a single person on planet Earth who will tell you they hate to learn new things (methodology aside). We all want to learn, so forgive me if I seem a bit skeptical when I see every member of a group just refuse to do so. Hell, they’re already there! Why not learn a bit of chemistry while they’re at it?
Then, after everyone leaves, it’s just Twilight and the crusaders. And they now, finally, successfully demonstrate their skills.
So Twilight decides she’s gonna keep teaching them because of reasons.
And the episode ends with me saying that this was bad.
It wasn’t atrocious, and admittingly, most of these problems I didn’t even notice on first viewing. With the exception of the mob-mentality problem, that stuck out like a sore hoof!
And I know people are gonna say something about how mob-mentality is real; that the bigger a group gets, the stupider it is; and if you end up in a group like that, most people just end up going with the flow. But the key word is: ‘most.’ It may be easy to forget, but a mob consists of individuals. And the bigger a group gets the more likely you are to have outliers, those who stray from the path because they feel like it. And I find it really hard to believe that didn’t exist at Ponyville Elementary. Not one of them?
Oh, and before you say it, the Cutie Mark Crusaders weren’t part of the mob.
But then there’s Twilight. Throughout the episode, she seems perfectly fine being mobbed by legions of fans, and being stalked by the paparazzi while eating.
And somehow she’s okay with this? She doesn’t realize that this is not on!? And her attitudes toward her friends in the final scenes were just… well… rude! Who takes the words of strangers over their friends!? Seriously!?
I find it odd that recently, in every appearance she’s made, Twilight’s just become less and less likeable, and I’m not sure why. And before you say it, no, it’s not because she’s a princess. I’ll remind you, I actually liked the season première. And it started more recently than that; in Rainbow Falls. Up until then, everything was fine. But then, she allowed Rainbow to continue being a twat, before showing little concern for a sick friend, and now she assumes the worst in her youngest friends. That’s not on!
Honestly though, I think it might actually be connected to her transformation. Since Twilight is now a princess, the writers are probably not sure what the best approach is, and have decided that they should try to have her act more like a princess, when she should be acting more like Twilight. At least, that would explain some of it. The rest of it? I don’t know. It seems she’s just slowly turning into a bitch.
I think it’s time to remember what this show’s about: Friendship. And friends should trust each other, and care about each other, and given that Twilight’s supposed to be the princess of friendship or whatever, having her fail so badly at it is problematic. What’s next? Is Cadance getting a divorce!?
But back to the episode. I won’t say it was terrible, because it was enjoyable at first watch. But on second viewing, the plot holes and shitty characterization became apparent. The only characters to get out unscathed are the crusaders.
Which I find odd because they were the ones who supposedly learned a lesson, when they were the least in need of one. True, their priorities got a bit mixed-up, since they were mostly focused on being the popular fillies at school rather than respecting their friend’s privacy and dignity. But regardless, their hearts remained in the right place.
And all those favours ponies did for them, only for the crusaders to find out there were strings attached? Well then, they weren’t favours were they? They were debts. Those ponies didn’t do those things to be nice, they did them so they could meet Twilight. But I don’t remember the crusaders outright agreeing to that. Regardless, that’s a very ignoble reason to do someone a ‘favour.’
I guess my point is: in this episode, the crusaders were the least dickish. So why didn’t anyone else learn something? Like, how to not be a dick!