Again Revisiting “Boast Busters”

Text version and youtube description:

0:00 – Introduction
0:10 – My dislike of confrontational situations
1:17 – Obnoxiousness quotient
1:37 – My opinion of Trixie
3:02 – The dynamic nature of entertainment
3:39 – Trixie’s magic vs. Twilight’s
3:57 – The saving grace of the episode, and the Ursa Minor fight in retrospect
4:50 – Pacing (copypasta from the old video)
5:55 – Misrepresenting the characters
6:32 – Other perspectives (positive, negative)
7:31 – The five big problems with Boast Busters (by Misfortune-Dogged)
– 7:31 – Lack of lucid understanding
– 8:04 – Heckling
– 8:12 – Trixie’s challenge
– 8:29 – Twilight’s “moral conflict”
– 8:44 – Saving a town vs. sticking up for friends
8:55 – Conclusions

Text version of this analysis:

So glad to be done with this. Let’s move along and try to be more productive next week, eh?

More stuff by me:

I’ve been on twitter and tumblr a lot lately. Links are on my channel page if you’re interested. Lots of meXBronycurious shipping has been happening.

My original write-up of Boast Busters:http://myswordisunbelievablydull.word…

Written version of the follow-up video that is blocked in the US:http://myswordisunbelievablydull.word…

Misfortune-Dogged’s “Pony Ep Quips” write-up:…

Clover Keen’s video rebuttal to my original Baost Busters video:…

Trixie: Alone:…

Louis CK on hecklers:…

Epic Pony Rap Battles Of Equestria:…

Those awesome episode title cards are by Jowybean:

My OC (with brand new expressions on display here!) is drawn by Mizu Takishima:

My relationship with Boast Busters has been long, storied, and, to me, fascinating, so I’m about to detail it extensively in what may be a very long road to reaching the point.

The first time I saw Boast Busters while marathoning the show, I thought it sucked in general, and had it not been for Twilight’s massive feat of conquering the baby star bear, I might have stopped watched the show there and maybe never gotten back to it. At this point, I wasn’t being super analytical about MLP yet, but the long and short of why I disliked it is that the characters were being hot-headed and confrontational, and I’m generally not a fan of that.

You may think it’s a broad and strange complaint, but it’s actually a pretty big deal for me. I’ve never liked shows wherein the characters argue all the time, or episodes of shows that center on petty arguments. This is probably because I avoid those kinds of arguments in my everyday life. You may have noticed that for the most part, my videos are extremely non-confrontational, and that I’m always polite and laid back in my comments because I don’t want to get into some kind of stupid argument. This is also why I stopped doing the Crepuscular Bronies Discuss podcast. I simply couldn’t deal with Byter’s uber-confrontational attitude anymore.

In some cases, this aversion of confrontation is actually an obstacle to enjoying something that is otherwise pretty good. For instance, I think Look Before You Sleep is a great episode, but I didn’t enjoy it the first time I watched it because AJ and Rarity wouldn’t stop arguing. But that’s for another video.

When I saw the mane characters getting into petty squabbles over stupid bullshit, I ended up being annoyed with them and didn’t enjoy the episode at all.

Adding to that, this episode also has a lot of dialog from Spike at perhaps his most obnoxious ever, constantly repeating his same lines about how Twilight is amazing. And if he wasn’t enough, Snips and Snails pose as a foil to him with their love of Trixie. Between the three of them is easily the highest obnoxiousness quotient in the entire show.

After completing MLP, I completely forgot about Boast Busters, and wouldn’t have given a second thought to the Great and Powerful Trixie if I hadn’t launched myself headlong into bronydom and seen a whole new side of her presented by the fandom.

Trixie is a character that completely and stubbornly fails. Her most defining moment in the episode is when, after being completely show up by Twilight, Trixie claims that she’s still better than Twi, and runs off into the night. It shows her to be exactly as petty and silly as the ponies had thought she was, and for my money this makes her a much more interesting character than she would’ve been if she’d turned out to be a good guy.

Mind you, I still think her redemption at the end of Magic Duel was a great extension of her character, because it showed that Trixie can recognize when a line has been crossed. Yeah, she’s still completely full of herself, and she doesn’t lose that even when she’s apologizing, but even she can tell that what happened with the Alicorn Amulet was farther than she would ever have taken things. She wants adoration and to think she’s the best, but that doesn’t mean she wants to dementedly subject everyone to her whims. But I talked about this already in that video, so let’s get back to Boast Busters.

