Analyzing “Keep Calm and Flutter On”

Text version:

Holy hell I’m a pony! A number of people have expressed a desire to draw me an OC pony to use in this series, and a couple have actually sent me some images! Many thanks to Freddyman23, who sent me this set of Inverted Sweetie Belle poses, and thanks also to BeautifullyDarkened, who drew me an adorable OC pony as well.

If you send me pictures of OC ponies, I will definitely feature them in my videos. That said, I’ve decided that I’m going to most likely use MizuTakishima’s OC as my permanent avatar once she finishes drawing all of the poses (which could take a couple of weeks)—but I’ll leave that a surprise for now. Let’s get on with the episode!

Keep Calm and Flutter On is an episode I was both excited and worried about, and I kinda still feel that way after watching it. My first thoughts were that it should’ve been split into two parts, because it tries to fit too much information into too small of a space, and the resolution comes off as excessively forced. I think this opinion will be echoed by most fans; and I’m not a reviewer, so I’m not going to keep going on about this aspect of the episode. What I do want to talk about is Fluttershy.

I’ve mentioned several times in these videos that I find Fluttershy to be the most confusing of the mane six ponies. The show’s many writers have interpreted her in a number of different ways, sometimes as somepony who’s utterly frightened of everything, sometimes as somepony who’s not so much frightened, as simply antisocial and shy, like her name implies. Sometimes, she learns to face her fears, but this lesson never seems to stick.

In Keep Calm And Flutter on, Fluttershy’s social awkwardness and general frightfulness are never brought up. For once, we get an episode that isn’t about Fluttershy standing up to anything, or relearning the same lesson over and over again.

Mind you, I don’t mean to knock any other Fluttershy episodes, and it’s really a shame that I haven’t talked about any of them yet before analyzing this episode. For clarification’s sake, I’m going to run through all of them really quick.

In Dragonshy, Flutters shows that when her friends are in danger, she will rise to fight her fears. It’s meant to be an establishing episode, teaching us what kind of character she is, and it introduces us to her special power, The Stare.

In Stare Master, Flutters learns that kids are kinda more of a pain in the ass than animals, but will still behave if you command their respect. It’s a good episode altogether, and continues to basically establish her character.

In Green Isn’t Your Color, which mind you I’ve never gotten around to rewatching in the past year, so help me if I’m wrong, Fluttershy learns that keeping secrets isn’t a good idea, and that she shouldn’t give in to peer pressure. It’s a friendship lesson episode, and not as important to Fluttershy’s character.

I don’t remember what the hell A Bird In the Hoof was about.

Putting Your Hoof Down more or less retreads the grounds that Fluttershy is socially inept and frightened, and experiments with the idea of what were to happen if she became assertive. In the end, Fluttershy should strike some kind of balance, but this lesson doesn’t seem to effect her character future episodes.

Hurricane Fluttershy once again has Fluttershy facing social demons and her own lack of self-confidence, and leads up to her once again saving the day when the chips are down.

You see how, until now, Fluttershy’s character seems to be one that never makes it past the establishment stage. I remember reading a comment somewhere in which someone asked, “how could Fluttershy stop being shy? It’s in her name!” And I think that speaks for the issue with Fluttershy episodes. They all tend to focus on the shyness and the fear, which is just one personality trait, among the many which could be explored.

For what it’s worth, Fluttershy has gotten plenty of great moments in other episodes, but they’re so all over the place that it’s hard to know what to make of them. Just in season three, we’ve seen Fluttershy as her default timid self, as the friendly leader of animals that she tends to be in the less conflict-heavy episodes, as a lovable, but utterly terror-crippled scaredy-cat, and as an impressively practical and stern motherly character. There’s no reason to think that Fluttershy can’t be all of these things, but the way she flips between them episode to episode is too jarring and inconsistent. There isn’t a sense of who the “real” Fluttershy is, the way we have this sense about the rest of the mane six.

Keep Calm and Flutter On does not complete the portrait of Fluttershy, but it does present the most interesting and potent portrait of her character since its establishment. Here, we see a very realized Fluttershy. She’s just short of a few more episodes connecting this vision of her to all of the other visions of her, the way Wonderbolt Academy seemed to connect the Rainbow Dash that we saw in Sleepless In Ponville with the Rainbow Dash we saw in The Mysterious Mare Do Well.

To keep from diving headlong into abstraction with this analysis, let’s take a look at all the stuff that Fluttershy does in this episode.

