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Alesha Davis, a sophomore journalism and english double major from Fort Worth, TX, smiles for a portrait at Ohio University, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Athens, Ohio.

Animation with Alesha: Pride and Pony Prejudice in ‘My Little Pony’

Like many others, I grew up watching "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," also known as MLP: FiM. I love the show dearly and will happily pronounce myself a proud pegasister. However, the series has its issues, just like all media. MLP: FiM struggles with the same thing nearly every piece of fantasy work has a problem with fantasy racism. 

Many pieces of fiction use fantastical races instead of real-world races to explore issues surrounding prejudice. However, it is usually handled clumsily or the fantasy races perpetuate harmful stereotypes, leading to unsavory associations between fantasy races and their real-world counterparts. Sadly, MLP: FiM is no stranger to painting minorities in a strange, unappealing light. Let's take a look at the episodes that best exemplify this issue: 

Season 1, Episode 7: "Dragonshy"

If you know the show, you might think I will start with Zecora's introduction in season 1, episode 9, due to the other ponies' behavior and comments about the Zebra. However, I propose the problems begin in season 1, episode 7, "Dragonshy." This episode contains the first time the ponies speak about dragons beyond a brief, passing mention. There are no serious offenses in this episode, but the ponies displaying general ignorance about other creatures begins here. 

Twilight calls the dragon a "wild animal." This is a bit strange, considering she is well aware that Spike is also a dragon but does not treat him as an animal. Right after this comment, she reveals that she is having Spike watch over Fluttershy's animals while she is gone. They use Spike later when trying to convince Fluttershy to confront the dragon, reasoning that if she isn't afraid of him, she shouldn't be afraid of an adult dragon. Fluttershy pushes back, telling the girls that there is a big difference between Spike and a scary, full-sized dragon.

I understand dragons are fantasy creatures that should be scary and the ponies had good reasons for their ignorance and their fear. Additionally, it is very possible that Lauren Faust had not yet decided to have dragons have their complex society, as this is in the very first season. Nonetheless, remember this behavior for what we will discuss later. 

Season 1, Episode 9: "Bridle Gossip"

It's not a stretch to say this episode depicts the ponies displaying prejudice toward a different race. Zecora is the closest we get to a different "race" of pony for many seasons, essentially being a pony with a different coat and customs. Twilight and Applebloom are the voices of reason in this episode, while the rest of the ponies believe her to be sinister. 

Their fear of Zecora is based on absolutely nothing, which the episode openly acknowledges. The episode does not have many issues since it presents racism on purpose, serving as a lesson to the ponies not to judge others for being different from them. However, this episode shows that the ponies can be openly hateful toward others when they don't understand them, and it is a good point to refer back to. The ponies absolutely do not learn their lesson about judging other people's way of life. 

Season 1, Episode 21: "Over a Barrel"

This episode might be the worst offender out of all of the episodes in all nine seasons of MLP: FiM. The description of this episode is, "The ponies settle a complicated land dispute between the Apple-loosans and a herd of buffalo, who are both fighting over the same territory." The word "territory" is the keyword here. The Apple-loosans, who are ponies, have taken over the Buffalos' sacred lands. As the chief explains halfway through the episode, the buffalo used the land long before the Apple-loosans arrived. The buffalo are clearly supposed to represent native tribes as their "chief" wears a feather headdress. Many other buffalo are depicted wearing feathers and live in tipis.

The ponies are essentially colonizers in this episode, settling on lands they have no right to claim while pushing the natives out. They even call themselves "settler ponies." It could not be more obvious what conflict this episode is representing. This episode would be relatively fine if the ponies admitted their wrongdoing and gave the land in full back to the buffalo. Unfortunately, even the natives in this made-up world cannot get their land back. 

It is reasoned that both groups have "good reason to use this land," even though the settlers should have chosen elsewhere to live, and the buffalo are forced to share the land. They get a share of the town's produce in return, but I am left feeling unsatisfied. The media reflects life, but sometimes I wish we could be better in cartoons. Even with MLP: FiM, this is not the case.

Season 2, Episode 21: "Dragon Quest"

This episode is the crux of the dragon issue. While watching the dragon migration, the ponies make fun of Spike for not being fierce like the other dragons, giving him an identity crisis. Due to the ponies not knowing anything about dragons, Spike goes off to live with other dragons to learn more about himself against the ponies' protests. 

The ponies' refusal to acknowledge Spike's status as a dragon and dismissal of other dragons' tastes looks like a particular brand of prejudice I have seen before. Sometimes, when someone is the sole minority in a white space, they are treated as a separate entity from the rest of their race. Comments such as, “Oh, well you aren't like them," are common in this situation. This is how the ponies treat Spike, and they often treat dragons on par with rabid animals. However, the dragons, although messing with Spike, didn't outright harm or ostracize him like the ponies feared and accepted him rather quickly.

The dragons have rituals and values, and although they are still seen as a crude race at the end of this episode, dragons are clearly more complex than the ponies give them credit for. There will be more on this at another time, but the episode ends with Spike stating, "What I am doesn't define who I am … my pony friends have taught me to be kind, loyal and true." Spike basically shuns his dragon-ness entirely. 

This leaves a funny taste in my mouth, considering the episode is accidentally representing the struggle of a kid who is a minority attempting to reconnect with their cultural heritage when they've been raised in an all-white space.

Already, a pattern is beginning to emerge, and we are only partway through the series. These episodes set ponies at the apex of the social order, and later episodes continue this pattern as ponies begin crusading, thanks to the introduction of the Cutie Map. How other creatures are seen in comparison to ponies only worsens as the seasons go on. We will delve into the developmental plateau that is the dreaded season 8 and conclude our venture into "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" in a second column coming soon.

Alesha Davis is a senior studying journalism and English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Alesha by tweeting her at @AleshaTDavis.

Alesha Davis

Equity Director

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