• Member Since 31st Aug, 2013
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Mystic Mind


The greatest storyteller of our time, or just another smuck brony on the internet? YOU decide! (Also I do episode analysis sometimes.)

More Blog Posts52

  • 4 weeks
    High Guardian Spice: Flawed Brilliance and Fantasy Fun (Spoiler review/analysis)

    (Note: This is an updated review to include a greater discussion of spoilers, and to elaborate on one or two points I could have made clear.)

    TL;DR: Though far from perfect, primarily due to the rough-around-the-edges animation, High Guardian Spice does a wonderful job in presenting its fantasy coming of age story, building on common heroic fantasy tropes to great effect.

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    0 comments · 259 views
  • 4 weeks
    High Guardian Spice: Setting a High Bar for Future Western Animation

    Despite all the delays, High Guardian Spice is finally here! I will admit upfront that I have some level of bias, since I'm a non-binary fantasy nerd who loves all things magical and colourful. This show was always going to be on my radar, but has it lived up to my lofty expectations?

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    0 comments · 71 views
  • 9 weeks
    My Little Pony: A new Generation

    My Little Pony: A New Gen is a mixed bag. It has a good setup that builds itself on the legends of FiM, and is a film about the monsters we make ourselves to be. It shows how prejudice and stereotype can be pervasive in culture, playing on our fears of the out-group. It's just a shame the story beats feel so forced, with a portion of the cast being under-developed. The resolution also feels

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    1 comments · 68 views
  • 10 weeks
    Major Announcement: Mystic Mind's Patreon!

    https://www.patreon.com/MysticMind89? I now officially have a patreon! I want to try and turn my biggest hobby into something that will support my life financially, in whatever small way that may be. Fancy throwing a bit of money my way to help fuel my writing? Have a browse of the options and give whatever you're able to. I'd be ultra greatful for all support shown!

    0 comments · 35 views
  • 53 weeks
    Deconstruction is Magic: a My Little Pony Retrospective (S1E23)

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrreetings everypony, and welcome back to Deconstruction is Magic, my Retrospective/Review/Analysis of every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is magic ever. Today, we have a minor epic on our hooves. It's The Cutie Mark Chronicles! Without wasting any more time, let's get on with the analysis! I am the Mage of Mind, reminding you, as always, that even a

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    0 comments · 93 views
Nov
11th
2020

Deconstruction is Magic: A My Little Pony Retrospective (S1E21) · 11:31pm Nov 11th, 2020

Grrrrrrrrrrrrreetings everypony, and welcome back to Deconstruction is Magic, my Retrospective/Review/Analysis of every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is magic ever. We have quite an odd episode today, one that has a mixed reputation of early instalment wierdness within the fandom. It's Over a Barrel! Without wasting any more time, let's get on with the analysis! I am the Mage of Mind, reminding you, as always, that even a cheeseburger can be deconstructed to its source.

First of all, we need to address the Elephant in the room. The episode's primary conflict is centred around a classic "Cowboys and Indians" scenario, though this term is quite outdated by today's standards. Much of American fiction often includes a sanitized version of the wild west, a time where settlers expanded across America, into territory of indigenous tribes. I, as a white British man am not in a position to talk about the atrocities committed against indigenous Americans, but that isn't why I bring it up. I bring this up because of the subtext of the episode is highly sensitive, and so it carries a large potential for downplaying all the horrible things done to indigenous Americans.

It's a big risk to engage in this topic, especially for a children's show, but in my view, it largely succeeds. The fundamental core of MLP's values is idealism. It is showing ponies both at their best and their worst, demonstrating how we can overcome them together. As such, communication is key. If we are to help make up for whatever ways indigenous people were wronged, we need to listen to them. We need to take them seriously, and not patronize them in the way Pinkie Pie does. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we can sound like we are not taking a person's issues seriously. This episode presents, in a way that is suitable for children, how we can be better.


(Blinding your eyes with the spider dance~)

The problems first start to arise when Applejack and Rainbow Dash start talking over Braeburn and Little Strongheart. Upon hearing why they are in conflict, they start to empathise straight away, only for others to shut them down with an argument by proxy. By insisting on a one-sided solution, they end up driving a wedge between the buffalo and the ponies. This is exaserbated by Pinkie Pie's song a dance number, since it makes both parties feel like they are not being taken seriously. It kills the negotiations, despite positive intentions, pushing them to a point where they feel force is their only option. In a sense, it could be taken as an unintended metaphor for the episode itself. When you put the basis for your fantasy story so heavily in real-world atrocities, you will inevitably make it feel sanitised and palatable for audiences who never experienced it first hand!

I think that Dave Polski's excellent writing shows a degree of self awareness in this regard. As such, even if all problems alluded to aren't created equal, we can still take a page from this episode's book, to understand why the presentation was the way it is. The key point that is missing here, which has been an unfortunate running problem throughout FiM's run, is that equal intentions don't always result in equal consequences. A pie fight is never going to carry the same narrative drama as actual death. It's at this point that Dave Polski wrote himself into a corner. How can you escalate the problem to force, while also minimising the onscreen violence? The characters sure react to this being horrible, but because the pie fighting trope carries a comedic implications, it casts an unhelpful light on the real-world parallels that both the story and characters are intended to draw upon!


(I can see FOREVER!)

It's unfortunate how much the episode complicates its intended impact, because the visual humour in the episode is very clever. It has many gags which take the western setting tropes to a silly degree, with puns on anything to horse-drawn horse-drawn carriages and mild west dancing. If Dave Polski isn't a western fan, then he certainly has done his homework! It takes some cues from looney tunes humour during the battle scene, with everything from conveniently placed anvils to unfortunately timed structual damage, it's a classic way of subverting violence while still maintaining some level of drama - even if the pie fight tends to downplay it too much.

Likewise, all of the characters are on point with this episode. Rainbow Dash is impulsive, but not unkind; Applejack is brutally honest and direct, leaning her biases toward her extended family; with Pinkie Pie's over the top, boundless optimism making her air-headed without being outright stupid. Their flaws intertwine perfectly with the story, making it a great example of character driven writing, which FiM excels at. The fact that neither side are inherently bad is a one of the best aspects of the episode, because without it there would be no reason to compromise at all! You cannot compromise with the unpleasable, so by grounding the characters and showing them both sides, it gives kids the tools to prevent simple, down to earth conflicts in their own lives. At the end of the day, the value of mutual aid shines through despite the limitations of real-world influences.


(Dear Princess Celestia: Today I learned absolutely nothing about operating steam locomotives!)

Conclusion

Over a Barrel is a mixed bag. The character designs that reference real-world conflicts between European settlera and indigenous Americans was always going to carry unfortunate implications. It's unavoidable when you try to create such parallels. Though it limits the potential of this episode, I don't think Dave Polski's efforts spoil it all together. The moral is good enough to stand on its own, encouraging good communication and understanding of individual needs - a foundation which makes FiM so progressive! As such, I give this episode a final score of 6.5/10.

What did you think of this episode? Am I too lenient on the intended allegories? Feel free to let me know in the comments of this blog! Until next time, stay safe and take care all~.

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