How To Kill The Magic Of The Gods · 4:35am
I want to remind you all of something you already know, but perhaps haven't thought about in a while. Episode One, Season One, 'The Magic Of Friendship', Opening Gambit. This is not just a book. This is nothing less than the Pony Bible.
It's the Pony Bible, because it is, in it's entirety, a creation story, A creation myth.
Once upon a time... God made the heavens and the earth and divided the night from the day. No... it goes more like this:
"Once upon a time...
In the magical land of Equestria
There were two regal sisters who ruled together
The eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun
while the younger used her powers to raise the moon
Thus, the two unicorns brought balance to the world."
Celestia and Luna, from scene one, act one, were goddesses. They could literally control the cosmos, performing stellar manipulations and planetary alignments as if it were nothing. As in just about every Creation Myth, something goes wrong, thus there is a an explanation for evil, and in this case it is Luna getting jealous. So, for a while, we have a monotheistic cosmos, ruled entirely by Celestia, the One True Alicorn.
Of course, as we know, Luna comes back, she learns love, and we get two goddesses again, working together. Every religion needs a reason for evil, though, so we get Discord, who isn't so much evil as chaos itself - could be good, could be bad, he's beyond good and evil. He is imprisoned again, but we get a mythic backstory: he's likely who actually created the universe of Equestria, he can certainly reconfigure the nature of reality itself at a whim, and he is more powerful than our goddesses, who - much like the pantheons of India, or the gods of Olympus, or the deities of many other cultures, required special godly tools and chosen heroes to be defeated.
From square one, Lauren Faust had an ontology here, a religious framework, a mythic framework, within which our pony stories occur. Celestia and Luna are twin goddesses, Discord is the Titan before the current pantheon - usurped by Zeus-alikes Celestia and Luna with the Elements Of Harmony - and random chaos is traded for rigid order.
Joseph Campbell himself could not have done better - Lauren Faust used grand and well-worn mythology to craft her Equestrian Cosmos. There is no doubt what Celestia and Luna are, and no doubt what this world is, and no doubt that the Pony Bible is just that... the Pony Bible.
After the first season, and the finale, Lauren leaves / is forced out by Hasbro, and we get new writers in. Writers that will play ball. Writers that do not have a contract that assures them that they have total creative control. Writers that will put Hasbro's toys into the show, even if it destroys all credibility.
And that is how we got electrical appliances and roads and hydroelectric dams and fully powered trains in a world that was originally written as being at a sixteenth century level of technology. Hasbro needed room to have the Pinkie Pie Automobile Playset fit in, the Friendship Express Trainset fit in, and so forth. This is where we see the magical land of Equestria turn from a cohesive and mythic realm, into a crude parody of our own, modern world in many ways.
And today, with 'A Canterlot Wedding', we see the primary goddess of an entire universe, a being capable of literally manipulating burning stars as if they were party balloons, struck down by a shapeshifting, insectoid vampire monster. In effect, Jehovah God just got suckerpunched by Barnabas Collins. If the Pope (or whoever big in religion) told you that Barnabas Collins could take Jehovah in a fight, what would that do for your ability to suspend your disbelief, and thus enjoy your 'faith'? It would pretty much crush it, wouldn't it?
The thing that makes 'Friendship Is Magic' so special is that Lauren Faust conceived it as something mythic, grand, larger than a mere cartoon. She believed in her world, in her story, in her mythology, in her cosmology. With some notable failures, the first season carries that faith in her vision, mostly.
But in the subsequent seasons, since she was forced out, we have seen the show swing wildly from the universe Lauren created to one which sells toys for Hasbro more effectively. That is why she was pushed out, if you couldn't tell - the promise of Total Creative Control does not sit well with corporate suits, and she had to go. It could not be tolerated. She made art, but Hasbro makes toys. Fairly inferior toys, truth be told.
Most 'Bronies', you will find, will not care. To them, MLP:FIM is merely a light diversion, a social rally point, a new Animaniacs. Look at the funny ponies, haw haw.
But, right here on FimFiction, and out on the net, you will see examples of those who saw in Lauren's original something truly profound. There is an entire subgenre of fan stories, and it is not small, that entirely revolve around the concept that Equestria is literally heaven. Humans die, and go to Equestria as a reward. It's not a very good subgenre, but that is not the point. The point is that the original concept - Celestia and Luna as goddesses of a magical realm - has profoundly affected people.
This view, the original vision has created wonders like Welcome To Equestria and Are You Proud To Be A Brony. These are not mere fanservice. Watch them, really see them. They are Hymns. They are the liturgy of Equestria As Religion.
Equestria, as it was originally conceived, offered us a heaven, ultimately, where two truly benevolent deities took a personal and physical interest in the lives of their creations, even while they divided night from day and ran the universe like clockwork. More than this, they invited their creations to be part of that clockwork, that order, and run the seasons of their world. It was a world of kindness, generosity, love... and magic. It was, in a word, paradise.
But, gradually, paradise has been being destroyed. The goddesses are now just magical ponies who are not that powerful, and who are likely charlatans. If Celestia can raise the very sun, surely no creature could hope to challenge her. It would be like you being overwhelmed by a play-doh sculpture you yourself had made.
The kind world we were first introduced to has become the home of greedy, selfish market ponies and self-help informercials run by greedy, nasty Minotaurs. It has become an ill-defined mish-mash of movie and cultural references and silly, pointless stories devoid of any more truly decent lessons about friendship. It has become common.
And that is a cardinal sin for magic. Magic can be fascinating, frightening, disturbing, wondrous. But the one thing it cannot ever become is banal. That kills magic dead.
One of my spouses, after 'A Canterlot Wedding', walked out saying that he could not watch the show again. It had jumped the shark. It had died. And I agree.
They killed My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic today. I don't mean this as some screaming rant of personal upset. I mean it quite simply - the magic is well and truly gone.
We now have Alicorns, winged unicorns such as Celestia and Luna, common. The enemy of the episode, the Changelings, were essentially alicornoid in structure, Princess Cadence is an Alicorn, and it becomes clear that Celestia is all but helpless. Equestria is just any other cartoon land now. It is not special, nor is it unique. It is just cartoon ponies with little to nothing to say. The closest we come in today's episode is that Twilight is praised for sticking to her guns. That is our lesson on friendship: keep yelling until somebody listens.
I once offered that there were two Equestrias, the Equestria Prime universe of Lauren Faust's creation, a place of magic and love, and Equestria Beta, the Tiny Toons Adventure version with hydro dams and wacky hijinks and deadly cliff-roads and jokes for the sake of jokes.
Now I offer that the latter cosmos has won, it has usurped Equestria Prime, and killed it.
The problem is that Equestria Prime had all the magic that made people love the show. That magic comes from a mythic, self-consistent universe that can be believed in.
Destroy the ability to suspend disbelief, destroy the mythic overtones, and the magic, the entrancing wonder, vanishes in the banality of selling toys.
I am very serious. Equestria is dead, except for that fragment of the original cosmos that may yet live in our hearts. It was killed by consumerism and corporate meddling. It was killed by writers who could not see that a show about ponies could be something greater than a way to get a paycheck. It was killed by a lack of art and faith in its potential.
It is always a very dark funeral, when magic dies.