The exact moment when I became a Trixie fan was after watching the fan animation Trixie: Alone by Tiarawhy. It’s a story about Trixie’s downward spiral, and is at once both tragic and hilarious. After this I fell in love with the pompous showboat, and there’s a number of fanworks and images of her that I love.

When I eventually came back to the episode, I enjoyed it a lot more just because I got to watch Trixie. All of her animations were things I’d seen used in countless parodies, and I’d heard all of her dialog used in the song Trixie’s Good Side by PinkiePieSwear countless times. I could enjoy this, while turning my brain off to the rest of the episode.

I think this speaks a lot for the dynamic nature of entertainment, and that’s why, in my original Boast Busters video, I clarified right at the beginning that I don’t think a review of an episode is ever really “done.” Feelings change and evolve, and certain things remain ambivalent and unsure. Even if I say in one minute that Boast Busters is really awful, I might still turn around and enjoy watching it later, out of some kind of care, affection, or nostalgia.

Back when I started doing episodic analysis in a text-only format, I ripped Boast Busters to shreds. I considered the episode’s lesson and its characterization totally inept, and felt that Trixie only started making sense if you read into the subtext of her character. I love the idea that Trixie’s magic is stage magic and Twilight’s is a more all-encompassing magic, because this setup would tie beautifully into the idea introduced in this VERY SAME EPISODE that every unicorn has their own unique kind of magic. This idea never comes up though, even in Magic Duel, which I still think is a crying shame.

In that original post, I did praise all of the unique poses and expressions that Trixie has, which I still think are the saving grace of the episode. I also said that while the Ursa Major fight is impressive, it doesn’t hold up as a great imperative to return to the episode at this point. It’s cool and all, but on the level of being visually or contextually impressive, it pales in comparison to the show’s later feats, like the entirety of A Canterlot Wedding.

Soon after I wrote that initial post, Magic Duel aired, and I did an analysis of that episode, in which I criticized Boast Busters off-hand rather harshly. Shortly thereafter, I followed up with a video about Boast Busters, which combined the points of my original post with conversations that I’d been having with frequent blog commenter Misfortune-Dogged about the episode. As you all probably know, that video is the only one that fell victim to Hasbro’s Content ID bullshit, so if you live in the US, you probably haven’t seen it yet. Since I’m re-addressing a lot of that video’s points in this video anyways, there’s only one segment from the original that I’m going to restate in full, which is my bit about pacing:

“In my Magic Duel video, I said that Boast Busters was paced like a hard shit, which it is. However, it was wrong of me to make this sound like a huge detriment, because bad or awkward pacing is something I often apologize for. The problem with being judgemental about pacing is that in the long run, it usually doesn’t matter. Pacing is all about a play of expectation, and when you know what to expect, it has a significantly smaller effect on the manner in which you interact with a work. You might still think of it as being slow or fast-paced, but upon rewatching, it isn’t as likely to effect your enjoyment.

Boast Busters is paced badly, but the real reason I dislike it is the reason FOR that bad pacing—the fact that there’s very little going on in the episode. I put a lot of value on density in all forms of media, and it really shows when you look at a list of my favorite episodes of MLP.

I love episodes that have a lot to say about the characters, like Lesson Zero, Party Of One, Applebuck Season, Luna Eclipsed, and A Friend in Deed. I love episodes that have a lot to say about the world and its lore, either visually or expositionally, like Hearth’s Warming Eve, The Cutie Mark Chronicles, and The Return of Harmony. I also love episodes in which a lot of awesome, hilarious, and fun things happen, like Suite and Elite, May the Best Pet Win, and The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000.

Boast Busters is significantly lacking in all of these departments, and its narrative concept is paper thin.”

From there, I went on to talk about why I think this episode misrepresented Applejack’s character, because I don’t see her as the type of pony who would jump into such a petty conflict at such slight provocation. I still feel this way: I think that Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity were totally in the wrong by getting so offended at Trixie’s show and starting a ruckus about it. There is no real evidence to suggest that anyone else in the crowd was offended at Trixie, and these three come across as hecklers, whom Trixie then shows up like nopody’s business, more or less serving them right. In a context where a character gets served justice for believably being a douche, it can be entertaining to see, but in this case I just couldn’t buy into the idea that this representation was congruent with these characters.

