• Let's Review: Little Fillies #3

    It's time to get classical as we have the penultimate issue for this mini-series! Life is changing, dreams are forming, and plot-points are dying.

    Check out the full review, along with ol-timey spoilers, after the break!


    We're reaching a point where paths must diverge and life demands separation in order for growth. Which is a tough sell when the My Little Pony franchise emphasizes staying close to friends and family.

    The artwork this issue remains consistent with a style that does a good job of conveying thoughts and emotions (plus some wild scenes), yet is strangely off-model and may distract the reader from the progressing story. Originally I thought this a send-up to an art style that accompanied early publications of "Little Women", but as we progress I think it's more a lack of familiarity with the topic. This becomes especially apparent when we see Discord. Since he assumes almost every second-tier character role, there's plenty of opportunities to notice that his head is far more draconic. I can't see a reason for this other than the title "draconequus" conveyed the wrong idea to Jenna Ayoub.

    You just don't get that kind of service anymore.

    The most powerful imagery is the few panels where Rainbow Dash's mane is rendered black. We'll get into the why's later, but it's interesting to see what an impact this tone shift holds for our spectral-colored heroine. It definitely conveys a sense of loss, short-lived as it may be.

    It's not a phase!
    Navigating the changes between the original "Little Women" and this series becomes more complicated as events are combined and a great deal of meaning can be lost. Take our opening scene as an example. The original book featured a conversation in the outdoors with each member of the March sisters brining out a project to work upon. The effeminate Laurie asks to be included, but can only do so after he proves that he has a skill or service to offer the group.

    I imagine a lot of meetings starting this way.
    A literary scholar named Nina Auerbach points to this scene to suggest that it's part of a larger cultural symbol to rebuke the idea of soliarty women defined tonly through families, heterosexual couples, and groups of men. A man wants to join in the group rather than the group seeking out his company. Auerbach goes so far as to suggest that this story conveys that an all-female society is possible and contains the prospects for greater peace. Perhaps even paradise.

    Not sure this is the paradise Aubach had in mind.
    As a male, I may not be qualified to rebuke that idea but I have seen other male writers put forth the romantization of a "band of brothers" that–logistically–has no room for women. In either case I would argue that success/paradise/harmony is not achievable via exclusion. After all, it's equally worth noting that the March sisters accept Laurie into their company and even discuss future dreams with him. However, we're not able to discuss this point in the context of this comic due to Applejack's casting in the role of Laurie and the group's position of a weekly meeting.

    To want to grow is a staple of young life. 
    You're not meant to remain stagnant.
    This comic also does its best to defang some of the harder plot-points. Starting off, we have Mr. March (again played by Cheese Sandwich) calling on Marmee to help mediate a cat and dog dispute. This is in stark contrast to Mr. March falling ill in the original story and Marmee having to depart to aid him. Again, this was a strong femininst message for the time as Marmee's absence is felt far sharper as the house falls into disarray and the girls write their mother every day. There's never any mention of them writing to their father.

    Of pups and Ponies!
    What is kept is the grim funds that Marmee faces to meet her husband. In the book, Jo wants to contribute by sacrificing the last of her femininity by selling her hair for $25. Smy is quick to point out that was her most beautiful feature, and by sacrificing it Jo has shown her growth and love for her family. Rainbow Dash/Jo takes an alternate approach by donating her colors to local painters beccause that might be less jarring. Plus, Beth/Fluttershy uses Discord as an easy way to restore the color scheme. Thus what should be a lasting sacrifice is rendered moot very quickly.

    I kinda like that third look. How about everyone else?
    Out of curiosity, I compared the original publish date for "Little Women" versus "The Gift of Magi" to see who addressed the folical sacrifice idea first. "Little Women" hit the scene in 1868 while "Magi" came along in 1905. I have no idea if one story inspired the other, but either way I need to research just who in the world would pay so much for women's shaved hair.

    Still wish I could make that happen!
    Each issue thus far has featured Jo interacting with one of her sisters in a significant way. The party with Meg in the first issue. The feud with Amy last time. Beth, however, it a very different approach and the biggest change from the original story. The setup is relatively similar with Beth asking for aid as she wants to aid a neighbor and the other girls refuse. This is a dual-part condemnation by the author. Certainly a criticism of the sisters' selfishness that keeps them from helping, but also a condemnation of a society that expects a woman like Beth to give so freely that she has no concept of self-interest.

    I just can't pull a Doom Flag on Fluttershy.
    But she's doomed.
    Beth is an example of the angelic/hyper-idealized women found in many Elizabethan-era stories. She never wants anything for herself and only proiritizes others' happiness. Her generosity's reward is scarlett fever, an illness that nearly kills her and causes her health to debilitate for the rest of the story. While I wonder at the differences of a coming of age story for both boys and girls, one unifying theme is the need to confront mortality. Beth's death in this story serves as both a milestone for the other girls' lives and also a statement that such a passive soul could never survive modern culture.

    This is the closest you get to an "Oh No!" moment.
    In this comic, Flutterhy/Beth is simply removed from the narrative by her protector. While we witness a scene of her on a tropical vacation, I almost wish Discord had sent her to a farm out state. If you catch my meaning.

    Remember your sunscreen.
    And too cook Angel!
    Regardless, I can understand that a Hasbro executive would try to censor the death of a character. It was that same rehetoric that left Princess Amore in a fate actually worse than death in the mainline comic. But by removing it I think this story gives up any sense of impact. We have moved from adaptation to satire with far too many sharp points blunted.

    This is more self-expression than I think Beth enjoys in the book.
    As we close out the book, Jo/Dash has some success moving towards her dream of becoming a published author. Much like "A River Runs Through It", Jo's inspiration is to recount the events of her family's lives and to wonder at all the changes taking place. With Amy going on a world trip with a benefcator and Meg moving up the social ladder, there's a strong change in the air and Jo isn't sure she wants things to change. This is a direct echo of the Jo in the book, who resents even the thought of her sisters marrying and leaving the family behind.

    I could think of worse honeymoon friendship hang-out destinations.
    Given that we've had one of the biggest gut-punches of the story reduced to a mere tickle, I don't know how impactful the finale can be. I imagine we'll avoid any ideas of who married who and focus more on the reunion of the sisters. Any further thoughts I have on the comic versus the book will have to wait for the mini-series retrospective.

    How everyone felt as Season 9 progressed.
    I find that having tried to reconicle all the differences in my head, it's very hard to figure out how I receive this issue as a stand-alone work. The theme of change is strong and is the sharpest point for Jo/Dash to consider. So many other points are dulled or undone so quickly that there's very little impact. I think the most powerful moments become a parting of the ways between Jo/Dash and Laurie/Applejack. We'll see how it all comes together next month.

    Until the next issue, ladies!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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