Analyzing “Look Before You Sleep”

Text version and youtube description:

My OC is designed and drawn by MizuTakishima:

More stuff by me:

John Cleese on Creativity:

Stone Hands by Meletric Music:

Bronycurious on this ep:

Dr. Wolf on this ep:

My Bronycon panel:

My new song with RainSnowHail:

The Pub Crawl:

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about this episode the whole time I’ve been making videos, and the trouble I’m having is general ambivalence towards it in terms of personal enjoyment.

On the one hand, this episode has a spectacular lesson, stars my two favorite ponies of the mane six, and is great in terms of character development. On the other hand, it has a number of cartoon tropes that I can’t stand. The dialog and conflict are extremely repetitive without a lot of really funny moments, plus I don’t enjoy stories about characters arguing with one-another. Every time I watch this episode, there’s a layer on which I enjoy and admire it, and another on which I find it boring and tired.

So, jumping right in, let’s talk about this moral and why it’s so important! This episode is all about embracing what makes us different, which happens to be my own moral crusade and a core tennant of the show, so I’m going to go on about it for a bit.

The opposite of this moral, which I absolutely hate, is the one where it’s asked that we “look past our differences,” and “focus on the ways in which we’re alike.” This is pretty wrongheaded even from a genetic and evolutionary standpoint, like the metaphorical equivalent of saying that we should inbreed. No offense to any incestuous listeners, I respect your diverse lifestyle!

We need our differences, and it’s very important that we not look PAST them, but look AT them, and embrace them. Now, I do think that there are irreconcilable differences, and I think that compromise is a big part of functioning as a society. Obviously, if someone is really really into murder, that’s not a difference we should be quick to embrace because it ultimately hurts our society more than it helps. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon that person, it only means that we need to seek compromise and attempt to reconcile the differences as best we can. I’m getting off-topic though.

In this episode, we are shown how Rarity and Applejack have different modes of thinking. In a video which sadly won’t be out until November, Bronycurious astutely observes this difference as one between a creative individual, and a non-creative individual. Rarity is good at going into what John Cleese describes in this awesome video you should totally click on, as the “open mode” of creativity. She sees the world as something she can play with and express herself with.

Applejack is always focused on the task at hand, and thinks in terms of the big picture. However, she doesn’t know how to enter a creative mode and concentrate on the more detailed aspects of whatever she’s doing.

Rarity is creative, but she can’t control what things she becomes fascinated with. She becomes absorbed in the minor details of the first thing that catches her eye, without relating that thing to the greater whole of the situation.

These opposite modes of thinking lead the two ponies to have extremely different sets of values and very different tastes. However, the things which make them different are what make them functional. Applejack offers Rarity focus and drives her in the right direction, while Rarity compensates for Applejack’s lack of ideas.

While Applejack is the one who recognizes this dichotomy and communicates it to Rarity, it is not framed as if one of them has the correct mode of thinking, nor is either of them expected to take on the other’s mode of thinking in addition to their own. They remain individuals, but ones who’s collaboration makes them a greater whole. This is the essence of Harmony, and in many ways is the central lesson of the entire show.

At the end of the episode, both of the girls are still set in their ways. Neither of them has had to break their own values to comply with the other’s. They’ve simply managed to accept that even though another pony is different from themselves, it doesn’t mean that said pony is wrong, or that they can’t collaborate to the betterment of everyone.

The episode conveys the differences between the characters and how far-reaching those differences are very well. It’s just a shame that the dialog in each sequence puts the ponies at one-another’s throats constantly. The point that these two ponies don’t see eye to eye was made early on, and it wasn’t necessary for every difference between them to be argued about in the same way. It doesn’t hurt the message at all, and if you’re not bothered by this kind of repetitiveness, then it won’t even matter, but this is quite literally the cartoon episode structure that annoys me the most; which is why it’s ironic that it has my favorite lesson and some of the best character development in the entire show.

That said, there are still some memorable moments, like the pillow fight scene and the bed scene, and there are some excellent little bits of animation and voice acting throughout. And that lesson…

(roll lesson)

so good I could cry. Roll the promotions!

