Sunday, April 22, 2012

Make Some Friends! Lauren Faust on Philia: Part 1

Previously I took an all-too-brief look at how Aristotle handled friendship (which I might expand upon later). As an interesting comparison (and to continue the focus on virtue ethics), I thought I’d start looking at the first three episodes of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in order to see how much of an influence the Philosopher might or might not had on producer Lauren Faust’s views on the virtue of friendship. [Yes, I probably am the only Aristotelian-Thomist brony in existence.]

                                               Random Thoughts on Why I’m a Brony

Aristotle's virtue ethics, updated for the 21st century

I’ll leave the friendship theme, review and commentary of episodes 1 and 2 for the next post, but I do have a few things to say regarding the series as a whole. Producer Lauren Faust, who previously worked on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls, has created a children’s animated show transcending the limitations of “girl’s shows” and Hasbro product placements. This isn’t Saturday morning trash. MLP: FiM is worthwhile even to viewers not in the target range, featuring likable, relatable characters, entertaining plots and action, humor for both kids and adults, and a promotion of a kind of virtue ethical approach to friendship (albeit of the simplified Hallmark variety). Faust’s influence really makes the difference between this generation of MLP and previous MLP shows (which you can catch on YouTube, if you dare).  Did I mention the stylized animation of MLP: FiM goes a long way in making this a show that will not give you a headache from excessive sweetness?

In my case, the main characters, flawed yet ever willing to get along, and the friendship moral drew me into the show (I should also mention the goofily endearing character of Derpy). Given my philosophical cast of mind, I began to wonder if I could hammer out a “My Little Pony Virtue Ethics” with an emphasis on friendship (just like “Care Bear Virtue Ethics”). But that attempt  will have to wait for another post.

Friendship is Magic: Part 1 (Character and Plot Overview)

                             Twilight Sparkle: Egghead

The first episode of MLP: FiM introduces us to our main protagonist, a purple unicorn named Twilight Sparkle, a bookworm of the highest order. She apparently devotes most of her time to reading books on magic and close to zilch to social interaction. I can definitely relate to this character. Luckily, for the extroverted among us, the ruler of the pony kingdom of Equestria, Princess Celestia, points out that “there is more to a young pony's life than studying” and  commands her personal pupil Twilight to move from Canterlot Castle to Ponyville’s Library. Now, moving to a library to find out about the world beyond books might seem counter-intuitive, but Twilight does receive the task to make some friends, much to her chagrin.

Reluctantly inspecting the town, Twilight quickly comes across five ponies with highly distinctive quirks (hint, they’re crazy!), as Ponyville is a very welcoming place. The pink pony Pinkie Pie is random, energetic, and likes to party. The country pony Applejack has a big family and likes working hard harvesting apples. The blue pegasus Rainbow Dash is a bit of a slacker and likes honing her flying technique instead of working. The glamorous unicorn Rarity is prim and proper and likes making dresses. The bashful pegasus Fluttershy is found in the episode if only the viewer will listen closely (psst! she likes animals). 

The Mane Six

All five want to be friends, but the dour Twilight isn’t in the best of moods, she just wants to get back to the library and study. Her mind is obsessed with tales of a dark princess come back to raise havoc and of magic objects called “elements of harmony” with the power to cast out evil. Can these stories be true?  Finding the time to read further, however, is not an easy task, as Ponyville always has something to celebrate, with Pinkie Pie seemingly masterminding every party. Twilight quickly finds herself distracted by a surprise welcome party at her library house and then a summer sun festival at Canterlot Castle.

The partying (as well as the episode) ends with the return of Nightmare Moon, the evil alter ego of Princess Luna, sister of Celestia and co-ruler of Equestria. After a thousand-year banishment on the moon, the evil princess intends to gain her revenge by supplanting her sister (strangely absent) and covering the world in complete darkness (a perpetual nighttime).

Nightmare Moon: Just a bit cranky after an unscheduled 1000-year lunar vacation

To be continued…

              [Next post: Friendship is Magic: Part 2, Plot, Review, Commentary and Theme]

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