Well, here we are at the last post of this little series. For those of you who’ve enjoyed reading this, sorry to keep you waiting. For those of you who haven’t, well, this one should be significantly shorter than the last one. 🙂
I’m going to say once again that I’m not claiming MLP to be a Christian show or to purposefully portray Christian themes. All I’m interested in is noting how some parts of the show align with Christianity at certain points. Even then, the matches are not perfect and nothing about the show can be called exclusively Christian. Why analyze a kid’s show so deeply? Well, it’s a quality production and most quality things allow for analyses from different perspectives. I’m not expecting everyone to like or agree with this particular way of analyzing the show and that’s okay. Trust me, this isn’t the end all be all of MLP analysis and I’d never expect anyone to think I’m suggesting that this is the only way to look at things. It’s only one lens, one particular perspective, and it’s not meant to be seen as the predominant way of understanding the show. I am fully aware that a lot of the connections I’ve made between Christianity and what’s presented in the episodes are a stretch, but I think it’s a good analytical exercise to try to find connections between things that seem to have nothing to do with each other. That subtlety is something I find interesting.
With all of that said, the last parallel I’m going to draw for MLP is that between Cutie Marks and one’s God-given purpose. Cutie Marks function as a mix between puberty and calling, so while the concept shares many similarities with calling, it is not an intentional match. The first time Cutie Marks are highlighted is very briefly in the second part of the pilot episode when the ponies realize that the Elements of Harmony resemble their Cutie Marks, but it isn’t until “Call of the Cutie Mark” that we’re told how they really work. Throughout the episode, several ponies offer their knowledge about Cutie Marks to a distraught and impatient Apple Bloom. The first comes from her teacher Cherilee, who establishes the following things about Cutie Marks:
-Ponies are not born with Cutie Marks. Instead, ponies earn them at a certain age.
-Receiving a Cutie Mark correlates with making an important life decision. In Cherilee’s case, she got her Cutie Mark when she decided to become a teacher and thought about the impact she could make on the next generation of ponies.
-Cutie Marks show how a pony is different from every other pony. In other words, a Cutie Mark is specific to one pony.
-This process doesn’t happen right away, but rather over a variable period of time, and it can’t be rushed.
At this point, Diamond Tiara gets Apple Bloom in trouble for passing a note that turns out to be blank. Now that she has the class’s attention, she points out the fact that Apple Bloom is still a blank flank and everyone laughs. From this short scene, we can assume that
-Having your Cutie Mark makes you cool.
-Not having one implies that you’re slow or not developing the right way.
-Cutie Marks are an indicator of maturity and the experience of discovering them is much like the way we experience puberty.
-It’s especially akin to the way girls experience puberty. There are the girls who can already wear bras and those who can’t. There are girls who have gotten their first periods and those who haven’t. Likewise, there are ponies who have their Cutie Marks and those who don’t. That dividing line is what really makes Cutie Marks Equestria’s coming of age indicator.
So Cutie Marks seem to be tied to both a pony’s physical and spiritual (in the broader sense) development. The broad spiritual aspect, the one focusing on a pony’s purpose, is what makes the Cutie Mark concept unique. For ponies, calling and physical maturity come at the same time, or are at least much closer together than the way we come to physical maturity and calling. Everyone is different and there are obviously differences in timing as far as when people discover their calling in relation to puberty, but for practical purposes I’m going to consider them separate experiences with a significant amount of time between them. Usually, people will go through puberty first and figure out their purpose in life later on (or wander aimlessly). With ponies, those two things are essentially combined into the same experience.
You can speculate that ponies find their calling first and then go through physical maturity, but I’m more inclined to believe that they’re at least thought of to be one experience because of Diamond Tiara’s “Cuteseñera.” The term is an obvious play on “quinceñera,” which is a celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday. It’s essentially the Hispanic version of a bar/bat mitzvah. A quinceñera is a mark of physical (and cultural) maturity; it means that a girl has become a woman. So if Cutie Marks are a combination between life purpose and physical maturity, and if there’s a celebration referencing an actual celebration of physical maturity occurring as a result of obtaining a Cutie Mark, then Cutie Marks are basically equivalent to physical maturity while also incorporating the discovery of calling.
Calling adds another, much deeper layer to Apple Bloom’s desire to grow up. Not only will her Cutie Mark tell her that she’s becoming an adult, but it’ll also tell her why she exists in the first place–what she’s meant to do. Not having it leaves her helpless and directionless, so it’s easy to understand her desperation. Applejack tells her to be patient, but patience is frustrating and she knows it won’t give her peace of mind. It’s this frustration mixed with desperation that launches Apple Bloom into trying just about everything to make her Cutie Mark appear so she can finally find her place in society.