At the beginning, Fluttershy is acting as a translator between Applejack and an irate beaver who’s flooded Sweet Apple Acres. First of all, I love that this is included and that it’s commented on as a regular activity, because it gives us more insight into the everyday conflicts that arise in Ponyville.

More importantly, though, this scene provides more insight into what Fluttershy does. If one thing has been very well established with Fluttershy, it’s that her job, which we assume she gets paid for, is to communicate with and take care of all of the animals that live in Ponyville. We’ve seen various parts of her ranch, and we can guess that she probably provides dairy product by way of the cows, but we don’t really know why she’s raising chickens and shit, when ponies are vegetarians.

We might assume that she’s something of a conservationalist and veterinarian, making sure that the animal life in the area is able to cope with the invasion of civilization onto their homeland.

Here, we see that this is true, and that her job is about more than just keeping all of the animals sated. All the time that we’ve seen Fluttershy placating Angel bunny and soothing mythical beasts seems more practical now in an everyday sense, knowing that fluttershy also mitigates between the clashing imperialism of the beavers versus the Apples.

This isn’t necessarily showing us something new, but it continues to expand on the existing character trait of Flutters maintaining relations with animals, and connects this trait to the character that Fluttershy is established as in this episode.

Moving along, let us attempt to recognize what Fluttershy’s gambit with Discord really is. This relationship is really well conceived, which is why it’s such a shame that the episode doesn’t get to expand on it in the slightest. If you want to see an example of this same relationship done with the proper amount of growth and context, go and watch Dinsey’s The Emperor’s New Groove. If you’ve already seen the movie, you may be making the connection now yourself, and this should help you to see where I’m going with this analysis. In fact, if you’ve got an hour and a half to kill, go check that movie out; it’s pretty good, and it’s also about an equine-esque creature.

What Fluttershy shows in this episode is that she’s a creature of morals, and not one of ignorance. The whole play here is that Discord thinks Fluttershy is letting him do whatever he wants because she’s a pushover, and because her ideas of friendship make her weak. Of course, the truth, which neither Discord nor Fluttershy’s friends seem to realize, is that Fluttershy is fully aware of what Discord is trying to do, and her whole point is that if she’s kind to him anyways, then eventually, he might not want to do those things anymore.

Over the course of this episode, Fluttershy, and myself by extension, became increasingly frustrated with both Discord for thinking that he really was on top of things, and with her friends, for not understanding what Flutters was trying to prove, because they lack her moral foundation with regards to kindness. They don’t understand that the Element of Kindness is an element of power as much as any of the other elements, and that it can be used in what is kind of a nefarious way.

There’s a weird theme running under My Little Pony of conversion to good by use of force. Ponies really don’t suffer what they view as wrong or evil—they banish that shit out of the country or trap it in stone if they can’t convert it to their side. They’re uncompromising, which I think is pretty badass in a meta-textual sense, but we seriously aren’t going to get into that right now because I suspect this video is already going to be fifteen minutes long.

The theme runs heavily through this episode, with the entire plot revolving around Celestia telling the ponies that they need to “reform” Discord, so that she can utilize his powers. Nevermind the intense curiosity we must all be feeling about what she intends to do with them. All along, Discord’s actions are mostly strung along by the fact that if he does anything stupid, he’s going to get zapped into a statue. Or worse yet, if he hadn’t eaten Twilight’s books, Twilight would’ve used, I shit you not, a fucking REFORMING SPELL to reform him against his will. This is apparently a legally sanctioned thing to perform in Equestria—the stripping of an individual’s willpower in service of the greater good. This is some Orwell shit, and I love it.

When Fluttershy first comes face to face with Discord, she does try to basically beat him into submission with her Stare ability, which Discord laughs off. All throughout the episode, Fluttershy uses some weirdly standoffish dialog when addressing Discord, which leads me to believe that this entire gambit was never about caring for him in the slightest. Maybe that’s obvious, since it’s not like Fluttershy has any reason to genuinely like Discord for who he is, but I think it’s an interesting dynamic that in this situation, NO ONE is the flowers and kindness kids show character that they’re expected to be, except for perhaps Discord. Fluttershy never engages Discord on an actual sentimental level, but always on a moral level, expecting him to eventually realize how she is in the right. If this is getting too hard to understand, let me return to the Emperor’s New Groove, since that movie did this all more straightforwardly, given as it had the time to do so.

In that movie, Emperor Kuzco is a complete asshole who just wants to do as he pleases, even at the expense of others. He intends to tear down Pacha’s village and build a summer home there, but after he gets turned into a Llama, Pacha turns out to be the only one who can help him get back home.

