• Member Since 25th Jun, 2018
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Non Uberis


These words were not written for you. But if they speak to you, they're yours to bear.

More Blog Posts13

  • 1 week
    Opening for Prereaders for Stains

    So, I've come to the decision that I would like to go ahead and get started on the prereading for Stains.

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    2 comments · 73 views
  • 4 weeks
    There's Always Someone Eviler

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    2 comments · 93 views
  • 8 weeks
    Anthro Ponies, Cutie Marks, and Pants

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    1 comments · 100 views
  • 12 weeks
    Deprioritizing Monthly Content

    I've come to a significant decision regarding my work.

    For the past couple years I've been trying my damnedest to make sure that I get at least one piece of writing and art posted every month to continue showing the progress that I'm making as a creator. This has worked out decently well for me more often than not.

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    1 comments · 39 views
  • 21 weeks
    It's that time of year again

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    Gossy brought some "friends" this time.

    0 comments · 39 views
Nov
30th
2020

Zephyr Breeze and the Conundrum of Mixed Demographics · 9:51pm Nov 30th, 2020

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" was a show primarily intended for children.

I want to preface by saying this because I think it's important to keep in mind the fact that I doubt anyone on the show staff or the higher-ups at Hasbro ever expected that it would turn out to have as much of a demographic of older fans as it did. Nobody thought that this show about cartoon pastel horses would explode into one of the most prominent fandoms on the internet, so large that at its peak it had numerous conventions dedicated to its existence all around the world. Despite this, the creators were greatly receptive of this unexpected audience that they ended up having, and while the series had always had the occasional adult joke or reference that would be better appreciated by the parents of the little girls who would be watching the show, it didn't take long for them to start inserting content that was directly referencing the fandom, such as the infamous Derpy/Ditzy appearance in "The Last Roundup". The episode "Stranger Than Fan Fiction" had a sendup of brony conventions as its starting setting and was entirely about how different fans can have different interpretations of a thing they like. The hundredth episode of the show, "Slice of Life", was basically wholly made up of references to theories and inside jokes the fandom had made up regarding background characters who otherwise hadn't had much or any development up to that point, and for what it was worth it was pretty fun to see focus on different characters.

At the end of the day, though, it was still always going to be a kids' show, and it was always going to skew toward a child's understanding of things. I think that this was one of the show's greatest failings, that the creators started trying to cater to this older demographic while still maintaining the kid-friendly appeal and tone. They tried to do more and more complex and dramatic stories for the main arcs of each season, which often clashed with the more everyday shenanigans and moral lessons that would be the basis for most episodes. I believe a lot of former fans who swore off the show did so with a remarkable lack of self-awareness for the fact that the show could realistically only ever do so much to cater to them, no matter how many fans of the show were adult men instead of young girls. In making even these paltry attempts to acknowledge the growing fandom of bronies, it became impossible for FiM to ever be a show that would truly be able to tackle serious subject matters while still being a kids' show.

Sometimes it did still manage to work out surprisingly well. "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" discussed the ideas of post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm. "Amending Fences" was heartbreaking in its portrayal of how a person can lose faith in social relationships. "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place" was almost astonishingly dark for how it presented a person struggling to find a place for themselves, to the point of effectively contemplating suicide as a result.

On the other hand, there were episodes like "Flutter Brutter."

When new episodes of the show were coming out, I tried to avoid outright spoiling myself on all the content leaks that kept managing to come out, but I did occasionally check on the episode synopses to get some rough sense of what might be coming up. When season 6 was on the horizon, I happened to zero in on this particular blurb for one episode:

"Fluttershy has to deal with her freeloading little brother, Zephyr Breeze, and help him find a job."

And when I read this, I actually started to get nervous in anticipation of how it might turn out.

This episode would come out in June of 2016, just a few weeks before my 24th birthday. At that point in my life, I was going nowhere real fast. I was living with my parents (I still am). I had been unsuccessful in my endeavor to get into graduate school. I didn't have a job. I wasn't creating a lot. I didn't even have a driver's license. I was in a few toxic relationships for good measure. Meanwhile, my sister was married, had moved to South Dakota, and had a real job as a preschool teacher, the thing she always wanted to do.

I was Zephyr Breeze, and I was scared that I would see too much of myself in this episode.

Then it aired.

Zephyr Breeze, it turned out, was a thoughtless, careless college dropout, who not only lived off of his parents' good will because they're too nice to say no to him, but also actively made life harder for them by wrecking their house. And he was a creep to Rainbow Dash for good measure. When his parents did decide to kick him out, he then immediately defaulted to coming to Fluttershy to ask if he can mooch off of her next. Upon being told that he needed to get a job if she's to support him, he proceeded to put absolutely no effort into it and squandered every opportunity that was given to him, until he decided to give up on Fluttershy and went to become a hermit in the woods. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash came to rescue him and he admitted that he struggled with work because he has a crippling fear of failure, and they gave him some much-needed encouragement to continue with his passion for hairdressing, and so he went back to hairdressing college and finally properly graduated. Yay, he'd improved!

