Monday, November 4, 2013

Hurricane Fluttershy: Why it's My Personal Favorite Episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

So, I don't know how many of you actually read this blog, but for those of you that do, you'll probably know that I'm a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I GUESS I'm a Brony, though I seem to be steadily growing more uncomfortable with the word every day).  The premiere of season 4 of the show will be November 23 this year, and in honor of the event, Equestria Daily, one of the most well-know pony-related blogs/fansites on the web, has been counting down the days by going over every episode so far (plus the movie Equestria Girls).  Today, they recap the season 2 episode, Hurrican Fluttershy:

I made a long, multi-part comment on the site, as well as various sites, about how I feel about the episode and why it's so personal to me...  So I figured I might as well share it on my blog as well.  See my thoughts after the break, though be prepared for a big read (though by now, I think you'd be used to it).

Now, first off, I really like this episode, it's probably my favorite of season 2 if not the whole series.  And yet I can't get wild about it the same way I do for certain other episodes of the series...  And it's not like there's anything technically wrong with the episode, outside of a few nitpicks that honestly don't bother me, but it still somehow comes off as "eh".  Why is that?  I can't really be sure, honestly...

What I AM sure of is that I can't get enough Fluttershy; she's my favorite character in the show, and this episode's all about her!  Ironic how Fluttershy got all crazy in the last episode (Dragon Quest), stomping Rainbow Dash in the stomach and running off, yet here she's back to her normal, withdrawn self.  Probably because she was dealing with her fear of dragons in the last episode...  though really, why dragons?  Why is she terrified of dragons when she otherwise loves animals and such?  I'd like the writers to go deeper into this, give us a good reason why Fluttershy acts so irrational when it comes to dragons, it'll give deeper meaning to Dragonshy and maybe even Dragon Quest.  Anyway, I'm going to address a common complaint about this episode, in that it's the exact same as Dragonshy and Putting Your Hoof Down with Fluttershy learning the same lesson.  Well, setting aside the fact that I HATE how the writers dealt with Fluttershy in those episodes, with Dragonshy making Fluttershy to be a complete doormat the whole way through and only came through in the end as a kind of deus ex machina that only happened because wouldn't bother actually LISTENING to her, and Putting Your Hoof Down, while it had a good message, had a really clunky execution, the lesson in this episode is NOT the same lesson as the other ones.  In Dragonshy and Putting Your Hoof Down, Fluttershy was dealing with an external problem, something was happening TO her and she had to learn to stand up to it.  This was better in Putting Your Hoof Down then in Dragonshy, IMO, since it was clear Fluttershy was having a problem letting people walk all over her and was using her friends and an intially antagonistic thought actually reasonable Iron Will to help deal with it before finding her own way to deal with it, instead of having HER BEST FRIENDS walk all over her, admit her fear of dragons (which honestly comes out of left field and is never really explain and actually feels like a weak attempt to make Fluttershy standing up to the dragon all the more powerful and meaningful) RIGHT BEFORE they face the dragon, and have the lesson be that if you're shoved into a corner, you do crazy things (huh...  since now I know that Meghan McCarthy wrote that episodes, the whole "crazy things" thing makes sense).  ANYWAY, in Hurricane Fluttershy, the problem isn't external, it's internal.  Fluttershy has extreme performance anxieties, something I think a lot of us can relate to, and being teased and tormented about it only made things worse for her, leading to her current persona of having low self-esteem and being really shy around other ponies.  This episode shows her wrestling with that notion, even though it's obvious that it's not a performance and nobody intends to mock her if she does fly weakly.  She has to learn to be proud of who she is, even if it's not necessarily as good as everypony else.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm about to get personal for a moment.  I know I'm harsh on this series, but it's only because I love it so much, and I think this episode has something in it that I connect with, and it's why it's my favorite episode and why Fluttershy is my favorite character.  Other people have episodes I don't like that they connect with, so I know people probably aren't going to feel the same way I do when it comes to this episode, but I'll just pour by guts out anyway, since I've never been shy about doing that before.  See, growing up, I was never all that athletic.  In gym, I was usually one of the last kids to finish in a jogging session, one of the last to get picked for a game, and just overall wasn't that outgoing.  I was also teased about my height and weight, even by my supposed "close" friends, though I wasn't really that badly bullied, mostly because my size only seemed to encourage verbal abuse rather then physical (besides, if someone DID push me too far, I'd be the one to do that, only for me to be the only one getting in trouble, which...  messed me up in some other ways that I won't discuss here).  And despite the saying "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me", words DO hurt, especially if you receive them on a constant basis.  Even my dad and sisters gently teased me, and the affects last to this day.  My personal trainer and I are working things out, finding out why I'm less inclined to do my best, because I always feel like my best isn't all that good compared to everyone else.  I have the feeling I should be doing better, but I don't, and when I try, I either get exhausted or fail.  My personal trainer taught me that there's nothing to fear from failing or not being as good as everyone else; the important thing is that I tried my best, and really, that's all anyone can ask for.  Not to mention, I AM slowly but surely improving.  And I think that's why this episode is special to me, because it has that same message of trying your best, even if it's not AS good as everyone else.  And, as it turns out, Fluttershy trying her very best not only showed that she did better then she ever did before, but even helped save the day in the end!  It leaves me with an incredibly positive feeling, that you have to feel good about yourself and be confident in what you do, even in the face of failure or mockery.

