Analyzing “Boast Busters”

Let’s be honest. This episode is fucking terrible. It is one of the worst episodes of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. It was written by Chris Savino, who’s only other episode was Stare Master (decent), and I think it’s pretty clear why. But this is still the Trixie episode, so I cracked open a bottle of hard cider, watched the piece of crap, and here’s some words about it.

I. LOVE. TRIXIE. Don’t get me wrong. Trixie is a horrible one-off character whose sole memorable traits are her amazing facial expressions and her obnoxious voice and dialog. Of the characters with speaking roles in this show that the fandom has taken off and run with, Trixie is the one who most bafflingly was transformed from this ridiculous character in this terrible episode into one of the most hilarious and lovable portraits of failure that I’ve ever seen.

Even though I watched this episode twice very early into my fandom and found it horrible both times, Trixie is as fresh in my mind as ever. I’ve seen all of her facial expressions in countless videos and images, and heard all of her dialog sampled in countless songs and quoted in a hundred memes.

Trixie was the first character from this show to make me appreciate the character sub-fandoms perpetuated by fanmade content (as detailed here), and she’s still my favorite pony outside of the mane six.

Here are some observations about Trixie by the fandom that I consider canon. Trixie’s cutie mark talent is that she’s a stage magician. In a sense, both she and Twilight are unicorns whose power “is magic,” but in Trixie’s case it’s magic in the realistic sense (operated using magic of the fantasy sense), whereas Twilight’s magic is more like I Am God And Can Do Everything magic.

Trixie probably travels from town to town drawing the crowds. The fandom has made a million variants on her backstory (many of which are grimdark, naturally), and most versions of her story in the wake of this episode involve her name having been completely tarnished by the event in Ponyville. Personally I doubt that Trixie is important enough to have news travel about her in a meaningful way, and as long as she stops using that lie to brag about, her talent is still interesting, and should still draw crowds.

(By the way, my favorite version of the events following this episode is the fanfic, The Great and Powerful Trixie Falls in Love With A Pine Cone.)

When you put any thought into the episode, some of this stuff is obvious—but it’s so fucking horribly written that it gives no real sense of what Trixie’s magic is or what she really does. The only decent things to come out of this episode’s dialog are the revelation that unicorns have a limited amount of magic pertaining to their talents (which blew my god damn mind on this rewatching because I didn’t remember that at all), and the French and Powerful Trixie.

Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were lucky not to be in this episode (man does that feel weird. I can only guess that Andrea Libman was out sick when they recorded the episode or something), because Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash get to suck ass in this episode. They’re all quick to anger over Trixie’s showboating (dude, it’s a show, just fucking watch it or go home), and of course they all give in to Trixie’s calls for a challenge.

God, distract me from how bad this is…

No no—keep on that train of thought, but make her French again…

Anyways, AJ, Rarity, and RD deserved to get shown up like that. They’re the ones who saw Trixie bragging and said, “you ain’t hot shit, I’M hot shit!” and then were proven wrong. Way to go. Only Twilight shows maturity by not taking the bait.

EVEN STILL, THE DIALOG FUCKS THIS UP, because they try to make it seem like Twilight’s reason for not fighting back was that she thought her friends would hate her if she did, because they hate Trixie the same way. It would’ve been better if Twilight just was the bigger mare the whole time (which she is, but they don’t sell it). For what it’s worth, I think this is an in-character fear for Twilight, both because she’s got a history of paranoia, and because she’s new to this whole friendship thing, but it just leaves the whole episode so thematically weak that the whole fucking thing is hopeless.

Studio B just barely salvaged the episode by taking the atrocious script and buttering it up with some good moments of animation. Mind you, there’s nowhere near the level of personality in animation which was displayed in Applebuck Season, but the effort put just into animating Trixie almost makes up for it, especially at this early stage in the show. Her expressions have so much energy and life, and it just sells her as this obnoxious but still kind of awesome pony who just might actually be as cool as she thinks she is (despite having a couple of dumbass toadies).