4 thoughts on “Analyzing “Look Before You Sleep”

  1. Twilight’s brother complex for the win. Have people caught on, the whole onii-sama thing? Or only a few?

    That’s another K.O. for you, DB. It’ll be good to read/hear what BC has to say in November.

    Laughed out loud at how little time you spent talking about what bored you (you were always going to be focusing on what you liked, anyway). For a really long while, we both knew you’d “have” to analyze it at some point, but that you couldn’t help not being motivated enough. Nice that your mindset came around at some point. I say this as a guy who’s finally getting around to writing on subjects he’d meant to a year or longer ago. Neal’s project helped, yes?

    And John Cleese! I’ve been ranting about formalism for a while, but did you notice how in that video he just kept throwing in new words for the same joke, but kept the same structure? That’s how Modernist formalism works. It’s about how the particles work in the structure, more than the “traditional meaning” you get out of it. Of course, Modernism still assumes hierarchy, dichotomy, and structure. In the post I’m working on, I deliberately thought to write a “seeing” version of “talk your ears off.” What might the effects be?

    Interesting that you used creativity or art as a frame for discussion here (“open mode”). It reminds me of how people discuss the literature/criticism dichotomy, the degree to which it’s “constructed” or “imaginary.” One argument is that it comes down to the fact that criticism seems or “is” utilitarian—we judge it by practicality in a way that is ultimately “impossible” for art. Art’s goal is to unsettle, one way or another, and even by randomly declaring a thing art you get an effect. You can’t take that away from it—but you sure can discredit an essay’s assumptions!

    And when I think about it, I suppose that’s what really succeeds in this episode. It’s the versatility of the argument made, however tired its execution might be. I’m talking about…like, aesthetical argument, not the moral argument you pointed out, which I also love. You can apply it to a hell of a lot because it’s so immediate and so grand at the same time…not that stories *have* to come down to application. I agree with BC that the character development is…interesting, but that isn’t quite enough for me here. I think if I wanted to, I could analyze it the way I did “Ticket Master.” Problem is, “Ticket Master,” boring or homely as it is, strikes me as actually *being* different in a way that “Look Before You Sleep” kind of isn’t. For example: because characters pop up from out of nowhere before seeing the tickets, you think about coincidence, conspiracy, and luck (good or bad). That’s the kind of thing I mean. This ep, though, is too yeah-I-get-it. If the structure was clever in giving us multiple angles of presentation rather than characterization, I could’ve been more engrossed.

    You didn’t talk at all about Twilight. How do you think she fits into the literary scheme?

    You wrote “tennant.” Do you mean “tenet?”

    Lastly—finally saw you guys’ panel vid. I liked it. I also liked how you were able to take shots at each other and roll with it. I don’t handle that well, because I freak out over offending people. Probably part of the reason I went hikki.

    • Neal’x videos definitely helped, and that’s the November I’m referring to. I’m pretty sure you were actually there when Tom related Rarity to the Cleese talk lol.

      Ticket Master is definitely its own unique thing and animal. It’s way more interesting to look at because it’s not obvious. The way you broke that ep down almost gave me the feeling that the ep was a sandbox, or a place where people are going to come out of it with a variety of ideas. When AnY Pony did a video on the ep, he said something to the effect that AJ had the best reason to go, and I commented with “HAH! You fell into the trap!” and then linked him your post.

      Twilight, I don’t know what to say about. There’s a point where she reveals that she knows what’s been going on, but then she picks up the idiot ball in the climax scene and I don’t know. I feel like she’s practically a literary device here and not much more.

      I did mean tenet, that’s one of those words I’ve got stuck wrong in my head lol.

      The way he and I were in the panel is pretty much how we are at all times. Skype calls, walking around the con, we just have that chemistry.

  2. i always kind of took it as, they were at each other so much because they were still in a fight.
    like, they are still mad at each other and didn’t get any time apart so they keep picking at each other. lol but i dunno, I’ve done that a lot with my friend, like not on purpose, but it has happened XD

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