• Member Since 7th Nov, 2011
  • offline last seen Apr 21st, 2017

Pav Feira


- No Bio provided. Dia II is better, anyway. -

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Apr
19th
2016

Gauntlet of Replacement Goldfish: Episode Analysis, Shipping, and Pav Overanalysing · 3:17am Apr 19th, 2016

Okay, so, this all originated on another blogpost wherein the latest episode Gauntlet of Fire was being discussed (spoi larz btw) and the topic of shipping inevitably came up, like ya do. Naturally, as a Professor of Shipology, I felt the need to butt in at that point with a post that started off analyzing some shipping elements of the episode, but segued into overanalysis of a topic that's been nagging at me for some time. Apparently, people liked the point I raised, and encouraged me to flesh this out into its own blogpost. And hey, y'all know me. If you ask for something, I deliver.

WAIT SHIT UMM, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. WRONG PICTURE. LET'S TALK ABOUT SPARITY. YEAH.


Apparantly, Spike has a crush on Rarity. This was a blink-or-you'll-miss-it character trait that was introduced, oh, twelve minutes into the entire series. This hit its peak in Secret of My Excess, and has tapered off a bit from the eye-hearts and the swooning of S1, but clearly he's still be pining a bit for her. Things like their chemistry in Simple Ways or Inspiration Manifestation show that he hasn't totally given up hope there, and if she reciprocated with romantic affection, he'd be all over that. Even as things are in Gauntlet of Fire, he's still going out of his way to be a fedora-tipping Nice Guy, as we see him helping Rarity with her gem excavations again, a call-back to A Dog and Pony Show. More on that in a second.

Rarity is canonically aware of Spike's crush on her. That part's not up for debate. But her reaction has been... basically, sort of a "aww, that's sweet". Not exactly dismissive or patronizing, but she seems to be seeing this as a prepubescent boy acting sweet on her, and not considering it as anything more. (Of course, that won't stop shippers. Nothing stops shippers.) Still, she's toed a fine line up until now. Secret of My Excess got him a kiss on the cheek, and she's fluttered her eyelashes at him a few times to get her way. It's... not exactly leading him on, but yeah kinda a little. We've seen in episodes like A Dog and Pony Show or Putting Your Hoof Down that Rarity has no qualms with using her ladylike charm to get her way—it's the five-iron in her golf bag. And so when she kisses Spike on the cheek for giving her the fire ruby, that kiss is the reward in-and-of-itself. It's not intended as a promise for future romantic developments. She's simply an affectionate pony, and she correctly astutes that this reward will be positively received by Spike. Buuut, at the same time, she's canonically aware that Spike is pining for her. It's a bit uncool that she's dangling this possibility in front of Spike, fanning the flames. If she's not interested, she ought to let him down, letting him know that he's a sweet dragon and all, but that she simply doesn't feel the way he does. Mixed messages are not your friend in a situation like theirs.

Yet, while she doesn't (canonically) reciprocate his feelings, and while she just sees it as a crush, she is never cruel about it. The absolute "worst" thing she's done to Spike was the above clip from Simple Ways, and that was less about Rarity being oblivious to his feelings and moreso about her being caught up in her own histrionics. When she sees Spike dragging around a Rarity doll in Castle Sweet Castle, she doesn't squick out or shame him or talk shit behind his back. It's just Spikey-Wikey being cute.

Which was why this episode's start was so unusual. She downgrades him from "bodyguard" to emasculating "basket holder" in the first 30 seconds (notice Spike's little glare as she turns around, arms on his hips). Two minutes in, when the episode's premise is being set up, Rarity refers to dragons as "ghastly creatures.... oh uh, not you, of course, Spikey-Wikey." (This coming from the same mare who wore a specially designed outfit to watch the dragon migrations?) Rarity doesn't usually stomp on Spike like this, yet we see two blatant negs in the first few minutes. What's going on here? It's almost like the writers are—

Oh.

But see, when Ember got introduced and set up opposite Spike, this didn't surprise me in the least. Honestly, it fit right in to me. This is just a continuation of a long trend of replacement goldfishes that's been running since S5, if not earlier.

Hey, you guys like Fluttermac, right? Well here's a new character who's a shy moe woobie. We'll even have Pinkie be a shipper-on-deck.

