Analyzing “Bats!”

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I’m finally broken. The ride never ends.

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From the beginning, let me clarify that I enjoyed the hell out of this episode. I really did. Having said that, I think this is the point where Season Four has finally broken me. I feel like I’m on a crazy train that’s left the rails, and I’ve just gotta buckle up and let the ride take me wherever it may go.

I had this moment watching the episode, and let me know if you had it to, where I was like, “oh man, this is a pretty good moral they’re building up to. I wonder how they’re gonna portray the resolution,” and then suddenly, “FLUTTERSHY IS A BAT, YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID.” I mean, what do I say to that? It has nothing to do with the narrative or moral lesson of the episode, but Fluttershy turned into a fucking bat. Last week she was a Hulk and that was whatever, but now she’s a wild batpony and I just love it. I love the way she’s animated, I love the idea that this is now a thing, and I hope to god that ending hint wasn’t just some bullshit slap in the face like the thing at the end of Castle Maneia supposedly was.

I can’t rightly say that I’m about to thoroughly analyze this episode, because I can’t stop feeling like the whole thing is a farce. Even though Fluttershy is great in this episode in general, I don’t think it worked as any kind of character study in the slightest. Even though I think the moral that they hinted at, which I’ll dive into momentarily, was fantastic, I’m half questioning if it was even intentional, since the episode goes completely off the deep end halfway through.

Season four is difficult to analyze with any confidence because none of it seems to fucking matter. Besides Flight to the Finish, it’s got lessons that are either absolute nonesense, or poorly tied to the episode’s storyline, characters that haven’t done a damn thing new (I’m looking at you, so-called alicorn princess Twilight Sparkle), and every premise seems to be trying to one-up the last with how insane it can be, without any narrative purpose.

Quite honestly, I don’t feel like I have it in me to “thoroughly analyze” episodes like Power Ponies and Bats which are just meant to be a fun, wacky sound and light shows without any real substance backing them. These episodes are way better suited to the comedic style of Silver Quill and Drowning In Horseshoes, who can make entertaining videos out of this stuff while taking it as it is. Seriously, go and subscribe to both of those channels. If anyone deserves to really be the flag carriers of the My Little Pony analysis circuit for season four, it’s probably those two. Check out Gibbontake while you’re at it, and Tom’s Q&A videos are really great, though I think he’s feeling similarly to myself at this point.

I’m not saying that I’m done with MLP analysis, though I do plan to move into other media analysis on this channel in the very near future, i.e. NOW. I’m still going to write about every new episode that comes out, but this season just has me feeling washed up. There’s plenty of other analysts saying a lot of what I have to say. But hey, maybe I’m overthinking it. I do actually have a lot to analyze about this episode.

So the first half sets up for this great message about speciesism. It’s actually a pretty fascinating topic to think about just how much intelligent species tend to value themselves and their needs over those of less intelligent species, to the point of being ready to annihilate another species in the name of minor convenience. If you’ve ever swatted a bug, you should be able to relate to that sentiment, and actually taking the time to think about your cruelty can be a pretty eye-opening experience.

During the song, we get this brilliant bit of symbolism as we see the different perspectives that Applejack and Fluttershy have on the vampire fruit bats. When we’re in AJ vision, everything is dark and gloomy, and the bats look like hideous monsters, but when we’re in Fluttershy vision, everything is vibrant and nice, and the bats are adorable. Fluttershy sees them for the good, and AJ sees them for the bad, though Flutters perspective seems at least a bit more balanced.

Fluttershy points out that the bats actually help to produce more productive apple trees in the long term, but Applejack won’t listen, and that’s where this episode loses track of whatever it was going for. The goal that it’s setting up seems to be for Fluttershy to make Applejack realize that she’s being short-sighted and too quick to demonize these creatures. However, she plays the trump card early on that the bats are actually a force of good, and AJ doesn’t even listen.

Now, people have been criticizing me in my negative reviews for projecting my expectations onto the episodes, and most of the time I’ve defended that I came up with my criticisms in retrospect. In this case, the episode really did subvert my expectation, but I wouldn’t be bringing it up if I thought it worked well. I really expected to find out something like the Vampire Bats were what caused AJ’s giant apple to grow in the first place, or that they produced apples so alluring that ponies couldn’t resist them.

