Well then... that was... odd. Certainly not bad, and I don't even find myself disagreeing with the lesson of this episode, but it was quite odd to watch to say the least. I honestly don't think we've ever had an episode as blatantly meta as "Fame and Misfortune," and it leaves me in a strange place when it comes to reviewing it. But I'm gonna try my best, since it's still an episode of MLP, and like I said, not a bad one, even if I don't know completely how I feel about it. Without further ado, let's begin, this is Batbrony Reviews "Fame and Misfortune."
I won't lie, that is undeniably one of the most adorable faces Twilight's made in some time
So let's not beat around the bush and get straight to the point: this episode is a biting critique of both the worst behavior displayed by nerdy fandoms in general, and specifically the brony fandom in particular. What happens? Twilight Sparkle rediscovers her old friendship journal she and her friends put together, and decides to distribute it all across Equestria in the hopes that ponies will take the lessons to heart. This plan seemingly backfires, however, when suddenly the Mane 6 are being treated like celebrities, and as a result being hounded and harangued in the absolutely worst ways that celebrities are. Worst of all, none of the ponies harassing them seem to have taken any of the lessons to heart and are more interested in far more trivial, superficial matters. The friends are almost overwhelmed by all of this insanity, but take comfort in each other at the end, as well as the fact that some ponies (namely G4 Toola Roola and her friend Coconut Cream) show them that they have taken their lessons to heart and haven't missed the point of the journal, even if many others have.
That's as simple a summary as I can give, and it's really not that complex of an episode overall. It's still an odd one, and I certainly have my criticisms despite appreciating the lesson. Let's start with my criticisms before we touch on the positives, just to get them out of the way. For starters, this episode has a single-sided depiction of celebrity-hood, and a negative one at that. I don't think the bad things they show happening to the Mane 6 as celebrities are necessarily inaccurate, not at all, being a celebrity is an exhausting, 24/7 endeavor I am sure and fans can be super weird, if not downright uncomfortable at times. But they don't show the fact that being a celebrity comes with its own set of perks as well, and not just superficial ones; while MLP creators and artists may, in the grand Hollywood hierarchy, only be minor celebrities for the most part, they still have access to a lot of opportunities that their fans do not for the most part. Plus, come on, they get to make an awesome show about magical ponies; hard work as that may be, I'd still say it's pretty awesome. Point being that being a celebrity of any level isn't JUST the nightmare that the show depicted here, there's more to it than that. I will admit, though, that I appreciate that they took our longstanding critique that the Mane 6 were never treated like celebrities by the rest of Equestria despite saving it so many times; after this episode, I'm perfectly OK if they aren't ever again seeing as ponies treated them so bizarrely. I far prefer getting to see them lead their lives as normally as possible when they can.
My second critique is that I wasn't particularly fond of seeing mainstay background ponies treating the Mane 6 like assholes. The new characters I didn't care about, and while I understand that they couldn't just make new character models and were most likely just recycling characters for convenience's sake, it was still not particularly pleasant seeing background characters we've come to love act OOC and like total jerks. Granted, like much in this episode, it will probably be forgotten entirely going forward, so I'm pretty forgiving of it overall with that in mind, but still, I wasn't all that fond of it at times (except of course when Pinkie had that hilarious line, "YOU'VE KNOWN ME FOR YEARS!!!!!!" That was golden and I cannot hate that line at all). I will admit, though, that I did enjoy seeing them criticize the "Best Pony" fad, or at least how some people treat it; it's alright if you have a favorite character for your own personal reasons (I should know considering Derpy is mine), BUT having a favorite character doesn't mean that they are superior to the others for EVERYBODY just by virtue of being your favorite, or that you need to prove their "superiority." Just be content with why you like them more than the others, while also accepting that the Mane 6 simply wouldn't be as special as they are if even one of their members weren't a part of their group. The episode definitely did a good job at hammering that point home towards the end, and I applaud them for addressing that particular niche in the fandom.
