Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Well My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic 100th episode aired a few days ago, and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Though considering I spent most of the episode going “I can’t believe they did that” in shocked glee is no surprise. But when it came time to write about such a momentous episode, I was at a bit of a loss. What, exactly, can I say? And then I remember Gummy’s monologue, and it clicked: This 100th episode of My Little Pony literally anthropomorphises (anthroponyorphises?) the fandom. Confused? Well let me elaborate.

So lets start at no particular point with Doctor Whooves (cos I’ll get to Derpy later). What does Doctor Whooves represent? Well, to start, lets look at his very first appearance. He appeared in the song ‘The Perfect Stallion’ in the Hearts and Hooves Day episode, dashing by the camera with an hourglass cutie mark… and that was pretty much it. Aside from a very few sparse appearances after that, all involving time keeping devices of some sorts, the character never really appeared much in the official show (apparently he appeared in the spin-off comic, but I’ve never read it). But the fandom immediately latched onto him being the Doctor in pony form because… well, because he vaguely looks like David Tennant in pony form and has an hourglass for a cutie mark. It won’t be the first time that fandom was capable of creating an entire character out of almost literally nothing, believe you me, nor will it be the last. But this character quickly became the ‘Doctor Who’ of the pony world and, more importantly, the element of crossovers (you know, if we’re gonna say there are six elements to the fandom, and all). Doctor Whooves helps symbolize the very nature of crossovers found within this community. I mean pretty much all major fandom properties (well, at least the optimistic, family-friendly ones) have been crossovered with MLP at some point. It’s not too hard to find examples of this all across the net. It’s one of the strange things about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s somehow crossed the boundary from being a simple TV show to being a fictional juggernaut that has become connected with a lot of other TV shows. But why Doctor Who in particular? I mean one could stretch the argument that a whole lot of other fictional characters appeared in the show as well. Well the Doctor is the biggest perhaps because his show and MLP share so much of the same philosophy: Life is good, friendship is magical, the world is wonderful etc. I’ve said before that MLP is the most optimistic show on television in a very cynical world, which can also be true of Doctor Who. Both shows are optimistic when you get right down to it. Both shows are very upbeat and happy. Both shows have transgressed their primary audience and been embraced by a much larger fanbase. It’s fitting that the Doctor gets a key part to play here, since he’s such a powerful symbol. So Doctor Whooves represents the element of crossovers and how it’s played such a big part of the fandom.

Next up, we’re gonna focus on Octavia and Vinyl Scratch (or DJ Pon-3, but I prefer Vinyl more). Now fandom always had that these two characters would live together and sometimes clash about their differences in musical genres. The two characters have a somewhat interesting history. Vinyl has been appearing on and off in the show, having a few minor appearances in the main show and a somewhat important role in the climax of Equestria Girls 2. Octavia, on the other hand, literally appeared twice in very quick ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ roles. But these two quickly become a symbol of a certain part of the fandom, namely the element of music. After all, these two are musicians, what better ponyifications are there for the hundreds of pony music makers out there? Perhaps most famously we have The Living Tombstone, at least famous in that he’s the one I remember most. No doubt there are more. But music has always been a big part of the fandom in some way or another. Whether it be remixes of the show’s songs, instrumentals inspired by moments of the show, or songs based around characters or events, fandom music has always played a huge part in the foundation of the fandom. Equestria Daily does feature music every day, after all. So why did Octavia and Vinyl take off so much? Well, mostly because they’re such great contrasts with each other. Octavia is fancy, refined, polite, all that good stuff. Vinyl is loud, bombastic and all round cool. They’re perfect foils for one another. Granted they barely appeared together, but somehow fandom found that this duo just worked (which, for the record, it does). But the two of them helped symbolize the music side of the fandom without anyone quite being aware of it. Vinyl never speaks, probably because the fanbase already have their speaking voice for Vinyl and would find a newbie distracting. But Vinyl symbolizes all the instrumental songs found within the pony fandom. Octavia, the speaking character, represents the lyrical side of the fanbase, the ones who write songs with lyrics. The fusion of the two naturally represent the remixes of the show’s songs. So we have Vinyl and Octavia, two characters at complete odds with each other, both working together to create great music. Once again, that tends to symbolize the fandom a bit.