But in reality, Applejack never learns any reason to keep the bats around other than what she already knew. They don’t decide to make a bat sanctuary because they care about the bats more than they did before, they do it because they realize that getting rid of them is too much of a pain in the ass. What kind of a lesson is that?

There’s also this lesson about Fluttershy facing consequences for allowing her friends to pressure her into doing something she knew was wrong. This is an okay lesson, if not that thematically strong, but it brings to my attention the number one thing that pissed me off about this episode: Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight. What. the. fuck. are. you. doing? Was it wrong of me to expect that now that you’re an alicorn princess you’d be better at leadership roles? Or at least, you know, retain the lessons you’ve been learning across the entire show? What happened to Bridle Gossip? What happened to Swarm of the Century? Did you have to give up your brain to make room for your wings?

Okay. I’ve gotta calm down. Trust me, I’m not joking, I love this episode. It’s my favorite episode of season four so far, but I love this thing the same way I love Equestria Girls. It’s dumb and silly, but I like it because it’s a great sound and light show. I was super kind to that movie because I knew that everyone else was ragging on it already, and that Tom was working on his epic-length negative review of it.

I’m a lot more bitter over season four. And no, I don’t think it’s me, I very much think it’s the show. They’re going for something different with this season. I can’t be the only one noticing that FIVE of the seven episodes take place at primarily at night. That two of them are horror-themed, and two of them are largely reliant on pop-culture references. That there’s this huge new focus on continuity and callbacks, and that every single episode has unnecessarily featured all of the mane six doing next to nothing. Something is different this season. I don’t want to try and place it, but I can’t help the feeling that the production staff has been allowed to go a little more wild as the result of their show appealing to a wider audience. Take that as you will.

The episode boasts some of the best animation in the show, with detailed, unique backgrounds, and the amazing job that they did on Flutterbat. It’s got a fantastic song that pays tribute to Danny Elfman and the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. It would be remiss of me to discount these factors, because they really do matter to me. I’ve watched this episode three times now, and even though I think most of the dialog is stupid and redundant as shit, I love the song and the flutterbat scenes so much that I just walk away feeling happy every time.

Fluttershy is really strong all throghout the episode. I know that when I started this channel I was pretty harsh towards Fluttershy. I loved her in Keep Calm and Flutter On, I thought Dr. Wolf’s defense of her that kicked off his channel was brilliant, I adored her in Equestria Girls, and I thought she was strong in this episode even before the Flutterbat scene. I really think she’s come into her own and I enjoy her character a lot at this point.

But even when I’m walking away with a smile, there’s some stuff about this episode that eats away at my mind. Okay so Twilight makes the bats lose their taste for apples. What are they gonna eat now? Are they gonna starve to death? I assume Twilight’s spell transferred the bat aspect to Fluttershy either because she was nearby, or because she was using the stare on the bats. But then the spell is able to be reversed without meeting the same conditions. Or did it do something different, hence the fang? Seriously, I’m gonna be so fucking pissed if that fang isn’t a thing.

And can we talk about how fucking inane this plan is to make Flutterhy use the stare on herself? The episode clearly establishes that it’s something she does through a concious effort, yet she can somehow use it on herself accidentally by seeing herself in the mirror? She runs away from the first two, but the third one stops here? It certainly doesn’t look like she’s using the stare. Is she just supposed to be in shock from seeing herself? If so, some dialog to that effect would’ve been nice.

I feel broken. Like I said, when I wrote about Equestria Girls, I was in a defensive position, but now I’m in an attacking position, on an episode that I actually really like. I don’t know how to feel about this. Like I said, I plan to keep covering this season, but I’m in a weird position, where I honestly think other people are more in tune with what this season is trying to do, and I’m some crazy old man raving about the good old days of season three. Anyways, I’ll be over here having an existential crisis till next week.

7 thoughts on “Analyzing “Bats!”

  1. It’s a 20 minute show with 6 (or more) characters who all try to bring their weight count during that period. It’s only natural that some stuff is left to grow in the minds of the viewers. it’s only to be expected that the actual content (which I think you separate too radically from the other stuff) is left somewhat thin. I mean, the writers are literally creating a world as they go along, but they are allowed to only show us short glimpses of it. Lack of consistencty (and time) is the flip side of rich imagination. Or do you actually think the show would be as popular as it is if the writers tried to explain everyhting that’s happening in the episodes?