The other thing I liked about this episode is that, UNLIKE Dragonshy, Fluttershy's friends ACTUALLY LISTEN TO HER!  Not only that, but Rainbow Dash, who was the harshest on Fluttershy in Dragonshy, is actually the one most understanding and most willing to listen to her!  I think it's really cute how they have a friendship that's lasted since their childhood, and thus know they can rely on each other and support each other.  I think what I like the most about this is that Rainbow Dash clearly has difference sensibilities compared to Fluttershy.  Whenever I tell people on certain forums about my old bully problems, they all just go "fight back" or "don't be such a softie" or something similar along those lines.  Even IF they don't see it as that big of an issue, they should at least be sympathetic to those who take it harder then they do.  And for a moment, it seems like Rainbow Dash is going to be the same way, telling her to suck it up and whatnot, but thankfully, she catches herself, calms down, and becomes more supportive and actually tries to HELP Fluttershy deal with this.  Sure, Rainbow Dash is the kind of pony who would respond to bullying or teasing by either fighting back or proving the teaser wrong (even though it's implied that these things actually do affect her deeply, she just goes about them differently), but Fluttershy's not like that at all, and Rainbow Dash realizes that.  What works for one might not work for everyone, and thus, Rainbow Dash does her best to help Fluttershy in way that fits Fluttershy's sensibilities.  That's true friendship right there!

Aside from those INCREDIBLY strong points, this episode has a lot of other highlights.  For one, we get a little more world-building, in that we see where clouds and rain come from in Equestria.  Apparently, water doesn't just evaporate and form clouds on their own; Pegasus ponies have to actually lift water into the air, up to Cloudsdale (which seems to be Equestria weather central, I suppose), where it gets turned into clouds.  Needless to say, the science of this is pretty ridiculous; watch this physics presentation to see why, but then again, ponies controlling the weather just opens up so many questions that's for a completely different topic entirely.  I think the other really cool thing about this episode were all the different new Pegasus ponies; Cloudchaser (or Stormwalker, depending on where you get your info) and Flitter are fan favorites, that big muscular pony with the tiny wings (most call him Snowflake, I call him Roid Rage or Horse Power) has become something of an Internet meme, fan favorite Derpy's there among the Pegasi, and speaking only for myself, I LOVE Thunderlane and his little brother Rumble.  something about their designs and voices, I just really like them.  I actually wouldn't mind seeing more of them, somehow.  Hell, since Rumble apparently doesn't have a cutie mark, he could join the Cutie Mark Crusaders!  ...It could happen.

So yeah, there's a lot I really like and connect with in this episode...  And yet I said I wasn't all that wild about it.  Why is that?  Well, there are moments that I didn't really care for.  Like, despite what I said about Rainbow Dash earlier, I find it a little hypocritical that she's so supportive with Fluttershy yet shows no mercy with everypony else, ESPECIALLY poor Thunderlane.  It's sort of a cruel irony that Rainbow Dash's cruelty towards the other ponies turned out to be her undoing; in trying to push them further to beat the wingpower record, she end sup sending a lot of them to the hospital, and thus barely getting the water to lift up at all!  Then again, if it WEREN'T for this cruelty, Fluttershy wouldn't have had her time to shine...  Say, speaking of which, while it is cool that Spitfire appears in this...  why doesn't she do anything?  I know she's just a "supervisor", but if it becomes clear that the water that Equestria NEEDS might not make it, you'd THINK she'd take some initiative and help out.  Instead, she only seems to be there for Rainbow Dash to try and impress, and probably motivate Rainbow Dash into being more harsh on the other ponies.

But even then, those are just minor nitpicks, and...  well, Rainbow Dash's jerkiness to the other ponies does bother me a little, I think what keeps this from being a perfect episode is...  well, it's something that's a lot harder to quantify.  My biggest gripe with the episode is the dialogue and how it's said.  Now, don't get me wrong, this episode's writing is actually a LOT better then most of the episodes in the series, and might just actually be one of the better ones in that regard...  that being said, something about the way the actresses say their lines...  it doesn't quite feel right.  Like you can tell they're trying to be heartfelt and genuine, but it's SO CLOSE to there but it just barely misses so now it comes off as slightly awkward.  I think a lot of this comes from Andrea Libman's performance, and bless her heart she does such a good job in this episode, but even then, the big "money" scenes, particularly the scene where she runs off crying and the scene where she asks Rainbow Dash how she'd feel if everyone else was going faster then her.  Something about the way the talk and what they say, especially in the latter scene, it doesn't sound right, like it doesn't sound like something they'd say or how they'd say it.  Like, it almost sounds like Fluttershy is more concerned about humiliation rather then the feeling that her wingpower won't make a difference so she might as well not be there, which I find to be the real factor here.  She she was teased and tormented as a filly, but I feel that since this clearly isn't a performance or competition (despite Rainbow Dash making it out to be such), she's more worried about feeling insignificant.  After all, she's been constantly "reminded" how much of a weak flyer she is, which leaves a horrible damaged ego, and the feeling that things might be better off if she weren't around.  Rainbow Dash was trying to show her that even if she's not AS good a flyer, that doesn't make her contribution any less insignificant, and as it turns out in the end, not only does her help matter, but it's what helps make the operation a success!

Ugh, again, I feel bad for getting this detailed what I didn't like about one of my favorite episodes...  But if there's something I recently learned, it's that it's okay to criticize what you love.  And I love this episode to death.  There were a couple of things holding it back from perfection, but it's still an excellent episode, and I don't think it's much of a stretch to say it's probably one of the best episodes in the series, even IF I might be biased towards it.

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