On Cutie Marks & Pear Butter

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Justin_Case001

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Today's blog entry will be about the show for a change.  I have always loved the lore surrounding cutie marks, and I find it fascinating to discuss them.  I was prompted to write this post when I stumbled across a Dr. Wolf video in which he posed the question of whether or not Pear Butter rejected her cutie marks when she married Bright Mac.  Such an idea was instantly captivating to me.  Before I respond to it, I would like to post a short piece I wrote some time ago in a thread asking about cutie marks, what they mean, and how they work.  I feel that my piece sums it up quite well.

[Well, first of all, I'd like to address a point that I feel many people tend to get a little confused on. I often see some chicken-or-egg like confusion over cutie marks, in which people seem to think that a mark appears when talent is shown, and thus reveals to the bearer what they're supposed to do. There's confusion on the actual show to this effect, with foals talking about how they "hope they get a good mark," or "the right mark," and so forth. This is completely backwards of how it works, and the wisest of ponies, such as Luna, know this. The mark is just a representation of one's belief about who they are. In fact, cutie marks have nothing to do with talent. (Yes, you read that right.)

Cutie marks appear when a pony decides that this is who they are, and this is what they were meant to do. It doesn't necessarily mean they are good at it. Troubleshoes exhibited zero talent for the rodeo, yet he got a rodeo related mark. He misinterpreted its meaning, but the mark remained because he never stopped believing that he was meant for the rodeo. The mark did not mean that he had talent at clowning. This claim makes no sense, as he had never even tried clowning up to that point. The mark simply meant that he belonged in the rodeo, and he (thanks to the CMC) found a way to make that possible with the "gifts" he had available. Consider this: what if he had no liking for the rodeo whatsoever? He would still be a klutz, but would he have gotten the same mark? No. He got that mark at that specific time because it was when he decided that he was meant to be in the rodeo.

Conversely, in the very same episode, the CMC exhibited a talent for helping others long before getting their marks. Even after helping Diamond Tiara, their marks did not immediately appear. Talent alone did nothing. It was only when they decided for themselves that that was their calling did the mark appear. Consider this: suppose that, after helping DT, the Crusaders had decided that they wished to continue their quest of trying every activity under the sun to find their talent. Would they have still received their cutie-mark-counseling marks at that time? Certainly not. The marks appeared when the decision was made--when the identity was realized. Every mark appears in this way. Marks don't appear as a response to exhibition of talent. They appear when an internal decision is made as to what the bearer is meant to be. To reiterate, this need not be something that the bearer is good at, though logically, in the vast majority of cases, it will be. If we extend this understanding of cutie marks to its logical conclusion, it seems to be an inescapable truth that cutie marks can change based on the currently held beliefs and self-perception of the bearer.

That said, many viewers may be left wondering: "If I don't live as a pony in Equestria, then how will I know what I'm supposed to do without a mark to tell me?" When it is understood that marks do not tell the bearer what to do, but it is in fact the exact opposite, then this question simply disappears. We know what we're supposed to do in the exact same way as ponies: we feel something inside and we decide it for ourselves. The only difference between us and ponies (or ponies and any other race in FIM) is that we don't get a pretty emblem of our identity to wear for all to see. (Unless we get a tattoo.)

Gabby helped show us, at least to an extent, that an outward sign isn't necessary for one to find their sense of identity. It would have been a bit better if she had come to the conclusion of who she wanted to be by herself, but it was still a great message. She had a limited and exterior understanding of cutie marks. She was under the impression that marks tell the bearer what to be. Thus, she was trying to obtain a mark to find out what her place in the world was. Trying different things is certainly a good way to find one's place in the world, but her expectation of how this would occur was obviously reversed. In the end, hopefully she learned that cutie marks have no power whatsoever, nor do they tell one what to be or shape one's destiny. They only tell others what the bearer already knows inside. Thus, cutie marks aren't necessary, and are purely cosmetic.

What viewers should take away from The Fault in Our Cutie Marks is that we should never look to others, or to any external signs to tell us what to be. Look only inside. Only you can know what you're meant to be. Looking to others is a great way to broaden your experiences and wisdom, but in the end, it's up to you to decide who you're meant to be.]

That's the end of the piece.  Back to the present.  Let's take a look at the Dr. Wolf video, shall we?

Spoiler

 

Absolutely fascinating!  What an intriguing idea!  I had never considered this.  But after taking the time to consider it, I definitely know what my response is.  If you fully understand my theory of how cutie marks work, then you can probably guess why I would say that Pear Butter absolutely didn't reject her mark.  Do you know the reason?  I'll give you a few seconds to figure it out.

3...

2...

1...

Spoiler

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!

That's right: a pony cannot "reject" their mark because it's not even ontologically possible!  As a pony's mark is a reflection of their own beliefs about their identity, it follows that "rejecting" the mark would simply mean that the pony doesn't feel that that is who they are and what they're meant to do anymore, and thus, that would no longer be their mark.  In essence, a pony cannot "reject" a mark because the moment they did so, the mark would cease to be.  This would mean that the mark would change, which goes back to that piece I wrote earlier.

One of my very top wishlist items for FIM is an episode where the CMC help an adult who's cutie mark changes.  We'll probably never get such a phenomenon...unless we actually have already?? :wau:  Perhaps Pear Butter isn't the first example of a pony who rejected their mark, as the good doctor suggests, but instead, the first example of a pony who's mark changed.  Maybe it did, and nopony noticed.  How could this be?  The answer lies with Goldie Delicious.  She pointed out that the jars of apple and pear preserves look nearly identical, so that gave the kids no clues that their mom was in fact a pear.  Could it be that shortly after the wedding, her mark changed to a jar of apple preserves?  I submit that it's entirely possible.  Another possibility is that her mark remained the same simply because she still felt that she would always be a pear at heart, regardless of if she was actually growing, harvesting, and bottling pears.  I argue that one does not need to be actively practicing a given activity to have a mark related to it.  As long as one feels that that's their true identity, then the mark would remain.  Maybe Buttercup always felt that pears were her identity, but she was willing to give up that life for her love.  Many a similar story have happened in real life.  Cutie marks are as complex and nuanced as our own perceptions of who we are.

Personally, my headcanon is that her mark changed to apple preserves, but no one noticed, possibly not even Pear Butter herself.  My theory leads to an even more startling truth that I had not considered until now: not only can cutie marks change, they can disappear!  That's correct: a marked adult can regress to a blank flank!!

But doesn't that just make perfect sense?  If ponies' marks are determined by their beliefs and self-perceptions (which I maintain they most definitely are), then what would happen when a pony decides that their current mark isn't who they are anymore, loses their way, and doesn't know what to do with the rest of their life?  Why, they'd be a blank flank again, of course!  And what could be more relatable and realistic?  How many people have gone through a transition like that in real life?  Marks must be able to change, or disappear entirely, because they are just an outward representation of what the pony knows inside, and they can't hold a pony prisoner.  Cutie marks are just a way to add a little visual splash to the struggle of identity that we all face.

At any rate, Pear Butter's story was a really interesting one to consider.

Thanks for stopping by, everypony.

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Very interesting post! Thanks! One thing I do like about MLP is that it always points out that ponies have free will and are not forced by a cutie mark to behave a certain way.

  • Brohoof 1

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