You already know that I love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Don't need to reiterate that it's a good show.
You already know that Fluttershy is my favorite. Maybe because I identify with her the most -- she's introverted like me. Or because she's the most broken of the ponies, or the most innocent, or least threatening.
It might surprise you to know that I still haven't seen all the episodes yet. I'm almost done with season 2, and was disappointed by the lack of Fluttershy episodes. I understand why, though. It's difficult to write an action-oriented plot with a main character who's shy and reactive. Unless you rehash the same cliche of the quest to gain confidence. Which they do, on occasion. But there was something I've always been suspecting, and now that I'm almost done with season 2, I've put my finger on it.
Fluttershy is in a domestically abusive relationship.
All the ponies have some kind of "pet" (read: accessory for the merchandise). It's kind of a callback to the first MLP's. Fluttershy's the most pet-oriented, because her thing is taking care of animals. And, reflective of her personality, her pet is a rabbit named "Angel". The name, true to the show's cleverness, is ironic. But I think it's gone too far.
Don't believe me? Tells me what this sounds like. In one scene, Fluttershy gently tells Angel not to chew his food so fast, out of genuine concern. Angel is taken aback. Then, instead of eating even faster, choking, and learning a lesson, he refuses to eat at all, out of spite. Then he runs away. Fluttershy runs after him, reminding him it's not playtime until he's finished. She encourages him to eat three more bites? Two more bites? One more tiny bite?
He kicks it away. Then he starts coughing to get her to notice a black cloud heading toward Ponyville (it's dragon smoke, but that's beside the point). When Fluttershy finally sees it, what does Angel do? Congratulate her? No, he kicks the carrot in her face.
Severe behavior, but sounds more like a spoiled child, doesn't it? Just wait.
In another episode, Angel is trying to get Fluttershy to realize she's late for a party. After she demonstrates that you don't want her on your team for charades, she gets it, then frets about being late. Angel shoves her out the door, then locks her out. Locks her out.
Sure, it's to get her to go. But he locks her out. She even tries to get back in again, but he ignores her. Kids locking their parents out of the house? Doesn't happen. Husbands locking their wives out? It happens.
Then we get to the inciting incident for this blog. Fluttershy is again trying to get Angel to eat. She's even prepared him a glorious looking salad. Much better than the food pellets the other animals are eating. He sniffs at it, then turns away like a finicky cat -- he wants a fancy salad, with carrots and radishes and a cherry on top. Fluttershy picks up a leaf and gently encourages him to just try it. Angel knocks the leaf out of her hand and slaps her.
He slaps her.
This is a children's cartoon. It happens so fast, you almost miss it. But I have hyperawareness disorder. Does this sound familiar at all?
The whole point of the episode is that Fluttershy needs to learn how not to be a pushover. But, after a seminar from a tough-talking minotaur, she overcompensates and becomes aggressive and bullying, in classic kid's cartoon ennui. Eventually she learns her lesson, that you don't need to be loud and confrontational to be assertive. She demonstrates this at the end of the episode, by refusing to let Angel eat anything but his regular food. But the slap is never mentioned.
You might think I'm trying to make a funny post here, but I'm not. I care about Fluttershy, and I've learned a lot about abuse and women over the past years, starting with a strong base in Loveline. The evidence is there, and matches patterns in domestically abusive relationships. Angel has an unpredictable, out of control temper (from the above examples with the carrot and salad). He destroys her belongings and defies her purely out of spite. But other times, acts kind to her.
Fluttershy is afraid of Angel (in the opening credits, she cringes when Angel devours the carrot). She feels she can't do anything right (the episodes "Dragonshy" and "Hurricane Fluttershy" are all about her lack of self-esteem). She keeps rationalizing his behavior, thinking he just needs gentle correction, or is being "Mr. Pickypants". Fluttershy is passive and retreats to her animals for sanctuary, rather than her friends. In fact, in "The Best Night Ever", Fluttershy tries to make friends with the exotic animals at the castle. They run away, and she blames herself. As the night goes on, Fluttershy runs out of patience, to the point of laying down traps, and chasing the animals into the ballroom with her most famous line in the series.
Can anyone say "personality disorder"? I know all the ponies have their flaws -- Applejack is stubborn, Rainbow Dash is self-absorbed, Pinkie Pie is insane. But Fluttershy being a victim toes the line. The tension builds up, and when Fluttershy can't get the one thing she wants -- the one thing's she's been looking forward to -- she goes psycho. I admit, I thought this was the funniest thing when I saw it -- so hilariously ironic, so unexpected. But now I'm thinking whether this is a piece of a larger puzzle.
I'm really surprised this sort of thing made it in the show, past the producers, past the censors, past the parent groups. We're talking physical abuse here, people. I can't be the only one who realizes this is wrong. Are they trying to say something? Is this part of a larger arc, like the Cutie Mark Crusaders? Because this crossed the line of comic relief into tragedy for me.
It wouldn't bother me if they had addressed it somehow through the episode. But they don't. It's a throwaway gag, like the early Family Guy episodes where Stewie is horrible to his mother.
In Family Guy, it's funny, because that's the established tone -- it's vulgar, it's offensive, it's subversive. Everything that MLP:FIM is not. It shouldn't have been included at all, but it is, and now it's an elephant in the room.
I love Fluttershy. I love Lauren Faust. I love My Little Pony. I hope this is just a mistake that got past the radar, because I would hate for my kids to see something like this, and think that getting slapped deserves no reaction.