Part 1: What I like about MLP:FiM's aesthetic (Retitled from "How I think of MLP:FiM")
I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve presented my perspective of this show in blogs and comments, and for the most part I’m satisfied but there are a few areas that I feel come off as scattered or vague. I’m always trying to improve my writing so I figured I’d try to make a more coherent presentation, more for my own benefit but also potentially to help others understand better why I haven’t been jiving with the current season even when I shower praise on nearly everything else.
Something that I haven’t mentioned here until a few days ago is that I enjoy what I like to call “stuffed-animal” humor style, or basically cuteness from simplicity. Cat memes are a good example of this in action: a cat appears to reflect some human behavior so we put in a caption as if it were really behaving like a human, but of course it isn’t really because it doesn’t have the faculties to do so, and it’s that contrast which can be so humorous. The animation style in MLP:FiM really nails this on the head in my opinion. Aside from the character models being pointedly adorable, they’re also fairly simple and rounded to the point where you wouldn’t expect them to be able to do anything but walk, but of course in the show ponies are able to roast marshmallows, shake hands, hold signs, rattle snow globes, turn doorknobs, etc., as if they had normal hands. Another way this humor style comes into play is in exaggerated movements and appearances, such as are not “realistic” but exist anyway to exaggerate a specific emotion. In Sleepless in Ponyville, when Rainbow Dash says “it’s headless, not brainless”, her neck is far extended from off-screen, which to me indirectly demonstrates her frustration in having to answer Applejack’s question by showing that she moves only as much as is absolutely necessary to properly address AJ. In Lesson Zero, the last time that Twilight beseeches her friends for help at the picnic, their faces all suddenly crowd into an empty screen, pupils extremely dilated to show their concern. In Party of One, when Rarity is trying to show Pinkie Pie that she really does need to wash her hair (after the line “it doesn’t?”), her character model is stretched to give the appearance of movement, instead of her legs actually moving, which I read as an exaggeration of the sense of urgency in her movement. Anyone can run to the trashcan, but in that moment Rarity zipped to it.
This stuffed-animal style of humor is something I thoroughly enjoy but don’t get from anything else in my life at the moment, so I’ve been getting my fix by incorporating this show into my daily routine. It’s what I mean when I refer to the show’s “classic charm”, which I find the earlier seasons more saturated with. When I write about subtlety, half of what I have in mind is this style of visual presentation; the other half deals with the actual writing, such as dialogue and story development, from which we get things like characterization and point of view. I’ve already written a lot about this part of my perspective and how I think season six has been failing in its regard. The thing is, good writing is something I can get elsewhere – there are plenty of shows and books with good storytelling and quality jokes that I can access. MLP’s sticking point for me has been the synergy of both good writing and delightful visual presentation, and it’s something I could talk about for days in terms of my adoration of it.
As I’ve already written about, season six seems to be changing its visual style to include more detail, which hasn’t really done anything for me except diminish the “cuteness from simplicity” effect. I’ve already discussed my thoughts on the writing in terms of subtlety and characterization, if you’re interested in those; I also discuss such things in relation to specific episodes in other posts.
Part 2: Gushing about Babs Seed
I recently re-watched One Bad Apple, which I generally consider to be a pretty average episode (which is to say, quite enjoyable). At some point I realized Babs Seed would be a great example of effective characterization for a new character.
What I like about Babs is that there is clearly a lot going on, which is made apparent both in looks and behavior, but not everything is so immediately obvious. As with a multi-layered ice cream cone, the time-released variety of characterization adds significantly to the level of enjoyment. I also appreciate that her personality traits are fairly realistic and reflect what could be considered a less publicized but more common model of human behavior. Her somewhat atypical appearance – bigger face, short red hair, and slightly larger body – would likely result in her being ostracized from most social groups at school, which would reasonably lead to the sort of maladjustment she displayed in the episode.