Analyzing “Daring Don’t”

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Am I becoming jaded? Is this why I can’t have nice things? Or do I have nice things and I’ve gotten spoiled? I don’t know. Daring Don’t isn’t a bad episode I think, it’s got a lot of fun things in it, but I feel like I’m stuck at the starting line tripping over the episode’s actual concept.

Why is Daring Do real? I get the idea, it’s someone Rainbow Dash looked up to, and she was learning a lesson about remembering that she’s awesome, and not holding other ponies on a pedestal, but… why is Daring Do real?? Rainbow Dash has real ponies that she looks up to, like Spitfire and the rest of the Wonderbolts—why not make an episode about them? Or better yet, why not make an episode wherein Rainbow Dash’s life parallels the story of the new Daring Do book, and she’s not convinced she can be as awesome as the character, but then comes through in the end?

I just don’t get why Daring Do had to be real, it’s such a weird idea and introduces so many weird elements into the story. Like, I guess this means that all the stories have really been happening, but does that mean the world has been routinely in the hands of lone ranger Daring Do saving the day, and nopony noticed, even though there must have been some real life consequences which mirrored events of the books? Does Celestia know about this? Polsky says she probably does on twitter, so has she just been letting Daring Do fight alone? Where’s the whole power of harmony thing that’s supposed to be going on?

And why would Daring Do bother writing about her adventures on her binary typewriter? Is she just bragging? Why is she so determined to keep all this stuff secret and play it off as fiction, when so much is at stake, anyways? It’s not like this is Indiana Jones, where the magical artifacts are an unbelievable part of an otherwise real world, these adventures are taking place in Equestria where this shit would be an everyday occurrence. Are the books just her way of paying the bills in-between saving the world? Also, the episode implies that she writes these stories AS THEY’RE HAPPENING, yet somehow has established due dates. How does she know that her adventure should wrap up in four, or even six months?

The whole idea just seems so weird and out of left field to me that I can’t stop thinking about it every time I watch the episode. Not to mention it throws a wrench in the comic canon that Twilight’s mom was the one writing the books. But let’s say I were to put the brakes on that for a bit, and just, “accept it,” like the first twenty comments of this video are going to tell me to. I’m still left with a number of other questions.

Daring Do was trying to protect this gold ring from being captured by Ahuizotl, because if he has all of them, then it plunges the area into 800 years of endless heat. However, in the end she breaks the ring, meaning that the ring wasn’t important for any other purpose. So, why not just break the ring in the first place? If she didn’t need it for anything, why keep such a dangerous item in-tact? She could’ve done that and called it a day, plans foiled.

If Daring Do already has the final ring, why is there still supposed to be six months left in her adventure? She did mention not being sure how to get into the fortress, but how did that change in any way that made her add two months onto the release date?

Back when Daring Do was a story within a story, it could be as contrived as it needed to be, because that was kind of the joke. It was a parody of old pulp stories, which were more about the craziness and drama of what was happening than about making sense. But once it’s dragged into the reality of the MLP world, which, in spite of being a cartoon horse world, typically operates under some vestige of logic, it kind of starts feeling really fucking WEIRD.

But you know what, maybe I’m really being harsh. Maybe something broke me. I did spend the entire time between seasons watching hardcore film analysis. Am I just harsher now as a person, or harsher because I’ve been scrutinizing this show down to the bones? I don’t think so. That’s the kind of stuff I get accused of whenever I’m a little harsh on something, but I’d like to think that the episodes I really love of this show were legitimately solid and appealing to me, and that they hold up, and it’s not me that’s changed, but the show.

The episode’s concept isn’t all that bothered me. When Caballeron was going in and out of Yearling’s house, did he really not notice the six ponies standing outside? How far away did Caballeron’s gang get by the time Fluttershy reminded everyone that this was a thing that was happening and they should help? It didn’t seem like very long, so out of the six of them, someone could have probably gone after Caballeron while the others tended to Daring Do. Maybe let Applejack do it so she doesn’t just stand around for the entire episode after her like three lines in the first half. Rarity can come too, she’s not doing anything.

Speaking of a group of six ponies, couldn’t Daring Do have been like, well damn, I’ve got a personal army now. And one of you’s an alicorn princess? Shit, this won’t even be hard! But I guess she works alone though. Rainbow Dash probably could’ve told Daring Do something like, “I’m the fastest flyer in Equestria and one of the best athletes. I have a team of battle-ready friends who’ve saved Equestria at least like eight times.” But I guess she was nervous and stuff, which is understandable, but I don’t get how she just forgot how to like, do anything. When Daring Do was getting attacked, I thought for sure Rainbow Dash was gonna speed in and just own all those stupid tigers, but instead she gets caught by Ahuizotl. But again, I can accept that she was caught up in how cool Daring Do is and wasn’t thinking about her own strengths.

As a matter of fact, I actually REALLY like the lesson in this episode! It’s something I can relate to from both sides of the coin, as someone who’s been put on an undeserved pedestal by other people who don’t appreciate their own talent, and as someone who puts others on a pedestal for their talent as if I haven’t got any of my own. I think most people can kind of relate to this, especially if you do anything artistic and have people that you look up to, and find yourself turning into a statue when you try and talk to them. I think it makes sense that the only context wherein Rainbow Dash would actually humble herself would be in the presence of someone that she holds in higher regard.