There’s also the Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, which are pretty fun. I remember finding the Ursa Minor to be a real spectacle the first time I watched the show, and was so impressed with Twilight conquering it that I’d felt it salvaged the episode. Of course, looking back, it’s an all but humble monster and scene. You can’t come back to this after A Canterlot Wedding and expect to still be intrigued. It’s only enough to save the entire series from crashing and burning very early in.

Seriously, when my brother and I first watched this show, we were close to dropping it after this episode. After not having enjoyed The Ticket Master, but having loved Applebuck Season, the one-two punch of the just-okay Griffon the Brush-Off and the abysmal Boast Busters was almost enough to take me out of the entire show that I now love so much. Had it not been for that Ursa Minor, followed by the excellent Dragonshy which came next, I might not have made it this far.


4 thoughts on “Analyzing “Boast Busters”

  1. I’ve always thought Ponyville to be a little weird when it comes to outsiders. That topic alone might be worth a blog post.


    I think the set-up was utterly moronic. “Great and Powerful” is just a title, no matter what two little punks say. Spike, okay; he’d take the bait like a kid. But I see no reason why the others would. When I was a little kid, I used to entertain a bitter little stereotype (my sort-of-outcast female best friend was sort of—uh, “stolen” sounds like an asshat word to use, doesn’t it?—from me, by other, “more feminine” girls) about how children really seek solidarity by putting others down and moralistically labeling them as “outcasts”—even when they don’t understand what the fuck they’re talking about. I didn’t really spend time with guys in my childhood, so I guess I ended up noticing it far more often in girls’ behavior. I assume guys do the same.

    Which is what killed me about this ep; the characters behaved so much like children that the story became unrelatable to me. The writers actually stooped to “little girls’ show” here. That pissed me off.

    I’m unsure that Twilight was standing on moral high ground. Here I’m lapsing into personal opinion. Competition isn’t inherently evil, though it can be petty. Two people can compete for different reasons, and with different (visible) attitudes. True, people often read in their own meanings—which can be dangerous either way—but that Twilight didn’t act until actual desperate danger was before the denizens seems a bit less than “right” or “appropriate” to me.

    So I actually went, “W-w-wo-whoaa…hold on!” at the climax. The cosmic fairies give Twilight the perfect little opportunity to prove her ability. But it was never about having the “right” opportunity, because sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Competitions often appear a little dirty or petty in the first place; they’re never perfectly clean, and it’s ridiculously easy to get carried away. The story needed an exploration of “better” ways to go head to head with Trixie—to the point of helping her actually learn something, rather than just abandon a town in embarrassment. What if the two had simply worked together? Psh.

    That’s why I was fond of Spike’s reactions. He’s “stereotypical male” in some ways, maybe, but he’s not the smooth-it-all-over guy, even less so than RD. He’s all about the “for god’s sake, just DO IT!” Which admittedly becomes a problem in eps like Secret of My Excess. Even though he takes Trixie’s bait, his statement isn’t quite that of the other ponies. Way I read it, he’s really saying, “SOMEONE shut Trixie the FUCK up so we can have peace and quiet again!” Also, his fear of hurting Rarity’s pride is kind of its own little story.

    • No one was morally right in this episode, and I don’t talk about morals anyways (or at least I don’t mean to)—what I mean by being the better mare is less a moral thing and more a maturity thing.

      Trixie has been called a “pony troll” by some, and if you follow this analogy, you can easily translate this episode into an internet argument. Let’s say Trixie storms into an MLP board and announces that Avatar is the best cartoon ever—better than MLP, in fact. The Ponyville civilians who were entertained by Trixie are MLP boarders who also like Avatar, and are interested regardless of the trolling nature of the poster.

      AJ, Rarity, and RD are the MLP fanboys who immediately attack the Avatar fan because they don’t like her attitude. They claim that Avatar isn’t any better than MLP and that the poster is an annoying tool. The poster then excellently trolls them with hate speak, and they all bite. Flame war. And it happens that in this case, the hater was the one who had better evidence to back their claim that Avatar was the better show, so she ends up making the MLP fanboys look like idiots even to other members of the same board.

