My Little Pony and the idea of social hierarchy / by Simmon Li

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt_Uw5Q_vXg I was just watching this episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and a thought occurred to me. If, in Canterlot the capital city of this country of Equestria, they use magic to change from winter to spring, why don't they do so in Ponyville? After all, Winter Wrapup doesn't quite make a whole lot of sense if you can just cast a spell. The question is answered in the first minutes of the show, "Ponyville was founded by earth ponies, who didn't have magic. It's a tradition." Now, that seems innocent enough, but then I thought about it a bit more. If magic is fairly common place for changing the seasons, it must provide some sort of economic advantage - otherwise, Winter Wrapup would be prevalent. Clearly, magic confers some sort of advantage, it's behaviour economics. I imagine the use of magic would save labour and time, meaning that the ponies could be more productive in doing other things, like growing and selling apples for example. What is interesting is that near the third quarter of the episode, it is revealed that Winter Wrapup has not been finished on time for quite a while. Would magic solve this problem? I would say it's highly likely.

So why is it that the tradition persists? My theory is that it's a celebration of social solidarity for Ponyville—a way to keep a specific social identity alive and propagating. Now, Ponyville seems to have all sorts of ponies in the population: unicorn, pegasus, and earth. While the beginnings of Ponyville may be rooted in earth pony culture, it certainly is much more cosmopolitan now. Why is it then, that the unicorn ponies do not just use their magic to change the season? The reason, I believe, is that the social solidarity extends beyond the "racial" element of pony life, and into other realms of pony social structure. One of the bigger threads here, I believe, is economic (and therefore social) status.

And here is where the analysis becomes interesting. If all of these ponies can be presumed to be in a similar economic status, what does that say about the economic status of other groups in comparison to Ponyville? Well, in a future episode we learn that Manehattan is a metropolis full of all kinds of ponies. Presumably, Manehattan would be analogous to Manhattan, the stereotypes presented in episode 12 are fairly obvious. Applejack is a small town girl and Manehattan is a big city, the social worlds are completely different. The implications are that Manehattan is full of uppity, snooty unicorn ponies who have servants and what not; whereas Ponyville (where Applejack is from) is much less of a snooty place. But what is the underlying difference between these two places that Applejack's recollection has presented us? Well, I would argue that it boils down to a difference in economic freedom and ability. Applejack is concerned, most of the time, about growing and selling apples to improve her home, farm, and family life. I think that concern gives credence to the idea that perhaps the ponies of Ponyville live in relative poverty. While they may not have the kind of economic power, they have this social solidarity that keeps the town harmonious. And so, it is not so much that Ponyville was an earth pony settlement, but rather that they are a lower economic and social class that needs some kind of solidarity that Winter Wrapup persists. It is interesting here to note that Manehattan seems to be mostly earth ponies. At least, from what I can gather from the recollection in The Cutie Mark Chronicles, there seems to be an abundance of earth ponies. That further enforces the idea that it is a social and economic rift that separates these two towns, and that it isn't related to pony races. I think it's telling in Applebuck Season that Applejack says this,

Don't you use your fancy mathematics to muddy the issue! I said I can handle this harvest and I'm gonna prove it to you. I'm gonna get every last apple out of those trees this applebuck season all by myself. ((http://mlp.wikia.com/wiki/Transcripts/The_Cutie_Mark_Chronicles))

The fact that the mathematics is fancy is telling of the value that Applejack attaches to such concepts. It is something that she doesn't believe is neccessary, hence fancy. While it would be unfair to generalize to the rest of the Ponyville folks (and indeed, Big MacIntosh clearly knows his math), this attitude towards "big city" folk is reminiscent of certain social attitudes that are mirrored in our own world of social classes.

The comparison between Ponyville and Canterlot follow much the same thread, although there is much more of the pony race element involved than is the case with Manehattan. This is because Canterlot appears to be the domain of unicorn ponies. It is also clear from that Canterlot is the domain of the upper social classes, from Rarity's fantasies in The Ticket Master to the realities of the Grand Galloping Gala that our bunch of pony friends experience in The Best Night Ever. The live band in the dance hall is an acoustic band (much to Pinkie Pie's chagrin), the food that Applejack brings to sell doesn't quite fit the tastes of the upper class ponies, and Rarity's disappointment with her fantasy prince, who provides us with the clearest inkling of social hierarchy,

Oh! Fritters! Dumplings! Caramel apples! My royal lips have touched common carnival fare! I'm going to the buffet for some... hors d'oeuvres. ((http://mlp.wikia.com/wiki/Transcripts/The_Best_Night_Ever))

Clearly, there is some social hierarchy at play between these two towns.

Here, I posit that the reason Winter Wrapup persists because it allows the residents of Ponyville to demonstrate social and economic solidarity, and it is precisely the reason why Twilight Sparkle is so discouraged from using her magic. I feel the fact that Twilight Sparkle, by the end of Winter Wrap Up, is revealed to be a competent manager only corroborates my theory that there is a fundamental economic difference between Ponyville and a place like Manehattan or Canterlot.

Now, I will move onto a deeper, and admittedly much darker reading of the main cast based on this analysis. Because of the social and economic disparity that I have laid out, it brings into question why these 5 other ponies are so eager to befriend and stick around Twilight Sparkle. I believe that Rarity best typifies the motives of befriending Twilight Sparkle; however, all of the other ponies are guilty of this kind of behaviour, as witnessed in The Ticket Master. Twilight Sparkle represents, in some way, the hope of upward social and economic mobility. While it may not be the driving force in the friendship she has formed with them, perhaps it is a driver of continued relations. After all, it is clear that there is some level of friendship between the 6 from the Nightmare Moon incident, but even then, it would be possible to say that, having said she was the official scout for Princess Celestia, the ponies were already hoping for a chance at social and economic mobility.

Clearly, these ideas are not explicit in the show, and these conclusions are largely opinion. What do you think? Do you agree?

Here is a much better written article: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2011/02/24/my-little-pony-political-economy/