• Editorial: Is the Cutie Map a Good Idea? Should It Continue Use in Season 7?

    Season five was our first real interaction with the Cutie Map, and we have had it periodically appear ever since. During it's introduction, Hasbro had a huge marketing campaign going for "Exploring Equestria" with a merchandise lineup, commercials, and books all pushing the concept. Around this time is when the official map of Equestria had it's first expansion, adding a whole bunch of interesting new locales for us to theorize on while we waited for episodes that took place in them.

    What many thought was just a season long theme ended up continuing forward into the 6th season, and there are no signs that it won't be used even more in the 7th. Is the cutie map a good idea though? Should we move on to a new concept or expand it?

    Editorial time! Lets dive into it below!

    Is the Map Lazy?

    One of the bigger criticisms we've seen over the years is the idea that the map is lazy design, and harmful to the story. Instead of introducing an episode with an interesting reason for the ponies to travel to a new location and using that to fuel the plot, they end up spending the first few minutes derping around with the map and blindly following their butts to whatever location it demands.

    Many shows have used this trope over the years, with a commanding presence guiding each episode. It can be done well, and I think pony in particular pulls it off to an extent, but could it be done better? Would the Las Pegasus episode be more interesting if Applejack and Fluttershy had a more entertaining reason to be in Las Pegasus than "Go solve a friendship problem!"? It does seem to add an almost paint-by-numbers feel to those particular stories.

    I don't think I'd call it lazy though. Maybe just obtrusive? It's not like the episodes with the map sending them places are bad, but I do think they could be better with a more entertaining introduction and less used overall plot. We had four seasons without it, and all of them gave much more complex reasons for ponies to be places. Without that extra map answering and traveling part at the beginning, we get a lot more time in whatever location an episode is showing off, and when there are only 22 minutes a week, any time at all is precious.

    Who Actually Controls the Cutie Map?

    Another common complaint is how little we actually know about the map overall. If you suddenly owned a castle and a piece of furniture kept ringing your butt telling you to travel places, wouldn't you want to know who is on the other line? I feel like Twilight especially would be wary of mindlessly following the commands of an ancient artifact, and having an episode back at the beginning of season 5 exploring this could have helped tremendously at giving it some purpose.

    I mentioned above that many a show uses similar tropes to help guide the story, but I can't think of any where the protagonists didn't at least have an inkling of what was commanding them and why it was happening. In many cases, the main character will constantly rebel against a domineering higher-up as part of the plot. Neither happens in pony. They blindly follow it wherever it demands without complaint. Even a busy worker like Applejack doesn't seem to mind being pulled away from potentially critical farm deadlines, or Rarity with her multiple businesses. Running EQD all these years, you'd be surprised at how little 100% open time you have while heading something that depends on you being available to survive.

    So far, it hasn't done anything evil and for the most part has guided them to locations where they can actually make a difference...But for how long will this go on? What if the map starts handing out problems that can't always be solved with the good side winning? What if it sends a pony off on a mission she doesn't really agree with? Do they still keep following it?

    So What Can We Do With It?!


    I actually think the idea of an increasingly corrupt cutie map would be incredibly interesting for the story. Imagine an arc where the map starts "malfunctioning", sending them off to bizaare locations and either playing games with the mane six or forcing them into situations they just can't deal with. It could slowly reveal what makes it tick, and give them a new villain to content with in the end or something.

    Alternatively, we could re-explore it's time travel capabilities. Starlight Glimmer may have been using it for evil, but imagine all the good you could do with a power like that. I know a certain Doctor Whooves faction of the fandom who would love a bit of Equestrian world building via Starlight and friends traveling to different eras. We are all dying for that Starswirl the Bearded episode. Here's where you do it!

    It's even an excuse for Hasbro to get their merch on with ponies from across the spectrum of time. Throw them out to some far distant sci-fi future and sell us some brushables in techy costumes. I know I'd buy a Rainbow Dash on a hover bike Guardians of Harmony figure. It still pains me that we never got a pony side series. High School with the Equestria Girls is neat, but imagine how cool it would be with equines tackling the rise of space-fairing technology? One of the charms of the show is seeing Earth and Pegasus manipulating objects without hands. How would they handle a sci-fi or steampunk future for an episode or two?

    Of course, we could remove it altogether and shift the story into an entirely new direction. Fixing friendship problems has become somewhat mundane at this point, and Twilight's princesshood could use a new purpose just to spice things up a bit.

    Overall, I still think the Cutie Map has a lot of potential to be something more, but I still feel like it's current iteration is lacking. Pony was always a very fluid show in it's earliest days, and having a structured episode mover kinda takes away from that. With season 7 right around the corner, I have my fingers crossed that we will either explore what makes it tick, do something else with it to avoid the trope tiring out, or simply focus on a different way to get the ponies out exploring. 

    So, what do you think? Do we keep the map and keep it in it's current state?