Next up on our list we have Lyra and Bon Bon and… Look, they’re clearly a couple in love. There is literally no other way to interpret that scene, the two of them are clearly a dating couple. If you changed the genders of one of them no one would be questioning the romantic subtext (hell, text) at all. So with these two we have the element of shippers. Shippers… Honestly, I never got the point of putting two characters together romantically (aside from one sole occasion, but only due to how good the chemistry was), but apparently it’s a thing people love to do. Now while I’ve wavered back and forth about whether I like shipping or not (the biggest point of contention is that it automatically makes all love romantic love, and tends to ignore/insult the concept of two people being in platonic love, but that’s a discussion for another day). But shipping is a somewhat popular thing that exists within fandom, with the earliest case of shipping fiction being Kirk/Spock of Star Trek fame. Now I could analyse the part where Bon Bon has pretended to be someone else for a long time, but there’s not really much to say beyond how it’s quite a funny little joke. But why are these two the element of shippers above all else? Well, it’s mostly due to a quirk of the fandom. After all, this fandom took one sitting position and created an entire backstory that Lyra secretly wants to be human. While that’s not part of this episode, I thought it was fun to bring it up. Mostly because it shows how these background characters really have got a life of their own. I mean the Doctor is a parody, while Vinyl and Octavia are symbols of sorts. Lyra… is a rather interesting creation, since there’s very little that could have been used to create her, and yet she got such a rich backstory. Now one could try to make the argument that since a lyre needs fingers to play, that’s where part of it comes from. But even then, the sheer oddity of building so much off of so little is what makes this fandom so amazing. I can’t think of any other fandom that builds so much character and detail from seemingly random background events. Maybe Star Trek and Star Wars, but that was much later in its life. But back to the connection between Lyra and Bon Bon. I ship them, and I think anyone who watches the episode will as well. Simple as that.

So, onto our fourth element, in which I need to quote this character’s appearance in full:

“What is life? Is it nothing more than the endless search for a cutie mark? And what is a cutie mark but a constant reminder that we’re all only one bugbear attack away from oblivion? And what of the poor gator? Flank forever blank, destined to an existential swim down the river of life to… an unknowable destiny?”

Honestly, this was my favourite part of the episode for the sheer insanity of having such a powerful and thought-provoking speech… delivered by Gummy the alligator. I mean the character has always been portrayed as, well, as a standard alligator who has no higher brain functions or conciousness. So to have a totally out-of-place monologue by him of all creatures is just inevitably funny. But lets look at what he’s actually saying, because it is quite an interesting philosophical conundrum. Does a cutie mark define us, or are we defined by our cutie mark? Is what society think important when faced with the inevitable nature of mortality? What about the outsiders, do they have a purpose in relation to said society, or are they forever doomed to be alone? While I could easily write a blog about what he said at a later date, we have to face the very simple truth: Gummy is the element of over-analysis. He is the patron saint of not only me, but Second Opinion, and all those other blog/video series that exist out there. While I’ve never really gotten into watching any of them (cos, well, most of the time we’d come to the same conclusions and there’d be nothing there that I didn’t come up with myself) I know a few of them have gotten quite big in terms of the fandom. But Gummy essentially defines that side of the fandom, with him being the one that questions the very nature of which so much of the show is built. An outsider taking an inquisitive look at what we take for granted, not too much unlike old Second Opinion himself. Gummy, intentionally or otherwise, is a fantastic commentary on the nature of these reviewers. And I love him to pieces for it.

So who shall our fifth element of fandom be? Well lets pick a character who barely appears in the episode at all, the unnamed Changling that appeared at Cranky’s wedding. Clearly Cranky must know the guy in order to invite him (which would have been strange if not for the fact that he was also close friends with a sea monster). Why pick such a minimal character? Well, because the only other time we saw the Changelings, they were cast as the undeniably evil bad guys. To see one out of the blue being… well, not clearly evil means only one thing: This is the element of fan interpretation. Now fandoms often interpret things all the time, it’s what fandoms do. But My Little Pony is interesting in the way it goes almost overboard with it. Now I’ve talked about the fan interpretations of the other characters, but that was less interpretations and more laying character and story ideas over a single foundation. Turning a character like Lyra or the Doctor into something more, so to speak. That’s more fan creation than fan interpretation. Fan interpretation is taking a different look at the lore of a story and exploring concepts around it. Coming up with alternative viewpoints that may or may not fit within the canon of the series. Personally, I find the viewpoints that do fit into canon to be the more interesting ones, but that’s me being sidetracked. With MLP, a lot of fan interpretation ends up being written into the show as being true canon. The best examples pretty much come from this very episode, but it has been scattered about here and there. Fans exploring the lore and creating new lore that can be spun-off from it. The Changeling here is a great example of it. Some viewers interpreted the Changelings as perhaps not being irredeemably evil, but rather a product of nature that have the ability to do good. Here at least we have one possible piece of proof that this theory is true, though of course it’s entirely possible that the Changeling is only there to feed on the emotion and has no reasons beyond that. Even with the character that defines the element we have yet further interpretations of what the character could mean. Which naturally brings us nicely into the nature of fan fiction. After all, what is fan fiction if it is not an interpretation of the work of fiction through the view of one particular writer’s lens? Many great fan fictions have been written based on the writer’s interpretation of a work of fiction, after all. So while one could argue that the element might almost be better fitted to fan fiction than fan interpretation, I’m sticking with what I got mostly because interpretation plays a big part in creating fiction in the first place.

So we’ve had the element of crossover, the element of music, the element of shipping, the element of over-analyse and the element of fan interpretation. What is the defining element that ties them altogether? The leader of all this? Well… isn’t it obvious?

