I’ve gotten caught up with nearly all of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I watched the movie in theaters, but I stopped mid-season 7 and I doubt I’ll finish. However, I won’t rant about that. I’d need to make an entirely new post.
Fluttershy is the embodiment of kindness. Or she’s supposed to be, according to the show. And while she does live up to much of the time, I think there’s another element of personality she seems to fit better.
Let me say right now I do like Fluttershy and, up to a certain point, she was my second-favorite character (the first was Twilight; was, as Starlight has now become my personal preference over Twilight). However, I have an issue with what the writers deem to be “kindness”, and there are times when it seems “kindness” is confused with “naïveté”.
The worst example I can think of the top of my head is an episode where she’s chosen to reform a godly chaotic creature precisely because she embodies kindness. Unfortunately, “carpet” would be more accurate. Her way of reforming him is to allow him to abuse her kindness (and I say allow because she’s fully aware of what she’s doing), to get angry with her friends when they attempt to protect her, and allow said creature to endanger one of her friends’ homes (and means of survival; said friend runs a farm), her friends themselves, and by extension, the entire country. In other words, her way of reforming him is to allow him to unleash whatever chaos he wants with zero consequences, in the hopes he’ll change if she tolerates it long enough.
First of all, taken out of context – actually, even in context – this is ultimately an episode about a woman enduring a man’s abuse in the hopes she can change him. Thank you, MLP writers, for giving little girls that lesson. I’m sure the real world abusers weren’t already doing a good job. That troublesome fact aside, this episode emphasizes better than any other what the issue is with Fluttershy supposedly embodying kindness. “Kindness” should not equate to letting someone walk all over you, and while there have been episodes about Fluttershy learning to stand up for herself, they tend to be forgotten, likely to work for episodes like the one I just described. In fact, a common complaint of the show is the lesson fails to stick (though it seems it eventually does by the latest season), something the writers created an episode to say they were tired of hearing (again, a rant for another day). It’s not unkind to refuse to be a walking carpet. It is, however, very unkind to endanger your friends’ lives and refuse to see what your negligence is creating. The only reason she’s successful in reforming the creature is because she eventually snaps at him when he finally makes it clear he was using her all along. In other words, she does something unkind to reform him. Ironically, she called her friends out moments before she snapped on apparently thinking she was a “silly, gullible fool”. Let’s just say when she asked that question, I said yes to the television. If you need someone to spell out they are abusing your kindness when they’ve already done every conceivable action that would make it obvious to anyone with working brain cells and minimal perception, yes, you’re a fool.
The other example I put high on the list is one that involves the aforementioned friend’s farm (yes, out of “kindness”, Fluttershy endangered her friend’s way of living twice). Her friend’s farm was invaded by pests and the friend, understandably, wants to get rid of them. Despite that she only wants to move the bats away from her farm rather than outright kill them, Fluttershy acts as if she does want to kill and insists she should instead give the pests part of her farm as a sanctuary.
First off, anyone who is a real animal expert (annoying fact: Fluttershy admitted she knew nothing about the creatures; meanwhile, her farmer friend did) could probably write a list of reasons as long as their own body about why that’s not a good idea. The episode itself fails any kind of logic in animal expertise. Instead, any logic whatsoever takes a backseat to “kindness” because it’s disregarding a threat to your friend’s home, livelihood, and family’s means of survival is very kind. Keep in mind the pests essentially trespassed onto her friend’s farm, but Fluttershy is supposed to be right because “they’re just hungry”. Never that moving them, like her friend wanted, would solve that issue. The implication here is innocuous reasons excuse bad actions. Fluttershy is “right” because she’s the kind one, despite she knows zero about the pests and farming in general, and if the show didn’t need to have a “kindness always wins” moral for its target audience (no matter how wrong it really is its context), her friend’s sound reasoning and logic would’ve rightfully won out the argument.
Many people excuse flaws in shows like MLP because “it’s a kids’ show”. The problem is that’s why it deserves criticism. Name me a parent, especially a parent of a daughter, who wants their child to learn the lesson that putting up with mistreatment is “kind”? That you can change even the worst people by letting them walk all over you? That it’s good to push away your friends who are rightfully concerned for you? What parent would willing teach their child taking in random creatures is a good idea? That all creatures are okay to keep around? That “kindness” means ignoring all logic and potential consequences, even if you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about? If I had a child, especially a daughter, who liked MLP, I would filter out the episodes like crazy. Kids are not dumb and, contrary to popular belief, capable of seeing problems in media, whether or not they have the words to express them. And eventually, those kids will grow old enough to talk about them.
As I said, however, Fluttershy’s repetitive lessons about being more assertive do seem to have finally stuck as of late, so hopefully, the writers will be more careful with her “kindness”, and consistent in differentiating being kind and being a doormat. After all, “this is a kids’ show”, so let’s have some more careful evaluation of what we teach and aim at kids.