The third critique I have isn't much of a critique, more like just an expression of how I personally feel about the episode. The target of this episode is the fringe elements of the fandom, namely fans who turn their liking of the show into an unhealthy thing for both themselves and others in a variety of ways. The biggest critique I have of how this is shown is that I believe it is especially targeted at the con-going crowd, ya know, bronies who regularly attend pony cons and get the most chances to be around the show's creators. There's nothing wrong with that either, but in my case, it means that the lesson didn't actually resonate with me all that much. Why? Not because it's a bad lesson, but because I'm not a part of that crowd. In my entire life, I've been to a grand total of one convention, last year's BronyCon. It was a great time where I got to meet a bunch of cool bronies and creators, both from the show and in the fandom, and yes, I also got exposed to in those few days some of the more uncomfortable sides of the fandom, i.e., fans who take certain things about the show too seriously, fans who don't have good self-awareness and can make others uncomfortable because of their behavior, fans who feel entitled to certain treatment just by virtue of loving the show, fans who think they prove their "status" in the fandom by owning the most merchandise that they can, etc. These were all there to be sure, and yet, that's the only time I've gotten to see it. Now any fan can certainly be exposed to the ugly side of the fandom online as well, but it's far different in person, when you get to see hundreds if not thousands of bronies gathered together. I myself have only gotten to see that once, and many bronies can't even say that, so really, I think for folks like myself who are not a part of the regular con-going crowd, this episode isn't going to resonate as much with us. That's OK, all episodes have varying levels of effect on people depending on what they can personally take from it; I know that many bronies didn't feel that "The Perfect Pear" resonated with them as much as it did with others, and in many of those cases, they're bronies who've never had a romantic relationship or a really deep one, so it's understandable that they may not get why that episode resonated so strongly with others who have been in love with another. But the reason I do still list it as a critique is because the target audience of this episode is so narrow; con-going bronies either have the good fortune of living very close to where a big con is regularly held, or they have the resources to get to multiple cons each year. Ultimately, that's a small segment of the fandom, even if it is an important segment. An episode like "The Perfect Pear" by contrast could easily resonate with anyone who's ever been in love, or just wants to understand the deeper effects of a pure love in general, meaning it has a far more universal audience, to the point that I believe that even people who don't watch MLP could get a lot out of it.
Replace that tree with a body pillow, and you've got an eerily accurate scene one could easily encounter at one of our cons
So, even if this episode doesn't resonate with me very strongly, why do I still think it's a good episode? Because it still has a good lesson, even if it's a very meta one that probably won't ever be brought up again. For me, this was 22 minutes of the show's creators venting about the hardest aspects of dealing with this fandom, and I'm OK with that. This is a weird fandom by nature, and in general that's usually alright, but at its worst it means that the show's creators are often confronted by dozens of fans with silly critiques, demanding and entitled behavior, or just take their love of the show to uncomfortable levels. Worst of all, they forget what the point of this show is to begin with, teaching good lessons to others and helping them be better for learning those lessons. Overall, my biggest takeaway from this episode for the fandom is that, if you have the opportunity to express your love for the show in public, especially to its creators, don't do it in a way that isn't good for anyone. Don't harass them, don't act snobbish or entitled around them, don't act as though they are there (at a con or such) for you. Being a fan and getting to share in your love of the show with a creator means doing just that, sharing, showing how much you appreciate the work they've done, and the stories and characters they've created. I'm not saying you can't be critical of the show, I've done just that up above after all. But it's one thing to be critical of certain things in an episode of the show. It's another thing entirely to take certain flaws as a personal affront, or to act like a jackass about certain problems. In the grand scheme of things, a bad episode in this show, even one as horrendous as "Hard to Say Anything," isn't going to be the end of the world; it'll just be a bad episode and, while you can be upset about that, you shouldn't let it affect you or others too much.
As the song in this episode goes (which sounded a bit too epic to be warranted for this episode, but I won't complain since it was still a super lovely song all the same), "We're not flawless, we're a work in progress." This doesn't just apply to the characters, it applies to the show itself. The creators are always trying to see how they can improve upon the already great stuff they've made, what new things they could add to make it even more special. When episodes like "The Perfect Pear" happen, we see the greatest fruits of their labors and ambitions, proof that they truly are trying to push the boundaries of what they can accomplish in this show. But that doesn't mean there will never be buck ups or mishandled episodes either, and while we don't have to like those episodes, we shouldn't blow them out of proportion either. Being a good fan means trying to use your love of something to share in celebrating it with its creator, and offering helpful critiques and advice when you can. It doesn't mean inconveniencing creators or even making life harder for them; if that's going on as a result of your behavior, then you're doing something wrong as a fan.
Do you have to like this episode? I don't think so, no. I don't think anyone should be personally offended by it, but if it didn't resonate with you very strongly like in my own case, that's alright. And hey, if you loved it and had a blast at its meta nature, that's great, keep on loving it. This episode is already creating very split opinions on it in the fandom, it seems, and I'm neither surprised nor do I think that's a bad thing, necessarily (just don't make the creators lives a living hell for making it, folks, OK?). So what's my advice for all of us to take away from this episode? Simple: love the show, critique it where it's warranted but in a reasonable manner, and show your love to the show's creators in a healthy, positive, uplifting, and grounded manner that leaves both you and them feeling better. Don't be a jackass, don't act like the creators "owe" you anything, and don't forget what this show is all about in the first place. Learning some good lessons about life, taking those lessons to heart, and practicing them in your own lives as best as you can for the good of others and yourself. If we do that, then we're proving that the show creators' efforts have all been worth it. That's all I've got for ya this week, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch "The Perfect Pear" again...
DON'T JUDGE ME, YOU KNOW YOU DO IT TOO!!!