She begins with emulating what other members in her family (mainly Applejack) do for a living. It’s natural for her to assume that her purpose has something to do with apples seeing as how that’s the case with the rest of her family, but when she helps Applejack at the market in the middle of town, her eagerness to be naturally gifted at selling apples completely ruins the experience. That combined with the fact that her only motivation for helping is to get her Cutie Mark makes the effort fake. Trying too hard to discover your purpose will only lead you away from finding it, and doing things with no other motivation besides finding your purpose won’t help you find it any faster. Apple Bloom follows this same pattern for the majority of the episode, but to no avail. Not even Twilight Sparkle’s magic can make her Cutie Mark appear because Cutie Marks are all about self-discovery.
After failing to escape from Diamond Tiara’s Cutseñera and embarrassing herself in front of the entire party, Apple Bloom finally meets Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell, who also don’t have their Cutie Marks. They tell everyone that not having a Cutie Mark doesn’t make them not special, it just means that they have all the time in the world to figure out what they’re meant to do. Their purpose isn’t set in stone like it is with the other ponies. Finally, Apple Bloom (and everyone else at the party) is convinced. Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Bell form the Cutie Mark Crusaders and go on to try way too hard to get their Cutie Marks in later episodes.
This longing for purpose is universal. Everyone goes through it at some point (or multiple points) in their lives. If we look at purpose through a Christian lens, we see a few fundamental ideas:
-Every person is created for a purpose
-God leads people to that purpose so they can lead fulfilling lives
-God designs people for very specific purposes; another person couldn’t do the exact same thing
-Doing whatever God created you to do is the most satisfying course of action because you fit perfectly into that purpose
-A person’s purpose may change over time
-It’s impossible to know what your purpose is right away and it’s very likely that God won’t reveal it to you right away
So, Cutie Marks share several similarities with this basic understanding of purpose as Christianity sees it. The fact that each pony has a unique purpose that she/he must discover implies that there is some intention behind their existence. The big difference is that there isn’t a God or any other deity in Equestria who’s said to create ponies. Therefore, ponies don’t have purposes or Cutie Marks because something divine created them that way, but simply because they exist. There’s still a reason for their existence and something out there meant just for them, but it’s not attached to a god of any sort. The idea shares Christianity’s optimism, but leaves the causes as broad as possible, which allows just about anyone to relate to it.
The struggle to discover a Cutie Mark is, at its depths, the same as struggling to discover your purpose. Ponies know for a fact that they are meant to do something that no other pony can do. Some humans believe the same thing; others don’t. Figuring out whether or not you have a purpose is a struggle in and of itself, but when it comes to the business of finding out what it is, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost. In Christianity, discovering our purpose involves asking God to show us opportunities that will help us figure it out and thinking about what we already enjoy. Sometimes, we know what we like and have a general idea of where we’d like to be, but other times we’re not sure what our skills are, what moves us, or what makes us feel important. Apple Bloom (and the other CMC members) is definitely in the latter situation. Nothing she’s done so far has fulfilled her in a way that makes her feel she can’t do anything else besides that one thing. It’s a very confusing place to be, so her solution is to do everything possible to find her Cutie Mark immediately, even after learning that she isn’t alone in her search and that there’s plenty of time for her to figure it out.
It’s actually with this often comical desperation to get Cutie Marks that I find the most commonality with Christianity–or rather with the way Christians come to understand their purpose in life. Not only are we eager to discover our purpose for our own sake, but we’re also eager to use that purpose for God–to be in that specific place meant for us and work in a way that spreads God’s message of love to all people. We want to be useful to God because He made it so that we don’t have to be punished for the things we’ve done wrong. Therefore, we want God to tell us what our purpose is right away so we won’t go around wasting our lives. However, God is patient where we are impatient, so it could be a long time before we know what our calling is (maybe we have to experience something in order to know what to even call it, or we have to grow in some ways before we’re ready to handle it). The answer could be sitting right in front of us and we just don’t see it because we’re too busy putting all of our energy into finding it.
Even though the CMC don’t have their Cutie Marks yet, there are indicators in later episodes as to what they might be. Apple Bloom fixes up the CMC’s club house with ease, Scootaloo can maneuver her scooter very well, and Sweetie Bell is good at singing/composing music. However, they’re all so busy trying to find their Cutie Marks in something they think will make them stand out to notice their talents. It’s similar to the way Haruhi in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya so desperately wants to find aliens, time travelers, and espers for the sake of living in a more interesting world, but fails to notice that they are right in front of her all the time. She doesn’t see that the very thing she wants is within her grasp because she’s too consumed with the search. The CMC are the same, Christians who try everything so that God will call them are the same, and people in general are the same.
Cutie Marks and calling share many of the same principles, but Cutie Marks are not an exact representation of the way calling works neither in a general sense nor in a Christian sense. We don’t know if Cutie Marks can change as ponies go through their lives, for example. Even so, the concept lines up in many ways with Christianity’s view of humanity and purpose. And of course, all human beings experience the often frantic search to find their place in the world.
And that’s the end. Season 2 airs tomorrow morning (hooray!), so there might be more posts like this if there’s anything that’s even applicable. If there is, then I’m gonna wait until the season ends.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have anything you’d like to say, feel free to leave a comment.