And you know what? I can totally understand why others wouldn’t feel that way about the situation. This is one of those moments wherein each person’s unique perspective can very strongly be felt. Youtuber Clover Keen wrote a lengthy rebuttal to my Boast Busters review in which she defends the episode, and her points aren’t at all invalid, because they simply come from a different perspective, and that’s fine. If you liked this episode, and you wanted to seek confirmation for your ideas about it, she’s probably the person to go to.

Meanwhile, if you really, REALLY want to get into the bones of what’s wrong with this episode, you need look no further than the writings of my friends Misfortune-Dogged. When I put out the original Boast Busters video, a lot of people in the comments were defending the episode, and Dogged read these comments and got pissed and wrote an epically dense close-reading of the episode that crushed any desire I had to talk about it anymore. The two of us agreed that we were done with this episode… and then of course my video got blocked, making this the one episode that I absolutely had to talk about again.

Dogged did eventually return to the episode in an excellent blog post which you can find in the description, which is much easier to read than his old one. In it, he summarizes the episode’s biggest flaws in five bullet points which I will read off now:

1) We have no narrative cue leading us to immediately criticize Trixie the way the Mane Six did, no plot context suggesting anything this negative—certainly not after a mere two sentences easily and commonly understood (rightly or wrongly) as hyperbolic. We’re left to extrapolate smugness, but only from two facial expressions, the second, vaguer, and explicitly-noted one made while Applejack is confirming something Rarity has already said. By extension, we don’t lucidly understand the Mane Six’s thinking. Scorn cheap pyrotechnics on the fly, if you want, but not attitude.

2) Trixie responded to what she reasonably perceived to be heckling. Her response may or may not have been over-the-top, but it is believable.

3) Trixie’s challenge is odd because if there was the possibility of quibbling or of her being beaten by her own terms (and logically there is reasonable chance), why would she articulate said terms in a show that has barely begun to a host of people she barely knows? Rainbow Dash, after all, could have simply pointed out that Trixie can’t and didn’t fly.

4)     Twilight’s hinted moral conflict is dishonestly morphed into a fear of irritating or harming others, even though the denizens don’t care and her friends have asked her to get involved in showing up Trixie. These elements are obvious, yet the text doesn’t make it clear why her hesitation is warranted.

5)     Saving a town from imminent destruction is not the same as sticking up for your friends. Trixie didn’t threaten the lives of Twilight’s friends. And presumably, Twilight never would have hesitated to do what she could to protect lives.

So, bringing this overly long and self-indulgent analysis to a close, I rewatched Boast Busters one last time to confirm my thoughts. At this point, I find the episode nigh-unwatchable. I’d rather get my Trixie fix from Magic Duel or Equestria Daily, and my pony fix from ANY other episode of the show. I’m pretty content to finally put this episode to bed and not think about it anymore.

2 thoughts on “Again Revisiting “Boast Busters”

  1. HAY DIGIIIIIII. I was watching your Boast Busters Revisited video, and, as Im sure you get recommendations all the time, I feel you would probably enjoy Fallout: Equestria and its children series… series’… serieseseseses? (plural of series) (namely Project Horizons and Murky Number Seven).

    I personally love them to death, even though that not mean much to you, and I feel you would probably enjoy it, even if Im not an analytical beast like you, I feel it does bring some pretty interesting things to the table. Such as it’s posthumous look at the Mane6 and other important characters as a sort of alternate event horizon and alternate character developments that lead to marginally different interpretation of the characters that allows for an experience that is equally enjoyable in staying true to the characters, while giving them all its own spin (as all great fics should do.)

    As well as its tendency to exploit the potential density of statements from the actual show to the fullest extent, and gives every one of them a fulfilling and beautiful purpose, most of which lead to an obscene (in a good way) extension of the lore and history of the the MLP:FiM universe. And what spaces it does leave, are filled in by Project Horizons, which does as much for the Fo:E universe as Fo:e does for MLP.

    And just a warning, it is a little bit dark at points, (and pretty damn long to) its fairly easy to look past those things if you dont enjoy them, to get to the real gem underneath it all. And the writing may appear amateurish in the beginning, it gets better through the series, and you get to watch Kkat grow as a writer along side their characters, which is also a plus. Speaking of plusses, theres a little appearance by a certain showboat I know you like.

    So you may not like it for any number of reasons, but you should give it a try. I, more than anything, just want to get an opinion from my favorite critic of my favorite fic.

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