• Editorial: Even If It Is Broken...

    Thanks to DashieSparkle and Jhayarr23 for their Tempest Shadow and Moon Dancer vectors!

    In lieu of a comic review this week, I'd like to share a little story from Equestria LA. A story that involves a very good question, and an improvised answer.

    Check out the tale and the thoughts in invoked after the break, but be aware it will be discussing My Little Pony the Movie.

    This story takes place at the "Epic Youtuber Panel" hosted at Equestria LA 2017. For the record, I did not come up with that name.

    Some folks asked if I was dressed to be the host.
    I said I was there as the lighting system.
    My thanks to ACRacebest and friends for organizing, participating, and recording the panel. At about 19:25, a fellow fan asked the reviewers to compare Tempest with Starlight Glimmer and their respective tragedies. In particular, the idea that while Starlight's lost friendship mended, Tempest never repaired her horn. 

    "Who is this Starlight Glimmer and how much should I crush her?"
    Now, it's an instant faux pas to spoil a movie for another fan and I figured there were at least some folks at the convention who hadn't yet seen the movie. So in a hasty dance I substituted both Scootaloo and Moon Dancer to elaborate on one of the more positive aspects to Tempest's story.

    Scar? Check.
    Broken horn? Check.
    Tragic backstory? Instant darling!

    However, since you clicked on this article with fair warning I'm going to assume that spoilers are okay here, and this is a topic very worthy of thought.

    A Tale of Two Outcasts
    I'll start off with by saying that I prefer Tempest's fall from grace over Starlight's. Not necessarily because of the physical damage done to her horn, but because of what happened after. Thanks to "Open Up Your Eyes" we got to journey with Tempest down the road that lead to the Storm King's service. In doing so we witness not only the tragic event but also its impact, so it's easier to empathize even though I know she's made the wrong choice.

    "Cutie marks cost me my only friend!"
    "Did you try making other friends?"
    "Wait, you can do that?"

    With Starlight, we witnessed an event that was tragic in her eyes, but the aftermath is left unaddressed. How did she develop her warped view on cutie marks? Why didn't she make other friends? There are followup questions that undermine the connection. There is no "winner" when it comes to tragedy, but I do think we can experience varying connections. My connection with Tempest's past was much stronger, and I see branching possibilities in other ponies. 

    Dstears knows what's what.
    Moon Dancer's all about the measured response!

    Tempest's Peers
    Thinking of Tempest immediately drew my thoughts to Scootaloo, for we also walked with her through the events of Flight to the Finish. A pegasus who cannot fly and is ridiculed for it. Seeing her throw her scooter in the trash is one of the saddest sights in the show. 

    Few things more painful than seeing a dream die.

    Having witnessed Tempest's loss of self, I'm glad to know Scootaloo didn't travel down a similar road thanks to more stalwart friends and a caring mentor. Nevertheless, Scootaloo likewise faces a future where she doesn't enjoy the same ready opportunities that other pegasi take for granted.

    Some things you can't just will your way through.

    So compared to these two, why mention Moon Dancer? She is still cut off from the rest of the culture due to a past injury, but it's emotional. If anything, her glasses and her worn sweater are signs of how she's not taking care of herself. 

    Have they invested a laser surgery spell yet?

    As I thought about mending wings and a horn, I wondered about why Moon Dancer wore glasses. We've seen a few ponies don them for close inspection like Rarity's dresses, but Moon Dancer has to wear them all the time. Perhaps it's an intentional choice to close herself off from others. If we're talking about mending major damage, why not also correct Moon Dancer's eyesight and remove at least one more personal obstacle? 

    "I can't hear you through my brooding!"

    Which brings us to the topic of magic and its healing properties. 

    Magic and Limitations
    When magic is a part of a story, one of the most interesting questions I look at is how it's changed society. Is there a finite amount of magic? Does it have to be rationed or is it pooled around a certain subset? Does this imbalance create social inequality or maybe a caste system? We saw a hint of this back in Hearth's Warming Eve. The three tribes had distinct roles as they interacted. That interdependence was one of the few things holding them together before discovering Equestria.

    Mutually assured starvation.

    Yet now Equestria seems a land overflowing with magic. And though ponies' talents are expressed through marks, there doesn't appear to be any social order forced upon them. Despite emphasizing concepts like destiny and focusing on cutie marks, the ponies haven't given into categorizing themselves based on talent alone. Starlight resented cutie marks in part for this possibility, but that proved to be her own warped perception. 

