Note: I’m reposting this since it was accidentally deleted while Blogger was having lots of issues. Sorry for the inconvenience!
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a children’s cartoon that has broken just about every negative stereotype of recent cartoons (especially those made for girls). Because it is actually a quality show, there are often deeper themes that can be gleaned from its otherwise colorful, sparkly ponyness. Although unintentional, there are a few aspects of the show that happen to align with Christianity in some manner. The one I would like to take a look at today is the theology presented in the pilot episodes, “The Mare In The Moon.” What we are presented with here is a mixture of dualistic cosmology and Christianity.
Before I begin, I’m going to acknowledge that although the theory of Princess Celestia being a tyrant (or at least a troll) is fascinating and one that I believe has some credence, I am basing my interpretations in this post on what is actually presented in the episodes. As of this writing, there are no canon confirmations of Celestia actually being a tyrant, but there are plenty of things that she does and doesn’t do that certainly support the idea.
The first part of the pilot begins with Princess Celestia narrating a story about two sisters who rules over day and night. The eldest (Princess Celestia herself) brings out the sun at dawn while her younger sister brings out the moon at dusk. Together, they rule over all activity in Equestria in a relationship of perfectly balanced opposites. This is the dualism at work here, although at this point in the story neither sister is representative of evil. They are two separate forces that work in harmony, yin and yang. However, the sister of the night becomes jealous because all the ponies are asleep when it’s her turn to rule. Feeling neglected and consumed with jealousy, the younger sister becomes Nightmare Moon, a corrupt version of her former self. Her aim is now to keep the world steeped in the darkness of night time forever and she will not relent despite the elder sister’s attempts to reason with her. Thus, the elder sister seals her younger sibling away in the moon using the elements of harmony and takes over the responsibilities for both day and night.
This second part of the story is where it starts to resemble some parts of Christianity. For one thing, there is now a distinction between Princess Celestia as the God/good character while Nightmare Moon (Luna) is the Satan/evil character. Traditionally, Christians have interpreted some passages in the Bible as telling the story about how Lucifer, God’s chief angel, is banished from heaven due to his pride and his attempts to be better than God. However, these passages have an entirely different meaning when looked at in context (this article goes into greater detail about the story and its roots). Still, Western literature has passed this story down and many people still confuse it with what’s actually in the Bible (I made that mistake and didn’t even realize it until someone pointed it out to me).
Looking through this lens, we can understand the story of Nightmare Moon’s rise and fall as a subtle retelling of this old tale. Although the general pattern is the same, that is, the number two deity rising up against the number one, the reasons and circumstances are a bit different. Luna feels shafted because the ponies are never awake to enjoy the night time she creates. This pain at being ignored becomes resentment, which leads to Luna becoming Nightmare Moon. In Lucifer’s case, he wanted more power than what was given to him and thought himself to be more powerful than God. Lucifer’s pride corrupts him just as Luna’s resentfulness corrupts her, and both characters transform into evil manifestations of their former selves. Thus, they are both sealed away by their good counterparts, but there are prophesies about them escaping from their bonds to attempt to overtake the world again. In the Bible, these events precede Christ’s return to Earth to fully eradicate evil once and for all. MLP doesn’t carry that same kind of intensity, but there is still the aspect of Nightmare Moon/evil manifesting itself in full force. Unlike Satan, Nightmare Moon isn’t the source of evil, but she still has the power to rule over the world and there’s even the possibility of her succeeding. The prophecy about her return doesn’t specify whether or not she will be defeated (which goes back to dualistic ideas that don’t assert one force eradicating or triumphing over the other). It only states that the elements of harmony can defeat her. On the other hand, Christianity’s prophecies about evil always state that God will win in the end and that, after a great struggle, good will overcome evil.
Celestia and Nightmare Moon do not meet again until the end of the second pilot episode. At this point, the elements of harmony have eliminated the corruption and restored Luna to her old self. Now, she’s small, weak, and regretful for what she allowed herself to become. By all means, she should be punished, but Princess Celestia first reaction is to show mercy. She grants forgiveness the moment Luna asks for it. Thus, the two sisters are reconciled to each other and harmony is restored. If we take Luna/Nightmare Moon to be a representation of Satan and evil, then this ending lines up with some Universalist beliefs which assert that everyone will be saved in the end, including Satan. On the flip side, if we just see Luna as someone who lost her way for a while and made some bad mistakes, the redemption scene still aligns with God’s willingness to forgive and restore what was once broken. Evil may be rampant, and it may rule the world for awhile, but it can be defeated and redemption is possible. This is the heart of Celestia and Luna’s relationship in these pilot episodes, and it is the essence of Christianity. Divine love, be it from God to the world or from sister to sister in the fictional land of Equestria, is powerful enough to change the course of the world.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is by no means an inherently religious show, but I find it interesting that certain parts of it leave room to find hints of religious themes, even though they were not intentionally placed there.
The next post in this series will discuss how Pinkie Pie represents stereotypical Christians (in both a good and a bad way). I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you have any further thoughts, feel free to leave a comment!