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My OC is designed and drawn by Mizuki Takashima: http://mizuki-takashima.tumblr.com/
Thoroughly Fanboying The Return of Harmony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCEg-_1lrLs
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I know I did a video Thoroughly Fanboying The Return of Harmony a couple months ago, and I love that video, but it is what it’s called. Over time, I’ve been giving it more thought, and come up with some observations on the way free will is treated in Equestria, as well as on the moral structure of this fantasy world.
To start with, let’s talk about Discord. I’ve seen the case made a number of times that Discord is not evil, and I’m here to disagree.
But first we need to clarify just what “good” and “evil” ARE. After all, these concepts are completely subjective, and most people will give you a different answer when asked. Personally, I like to refer to “good” as anything that promotes life and livelihood, whereas “evil” is anything that disrupts life and livelihood. I could probably go on for hours and hours pontificating on things being good or evil, but that’s neither here nor there—what’s more important is that we figure out THE SHOW’S definitions of good and evil.
Friendship Is Magic is sparing on using the words good and evil, which is great because given the subjective nature of the words, they tend to be unhelpful. Teaching a lesson about the more concrete elements of Harmony and Discord has a lot more weight and meaning behind it than the battle of good vs. evil would have. But make no mistake that in the context of this show, “Harmony” and “good” are synonymous, and the same is true of “discord” and “evil.”
Taken straight from the ponies mouths, when the CMC speculate that the discord statue could represent confusion, evil, and chaos, Cheerilee tells them that all three are technically correct. It’s not that Discord isn’t confusion, evil, or chaos, it’s simply that “discord” is a more specific and efficient word for describing what the spirit represents. “A lack of harmony between ponies,” directly in opposition of Equestria’s ultimate force of good.
In representing Discord as an antagonist, and allowing the protagonists to defeat him, the show is promoting the triumph of good over evil—of harmony over discord—and I think we’d all pretty much agree that it’s a lesson worth teaching, right? Except… we wouldn’t ALL agree. There are bound to be those who would favor Discord’s way of life over that of the ponies. After all, if we are to ascribe a meaning to the word evil, then there must be people whom we regard as evil. By using these words, we’re taking sides and making convictions for ourselves to stand by, and while that may seem very obvious and like, something everyone does, it’s nonetheless an important fact.
Friendship Is Magic takes a moral stand. It makes statements about what is or isn’t okay, and it’s actually very adamant about these things. In Equestria, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE WRONG. Evil DOES NOT go unpunished, and you will be forced to CONFORM to the moral standard of society, whether you like it or not.
Whether or not that’s a good thing is an interesting question. Here in the Western world, and in a growing part of the global community, we put a LOT of value on the concept of free will. Us Americans in particular are very proud of our freedoms, and we will champion the idea that any *one* can do any *thing,* within certain, often unclear boundaries. We are often violently opposed to the idea of monarchy or dictatorship DETERMINING what we can and can’t do, and who we can and can’t be.
But, as I’ve claimed in nearly all of these observation videos, Equestria is NOT the Western world, and is in fact a society based around embracing the ideas of determinism. (Which is what I usually mean when I use the word Destiny. Yeah I need to rewrite that video.)
Equestria is in fact a monarchal society, if not a… quad…archal society, and follows a moral standard ultimately set by its leaders. I mean, when a new villain shows up, you never see a congress meeting about how to deal with them—just Celestia telling Twilight to go stop them, pronto.
There is no scene in The Return of Harmony, or Friendship Is Magic Part Two, or The Crystal Empire, or A Canterlot Wedding, or Equestria Girls, wherein the mane six attempt to reach a compromise with the villain, or weigh their differences. What we get is the mane six telling the villains, “you are going to conform to our moral standard, whether you like it or not,” and then proceeding to force them to do so.
And the roads to these final confrontations are filled with some really interesting themes, especially throughout all three episodes of the Discord arc. The Return of Harmony is essentially a struggle between Twilight and Discord over controlling the value sets of Twilight’s friends. And the battle is handled with a decidedly determinist slant.
At first glance, Discord’s game looks like a sort of Faustian gambit, in which he tricks and tempts the ponies into changing their values into those of disharmony. But this isn’t really the case. The ponies aren’t really transformed by their own emotions, but by Discord’s magic. We see this clearly in the scene with Fluttershy, wherein Discord fails to make her depressed, and just transforms her anyways. Other than Twilight, the mane six are not transformed by their own free will, but by Discord casting a spell on them to make them act that way.
And when Twilight changes them back, it’s the same story. She forcefully reinstalls the memories of each pony being an element of harmony back into their heads, to reinstil the value sets that she wants to preserve into their heads.
Remember in my Look Before You Sleep video, how I claimed that differences between people should be embraced, but that some differences are irreconcilable if we hope to maintain a functioning society? The Discord arc is about how ponies deal with irreconcilable differences. Their initial tactic is outright imprisonment, and their second tactic is reformation by force.
In Keep Calm And Flutter On, Discord is not given any options. Twilight fully intends that if Discord does not somehow alter his mindset to fit in with society, she actually can use a spell to reform him by force—a downright Orwellian tactic of forced conformity. And with Discord having eaten this spell, if he hadn’t conformed, they would have simply turned him bacck to stone.
In conclusion, Equestria does have a strict moral standard and absolute monarchy, and does not seem to put much value into the idea of free will. The reason their society still resembles ours is that for all our ideas about freedom, even we ultimately have an underlying moral foundation determined by the majority, and regardless of what we believe, the inherently determinist system of our universe will cause us to work in that system regardless of how we perceive ourselves operating. Equestria isn’t really different from our world systemically, it simply is a society that recognizes and embraces those systems more openly.