    It takes a special kind of terrible to use anti-bullying to ruin someone's life.

    Yet what happens when a pony can't perform functions that come naturally to others? A pegasus who can't fly or a unicorn who can't harness her magic? Should not this land, filled to bursting with all forms of magic, have the means to fix this? To answer this, let's talk follicles.

    I've seen you both violate space and nature's laws! What's a little hair?

    One of the funnier aspects of It's the Mane Thing About You was the assertion that hair-growing spells were impossible. Growing a fake mustache is no problem, but a full head of hair? It seems contradictory and yet it's presented as an absolute. Take that idea and stretch it to further bounds. We've seen Twilight fit Rarity with a pair of temporary wings. Is there not another spell that could permanently strengthen Scootaloo?

    Who needs flutterponies when you have Rarity?

    One could very easily say, "We haven't the magic to mend horns, wings, or even eyesight". The problem is the immediate followup question of "why not?" Surely that would be a question for somepony like Tempest. 

    You want to tell her there's no treatment?
    Better you than me!

    Then again, we've seen ample ponies walking around with injured limbs and other bandaged parts to know that there don't appear to be quick fixes. Often a pony just has to rest up and let their bodies heal naturally. The only fast cures we've witnessed are Zecora's cure for cutie pox and the miracle cure for swamp fever. Could it be that extreme healing spells are possible, but the raw talent is so rare it's not easily available? That might be a more satisfying answer, though one could still ask why prodigies like Twilight and Starlight can't dedicate their own skills.

    But perhaps we're missing the more important question.

    What Really Needs Fixing? 
    To say that Tempest, Scootaloo, and Moon Dancer have to be "fixed" is to imply that they don't fit a standard. That they can't mesh with the rest of their culture until they meet a standard. Fully mended horn, working wings, perfect eyesight. Yet as I mentioned above, Equestria doesn't appear to have such an imbalance. These ponies are loved and respected not for their abilities but for who they are.

    One my favorite Rainbow Dash moments!

    I adored Rainbow Dash when she told Scootaloo that, flight or no, she's all kinds of awesome anyway. Twilight showed her best by connecting with both Moon Dancer and Tempest on an emotional level, beckoning them off a destructive path. The goal was not to make these ponies conform to a standard. It was to help them accept and celebrate who they are.

    And a favorite Twilight moment!

    It's a common theme in fantasy that a character will set off seeking one kind of solution only to discover something deeper. Dr Strange is a prime and recent example. The goal of mending a broken horn or empowering a pair of wings may yet be pursued. There's nothing to say that Tempest shouldn't continue seeking a way to regain control of her magic.

    This is how she'll look if you call her "Fizzy".
    It's also the last thing you'll see.

    Yet she doesn't have to do so out of fear or anger or a sense that her value is tied to one ability. Like Scootaloo and Moon Dancer, she can now look around and do something previously unavailable: ask for help.

    It Doesn't Come Naturally
    Now, I hear you say, "Silver (you posting parakeet), we have seen ponies scorned for not fitting the norm." And indeed with have.

    Good thing she reformed. I don't think she could have sunk any lower.

    We've seen Fluttershy mocked for being a weak flyer. We've seen Diamond Tiara directly target Scootaloo. We saw how Tempest's own friends contributed to her downfall and then failed to stay by her afterwards.

    Middle school stinks.

    Yet in all these cases, we witnessed the young. Colts and fillies, who weren't yet themselves matured. This makes me think that ponies have achieved this level of respect by effort rather than by default. Odds are it took Celestia and others time to convey this idea. Rockhoof was mocked for his small stature and lack of strength, so perhaps there was a time where ponies were more focused on ability. 

    No strength? Fine. You saying you can't find another role for him?

    I prefer it this way because saying they come by it naturally means this view was never put to the test. Respecting others for who they are is an ideal, and ideals have meaning when they're challenged. Equestria is in many ways idealized, but with enough time and backstory we get to see what the ponies went through to reach that status.  

    Aim high, pegasi!

    In so many stories featuring magic, it becomes a divisive force. Depending on the setting, those who wield magic might become elitist or might be persecuted by a jealous majority. It's a nice change from the norm to see a magic-filled landed that doesn't define all its inhabitants by ability. Individuals can make this mistake, but thankfully there are others who reach out and set them on the right track. Because at the end of the day a talent is something you do, but it does not and should not define who you are. It's one of the reasons I enjoy watching this show and why I don't think less of Equestria even when one of its own goes astray.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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