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The Hat Man


A man with a love of top hats and the finer things in life. Like aged rum. And UNICORNS.

More Blog Posts283

Jul
7th
2015

On Princess Celestia as an Antagonist · 5:00am Jul 7th, 2015

First of all, if you follow "The Iron Horse" and haven't read up through the end of "Giggle at the Ghost in the Machine, Part 4," then you might want to wait before reading this. If you have, then carry on.


So, down to business! Let's talk about our favorite giant-ass sunny horse demi-goddess, Princess Celestia, and the role she's played in the story so far.

She's clearly excited about it. Art by KP-ShadowSquirrel

When I first came up with the idea of Celestia as a technophobe who would be averse to a robot pony and even more averse to Twilight keeping one, I had no idea how big the reaction to that subplot would be. I knew it would be important and, if the story got enough notice, it might be the subject of conversation, but wow.

Now, first, it's important to keep something in mind: despite being the title character, Turing Test is only one of the main characters. The reader's sympathy, if I've done my job right, should lie with her. But the other character central to the plot is Twilight. She started out as the only one really advocating on Turing's behalf, even before she was reactivated, and has been her primary guardian and teacher. But I realized it would have been a bit boring and made Twilight's role a little redundant to just have her going to her friends and try to set up play dates with Turing. She needed her own conflict, one that had higher stakes and was a lot more personal. Hence: Celestia.

You know that one episode where Twilight disobeys Celestia's orders? No? That's because it doesn't exist. In the show, no matter what, Twilight has gone along with Celestia's orders 100% of the time. The episode "Keep Calm and Flutter On" is telling in that Twilight comes close to telling Celestia off ("How could you bring Discord here?!") and then immediately pulls it back ("...Your Majesty."). And Discord gets it right too ("You wouldn't dare turn me back to stone and risk disappointing your precious princess!"). I suppose there is the exception of her "disobeying" Celestia by having Spike take the Crystal Heart instead of her in the Season 3 opener, but she kinda waited until the last moment and did so when there was literally no other way. I would love to see an episode where Twilight and Celestia have a real disagreement about an important issue and Twilight takes a stand. But since that hasn't happened, well, that's what fanfiction is for.

But hooboy is it hard to write Celestia as the antagonist. And note, I said "antagonist," not "villain." That's the tricky part. It's a popular thing to portray Celestia as a tyrant or abusive in her power, but I rarely find that terribly interesting outside of alternate universe style stories. Most of the time it's either a joke or serious character derailment. I wanted Celestia in my story to have her own reasons for opposing Twilight and for Twilight to have equally decent reasons to make a stand. Celestia is a bit of a technophobe and Vanderbull is right when he says Celestia fears change, but that doesn't mean she's wrong to fear it.

Consider this: within a century, probably a lot less, it is overwhelmingly likely that a machine or a computer program will do what you do for a living, only better. Yes, you. You reading this. YOU. We have programs already that can crunch data, perform medical diagnostics, surgeries, sort paperwork, write music, and just about anything else you can think of. There's a really really good video explaining it here and it heavily influenced Celestia's character (and has been mentioned by at least one reader, JFalk). Fair warning, that video will make you nervous. Very nervous.

And now, in a world where cars and computers and TV don't exist, Celestia suddenly finds that somepony actually managed to put together an artificial life form. And she's faster, smarter, and stronger than anypony else. She can assimilate all the information in a library in hours. She can imitate any of the other races' abilities. She was able to mimic Twilight's signature spell and can most certainly learn magic far quicker than any normal pony. Even Twilight and Rainbow Dash felt more than a little threatened by Turing's abilities at first. But Celestia sees the big picture... a picture where a select few engineers hold the reigns of society and control a race of intelligent machines that have made her little ponies obsolete. Being the motherly and protective ruler she is, Celestia sees Turing and has this reaction:

Of course, she is still kind and diplomatic and respectful, and thus she doesn't just go with her guards and wrench Turing away. So she offers her opinion to Twilight and waits patiently. Most of the tension comes from the implied threat and Twilight's own fears (which are hardly unfounded, but still less than overt). In fact, Twilight simultaneously worries about if Celestia is right and, even if not, if she has the gumption to oppose her. But when Celestia learns of the conspiracy, she worries even more. And that's when the time comes to stop dancing around the issue and settle it.