      In all of this, Twilight is a user who loves MLP, doesn’t care about Avatar, and ignores the hater, because she doesn’t give a shit about their opinion and isn’t an idiot. That’s what I mean by her being the better mare—she’s the intelligent adult who isn’t interested in a cock-measuring competition between the shows, and is fine with letting Trixie go on believing that Avatar really is the better show.

      There was no good reason for Twilight to talk to Trixie, because no matter what she’d say, it would just be feeding the troll. But let’s go further with this analogy to make it work with the actual episode:

      Twilight is, let’s say, a badass on this particular message board. She’s a member everyone knows and respects, who’s known to be deep and shit. If she wanted to, she really could railroad Trixie with reasons that MLP is the better show, but she knows that this won’t actually accomplish anything. Twilight thinks that doing this won’t make her any better than Trixie, and it runs the risk of making her look like an asshole. I can understand this well enough. It’s the same reason I hold back from responding to youtube comments most of the time—I don’t want to come off as pretentious or not put enough thought into a statement and then have to deal with a bunch of replies from idiots about bullshit. I steer clear of clusterfucks out of a similar social repression to Twilight’s, albeit with less immediate fears of abandonment (this is as close as I can analyze to the episode’s letter. I can’t go all the way because it’s just not well written enough).

      For the Ursa Minor scenario, we have to stretch the analysis, because the episode is stupid. So let’s say the troll is claiming that Avatar is so good it cleans viruses, because she’s a troll and trolls say stupid shit like that. Then some thirteen year-old on the board unleashes a virus onto the boards and the troll’s like, you fucking idiots I was being facetious. But then holy shit, MLP DOES cure viruses, but only Twilight knows how to make it happen! This sounds incredibly stupid because this episode SUCKS.

      The lesson should’ve been that MLP and Avatar are both good in their own ways, just as Trixie’s magic and Twilight’s magic have their own strengths, and that not all magic is comparable. This actually would’ve been a GREAT message, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

      • Ah, no, no, no, you’re in the right here—I misunderstood the meaning of the phrase. Gotcha: maturity and self-control.

        Your analogy is helpful, because previously I didn’t really understand the nature of flame wars. Now that I get it a bit better: couldn’t we say, in addition to your last paragraph, that a better story would explore the options available to a troll, like “Can a troll actually change, or do you leave them alone?” “Also, when you’re fine with letting things be, there’s also a risk or danger point; what is that?” “Are troll situations hopeless?”

        In my experience as a reader of (not a participant in writing) comments, the thing about being unnecessarily snarky or belligerent in blogging, forums, etc. is that it stops being about searching for/figuring out the data or “how to figure out the truth”—and more about “right” or “wrong” perceptions of something. Reaching the ideal point only happens when people give and take, and…well, try not to be assholes. Which I guess is just sort of a “you damn well know it when you see it” thing.

        I, for one, could see myself appreciating an “Avatar has this” and “MLP has that” conversation. Who the hell knows, without extensive research? Maybe A is better than B, when the argument’s of course limited to certain assumptions. But then, maybe there are situations in which aiming for “truth” becomes pointless? Because…aww, geez. Kinda embarrassing; just drew a blank, and I honestly have no clue.

        Arghhh! People!

        Anyway, you clinched it with the YouTube comparison: sometimes people will write stuff that makes me raise an eyebrow. Then I get ready to type. I realize, hell, I can’t cover everything I want to say (character limit), so some asshole’s going to write some trivial contention that’s beside the main point. It doesn’t help when people tout this whole “Wow, you must have never seen the show,” “Did you really watch the show, or are you bullshitting,” “God, this guy’s dense,” “You have absolutely no idea how this story works, etc.” Where does all of this ridiculous pretense COME FROM? So the commenting never happens.

        That can’t be good, can it? Kept me from productive commenting. So maybe another option for discourse within the ep’s plot is “how do you go about finding the proper sphere for discourse?” Or a more useful sphere of “competition” or “showing off?” Then again, maybe that was the point of doing magic stuff diligently, alone.

        Lololol yeah right. Ugh, head feels all hurty at this point.

  2. Pingback: Again Revisiting “Boast Busters” | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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