Except he didn't. The final line of the episode was a throwaway joke about how Zephyr Breeze still wanted to crash with Fluttershy. And then, the next time we saw him (three seasons later) he was still jumping between jobs because he didn't care enough to try for any of them, just so there can be no ambivalence on the issue.

Also he has a dumb five o' clock shadow just so you know how much of a lazy layabout he is and I hate it for fuck's sake Zephyr Breeze you're supposed to be a stylist you're all about taking proper care of your appearance either commit to having a beard or—

...Ahem.

One of the most recurrent narrative problems with FiM as the seasons went on, in my opinion, was the increasing overreliance on villainous/antagonistic characters. There so often needed to be a character who could decisively be in the wrong, someone whom the viewer could point a finger at and attach all the blame with little in the way of ambiguity.

This came up in similar disappointing episode "The Mane Attraction", where Applejack didn't have to confront the possibility that her childhood friend Coloratura had changed drastically from how she used to know her because actually her manager was just an asshole who had forced her into the "Countess" persona and had been abusing her popularity for himself like most managers of young rising stars.

Iron Will was introduced in "Putting Your Hoof Down" as a purveyor of toxic masculinity who was genuinely given pause when Fluttershy calmly rejected his teachings and gave the impression he might rethink his perspective, only for him to return in "Once Upon a Zeppelin" as having turned into a generic scam artist because for whatever reason they couldn't just use the Flim Flam Brothers.

Cozy Glow couldn't have been a child who had serious traumatic development that caused her to see friendship as something that was just a means to an end, she couldn't have developed any kind of attachment for the CMC for the efforts they went to to help her, she had to be wholly and irredeemably evil, because no one could think of anything to do with Diamond Tiara so they just did her again but as an arc villain.

Trixie and Discord had to continue to be assholes even after their respective redemptions because almost all of their episodes put them in the antagonistic role of "person who doesn't understand friendship".

To say nothing of the characters who, like Zephyr Breeze, did manage to get hasty turnarounds or redemptions which didn't stick or fell flat. The Flim Flam Brothers had a single episode in which they were shown sympathetically before they went back to being villains for the rest of the series. Actual racist Neighsay got to be redeemed through no reason other than Cozy Glow being eviller than him and non-ponies happening to be the ones to save him, only for him to have no meaningful presence in the series after that, all so they can have him show up leading the charge for the final battle even though you just know that he'd be the first guy to jump on the xenophobic fearmongering that Chrysalis was spreading through Equestria it's not like you wanted to show off Maurice LaMarche again you didn't even give him any lines literally anyone else would have been better for that position it could've been Tempest Shadow or Big MacIntosh or the CMC or Fancypants or Mayor Mare or Ditzy Doo or Sunburst or Trixie holy fuck why did you not have it be Trixie why did you not let Trixie finally decisively show how she's committed to not being a selfish dipshit—

...Ahem.

Zephyr Breeze was shown, after nearly twenty minutes of screentime, to have a sympathetic reason for his struggle with finding a job, a reason that flew in the face of how disrespectful and flippant he had acted up until that point, and how he would continue to act after that. Zephyr Breeze was not and never would be a character who was supposed to have a complicated relationship with Fluttershy and their parents, he was only introduced as an antagonistic force, as an obstacle that needed to be overcome. Children who were watching the episode didn't need to know what it's like to be an adult who struggles with the rigorous demands of eking out a living in the real world, all they needed was to see someone who was doing something objectively bad and had to be friendship lesson'd into being a good person, something which didn't even need to be permanent. The character was done far more justice in Issue 74 of the IDW comics, in which it was shown that he had in fact kept his job as a stylist but he was still suffering from performance anxiety, and it was demonstrated to him that even professionals who have been in the business far longer than him can struggle just as much as he does, giving him the confidence needed to continue pressing onward no matter how difficult it is. But that wasn't in the show so most of the fans who are in that older demographic, to whom Zephyr Breeze would be a more relatable character, aren't going to acknowledge it as canon.

Maybe it's genetic. Maybe being a reasonably well-rounded character is a recessive trait among the ponies of Equestria. I don't think it's a coincidence that Mr. and Mrs. Shy are the most boring out of all the Mane Six parents, so boring that they don't even get real names, and even Fluttershy is far from being the most well-written of the main cast. It would make a lot of sense given how the public masses of Equestria skew toward being gullible idiots.

