• Editorial: The Relationship Debate: Twilight and Spike

    Hurray! We've made it to the 200th episode of MLP: FiM and to our surprise, Spike came out the victor. But not just by winning some aluminum foil crown, no, he is Sibling Supreme! That means he actually counts as a sibling now.

    Sparkle’s Seven raised a lot of questions about the nature of Spike and Twilight’s relationship. It seemed only last season Spike viewed Twilight as more of a parent in the ep Father Knows Best, but now it’s revealed that he thinks of her as a sister?

    So which is it? Is Twilight more of a parent, sibling or something else entirely? And more importantly, why is Spike and Twi’s relationship so difficult to identify? All this and plenty more overthinking in this post. Let’s get started!

    Parenting at its best?
    I shouldn’t have to say parent-child relationships can be tricky. MLP has shown some pretty rough situations along with some of the sweeter ones. But do Twilight and Spike match these overcomplicated dynamics?

    Looking at Twilight in a parenting role starts with examining Spike’s childhood with Twilight and her family.

    Episode 1: So much can be said about this kind of relationship, a mother isn't one of them.
    When we first meet Spike he is functioning as little more than Twilight’s assistant. Sure he's appreciated for his own thoughts and feelings, but he is there to support Twilight. That was his first function in the show and being “Twilight’s Number One Assistant” is a large part of his identity.

    Fluttershy: I'm really shy around my peers.
    Spike: So you don't consider me an equal?
    The way Twilight is treating Spike isn’t odd though. When other ponies interact with him he is treated more like a curiosity than a pony.

    I wonder how the dragons would feel knowing ponies are doing this. 
    Dragons as a whole weren’t really understood by ponies. Even while having a dragon as a friend, the mane 6 watched the dragon migration with the same level of regard as watching butterflies.

    Twilight doesn't really acknowledge Spike's dragon-hood or how it might affect his development.

    Twilight: I know you're having an identity crisis, but I'm trying to sleep.
    Like most other ponies, Twilight isn’t invested in teaching Spike how to be a good dragon. She doesn’t feel a maternal need to help Spike develop in that way. She’s not driven to study dragons, their growth or their mannerisms unless it's for some kind of research paper. She isn’t raising Spike so much as just expecting him to grow up alongside her.

    Just look at Twilight's sensitivity to Spike's misfortune. So motherly.
    But she doesn’t get invested enough to continue studying dragons on her own to better parent Spike. In fact, she is still thinking of dragons as a separate, unrelated-to-Spike subject to be studied.

    I wonder how this moment in Twilight's childhood affected her understanding of where babies come from.
    But can you really blame her for not being all too invested in raising Spike? After all, Twilight was a child herself when she got him. Kids don't usually have kids.

    Consider also: not even Princess Celestia thought anything wrong with children practice magic on dragon eggs and the educational chancellor disliked other creatures. Twilight got Spike from an educational system that wouldn’t have pressured her to raise him like her baby.

    I can't handle how cute baby Spike is! Aww!
    Not to mention Twilight went to school all day and, apparently, Spike stayed home with her parents. You know, the ponies that actually know what to do to keep a baby alive.

    However, I can’t imagine Twilight’s parents would have given Spike the title ‘son.’ He clearly was connected to Twilight and wasn’t an autonomous member of the family. When Twilight moved off to Ponyville, they had no objections of letting that baby go. (Oh well, they aren't the relationship we're talking about.)

    Somepony please just give him a star!
    So Spike’s feelings about not being included are completely justified. I think it’s safe to say he didn’t have much in the way of a parental figure.

    Remember back when Twilight only knew like 24 spells? Yeah, Spike helped her do that!
    It’s also worth noting that while Spike is considered young, he’s never sent to school. I’m guessing all his book-learning came directly from Twilight, but unlike a parent, she never signs him up for clubs, sports, classes, theater or any other extra-curricular activity.

    Consider: Spike is often the one who is helping Twilight study. It's just too strange that if she were parenting him that she wouldn't spend more time investing in his education.

    Spike does way too much for Twilight and her friends.
    His nurturing spirit must have also been developed around Twilight, but it doesn’t come from her. He is seen more often taking care of her rather than the other way around. Their relationship just isn’t very mother-son.

    I think this is why it hurt Twilight so much when Spike’s “father” came. She never acted like his mom, so what authority did she have to tell him to stop listening to his real parent. It hurt for her to finally be forced to examine her relationship with Spike to find that she isn't the type of family she thought she was.

    But they are family. So let's look at their relationship from the sibling angle.

    Siblings can be the best!
    Sibling dynamics can be difficult to examine. MLP has had plenty of great family relationship episodes. The directions of sibling affiliations are near endless.

    A true question for the parent-sibling debate.
    Siblings can be friends, rivals, mentors, annoying . . . no group of siblings on the show has exactly the same relationship as any other. Siblings can even function as a parental figure even if Twilight and Spike don’t seem to do that as much.

    Siblings relationships are going to develop differently based on the challenges and experiences they face. While Twilight and Shining Armor have been developing their relationship since before Spike's arrival, Spike has been able to work his way into a specific niche in his unique family situation.

    Twilight's pretty powerful, but Shinning's captain of the guard. Who would win in a real all-out sibling fight? 

    Consider: Shining was so close to Twilight that he neglected to tell her about his wedding until the day before. And Twilight failed to mention even having a brother to her friends until the same event.

    If this is how Twilight treats her biological brother, then the fact that Twilight never openly expressed a sibling connection to Spike isn’t odd or out of character for her.

    Spike: What are little brothers-
    Twilight: Denied!
    Twi just isn’t very emotional. It never occurred to her that she needed to define her relationship with Spike. She’s been kind of a loner most of her life and developed her sibling relations around continuing her knowledge and pursuit of goals.

     She may be a princess, but there are a ton of lessons she hasn't learned yet.

    Twilight: I wish my family left more obvious clues for me to follow.
    Shining and Twilight seemed to bond most over challenges and competitions. Twilight liked mentally advancing while Shinning enjoyed creating strategic games for her. To engage each other, Shinning often put together little puzzles for his sister to complete. (I'm noticing this family doesn't just share big news directly.)

    Their parents apparently fed this love of competition with the star chart. Spike doesn’t really enjoy those activities. He’s more sensitive than Shining Armor and Twilight. (Crazy I know since one’s married to the Princess of Love and the other is the Princess of Friendship, but hear me out.)

    Shining: How can you sympathize with changlings!?
    The ponies Spike grew up with are very smart, but he has emotional intelligence. He didn’t really fit the family dynamic. It gives him the ability to relate to various groups of creatures; perhaps a result of being a dragon in pony society. He often sees the 'human' side of issues.

    Spike prefers things like 7-hour bubble baths, board games, and talking about feelings. I think that’s why he has better character interactions with characters like Rarity, Discord, and Starlight than he does with Twilight at times. Solving puzzles was only fun because it allowed him to be close to his sister. He wanted to be with her, not necessarily her work.

    But just because he’s different from his sibs doesn’t mean he’s not part of them.

    Pinkie: I totally fit in this family!
    Every family has one: the oddball, the black sheep, the crazy uncle- whatever you want to call that family member. They don’t quite fit, but they definitely still belong.

    This fills my heart with joy!
    This might be the first time Shining and Twi really saw Spike as their brother, but the truth is he always has been. Being a sibling looks vastly different for everyone. His relationship with Twilight strongly resembles that of a brother-sister bond than it does a parent-child.

    Perhaps there's still an argument to be made for a parent-child relationship with these two, but it’s clear they think of each other as brother and sister . . . or maybe Spike’s just a pet and this whole conversation is pointless. What do you think?