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Too much thinking about ponies

So, a few days ago we saw the latest “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” episode, a series which continues to amuse. In this one, two of Princess Celestia’s guards made an appearance—white percheron-style guys wearing gold barding. The writers were riffing a bit off the trope of “guards what never smile or change their expression” trope from Britain.

What I found interesting was that the barding had a rounded edge that was specifically designed to cover up their “cutie mark,” the little flank mark that in shorthand summarizes a MLP (My Little Pony)’s entire existence and purpose. The armor was designed to strip away the guard’s identity (or else the animator didn’t want to create two new characters, but for the purposes of this exercise, we will assume intentionality. Now, if this is like the tall wig and uniform that created an identical appearance of the Guards Regiments, it’s a little less frightening. If it’s like the executioner’s hood, a mask to anonymize a legally appointed killer, we’re getting into weird autocratic territory here.

In Ponyville jail, are lifetime offenders re-branded? Is the prisoner’s cutie mark burned away, replaced with their prisoner number or a simple icon of their offenses, or perhaps a ball and chain? Do MLP bank robbers wear those tight, form-fitting biker’s shorts?

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
shockwave77598
Apr. 15th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
Well, what happened to Luna? That's as close to a criminal as you'll find in that story universe.

But it's an interesting point about the guards. It opens up the possibility that some ponies do not get cutie marks as they are unexceptional at all. After all, previous episodes show how unpleasant life is for the ponies until their marks come in. What happens to ponies who never get a mark? Why, they can wear a suit which masks that, giving them some measure of happiness.

Another interesting question is why it is necessary to have guards in happy happy ponyville in the first place. Guarding what from who?
spottylogic
Apr. 15th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
As far as we know, nothing happened to Luna – the power of friendship-based-magic overwhelmed her, and she was reduced in stature to a runty pony. Her sister Celestia allegedly embraced her and welcomed her return to the family, but it is worth noting that we have NEVER SEEN HER AGAIN. Sic semper tyrannis.

You’d have to be astonishingly unexceptional—like, Hufflepuff unexceptional—to not get a cutie mark. You’d have to be utterly unemployable (bakers get little slices of pie, apple harvesters get apples, presumably ponies destined to work at Wal-Mart get little happy faces and get laughed at by the ponies with the new asterix logo.) Even Derpy Hooves/Ditzy Doo gets a little series of bubbles. You would have to have no distinguishing traits at ALL if you don’t get your Calvinist haunch-brand.

To be fair, the guards are actually from Canterlot, not Ponyville. We don’t know what kind of forces threaten Canterlot. Dragons and manticores are known dangers. Ponyville might be kind of a pleasant little backwater.
paka
Apr. 15th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
Identical appearance has always been something big with the development of modern militaries. Long hair used to be the distinguishing mark of the soldier, and Emperor Maximillian I himself came to the defense of his Landsknechts, saying that if they were fighting for the Holy Roman Emperor, they could wear stuff as flambouyant as they damn well pleased. And you see this elsewhere up through Napoleonic militaries; the career soldier is almost a rogue figure, a lot like cowboys, he's flambouyant and attractive and completely hated by the civilian populace because he doesn't stay in one place. Who knows what such a person might do or could think? Subduing the soldier's identity is the first step to making your army an intimidating show of impersonal power, and has been ever since the mid 1800s.

And even so there are exceptions, but the most dramatic visual expression is the wide customization of uniform during America's involvement in Vietnam. It's always been about weird autocratic territory.

In Ponyville, you take away the expression of the soldier's personal identifier, you make them into an impersonal arbiter of your authority.
spottylogic
Apr. 15th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
Cutie marks have a weird double-duty, though - they're both an ID card and a destiny. It's like Calvinism to the third power. If you took a soldier's dog tag and re-stamped it with "MILITARY" you'd be in the same general ballpark.

I could see a pony who'd utterly failed in life joining this elite guard in order to erase his past entirely. "I have no cutie mark," he might say.

Of course, they may only accept white percherons, which would limit options somewhat.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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