About four years ago, I wrote my first analytical blog series about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Up until that point, I had almost exclusively written reviews because they were relatively easy to churn out and I could never think of any compelling analytical angle I could use to talk about what I watched with more depth.
Today, those three posts are the only remnants of my first blogging days that are still live and for various reasons, they often bring the most traffic to my blog. Although many of my views have matured and shifted since I wrote those posts (and I hope my writing style has improved as well), they are still relevant to the majority of the work that I do here. They were my first attempt to integrate pop culture and Christian theology and tease out some complex, or at least interesting, themes. It took another couple years for me to “find my blogging voice” (since fiction voice and blogging voice are distinct things for me). Taking Critical Theory my senior year helped immensely, as did absorbing Tumblr’s discourses on the multitude of phobias, archies, and isms we navigate through on a daily basis.
All of these wider criticisms help inform how I analyze stories and what, if anything, I’ll write a blog post about.
So today, I’m revisiting what I wrote all those years ago specifically about cutie marks in light of MLP’s latest episode and a deeper faith and knowledge than what I had back in 2011.
Guess who finally got their cutie marks!
Frankly, I didn’t expect the Cutie Mark Crusaders to get their cutie marks at all. I thought the writers would’ve left that space open for audiences who struggle with finding their purpose in life to have some relatable characters and to keep showing the joys of discovery and growth before committing to something. That said, I’m not at all disappointed in this turn of events. This season has provided more insight into cutie marks and what they mean for each pony. They raise questions of identity and define a pony’s life purpose. When the Mane Six’s cutie marks act up, they must literally go where they’re called. This is powerful stuff–no wonder Apple Bloom has nightmares about getting stuck with a cutie mark that she doesn’t like or understand.
With all of this build-up around cutie marks, it fits that the CMC would finally get theirs. We’ve seen their journey of discovering them and now that they’ve been “called,” we’ll get to see their journey of living it out.
Especially since their purpose is to serve others.
Helping others find their cutie marks: that’s what the CMC is good at–what gives them a sense of fulfillment and purpose. It’s a selfless calling and its selflessness is more apparent than that of other cutie marks.
Such an overt call to service–to building up the community rather than the self–nicely parallels Christian practice (or what it should be). This whole time, the CMC have been searching for their cutie marks for their own sake. Cutie marks would answer that “Who am I?” question. Instead, their cutie marks answer that “What must I do?” question and said action is directed toward their community (other ponies who don’t have their cutie marks) rather than themselves.
But it’s not like the CMC have totally denied themselves or have no distinction among them. Their cutie marks are all clearly a set, but each has a different symbol within the shield, one that signifies how their uniqueness comes together for a united purpose.
As nice as it is that the CMC got their cutie marks because they realized that they love helping others find theirs, what I think is the most compelling from a Christian standpoint is that the act of service and helpfulness that made the CMC realize their calling was directed toward an enemy: Diamond Tiara.
Diamond Tiara is the typical mean girl bully. She represents the antagonistic, super feminine villain type that I’ve discussed before while the CMC are the protagonist, less feminine hero types. MLP has a tradition of presenting this narrative only to break it, and now they’ve done it again.
As it turns out, Diamond Tiara is very much a product of her strict mother and the expectations of her social class. This is one of the few times so far that we’ve seen MLP overtly deal with economic class as a dictator of the company one should or should not keep. Because the CMC, at Apple Bloom’s prompting, decide to show concern for Diamond Tiara rather than bask in the vindication of seeing her lose the school election, they learn about her insecurities and show her compassion by inviting her into their community. She doesn’t have to meet any social expectations to hang out with the CMC at their clubhouse.
This act of love and compassion for an enemy is transformative–literally. It’s easy to help your friends, but it’s much harder to help someone who you have a reason to dislike or hate. In some cases, it’s not even possible to show love and compassion because some enemies are downright toxic and abusive.
Diamond Tiara isn’t that extreme. She’s a bully, but like every MLP antagonist or villain, she’s not beyond reform. In a show called Friendship is Magic, everyone gets a second chance at the embrace of a welcoming community. Christians ought to be in that business as well. Are we? Certainly not all the time, especially on institutional levels, but hospitality is one of our basic callings.
Loving an enemy is transformative because it requires you to push away the pride at seeing that person fail or protecting your own self-interest by knowing and hating only one facet of that person. It’s when the CMC decide to look closer at Diamond Tiara–to pay attention when they could’ve left her alone–that they learn of her complexities. Those complexities at the very least make it more difficult to leave someone alienated.
We’ll see if Diamond Tiara takes the reformed mean girl route like Sunset Shimmer has, but for now it’s clear that the CMC will keep themselves busy with helping other ponies both discover their cutie marks and perhaps help them remember what their cutie marks mean.