My favorite line in the episode is when Twilight says, “we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t go after her.” It’s a great wake-up line for Dash to remember that she’s a part of something bigger than herself, being the element of loyalty. It’s sort of like saying Dash, this isn’t really about you, it’s about the pony who needs our help, no matter who they might be.

But even then, it’s kind of a weird way of framing the issue, because ultimately this ISN’T about Daring Do, nor the mane six. Helping Daring Do is important, but more importantly, if Do were to fail, then the entire valley would be fucked. I think there was a lot of room here for Daring Do herself to learn a lesson about being a part of something bigger than herself. The episode never really chastises Do for rejecting others’ help, and it’s kind of implied that she’ll continue to go on these adventures alone in the future.

Another thing I did enjoy about this episode is the portrayal of Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle as members of a fandom. Anyone in the brony fandom can surely relate to Rainbow Dash’s desperation for more content, especially after this year’s summer drought. My favorite thing about them is the sort of fandom dissonance between the two, as people who experience the work in different ways. Twilight is the kind of fan whose knowledge of the work is totally comprehensive, but she also is better able to handle the time between releases because she’s a fan of other works as well. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash doesn’t have as much general knowledge of the franchise, but is more intensely invested because it’s the only fandom that she belongs to.

In this equation, I relate best to Twilight. I have an ridiculous comprehensive knowledge of pony, but I handle the breaks in the show pretty well because I’m also a member of like every other fandom in existence, and can keep myself occupied. Like Twi, I think I do well being a huge fanboy of the creators of the work, while also being able to treat them as normal people. I also love this conversation between Twi and RD wherein they basically act out the comments section of one of my videos.

Winding down here, I just want to reiterate that I don’t think this is an all bad episode or even really dislike it in a big way. I enjoyed it more than Castle Mane-ia, which was a total flatline for me, whereas this episode had some cool concepts and a number of legit laugh-out-loud moments. I’ve always found Polsky to be one of the funniest writers on the show, once I can get past how perplexing each of his episodes seem to be at first. According to his twitter Q&A today, little of what he wrote of Spike At Your Service actually made it into the final episode, which probably means that he wrote the original version where Spike was Rarity’s helper. He also clarified after my question that the ending of Games Ponies Play made no sense due to some kind of mix-up which they didn’t have time to fix. I’m glad to hear that, because I like the other Dave Polsky episodes. They’re weird and messy and altogether different, but in a way that’s usually interesting to look at. I can’t say Daring Don’t is a good episode or that I liked it, but it’s definitely got that Polsky factor of making me stop to scratch my head and think about it a little harder, for better or for worse.

2 thoughts on “Analyzing “Daring Don’t”

  1. Digi, it isn’t your job to find plot-holes; leave that to Cinemare Sins. The fact that the mane six are never treated as cereal-world-savers is a complaint that could be applied to every episode. Same thing with everybody seemingly ignoring the fact that Twilight is an Alicorn. We live with these things.

    I think that the most notable thing about this episode is the fact that it adopts the distinction of being the most violent episode of the show, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

  2. Hi! First of all, thank you for writing out a text version of your critiques. I know it is less sexy, but I appreciate being able to skim through quickly and glance back to earlier remarks.

    Just want to point out that the comic does not actually say that Twilight Velvet is the author of the Daring Do novels, and even Andy Price and Katie Cook have stated that. If you think about it, the comics do not and cannot line up with cartoon canon. (Shining Armor and Cadance are in high school, when as far as we know no such place exists? He’s a D & D playing nerd–who somehow transitions to being a jock training the athletes for the Equestrian Games?) What’s more, how could it be that Twilight, a Daring Do fan, could possibly be oblivious to the fact that her mother writes the novels or, alternatively, distrusts her best friend so much that she never says “oh, hey, glad you like them: my mom’s the author. I’ll introduce you.” The comics are fun, and I for one enjoy the fact that they aren’t limited by the cartoon canon. This “problem,” in other words, isn’t a problem, and I cannot understand why people think it is.

    The other problem you raise, as to why it can’t be a Wonderbolt Dash worships instead: after Wonderbolts Academy, why would she? She’s already seen that Spitfire has hooves of clay, and she was so disillusioned she nearly quit. This is more like having all three Musketeers showing up at your local pizza place.

    Your point about fandom makes sense, except that I think Dash has a better grasp on the work itself. This is why she tops Twilight on details. As you say, though, she doesn’t seem to be a fan of anything else.

    Celestia is probably delegating DD to handle archeological horrors in general. She rarely swings into operation personally unless she has to (as we’ve seen.)

    Finally, here’s a question on Alicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle. I know people have been saying “why doesn’t Daring notice? Why doesn’t Princess Twilight spring into action with her super-duper powers? Why, in short, does she not pwn Ahuizotl single-hoofedly while Daring hurls herself to the ground gasping “PRINCESS!” Isn’t that what so many people were afraid would happen to Twilight if she became an Alicorn? Instead, she’s still trying to figure out her new responsibilities and relationships. If you carry this further, this may relate to why Celestia doesn’t intervene more. We’ve seen for ourselves that she would actually prefer to share power with her younger sister than hoard all the responsibility and glory for herself.

    Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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