    Take your comment on the bats and their future. “What are they going to eat in the future?” How is this relevant in any sense of the word? How is it relevant for the episode itself? It might have some relevance seen from a wider perpsective, but my point is that if we are to expand our view in this way, it puts the writers into a really difficult situation. In every episode (of every series) there is this fine line where the logic of the episode and the logic of the world differ, and this bat thing is one such. They can eat grass or whatever. It’s not relevant.

    Same goes for the magic thing and the reversed spell. It’s magic, man. What did you expect? Same reaction with every same configuration of actions? Magic is literally something that can’t be explained with reason, moreover it’s something that is not supposed to be explained with reason. And stil you cling to it and act hurt when magic doesn’t work as you’d want it to.

    Then there is the Twilight comment. I mean, what the fuck? Did you not see how she acted as the middle ground in the conflict between AJ and Fluttershy? It could very well argued that, had AJ been the one to choose, the bats would have been dealt with much harsher response. But Twilight made sure to consider Fluttershy’s view, and thus she suggested a compromise. It wasn’t a perfectly balanced compromise, but only because no such thing exists. How can you call that bad leadership?

    I’m not finished yet. Your main concern with the episode, with the whole season 4, seems to be that the show’s success has turned against itself and the writers are adding all this fandom crap and neglecting the original moral lessons of the show. The things a bunch of cartoon ponies can teach about morals is very limited. Is it a deep existential discussion concerning the human condition that you seek? Well, too bad: The show only throws Flutterbats at you. In truth, there was a moral, there was a lesson, and it was something every adult (in the western culture, at least) should be kind of aware already. It never was about “the moral content” with FIM. It was about Flutterbats all along.

    My main concern with this analysis is that it regards the separation of content and form as a negative thing, and moreover, it claims that the episode is guilty of this. In short, you’re saying that the Flutterbat stole the show. So what? She was supposed to! And it’s not just some random special effect, it’s a very fine and intriguing example of the way modern (social) media works nowadays. The writers were willing to meet the fandom in this issue of bat ponies, and considering the historical point of view of such a move, it’s reaches almost sensational levels. This show is going down the history of modern media, and it’s going down there fast. And still you treat this event as a symptom of some sort, I find.

    Strictly speaking, season four is every bit the same as the three that preceded it. The things that make it great are only amplified nowadays, but it doesn’t distort the original concept of FIM, but brings it into light more clearly. Pop cultural references disguised as moral wisdom. That’s the beaty of FIM, that and the ponies themselves.

    • Glarg sorry, the below was meant to be a reply.

      I’m not Digibrony, but I felt like commenting a bit. While I agree with you overall, I think you’re missing the fact that it seemed as if Twilight was going to use the parasprite spell again, where what they did eat became relevant. It’s where this overlaps with Swarm of the Century that things get weird.

      I realize the show was never absolutely perfect about continuity to begin with, the morals were shown rather than truly explained at the end most of the time, and the show never fully explained everything to begin with, but even I was a bit thrown for a loop. I liked the episode too, and I don’t necessarily think the show has changed (other than adding in more stuff from the real world, such as super heroes, which seems kind of pointless when they already have magic spread around willy-nilly.)

      I loved Pinkie’s explanation to Fluttershy that was so delightfully confusing. The term Vampony shouldn’t presume anything about what would get bitten, yet it made perfect sense that they might fear that was the outcome and I thought it was funny. That whole gag was great. Even combining vampire bats and fruit bats as one was kind of cute, but perhaps pointless, since ordinary vampire bats would have worked fine. I realize it’s a kid’s show, so they couldn’t show vampire bats biting ponies or livestock for a trickle of blood, but I think that would’ve been funnier.

      I think my problem was that, while I like Flutterbat, I sort of wish the whole thing regarding the spell made more sense. I did feel that Twilight was trying to mediate, but since there were so many characters in the ep, it got overshadowed a bit. Her failure on the spell and the show not explaining at least how it went wrong confounded me. It was kind of like with the plan that Chrysalis had. I’m sure there could be an answer, but there was not one immediately provided, and because I couldn’t wrap my head around it right away, it did unsettle me a bit and made me laugh for the wrong reasons.

