Television: My Little Pony, "The Crystal Empire, Parts 1 & 2"

I realize it's not entirely fair to deconstruct and critique a show primarily designed to amuse children. I mean, surely we should be aware of the content aimed at our youth, but shows like My Little Pony are hardly designed to stand up to deep probing. And yet I feel compelled to poke at this two-parter that opened the third season.

Here we are introduced to the Crystal Empire, of which no one (viewers nor chief characters) has ever heard, for it has been missing for 1000 years. But it has reappeared! In the arctic north of Equestria!

Now Princess Cadence must work to protect the Crystal Empire. Unfortunately, she's wearing down, and so Twilight Sparkle & Co. are sent by Princess Celestia to figure out a way to protect the Empire without relying so heavily on Cadence's magic. A quick canvass of the locals reveals no one remembers their history (of enslavement by King Sombra), which means they may be doomed to repeat it. Lucky for them they have a library, and thanks to a history book, it's discovered that what everyone really needs is: A FAIR.

This is the bit that I find interesting. There is, after all, a long and rich history of pleasing the masses with bread and circuses. How many times has a king or queen lifted the spirits of his or her populace by throwing some kind of jubilee or other party? Particularly during times of discontent, economic or otherwise?

Apparently, the protection of the Crystal Empire—like any other empire in the world, really—depends on the love and good nature of its citizens, things an annual fair are designed to promote. Also, they need a crystal heart. But the heart is really just a way to collect the "light and love within" the crystal ponies and concentrate it, thus ridding the Crystal Empire of its would-be despot and keeping its people free. In the end, it is the collective will of the population, rather than reliance on a ruling figure, that saves the Crystal Empire and serves as its foundation. It takes a[n] village empire and all that.

I get that the cartoon means to engage children with thrilling stories wherein goodness and friendship defeat bullying and malice. The task given to Twilight and her friends here is designed with a sense of urgency: the empire will fall and the consequences will be grim! If we forget our roots, we will be unhappy and also fail as a society! We all must work together for the good of the empire! We must save our sovereign by taking on a share of the burden! Being happy citizens means our country will be happy, too! . . . Well, you see where this goes. Though I don't think My Little Pony is aiming for patriotic indoctrination, one has to sometimes wonder at the undercurrents.

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