• Editorial: Subtle Double-take: Ponies, Prejudices, and Pupils

    As season 8 premiered, there was that moment of anticipatory dread and excitement. Will this episode make the grade or will all my hopes for the series get expelled? And after I finished laughing at my own puns, I began to really think about the Equestrian Education Association’s reaction to Twilight’s school proposal.

    Had ponies’ disdain for other creature become nothing more than a minor plot point? Why would any harmony loving pony not want to spread friendship? And most important, was this episode meant to reflect our lives?

    Okay students, line up because it’s time to enter a classroom with more cringe-worthy material than a high school health class. Today’s lesson: Equestria’s blatant prejudices and how young viewers might have viewed it.

    My Little Pony has touched on some pretty tough topics at times. I'm quickly reminded of Rainbow Dash going through the grieving process in "Tanks for the Memories," or Sunset Shimmer not being accepted by her school in "Rainbow Rocks."

    But the subtle prejudice against other species always slightly bothered me in the show. I know the show tried to tackle this issue with Zecora, but it was quickly undone with a mule joke or pony villains getting reformed faster than the non-pony ones.

    I meant other mules are stubborn, not you.
    So I don’t think I'm pointing out anything new when I say that ponies aren’t inclusive of all creatures. They make jokes and off-handed comments just to brush them off with a quick “No offense” to cover just how insensitive it was.

    They also have trouble understanding the differences other creatures might have or things that might be important to their cultures.

    Pony society is built to cater to their species after all. Even the big cities seem overwhelming filled with only ponies with maybe a griffon in the background from time to time. And think about all the villains Equestria has had to face for 1,000 years.

    The fear of other creatures is not a new one.
    It makes sense to be afraid of outsiders. Most of all the threats they’ve dealt with seemed to be other creatures coming in to hurt them. Ponies wouldn’t consider themselves exclusive I’d imagine.

    I don't know why Gilda attended a pony flight camp, but I'm so happy to see this cutie!
    It seems some species are allowed to start businesses like Iron Will did or enter baking contests like Mulia Mild. And it’s worth noting that originally ponies held a prejudice against themselves and overcame it.

    Hurricane: "Just 'cause I technically haven't touched the ground, doesn't mean I didn't claim it first!"
    Regardless of all this, by the time we catch up to Twilight’s school in the present, we’re not surprised that the whole EEA would still want a school built to preserve the pony way of life and exclude outsiders.
    Twilight was so excited about the school, it's like she didn't hear what they said at all.
    The episode didn't seem to center around prejudice at first. The focus was how Twilight didn't listen to her friends because she was obsessed with following the rule book. Yet that seemed to be a distraction from the fact that Twilight's school was pioneering something no school in her kingdom had ever done before; Open its doors to non-ponies.

    But what about our younger viewers of the show? Afterall, the show is for them. Would they have been shocked? This episode makes it perfectly clear even to a child that Equestria is a land filled with prejudice as much as friendship, magic, parties, and ponies.

    Even young Changelings know other creatures might not like a Changeling. It's good to have others remind you that every bit of who you are is accepted and loved.
    I know this episode had a slow start and many were bored by it, but I know as a kid I would have watched this episode on repeat. Neighsay's intentions are clear and he makes them know in front of all the students.

    You know that saying about making assumptions, I think it applies to Neighsay and the EEA very strongly here.
    I have to share a quick personal story here to hopefully explain my point. As a kid with an ethnically ambiguous background, to hear an adult tell you, "You don't belong here," is a pain beyond my description.

    This episode had just that. I watched each of the different creatures respond to Neighsay's comments, and it really struck a chord with me because no child should have to deal with this, but they do, and MLP just went there.

    "Your Kind!"
    Was the topic of prejudice handled perfectly in this episode? I can't say, but it does illustrate the complex nature of the topic. Couple this episode with the other MLP eps tackling accepting differences and I think it provides a great starting point for discussion.

    I'm happy to note that Twilight didn't foresee the students being different species as being a problem for her school.
    Luckily, the main characters have come such a long way from where Neighsay and the EEA still are. But the fact that the whole EEA approved of the school to defend themselves from outside threats shows me there are still a lot of mindsets that need to change in Equestria.

    "It's for the greater good."
    Can we take a look at Neighsay's motivation? I feel the need to point out that Neighsay is honestly, in his mind, trying to help Equestria. He 's trying to protect his home from a threat, even if it's an imagined one. This fact is one of the complex issues with prejudice.

    Think about it from his point of view. Consider what the power of friendship or Elements of Harmony are able to do, friendship in Equestria probably looks like a weapon to him.

    All the magic in Equestria plus Chaos was taken out with friendship.
    All this fear and hatred comes from a concept known as the Us Vs. Them Mentality. Ponies, as well as people, are putting others into categories to distinguish how they are different and also to stay safe. Sadly, these categories can be based on stereotypes, falsehoods or hurtful assumptions.

    Neighsay is generally scared of any other creature gaining the power of friendship and using it against Equestria. Whether this fear is accurate or not, he believes it and has lumped any non-pony into a “Them” category.
    It's good to see the foals of Ponyville are quick to embrace friends of any species.
    Because of this fear, he sees the playful rogue antics of the new students as an “act of aggression toward ponies.” He can't see the truth because his fear blinds him.

    Does that give him an excuse? Of course not. Facing our fears and pressing forward to the truth is the responsibility of adults. Neighsay should be setting a good example for the children in his schools not making them feel like they aren't good enough to be in Equestria.

    Although this concept is nothing new, I think ponies have come a long way since the mule comment back in season 1. I'm interested to see how our favorite pony characters tackle this issues should Neighsay return. I want to see how all the new student characters internalize being different from most the other students around them. I want to see Equestria overcome cultural differences!

    Okay, that was a not-so-subtle double-take on Equestria. We can now move into the class disscussion. Go.