Oh, you're a Rarijack fan? How about a childhood-friend type for Applejack, who's artistically inclined and famous, has a proclivity for wearing overly flamboyant outfits, yet still relates to AJ on a personal level? Just in case the bronies miss it, we'll give her a canonical nickname that's super-close to one of Rarity's fan nicknames.

Oh come on I know their personalities are different but that's freakin' R63 Scootaloo they weren't even trying to hide it.

So, as an aforementioned Professor of Shipology, when I look at this, I see an upper-class (being dragon nobility and all) female who is older than Spike (but is the same race, and also dragons are long-lived so a ~10 year age gap will quickly become inconsequential) who Spike spends this episode trying to get close to and her initial reaction is not resoundingly interested, but by the end of the episode, her tsundere nougat center shows that she does hold a sweet spot for Spike—platonic for now, but more than enough to rev the shippers' engines. Oh, and if bronies have trouble drawing the analogies (I admit it's less 1-to-1 than the previous examples), let's literally put Rarity's cutie mark all over her.

Now see, I'm not herp-derping over any character with similarities to another character. Characters like Trixie, Lightning Dust, and Suri Polomare are intentionally created as character foils for the Mane Six. They're meant to show off the path that could have been, the manifestation of a darker side and ultimately, a rejection and growth of the main character to rise above that path. Nor am I hating on Eveningtime Lighteffect; yes there would have been more payoff if Twilight's S6 student had been antagonizing her for five straight seasons, but I can't exactly fault the writers for liking this character archtype. The best opponent for an all-powerful sorceress-turned-demigod is another sorceress.

Rather, my sticking point is that if the writers wanted to set up a love interest, there were already available options. Now this is the point where people will leap at me, with "take off the shipping goggles", or "a kid's show won't have an openly gay couple", or "these characters aren't being created solely as shipping material, y'know." My replies to which are "no", "ahem", and "I never claimed otherwise". But the show's staff are quite aware of the shippers, and many are shippers themselves (seriously, check their Twitters), so they're certainly not oblivious to what's going on here.

Let's look closer at Marblemac, since like I mentioned, Pinkie plugged this ship in-universe. Fluttermac was probably one of the earliest ships in the fandom, way before Twidash or other ships really took off in popularity. I remember it actually causing a bit of a hubbub when Hearts and Hooves Day rolled around and featured Cheerilee, amid cries of "raaaah my OTP!" And even that got played off with the two characters sharing an amused chuckle at "they think we could be an item". After this point, canonical romance plots are few and far between, but one of the very next we get involves Big Mac again, this time with a new side character. Now, no hate to the Marblemac shippers, much respect, but... what do we know about Marble Pie? She's shy. She speaks in monosyllables, so she and Big Mac have something in common. And... nope that's it. Now yes, you will immediately protest that this is unfair of me. After all, Marble Pie has received so little screentime, so obviously we don't know much about her. But... that... yeah? There's actually another shy moe woobie in the cast, who has appeared in ninety episodes of the show, who might be a bit more fleshed out as a character by now. Strictly from a storytelling perspective, wouldn't it make more sense to leverage an existing character, rather than create a side-character solely for this Pinkie-shipping scene?

By all accounts, the show writers don't seem to want to encourage a romance plot between two main characters, and therefore in the later seasons we've been going through a conga line of "here's a secondary character / love interest. Shippers, use this pairing instead." Obviously, that won't actually stop shippers, because much like a virus outbreak, we are unstoppable and all-consuming. But it's a bizarre little trend that I can't help but notice, and I'm curious what the intention/goal of this is. I've had a bit of time to reflect on it, and the best justification I can think of is that they're really fearful of the repercussions of a main character entering a permanent relationship, whether it's Flashlight, Twilestia, Rarijack, Twilestia, Mane Six Harem, or anything in between. See, from the get-go, we were given six strong female teenagers with attitude characters with strong personalities, characterization, and depth. The tomboy was a closet fan of pulp novels. The "girly" fashion horse was a self-sacrificing entrepreneur. The meek and helpless pony had a nasty passive-aggressive side which would flair up from time to time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cadance and Shining Armor. Despite their ungraceful entrance into the show, they've grown into rather endearing characters thanks to the attention that the writers give them in their episodes. Plus Shining is so bishi, like omigawd. But, let's be honest, in terms of plot relevance, Cadance has gotten the lion's share. Shining Armor has a personality, sure. But when I think of him, the first words that pop into my head are "200% dreamy" "Cadance's husband", shortly followed by "Twily's B.B.B.F.F." My best guess is that this is what the show writers are afraid of. They're worried that, if Fluttershy canonically started dating Big Mac, suddenly they'd become defined by this relationship; by becoming Fluttermac, they would lose part of what made them their own characters. If that's their actual reasoning, it's a bit paranoid, but I could understand where they're coming from. The Bechdel Test is a thing. MLP G2 is a thing. A fear that characters will become defined by their marefriend, while unfortunate, is understandable. So if we're going to have Prince Blueblood, and Trenderhoof, and Flash Sentry, and Marble Pie, you can be sure that these characters aren't going to linger around for ninety episodes.