      Yes, I could just say ‘magic be messin’ up all the time’ and ultimately you’re right, the exact details of the spell weren’t relevant to the episode as a whole. But since the parasprite episode set a precedent with the same situation and the same use of a spell backfiring, I wasn’t sure what to think of that part. It just would have been nice if Twilight mentioned “I’ve been working on fixing this spell” or “I think I got it right this time” as a brief nod and then an answer (same spell but a different mistake, thus a different outcome.) I realize that may have been something they meant to do and it got lost by the wayside, but I was briefly knocked out of my immersion when that wasn’t done and the results were what they were.

      It doesn’t ruin the whole episode for me, but you can’t really fault anyone for having some quibbles and I’m fairly open-minded. I don’t even hate the most commonly hated episodes or characters. I don’t want to hate anything about MLP. I just want to relax and enjoy it. When bit of the episode abruptly ruin my suspension of disbelief, I find fault with that, but I’ve been doing that ever since I started watching. In fact, I watched the first three episodes of season one, and I had to stop, because it hadn’t lived up to my expectations, given the rave reviews from random websites and the people I knew. It was actually Digibrony’s overall enthusiasm in his prior analysis, and a few other analyzers on youtube, who unknowingly talked me into giving it another chance, by pointing out that it does have flaws, but as a whole it’s an amazing concept with some stunning execution here and there. And it’s still fun to watch, though it may falter and have missteps as everything may.

      I expect to keep enjoying it overall, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong in accepting that some things didn’t really pan out on a personal level, regardless of how they didn’t pan out. And saying that it is the same as it always was isn’t strictly true. Nothing is ever exactly the same and even then, some people come to MLP for one thing and others come for something else. We’re all just waiting to be served our slices of pie, that’s all. I’m really eager to see the next two episodes and I hope that eagerness doesn’t ruin my opinion of the actual results.

      Sorry if that got too rambling or personal.

      • It wasn’t Digibro’s whining about plot details that I faulted him about. It was this sentence that agitated me:

        “Quite honestly, I don’t feel like I have it in me to “thoroughly analyze” episodes like Power Ponies and Bats which are just meant to be a fun, wacky sound and light shows without any real substance backing them.”

        This high and mighty attitude is what gets under my skin. This separation of content and form is one of the oldest sins any analysis can commit. There is depth in this episode, just like there was in “Power Ponies”, and it’s not the episode’s fault if the analyst fails to see it. Digibrony even mentions these depths himself when he talks about the habit of self-consious beings degrading other species. This is an issue that the episode discusses, among others “more serious” topics, but DB doesn’t see it even when he speaks about it, but only complains when the “form” or the “special effect,” Flutterbat on this occasion, steals the show. Even Flutterbat herself has symbolism hid in her figure, and it’s the job of the analyst to reveal those fine currents of interpretation, and not to sidestep them by calling them “fun, wacky sound and light shows.”

        DIGIBRONY, if you ever read these comments, don’t take this personally. It’s not because of hate that I come to comment your videos, but because of love. Of love to learning. Your videos have been a most excellent source of inspiration for me in my own interpretations, and I sincerely wish you will keep them coming in the future. Let the haters hate. We got ponies to love.

        • I see. Yeah, that is a pretty big point to make, especially since Power Ponies and Bats had some very important morals about self confidence/self-worth and animal conscientiousness, respectively.

          I realize that I’m only speaking for myself, but while Bats was definitely full of poignancy that shouldn’t be overlooked, I feel that most of the poignancy in Power Ponies gets ignored because they’ve overused that theme for Spike. I actually like some of the Spike episodes, and while I feel the writers aren’t doing him enough justice by exploring him more in-depth than they have in the past, we already know that he feels inadequate or at least left out sometimes. Admittedly, it’s not presented in the exact same light as his former insecurity driven episodes, but it’s very similar, so it feels like a rehash, even though it isn’t.

          I realize they are trying to explore what it’s like for a baby dragon living with ponies, and that’s what those types of episodes have been. I really like that theme, but I feel like they’re only scraping the surface of this idea. And beyond that, his greed, and his role as assistant are the only other thing they’ve looked at. He’s a baby, supposedly, or at least a small child, so he hasn’t experienced enough to be a fully developed person, but his lack of hobbies (beyond cooking) is a little disconcerting. At least now we know he reads for fun, which makes sense and could be explored in more depth too.

