Analyzing “Griffon the Brush Off”

Griffon the Brush Off is a fairly unpopular episode. Out of all the non-pony and one-off characters in the show, I’ve probably seen less fanart and love for Gilda than any other character, which is understandable because Gilda’s a total bitch. Griffons as a general race are more popular as an idea than Gilda, but even then, not so much that they feel like a big part of the pony world.

Besides the fact that Gilda’s a bitch, it’s also an early episode, meaning it comes with the usual problems of early episodes (characters not fully realized, show not at the peak of quality, etc.). That said, I’d only seen this episode once before today, and upon rewatching it I thought it was solid. I see the episode accused of being weak on a thematic level, since the lesson is basically, “don’t be a bitch or let people be a bitch to your friends,” but of course I think there’s more to it than that, and I found the statements that the episode makes about the characters interesting enough.

First, let’s ask ourselves: why is Gilda such a bitch? Obviously because she’s a mean-spirited bully—but why does she act that way? It’s because she’s horribly inauthentic. That’s why Pinkie Pie is her perfect enemy—Pinkie is completely authentic to the core. To pull a page out of my own life, I would say Gilda is to Colony Drop as Pinkie Pie is to myself (lolololol).

Everything about Gilda screams “douchey teenage try-hard,” from her hairstyle to her voice performance. A similar, more realized human character would be Robbie from Gravity Falls. They are the stereotypical asshole teen who thinks that they’re too cool for everyone else, and in both shows, they’re put in a position wherein the interesting authentic characters make them look like idiots.

Gilda has a fairly threatening presence in MLP though, since it’s a cute and fun show, and she’s a pushy, violent, dramatic character, with nothing that makes her enjoyable like Discord, Queen Chrysalis, or Trixie. Her presence in the show has weight, whereas Robbie in Gravity Falls is kind of there for us to laugh at douchey teens. In Gilda’s case, the show is making an honest effort to dissect her and show how inauthentic she is.

Gilda works as a character because she’s genuinely friends with Rainbow Dash. She doesn’t hate ponies, she doesn’t hate pranks, and at the start of the episode, Dash even gets her to do something embarrassing (the junior speedsters chant) which she says she’d do, “only for you, Dash.” This betrays the fact that somewhere inside of her, she likes ponies and other embarrassing things, she just won’t admit it. You could have a field day applying this to bronies vs. haters—and I would find it completely uninteresting, because it applies to absolutely everyone.

Gilda is every time someone says, “I don’t play video games, I’m an adult,” or (and this is a direct quote from a coworker), “a real man doesn’t use a weak-ass PS3 controller, they use a 360 controller.” It’s a tough-guy fabrication to make them look better and anyone who isn’t them look worse. It’s everything that I dislike about everyone I dislike anything about.

The Gilda vs. Pinkie Pie conflict is made interesting by the presence of Rainbow Dash, who is the antithesis of Gilda, at least in the context of this episode. For all that Dash is full of herself and at times incorrect, she isn’t much of a liar. Throughout this episode, Rainbow Dash acts completely out of authenticity, and shows us how despite having the same interests as Gilda, she manages to be a much more mature and decent person.

At the start of the episode, Rainbow Dash is actively avoiding Pinkie Pie, but she isn’t being bitchy or inauthentic about it. She straight-up tells Pinkie that she doesn’t want to talk to her—that she’s busy—and she outright runs away from her. Pinkie is the one who is forceful and can’t take the hint, in her usual Pinkie way. But what happens when Pinkie reveals her prankster nature? Rainbow Dash instantly admits that Pinkie is a good prankster and becomes interested in hanging out with her. She even says, “you’re not as annoying as I thought.” When faced with evidence that Pinkie was cooler than she thought, Rainbow Dash embraced her as a friend.

Gilda is not open in this way. She wants nothing to do with Pinkie, and only grows to hate her more and more, turning the connections that they have against her. When Rainbow Dash is pranked by Pinkie, Rainbow finds it hilarious—when Gilda is pranked by Pinkie, she views it as an attack.