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Comments ( 15 )
Wanderer D
Moderator

Ember is still too much of a woman/female for Spike, but is still a better ship than Rarity. :P

Seriously though, reason has nothing to do with shipping, as you well said. I can already imagine several people thinking up reasons as to why Sparity is canonical despite all the evidence against it.

...wow.

I can't believe I missed the trip-diamonds scale pattern on Ember. Wow.

...oddly enough, though, Spike doesn't seem to have an interest in Ember romantically, he just wants to be friends. But Ember's behavior indicates that, should anything romantic develop there, she might be the initiator. After all, she was the one getting all flustered and embarrassed the entire episode.


...which kinda makes me want to see a story where Ember tries to flirt with Spike dragon style and it goes completely over his head, he tries to pursue Rarity not realizing what that will do to Ember, and Rarity starts trying to put Spike and Ember together...only for it to end with Ember concluding dragon-style that to win Spike's affections she has to defeat Rarity in single combat.

3879892

...which kinda makes me want to see a story where Ember tries to flirt with Spike dragon style and it goes completely over his head, he tries to pursue Rarity not realizing what that will do to Ember, and Rarity starts trying to put Spike and Ember together...only for it to end with Ember concluding dragon-style that to win Spike's affections she has to defeat Rarity in single combat.

I'd read it. Spike was pretty blatant that dragon customs are lost on him. He was being directly summoned by the Dragon Lord, and he thought he had an uncomfortable rash. The mysteries of the tsundere would be lost on him.

3879884
Weren't you in on that thread in the Sparity forums?

Or was that someone else?

Because I can say, they WASTED NO TIME.

Wanderer D
Moderator

3879902 Nope. I don't do Sparity. Except to mock it.

Wanderer D
Moderator

3879902 Oh gods, I just checked. I've always known there's always someone who will project their wishful thinking as fact, but reading the few individuals there saying that "Sparity was canon" cracks me up and makes me shake my head sadly at the same time. My favorite delusions were "have them both" and "fulfilling relationship with Rarity until she dies, then moves in with Ember".

That these people are in earnest is hilarious and scary and doesn't bode well for when they try to obtain a girlfriend or a stable relationship.

Not two weeks ago they would have sworn Spike would remain forever celibate after Rarity died.

3879892 This could be an actual episode plot, until we get past the moral of "don't think you know what's best for another person" an into the inevitable conclusion of "where do the characters go from here," as that question would be forbidden on a kid's show.

3879936
One of those people is married. :rainbowderp:

3879942
Well, the CMC pretty much had an episode about "What do we do now?"

3879959 because their problems aren't romantic, it's okay.

I don't think the show will ever grant us a satisfying portrayal of a nacsent romantic relationship. If it ever did, however, Spike has a better chance than any of the mane 6.

We need more of this from you.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Oh, and if bronies have trouble drawing the analogies (I admit it's less 1-to-1 than the previous examples), let's literally put Rarity's cutie mark all over her.

AHAHA OH WOW :rainbowlaugh:

That happened. Well spotted!

Given dragon culture and Ember's position therein, they couldn't have a Pinkie analogue advertise the pairing. Unsubtle visual design it is!

But yeah, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. The school of goldfish avoids the long-term repercussions of paring up recurring characters.

And hey, y'all know me. If you ask for something, I deliver.

In that case: next chapter of My Little Chrono, pleease.

3879892 Please
I need to see this as an actual fic now

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