Throughout the movie, both characters have to grapple with their personal wants versus their moral feelings. Pacha believes that everyone has some good in them, and he intends to help Kuzco, even though he knows Kuzco intends to ruin his life. Pacha hopes that Kuzco will find it in himself not to tear down his village, but he doesn’t help Kuzco out of the expectation that this will happen. Kuzco, meanwhile, is planning to just use Pacha’s kindness to get him back home, at which point he will do as he pleases, and he thinks of Pacha’s kindness as idiocy, and doesn’t trust the idea that Pacha legitimately wants to help him, regardless of the fate of his village.

Kuzco’s idea that he’ll be able to betray Pacha is the same as Discord’s belief that he’ll be able to easily betray Fluttershy. In both cases, the chaotic persons are in a position to ultimately do as they please, having been freed from the curses put on them, but in both cases, spoiler alert, they come around, and end up embracing friendship.

The biggest difference between these stories is that in The Emperor’s New Groove, the friendship grows enough to feel legitimate, and Kuzco undergoes a real arc before emerging as a better person, whereas Discord is reformed over just two brief moments of feeling like having at least one friend is actually kind of nice. It’s just too little to go on, considering that we aren’t even given a reason to believe that Discord gives a shit about having a friend, whereas Kuzco really learned how shitty it was to be alone in his movie.

Ironically though, Fluttershy is an even more interesting character than Pacha, largely due to belonging in a larger series, and because of the inclusion of her friends. Pacha is too obviously moral and good, and he too honestly believes in his idea that there’s good in everyone. Whereas Pacha really has faith in Kuzco, Fluttershy doesn’t really seem to have any faith in Discord. She wants to believe that she can reform him, but in the end, it’s her morals that she holds to, and not her friendship with Discord.

If I wrote a more full version of this storyline, it would be clear that Discord developed real feelings of friendship towards Fluttershy, but not the other way around. Discord’s breakdown would’ve come when he realizes that Fluttershy wasn’t friends with him because she liked him, but because she thought it was wrong to treat him badly. Discord would’ve learned something about respect, and been able to start a real friendship with Fluttershy by getting on her level.

With or without expanding on the storyline though, that’s ultimately what’s so great about Fluttershy in this episode. She’s kind of on a moral high horse, and not in a snoody or pretentious way, but in a legitimate way, where she’s telling Discord that she’s better than him, and he needs to shape up if he wants to roll with her crew. It’s incredibly empowering towards Fluttershy as a character, especially when it’s not something that any of her friends could’ve done. For all of its lukewarm delivery, this still shines through to me as Fluttershy’s crowning moment of awesome to date, just like when Rainbow Dash slammed down her badge in Wonderbolt Academy.

Okay! That was a hell of a doozy! I’ve still got some more stuff to talk about, but why don’t we take a breather for a minute. Let’s hear some awesome lines from this episode.


[how odd of me]

Excellent. Still, let’s talk about simpler things now.

Animation-wise, this episode is really all about Discord. The scene with the spinning house is definitely one of the more memorable moments in the show, and an altogether striking bit of cartooning that deserves commendation.

Who else saw this moment and was like, I need some Shylestia, STAT? Just me?

Only Rarity would wear a dress just to have dinner at Fluttershy’s house. I think that’s the best thing to come out of the rest of the mane six in this episode.

A thing I found really interesting in this episode is the familiarity that the mane six used in addressing Celestia, which they’ve never really done before. In this context, I think it works, because the ponies are basically facing the return of the greatest enemy they’ve ever faced, and are about ready to call Celestia on her bullshit for once. Even Twilight talks back to the princess, showing something more akin to the rebellious streak that she had in the first episode with her reinterpretation of the Princess’ orders.

I thought it was cool how in this episode, Dave Polsky and the writing team seem to have made a point to reign in Discord. When Discord made his first appearance, he was bombastic and we all loved it, but it would’ve seemed samey and old hat to have him breaking out the same old tricks. Instead, he does a lot of small-scale pranks, many of which are a lot of fun. I can’t say I care for all the dinner table hijinks, but the little stuff like breaking the vase or growing extra faces was fun. He still managed to get the one big trick in there, and it stood out all the more prominently because of it.

And… oh Celestia, I think I’m actually done. I’m sorry this video came out so disjointed and all over the place, but I guess that’s what happens when the subject matter is in Discord.

