Well, like so many of us, I saw season five's premiere today and I have to say it was a strong opening to the season. Starlight Glimmer makes for a compelling, if dark, villain for the series. When the premiere came to an end the first thing that went through my mind was basically "Holy shit, we have an Arc Villain!" Something the series has sorely lacked. Although the cast and crew of the show have always said there was something even more powerful behind the return of Nightmare Moon, Discord's return and (presumably) Cerberus getting loose so that Tirek could menace the ponies later on (Chrysalis really seems to have been a rare case of dumb luck, but who can say for sure?), but none of them have returned to face the ponies since, unless you count the comic book, which theoretically we're supposed to since it's supposed to be canonical to the show, with the show having greater precedence over the comic in terms of the overall canon, which features the return of the Changelings.
But this is the first time they've really laid down hints that we have a character who's almost explicitly being set up to return to be a threat to our girls at a later date. I know, I know, many are going to point out Trixie's return in season three, but she was more of a jerk with an ego than a real villain. Starlight Glimmer, on the other hand is a truly malevolent figure, something that that we can argue back and forth on whether or not we've had before. But whatever else can be said, Starlight Glimmer also gives us a very unique fact that many may not know.
As I'm sure we almost all do know is that the writers and crew on the show are very much aware of us— the entire fandom, not just us in the fanfiction side of the community— and will often throw out little in side jokes, easter eggs and references for us. But this was the very first time we've seen them directly respond to an actual fic.
The entire season premiere plays out like a screed against one of the most controversial and polarizing fanfiction subgenres in the fandom: The Conversion Bureau.
Don't believe me? Look at the parallels.
The villagers in the town are constantly smiling, staring at the girls like mindless drones and claiming that everyone is always happy in their town. This is exactly like the Newfoals of the Conversion Bureau concept, who are altered on the mental level to be incapable of being anything but 'friendly and carefree'. It was present in the very first fic, and is particularly egregious in many other fics, specifically those by Chatoyance. Those who write what can be termed 'anti' conversion bureau fics have pointed out this issue in the concept, and it seems that the writers of the show sat up and took notice, because seriously, did anyone NOT find these guys creepy?
The Conversion Bureau's mental manipulation is shown in two ways in the premiere;
1. Everyone is now 'the same' thus they are 'perfect'. (Again, looking at you, Chatoyance.)
2. the potion in the fics is said to completely mess with your mind. (This goes all the way back to Blaze's original.) We see the effect of literal brainwashing to make the Mane 6 into ponies identical to those already taken in by Starlight Glimmer's demagogue cult of personality. To the point that we see what happens when someone actually begins to think for himself; they put him right back into the same place where the girls are, with the implication that everyone in that town has subjected themselves to this at least once before.. This looks like more than just a reference to Jamestown from my perspective. Given how we know the potion is supposed to work, I think someone at the show was clearly paying attention and found one hell of a way to drive home the point that this kind of thing isn't just bad, it's outright horrifying.
Starlight Glimmer is a stand-in for Celestia, who is almost always the one behind the conversion bureaus and thus the attempted destruction of mankind. And she fits the role terrifyingly well. For starters, she has her own version of the Barrier in the form of the Cutie Mark Vault. Granted, it was easily dealt with by episode's end, but the parallel is still there. Glimmer also has the idea in her head that what she's doing is somehow a service to Equestria. But much like Celestia in the Conversion Bureau concept, she presumes far too much and wishes to be 'first among equals' since she retains both her cutie mark and her magic. In this vein, she's not just Celestia. She could almost be a stand in for Stalin. Or perhaps more accurately Hitler, since Hitler was all about 'purity of race', and that's not too far off a cry from 'equality' as Glimmer seems to view it. This isn't too far off, again, from the Conversion Bureau, where humanity is seen as 'wrong' due to being different and having conflicts with one another and the like.
Twilight herself directly attacks Starlight Glimmer's ideals, and in doing so attacks the Conversion Bureau itself: ponies are meant to be different and have their own talents. They're meant to be able to be friends with others despite differences. And to force friendships or one's beliefs of how they should be is wrong and indeed anathema to most normal ponies. The same is true for the fact that the ponies in the Conversion Bureau genre (at least those which are 'pro' conversion, anyway) are doing much the same to mankind as Glimmer is doing to ponykind. So called 'anti' conversion bureau fics typically show humans working alongside at least some form of pony resistance against this attack on life and friendship itself. Granted, many will be quick to claim that since the ponies are cast as being the bad guys with only a few 'sympathetic' ponies in these fics. But the reverse is usually also true for 'pro' conversion fics, where it's usually the 'evil' or 'misguided' humans who don't wish to be forced to give up what makes them unique just to live in a place that is slowly destroying their world. The fact that the ponies in these 'pro' conversion fics make no actual attempt to allow humans to retain their minds and bodies does nothing to help their case when they argue that there's nothing anti-human (or indeed anti-anything other than ponies) in their fics. It's almost too bad that even the original fic's author has come to realize the first fic was misanthropic as all hell.
Starlight Glimmer remains a major threat to Equestria, that much is true. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how she'll affect the rest of the season, since I hope she'll be back and that we'll get more on where her mentality was shaped from. However I want to thank her, and the writers of MLP for showing that the show itself has taken a stand on the Conversion Bureau concept, and firmly placed themselves on the side of the divide that says 'conversion is wrong.'