Zephyr Breeze was not the worst character to come out of G4 MLP *coughMudbriarcoughQuibblePantscough*. "Flutter Brutter" was not the worst episode of MLP:FiM—I actually greatly appreciated how it was a rare occurrence of a Fluttershy-centric episode where she was assertive and didn't need to get over her shyness. But this episode, in my opinion, was one of the greatest missed opportunities in the entire show. For all the attempts that the show runners made to court the bronies with memes and references, they made so few attempts to acknowledge them as people who could stand to have life lessons just as much as children.

Zephyr Breeze could have been a character who was representative of the show's adult audience. He could have been an example of an adult who wasn't able to fully grow up, who struggled to live up to the expectations that were set upon him. He could have been a person who so desperately wanted to follow his dreams but was so afraid of the idea of failure that he constantly sabotaged himself. He could have even had an inferiority complex because of Fluttershy, his older sister who is not only doing everything she's ever wanted to do in life, leaving home and seeing the world and making friends, but she's also one of the most important ponies in the entire country.

But no, they didn't do that. They went with a basic portrayal of a character with objectively bad traits who needed to be convinced that he was wrong so the protagonists could have something to rally against, and they couldn't even be bothered to fully commit to what little development they made. For a show intended for children, this might have been adequate enough for a conflict that young audiences could understand so they don't grow up to become underachievers in life. But if the creators really wanted to do anything that would acknowledge the existence of the show's older fans, they should have had a character they could identify with, someone who could demonstrate that it's okay to have a hard time finding one's place in the hellscape of modern capitalism and that they shouldn't be discouraged by their perceived failings.

Zephyr Breeze could have been a role model for adults, instead he was just a punchline for children.

===

I guess random essays are just a thing I'm doing on occasion now because clearly I don't have other things I should be doing. I wrote one before this but it was about Pokemon so I didn't post it here.

Report Non Uberis · 142 views · #Ramble
Comments ( 3 )

I wouldn't ascribe so much to that; the writers are comfortable Canadians in their 40's with little to no understanding of the economic hardships pushing the US towards collapse, besides the propaganda they read and believe from the news media. They have probably heard that our generation will have it worse off than theirs economically, but haven't cared to internalize that and be empathetic. Or maybe they figure we're grown up and can take a harsher jab... and ideally we can. Our generation could use thicker skin anyways: no one's coming to save us, so we have to solve our own problems.

5408544
If you want to be reductive about it, maybe. I find it hard to believe that the writers could be that ignorant of the struggles that their adult viewers might face. The assumption that Canadians don't have to deal with their own struggles is baffling to me. The existence of "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place" indicates to me that they were very much willing to approach subjects like this, and Rockhoof's dilemma was even darker and bleaker than Zephyr Breeze's.

The contrast between Canada and America (and anywhere else) and Gen Xers and Millennials is ultimately irrelevant though. The problem isn't getting a job—everyone in Ponyville seems willing to at least give Zephyr Breeze a trial run, he doesn't have to jump through the hoops of writing a resume and getting an interview. The problem is keeping a job—Zephyr Breeze can't put in the effort necessary to accomplish any of the tasks that are set before him. The problem is performance anxiety and the pressure imposed upon a person to do well. This is something that can be applied to many things and to many walks of life, professional or otherwise.

The moral of "Flutter Brutter" is functional enough to get this across, and I imagine that it was serviceable to children and even to some adults. I don't wholly dislike Zephyr Breeze, I can still appreciate the concepts of characters even if their writing doesn't reach their full potential. But you can't tell me that the way he is presented in this episode isn't that of an antagonist, someone who is in the wrong and needs to be either changed or removed from the equation. The struggle of a person to be self-sufficient is presented as an obstacle that needs to be overcome, without any pathos for the emotional state of the person in question. This could have been a character bronies could empathize with, but instead, outside of the resolution in the final few minutes, he is consistently portrayed as a character the viewer isn't supposed to like.

Granted, I probably wouldn't be quite as annoyed with all this if it weren't for Zephyr Breeze's reappearance in "Twilight's Seven" where it turns out that actually he hasn't changed as a person at all, but the inconsistency of character development is a separate issue.

And again, I am aware that this is a show for children first and foremost, and there isn't anything wrong with that. But the creators set a precedent for acknowledging the existence of their older fans, and they could have made an episode that would acknowledge a very real problem that they have to face instead of just making references to memes. If anything, I worry about the harm this may cause for children to grow up with this idea rooted in their heads, the idea that people who aren't putting enough effort into running their lives are just being lazy and don't have any emotional baggage they have to deal with.

5408577
just being reductive because busy today; well aware there's a lot I'm glossing over.

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