Be sure and hit up my website so you can see more of my videos, pony-related and otherwise, and look forward to my analysis of The Cutie Mark Chronicles next.

5 thoughts on “Analyzing “Keep Calm and Flutter On”

  1. I don’t know if the episode should have been in two parts, but if the writers were going to stick with one I would say that the thread should have been conscious, sustained, and decidedly unresolved.

    I guess I, too, appreciate the honesty with which Fluttershy’s character was approached, there’s a lot of leverage there, but it arguably can’t do much more but create a twinge within a fiend or immoral person. Translation itself requires a degree of faith: I remember one time with a high-school friend I was watching the Little League World Series. We guffawed and openly joked that when Japan won the players were saying all kinds of awful shit, which the coach translated into English as “We are pleased to have won this game.”

    I don’t disagree that kindness has power, but maybe it can really only bother you. But it’s maybe the most powerful one in this regard. Kindness can move demons, the story seems to be saying. What it moves them to, however, is a question for the ages. If Fluttershy had been working alone, she’d have been pwned, and I think we’re supposed to be aware of this. It’s because there were so many webs of intrigue to keep things precarious that Discord’s control was less than sure.

    I agree that there is no fucking reason Discord should have cared about having friends. That’s what killed the romance of Fluttershy’s ideals for me. It’s the same issue with Trixie, and with other villains (not Gilda). It’s all anarchy to him, and most myths begin with primordial, self-sufficient anarchy. Hell, even the Christian God didn’t need friends. There really should not have been a clear upper hand on the part of the mares. I don’t fucking care that Discord crossed his fingers. That’s ten-year-old bullshit. It’s useless if nobody actually fears that he could fuck things up seriously all over again at the drop of a hat. The whole point is that he finally understands that friendship—whatever that may be—may be something worth fearing the loss of. People may say, “Well he just wants friends.” There’s no text suggesting this in any deeply sentimental way. Having a person to bully may be a perverse way in which one thinks of his relationship as being a friendship—but we’d then argue that it’s not actual friendship. Maybe certain relationships are inevitably noxious. Maybe certain people are irredeemable. This ep got too determined to “make its point” at the end.

    It’s the same bullshit that’s pulled in shounen all of the time. Everyone who rejects friendship gets humiliated or killed. Bullshit. Some of the greatest geniuses ever hated people. There may be something philosophically or metaphysically “missing” in people without friends, but that doesn’t mean they may never have the upper hand where it matters, in any sort of final way. The fact that the ep pulled its punches felt like…I dunno, failed orgasm maybe? Or is that analogy too weird?

    Thanks for not losing your shit over the reforming spell, by the way. It’s messed up by our standards, but it’s the same sort of shit people flipped out about in “Sleepless in Ponyville.” Does Luna rape minds? Geez.

    • Interestingly enough, the podcast i did with AnY pony on this ep (link at the end of the next vid) we end up talking about translation because if hie fluttershy communicates with animals in this ep. Like most things though, I couldn’t come to an agreement with the brit about it.

      While im recommending videos, theres a reviewer called strebiskunk who had the truly pissed-off bile slinging review of this episode, and its actually very good. His rage is genuine and feels deserved, even though i ultimately dont hate this episode.

  2. This is the episode that made me worship Fluttercord: because Discord’s feelings for Fluttershy are greater than Fluttershy’s feelings for him, his respect for her is great enough that he stops treating her like a fool and actually starts to take her opinions into account. Since Fluttershy is the bigger man in this episode, I prefer the Fluttercord shipping over any other Fluttershy pairing. Even her best friends will boss around Fluttershy, and while Discord does frequently take advantage of her in this episode, he never forces her or pressures her too much to do what he wants: she always has the option of fighting for her moral code or taking the easy way out. Even though Fluttershy’s feelings for Discord are not nearly as strong as those for her friends, in the end I think she does begin to like Discord for who he is and not just because she feels she has to. The episode Sonic Rainboom makes me take a closer look at the FlutterDash shipping. Rainbow is a lot more honest around Fluttershy than she is around her other friends. She knows that Fluttershy will not tell the other four about Rainbow’s fears, she has known Fluttershy longer than the rest, and Fluttershy kind of owes her–after all, Rainbow is the one who stood up for her and if not for her, Flutter wouldn’t have gotten her cutie mark. Fluttershy is too shy and cares too much about not hurting others that in any other pairing, she would be afraid to voice her displeasures. In this episode, however, she does scold Discord and has a large affect on his actions.
    Ha, you make me want to write my own analysis’s.

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