          It also doesn’t help that superheros get glossed over by their very nature as being all about flash and bang, when they can be just as poignant for storytelling purposes. I suppose I would have preferred the show having explored Spike’s feelings about not having a pony-esque destiny and related magic in a different fashion, because they could have done so without pulling in superheros.

          I still like the episode though. It was a lovely homage to superhero comics, and most of the ideas were quite interesting. Rarity and Pinkie were delightful. I didn’t necessarily feel the whole idea was used to its best ability, but I typically feel that way. It’s a rare episode that makes me think “this was perfect” or I have to rewatch it to really notice the little details that might heighten my opinion a bit more.

  2. I’m not Digibrony, but I felt like commenting a bit. While I agree with you overall, I think you’re missing the fact that it seemed as if Twilight was going to use the parasprite spell again, where what they did eat became relevant. It’s where this overlaps with Swarm of the Century that things get weird.

    I realize the show was never absolutely perfect about continuity to begin with, the morals were shown rather than truly explained at the end most of the time, and the show never fully explained everything to begin with, but even I was a bit thrown for a loop. I liked the episode too, and I don’t necessarily think the show has changed (other than adding in more stuff from the real world, such as super heroes, which seems kind of pointless when they already have magic spread around willy-nilly.)

    I loved Pinkie’s explanation to Fluttershy that was so delightfully confusing. The term Vampony shouldn’t presume anything about what would get bitten, yet it made perfect sense that they might fear that was the outcome and I thought it was funny. That whole gag was great. Even combining vampire bats and fruit bats as one was kind of cute, but perhaps pointless, since ordinary vampire bats would have worked fine. I realize it’s a kid’s show, so they couldn’t show vampire bats biting ponies or livestock for a trickle of blood, but I think that would’ve been funnier.

    I think my problem was that, while I like Flutterbat, I sort of wish the whole thing regarding the spell made more sense. I did feel that Twilight was trying to mediate, but since there were so many characters in the ep, it got overshadowed a bit. Her failure on the spell and the show not explaining at least how it went wrong confounded me. It was kind of like with the plan that Chrysalis had. I’m sure there could be an answer, but there was not one immediately provided, and because I couldn’t wrap my head around it right away, it did unsettle me a bit and made me laugh for the wrong reasons.

    Yes, I could just say ‘magic be messin’ up all the time’ and ultimately you’re right, the exact details of the spell weren’t relevant to the episode as a whole. But since the parasprite episode set a precedent with the same situation and the same use of a spell backfiring, I wasn’t sure what to think of that part. It just would have been nice if Twilight mentioned “I’ve been working on fixing this spell” or “I think I got it right this time” as a brief nod and then an answer (same spell but a different mistake, thus a different outcome.) I realize that may have been something they meant to do and it got lost by the wayside, but I was briefly knocked out of my immersion when that wasn’t done and the results were what they were.

    It doesn’t ruin the whole episode for me, but you can’t really fault anyone for having some quibbles and I’m fairly open-minded. I don’t even hate the most commonly hated episodes or characters. I don’t want to hate anything about MLP. I just want to relax and enjoy it. When bit of the episode abruptly ruin my suspension of disbelief, I find fault with that, but I’ve been doing that ever since I started watching. In fact, I watched the first three episodes of season one, and I had to stop, because it hadn’t lived up to my expectations, given the rave reviews from random websites and the people I knew. It was actually Digibrony’s overall enthusiasm in his prior analysis, and a few other analyzers on youtube, who unknowingly talked me into giving it another chance, by pointing out that it does have flaws, but as a whole it’s an amazing concept with some stunning execution here and there. And it’s still fun to watch, though it may falter and have missteps as everything may.

    I expect to keep enjoying it overall, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong in accepting that some things didn’t really pan out on a personal level, regardless of how they didn’t pan out. And saying that it is the same as it always was isn’t strictly true. Nothing is ever exactly the same and even then, some people come to MLP for one thing and others come for something else. We’re all just waiting to be served our slices of pie, that’s all. I’m really eager to see the next two episodes and I hope that eagerness doesn’t ruin my opinion of the actual results.

    Sorry if that got too rambling or personal.

  3. I too noticed this season’s different… themes. But has anyone else noticed that Twilight is huge now?

    And what if I told you that not every episode has to have a lesson attached to it?

  4. You could be right about her being in shock from seeing herself, since there’s a myth that vampires can’t see their reflections in mirrors.

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