The central conflict of Celestia and Twilight, then, is this: Celestia sees Turing Test as a What; Twilight sees Turing Test as a Who. Celestia is inclined to weigh the needs of her kingdom over the rights of the individual in this specific case because Turing isn't really a person in her eyes. But luckily for our robotic protagonist, Twilight takes her stand and Celestia relents, seeing the wisdom in Twi's argument that just maybe Turing really is worthy of the same considerations as any other individual.

And that means we can move from having Celestia as the main antagonist to other, possibly more dangerous forces...


Anyway, there's my rant. Suffice it to say, I'm actually a big fan of Celestia, and I personally hope we get to see more of her in the future. Thanks for reading!

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Comments ( 9 )

Wow good point. Though I never looked at Celestia being evil in that fic since must have witness a tragedy dealing with these types of changes. Celestia is sorta a mother figure so she will protect her subjects.

I never had a problem with Celestia's portrayal in the story; it's understandable, and I think that it was well-explained. And, hey, if not for that one lightning strike, she might well have been completely right.

Yeah , like they said above . I really like your portrayal of Celestia in this story. She stay true to her character while being an "antagonist" and makes perfect sense both in her logic and in how she is reacting.
You didn't villainize her just to create a conflict to give the story momentum , and that's one of the reason why I like this story that much.
(Other than adorkable Turing and Twilight , that is. :twilightsheepish: )
Well... keep fighting the Good Fight I guess ? :twilightsmile:

Your antagonist Celestia is actualy one of the few I really, really enjoy (and not just because I am waiting for the big smack-down on Sunbutt like in the majority of the others stories where she is the antagonist). She is well written, true to her canon character (as much as she can be in a fanfiction) and her reasons for her behavior are sound.

Please continue to deliver such written goodness to us good sir.^^b

I like a story where Celestia is portrayed as wanting to protect her little ponies (as I always view this as her primary canonical character trait) but for it to be unclear as to what 'protect' actually means in the circumstances, & her coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, some degree is risk is necessary for growth, rather than just sweeping the issue under the rug or otherwise smothering it in the name of 'protection'.

Consider this: within a century, probably a lot less, it is overwhelmingly likely that a machine or a computer program will do what you do for a living, only better. Yes, you. You reading this. YOU.

Hell the fact that the world is set to have its first giant robot battle soon enforces this inevitability.
The future is now people.

Excellent blog post. I actually enjoyed reading this, it's almost like a "behind the scenes" extra!

I was not sure how to feel in the beginning of how you where portraying Celestia. But you gave enough food reason for both her and Twilight doing what they are doing. That both where kinda right and had good points. :pinkiegasp: also I can understand Celestia's feelings towards the technology. We are facing that right now. I am hopefully optimistic. Mainly because it's coming a resisting it is only going to make it worse. But goo dstory I am very much enjoying. :twilightsmile:

I've commented before back near the beginning of the story that I really like how you've portrayed Celestia in the story, and we had a short version of this conversation, I believe too. I definitely reiterate what I said then, that it's really a sensible and sympathetic way of portraying her and the moral/intellectual conflict she has with Turing's existence and capabilities against her motherly and compassionate side for her subjects.
I've found it really intriguing to see that her attitude towards Turing as an individual has seemed to change a little in later chapters (in my personal perspective or opinion) in later chapters, but maybe that's because she sees her as unique, rather than anything more.
Should - or maybe rather when - she becomes aware of the conspiracy, I can imagine it will lead to a serious conflict, as she struggles to react and respond with the right approach.

I'm really loving how she's managed to be an antagonist and still remain show-accurate and likable through the story without becoming the (imo) stupid 'tyrant Celestia' fan archetype too. I agree with you that's a boring and tiresome caricature in this fandom, and I'm glad it's been avoided; I look forward to seeing things resolved without her descending into that mold too, and how things will be in the wake of all that's being revealed so far.

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