I love the way that throughout the episode, Rainbow Dash is pretty stoked about the idea of having Pinkie and Gilda both around, like a supergroup of her best friends. Rainbow expects Pinkie and Gilda to gel as well as Rainbow and Pinkie did, because she doesn’t realize how pathetic and inauthentic Gilda is. It’s part of growing up, really. If Gilda never returns having learned to be a better person, then it’s actually kind of dark of the show to have her be a bitch to the end.

‘Cause seriously, did you notice that NO ONE LEARNED ANYTHING in this episode? The closest thing to a lesson is Twilight realizing that she should’ve trusted Pinkie’s judgement, which is such a small part of the episode that it’s barely ancillary to the main point. Pinkie and Rainbow Dash learned that Gilda is a petty asshole, and Gilda learned nothing. The best it does is to teach kids that if you’re inauthentic, then you come off as a complete tool.

I enjoyed this episode more than I expected to just because it showed so much integrity on the part of Rainbow Dash, and showed how despite her usually fun and uncaring personality, Pinkie Pie gets serious when one of her friends in involved. I would say that it shows she knows how to have fun without hurting the fun of others, but I don’t know how true that is. So far, Pinkie always gets her way in the end, so I guess she knows what she’s doing on the level of a grand scheme.

Next episode is Trixie. I hope my body can take it.

6 thoughts on “Analyzing “Griffon the Brush Off”

  1. Spot-on analysis of Gilda. And, like you, I appreciate the sincerity of the two ponies who most often interact.

    On to the matter of “learning anything.” Having reconsidered (I didn’t like it the first few times I watched it), my issue with the ep is aligned with what you thought about the prospect of Gilda’s being “a bitch to the end.” It’s that, well, people have moments when they’re like this. It’s a totally human thing to start disliking a person more and more. Even though it isn’t often right, and isn’t necessarily sane/fair.

    At the risk of being overly personal: not too long ago I fell for someone who I thought was giving me signals, and when she started flaking and being inconsistent (which isn’t that big a deal; it’s merely an unappealing trait), I started disliking her more and more. Disagreeing with her just to do it, rather than trying hard to find similarities in our views (something I used to do). Here’s the funny thing: other than seemingly ignoring my advances or my attempts to communicate/wade through the mixed signals, I’m not sure she really changed.

    But I did. I was now focusing on all the negative traits—twisting them into something bad, rather than twisting them into something better than they were, like the first time around. Our personalities had gelled a bit, but only a bit. I grew into a bit of a creep, which in retrospect, I’m not ashamed about. She wasn’t really obsessed about the same stuff I was (Pokemon, 2-D, science, academic shit etc.), though I wanted to believe it, and in her “bright attitude” or whatever she kept pretending she was into the stuff. Deep down, I knew this: I felt really ashamed, superficial, and fake, as if I had never known myself or been myself throughout that exchange. In the end, I actively destroyed an acquaintanceship because I decided it was about me and not her. And I didn’t want to keep trying. Whole thing was rather twisted, now that I think about it.

    If we had seen just a bit of complex struggle in Gilda (to the point that viewers see “that which does not seem like a lie,” even within all the petty bullshit), I think I would have cared a lot more about her. Then she would have been a character who obsessed over inferior but understandable things, made wrong choices, or mistakes in moral judgment—as well as be an all-around bitch—rather than… well, just a bitch.

    If Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, similarly knows what she’s doing when she gets so pushy, that likely means she isn’t all that great a person. Nothing wrong with that, though; a lot of us are more average in that sense than we’d care to admit.

  2. I was in a similar situation as pinkie was with gilda not too long ago. my friend’s girlfriend invited me to join them on skype. of course her friends are there and i am being friendly and everything. get this her friend says right in front of me oh could you tell andrew not to add me right there like i wouldn’t see it. so i got pissed off and told them i tried to be nice you know? i wanted to be friends with you and you pull this crap? so i understand how pinkie feels you try to make friends with your friends friends and for some reason they don’t like you. but unlike Pinkie i ended up insulting them in return i know pinkie wouldn’t do that she just too nice that way.

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