If you want a representation of the fandom, there is literally no better place to look than good old Derpy Hooves. Slightly odd looking, but well-meaning and optimistic, Derpy really is the fandom in the nutshell. So the final element in play here is the element of the fandom’s heart. Much like how friendship is magic, the fandom is Derpy. She was the first true ‘fan pony’, when a ‘Dr. Foreigner’ pointed out on website after seeing the background pony on the 25th of October, 2010: “And so the legend of Derpy Hooves is born”. Now I’ve talked about Derpy before, when I questioned about who exactly owned the rights to the Derpy Hooves character. Sure the show staff designed her, but it was the fandom that created a character for her. It was the fandom that came up with the idea that she loved muffins and, well… According to Hasbro, she will now officially be named ‘Muffins’. Now on the one hand I can see why people would be upset with the name change (even if the name probably isn’t PC enough to be usable, as has been proven before), I think the name actually works better with the character. While I’m still gonna call her Derpy, I think the name Muffins suits the character pretty well. But Derpy was the epicentre for the Brony fandom, the thing that almost all the rest of the fanbase was built off. She started the trend of coming up with over-elaborate backstories for background ponies. She has appeared in more fan-art than probably more than any other secondary character, maybe even some of the main characters. She is a symbol of the fandom. So what is she like in this episode? A bit clueless, but otherwise well-meaning and bubbly. Which, well, that’s the Brony fandom in a nutshell, isn’t it? Kind and loving, if a little bit thick at times. But as the Brony community grew Derpy ended up becoming more and more popular, going from a production goof to a background character to a reoccurring side character to a full-blown star of her own episode. Which, in many ways, parallels what happened with the Brony fandom in general. Going from a small, almost niche thing to this giant juggernaut of the internet (even if it’s died down a bit now). It’s actually quite impressive. So Derpy is the fandom in a nutshell and, one hundred episodes after she first appeared, she finally had a chance to shine.

So that’s the six elements, right? Yes, but that’s not the end of the blog. There are just a few more little things I want to touch on before I wrap this whole thing up. First off, lets take a quick look at the Lebowski trio. Now I’ve never seen the movie (yes, get the gasps out of the way), but their inclusion is… odd. Sure, they appeared before, but that was more of a reference for older fans to get. Here they’re sorta important characters that have an impact on the plot. Now I would say they were a crossover except it was more of the characters literally turned into ponies. The choice of using them is… well like I said, it’s odd. No kid is gonna get the reference, at least not for a good decade or so. The adult fans might laugh, but it’s a bit out-there in terms of references to make. While the Big Lebowski certainly has a fanbase (comparable that to the Bronies, now that I think about it), I wouldn’t say it’s registered a pop culture icon the same way Doctor Who has. Ultimately the trio exists mostly to reference the adult side of the fandom, the adults that watch the show while not actively participating in the community. A nice touch I suppose, and represents the Bronies insofar that their watchers, nothing more. But at the end of the day this could easily be one writer’s personal favourites making an appearance solely because he likes them.

The second extra element I want to touch on is Steven Magnet, mostly because of what he represents. He was in the very first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (okay, second, but it was a two-parter and the same story) and hasn’t really been in it up to this point. It’s actually a very nice way of referencing the show’s history while contributing to the overall story. Steven Magnet (named after a YouTube caption fail/mistranslation) is essentially a one-off character there to prove a point and, as far as I can tell, has had literally no real impact in the fandom after that. Maybe there’s the unexplained story of Steven Magnet floating out there, I don’t know, but he never struck me as the most popular of background characters. But putting him here is a great way for the show to acknowledge its very beginning in perhaps the only way it could. Steven Magnet was the only foe from that opening episode that could realistically come back, though to use the term ‘foe’ is a bit too far. But, end of the day, it’s nice that the writers acknowledge the very start of this entire show to show how far it’s ultimately come in those 100 episodes.

And finally, the stars of the show, Cranky and Matilda. When you get right down to it, they are the perfect characters to feature. Cranky first appeared in A Friend in Deed, perhaps the first episode in My Little Pony that almost specifically catered to the Brony fandom, where he met Pinkie Pie and managed to become united with Matilda. It’s fitting that they’re in the 100th episode because A Friend in Deed really is a tribute to the Bronies, what with Pinkie Pie’s more emphasised presence and a lot of the episode being built around what made her so loved by the fans. So given that this is the biggest, most fan-servicey episode they’ve done, it makes sense to bring these two back. And honestly, these two represent the show’s heart in a nutshell. They clearly love each other and are happy with one another, bringing joy to each other’s lives. It’s this simple deceleration of love that sums up the show’s main philosophy in a nutshell: Friendship is magic, sure, but all friendships have some element of love to them. Of course the entire wedding is just a set-up for the perhaps too-on-the-nose speech at the end, but the love between the two shines through. And what is this show, if it’s not about love?

So there you have it. My extensive look at the 100th episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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