WORLD Radio - Friendship foibles
My Little Pony: A New Generation offers a simplistic take on diversity and disagreement
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, September 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Can’t we all just get along?
That never-ending question has found its way in a new animated children’s flick about ponies and peace.
Here’s WORLD reviewer, Collin Garbarino.
Twilight Sparkle: Hurry, friends. It’s time for another adventure.
Rainbow Dash: Adventure? I’m in!
Applejack: Whoo hoo! Let’s go ponies!
COLLIN GARBARINO, REVIEWER: If you’ve had an elementary-aged girl in your house during the last 10 years, chances are you’ve seen at least a couple episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. It’s a cute TV show featuring colorful ponies having adventures and learning lessons about getting along. The newest pony movie gallops onto Netflix today. But this time there’s no friendship and no magic.
Sunny: I wish I had a friend who could fly around or float things. Why can’t we be friends any more.
Argyle: That my darling is a big question. And maybe one day, we’ll figure it out. Together. We’ll do our part, hoof to heart.
My Little Pony: A New Generation is set long after the previous series. As it begins, we learn some terrible unexplained event has robbed the land of Equestria of its pony magic. Even worse, the friendship is gone because all the pony tribes have turned on each other. The unicorns, the pegasi, and the earth ponies—that’s ponies without horns or wings—hate each other and never mingle.
The earth ponies live in fear of the other ponies, building up defenses against them.
Phyliss: We here at Canterlogic are so thrilled to create perfect products that protect ponies like you from ponies like that. And like I always say: To be scared is to be prepared. Oh, I love it!
But an earth pony named Sunny dreams of uniting the various ponies in friendship, and things start to get exciting when a unicorn suddenly appears in her hometown.
Izzy: Hi, new friend! My name’s Izzy!
Sunny: Unicorn! [screams]
Izzy: Is everypony playing hide and seek? I see you!
It turns out that while the earth ponies have been telling lies about the unicorns, the unicorns have been lying about the earth ponies.
Izzy: I was told all you earth ponies smell like rotten sardines, but you do not.
Sunny: What else do unicorns say about earth ponies?
Izzy: Oh, just that you’re lazy and not the brightest crystals in the forest. Sunny: Charming.
Izzy: Nope. Just those three.
Sunny and Izzy eventually team up with a pegasus named Zip. The three new friends set out on an adventure to collect special crystals to bring magic back to their land.
Sunny: I don’t play. I win.
Alphabittle: Is that so.
Sunny: Yeah. It is, and I challenge you for that.
Alphabittle: You think you can beat me?
Sunny: Only one way to find out.
Alphabittle: Big talk for a little pony.
Sunny: I think you’ll find I’m average height.
Paramount originally slated My Little Pony: A New Generation for a theatrical release. But the studio sold it to Netflix because of the pandemic. The computer animated movie boasts relatively high production values and has well-known actors like Vanessa Hudgens, Sofia Carson, and Jane Krakowski voicing the ponies. But the story doesn’t break any new ground. It sticks to the well-worn path Disney blazed 30 years ago: head-strong, independent female lead, amusing sidekicks, transformational ending, and five original songs.
And of course, in true pony fashion, we’re supposed to learn a lesson about getting along with those who are different from us.
If there’s a villain, other than the general feeling of distrust, it’s Sprout, an earth pony voiced by comedian Ken Jeong. He uses the crowd’s fear of unicorns and pegasi to promote his own leadership, setting himself up as a dictator over the easily led earth ponies.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Sprout is a wealthy, self-absorbed pony with a reddish orange body and a blonde mane comb-over. Parents won’t miss this jab at President Trump. But I doubt the kids will notice.
Like all pony media, this movie promotes friendship and fun, and for the most part there’s nothing wrong with that. But the message is too simplistic. It suggests all distrust is unfounded, and that everyone could get along if we just decided to get along.
Hitch: You did it, Sunny.
Sunny: No, we did it. Together.
Izzy: Now we never have to be apart!
All: Hooves to Heart!
No matter how much understanding we practice in this world, different groups of people will be left with real, consequential disagreements. And sometimes, those will keep us from living peaceably. Evil and sin are real. Pretending they’re not doesn’t help anypony—I mean—anybody.
I’m Collin Garbarino.
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