Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Virtue is Magic

Mild Spoiler Alert

It's a little over a week now since the screening of "Twilight's Kingdom", the two part, season four finale of My Little Pony: Friendship: is Magic. I'm inclined to regard season four as the best season yet and I'll certainly go to the mattresses to defend the view that this was the best season finale so far.

Why do I love MLP;FiM? I could give a great many reasons: I love the witty dialogue, I love the animation, I love the songs. Having said all that, there is one reason, above all that I love this show. I love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic because it is a show about virtue.

Virtue has, oddly enough, become a little bit of a dirty word in the modern world. For many, the word virtue suggests a world of chastity belts, repressed desires and people walking about looking po-faced and serious and never, ever doing anything fun. The ancient Greek Master, Aristotle, however, and the tradition following, him, took a different view of things. For Aristotle, and the tradition following him, virtue describes those habits which tend to lead to greater human flourishing. For the Aristotelian school, there is a happiness the properly follows from human nature lived to its fullest and the virtues are the habits which promote the best chance of that happiness.

This is, in my judgement at least, what MLP:FiM is all about. Throughout the series, the mane (misspelling deliberate per fan convention) six ponies (and their dragon sidekick) learn a variety of life lessons which lead to them developing those qualities of character which lead to a free, happy and fulfilled life. I have no idea whether any of the writers or producers of the show have actually read Aristotle or not, but, whether consciously or unconsciously, they have produced a profoundly Aristotelian parable for life.

So, what was so great about season four? To back track, at the beginning of the first season, the mane six discovered that harmony is maintained in their kingdom of Equestria through six "Elements of Harmony". Through various trials, each of these six becomes mystically linked to one of the six elements: Apple Jack to honesty, Fluttershy to kindness, Pinky Pie to laughter, Rainbow Dash to loyalty, Rarity to generosity and Twilight Sparkle (my personal favourite) to the element of magic.

At the beginning of season four, each of the ponies, to prevent Equestria being over-run by chaos, the ponies had to sacrifice their connection to the elements. In response to their sacrifice, a magical trunk with six key-holes was revealed. Over the course of the season, each of the six mane ponies faced a situation in which she was tempted to act contrary to the element to which she was formerly linked. In each case, the pony in question overcame the temptation, acted in accord with her element and learnt a valuable lesson about the nature of her element as well as a lesson about life more generally.

In the season finale, Equestria faces a new danger, worse than anything it has faced before. The solution to the crisis turns out to lie in the chest revealed at the beginning of the season and the keys to the chest turn out to be linked to the lessons each pony has learnt about her element.

This is why I love this show. At the end of the day, it's show that send the message that the world can be saved and we can all live happy lives by following the path of virtue. Nothing else compares.


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