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#TwilightDidNothingWrong

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Sunny Fox

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(Except for the things she possibly actually did wrong)

So, in Amending Fences, Twilight goes back to Canterlot to make nice with her former Canterlot friends, who she feels she wronged by leaving Canterlot for Ponyville. Most of her friends forgive her, but Moondancer wants nothing to do with her, instead pretending not to care about renewing the friendship. Of course, there is more to the story, and Moondancer is secretly harbouring resentment for Twilight skipping her "little get-together in the west castle courtyard," as shown in the first episode. Things come to a head when Twilight brings Pinkie in to put together a party for Moon Dancer, upon which Moon Dancer lets Twilight know just how much she was hurt by Twilight's no-show at Moon Dancer's party all those months ago. There is ultimately reconciliation and a happy end.

Now, a lot of fans related really well to Moon Dancer, seeing in her an innocent pony hurt by an insensitivite act committed by somepony who is ostentibly her friend, and who became a recluse who had given up on friendship because of the bad experience she had. And that's fine. I'm not trying to convince anyone to not feel empathy for Moon Dancer. But I will explain why I personally don't feel Moon Dancer's story connected with me in the way the writers intended.

First, we are presented with the idea that Twilight was wrong to forgo the party for a study session. As I see it, Twilight had zero obligation to attend the party. It's an invitation, not a summons. If she wants to spend her time with old dusty books instead, that's her perogative. And while she didn't know at the time that Nightmare Moon was due to return, she did seem to have something on her mind. She was reading history, but asks Spike to find a book on Predictions and Prophecies, which obviously is about the future. So she had a reason to decline the invitation: something had caught her interest and she wanted to learn more, which is typical Twilight. But even if she hadn't had a reason, I still feel it's unjust of both the audience and Moon Dancer to blame her for doing what she had every right to do. In the case of Moon Dancer, it's even more egrerious for her to feel wronged, since she should have understood Twilight's decision. They are so similar, after all. I also think it's a bit unfair of Moon Dancer to expect Twilight to be more social just because she decided to be. And let's be real here, Moon Dancer didn't even bother to invite Twilight personally. Twinkleshine did the inviting. We don't even know if the invitation was on Moon Dancer's behalf as we are never given any evidence for such being the case. How was Twilight supposed to know that Moon Dancer was putting any kind of emotional attachment to her attendance? This could easily have been avoided if the writers just added another flashback to Moon Dancer inviting Twilight, and having her agree to attend, and then going back on that agreement when she saw the Elements of Harmony mentioned in her book. Here we actually have Twilight going back on her word to a friend, and that would go a long way towards making Moon Dancer's reaction more justified. As written, this episode has Moon Dancer forcing responsibility for her own emotional well-being onto Twilight without letting her know about it or agree to it, and that makes it her own damn fault when she then gets hurt. (Consent? What is that?)

Now, leaving her friends without even saying goodbye and then never contacting them; that I agree is a pretty crappy thing to do. If Twilight did anything wrong, this would be it. In fact, if the episode had made that the focus and that action was Moon Dancer's beef with Twilight, I might have found it more emotionally resonant. (It wouldn't negate all the bad writing, but it would have improved my outlook on the episode as a whole.) As it is, the party snub angle just muddies the water and makes the message of the episode weaker. What is the message now? "You are justified in making someone else your emotion crutch without their knowledge or consent"? "If somebody snubs you, take it so personally that you become a recluse and shut out everyone else from your life"? And more, that you're justified in doing so? This is pretty much what Moon Dancer does. How am I supposed to feel sorry for her when her reaction is so totally out of proportion to the "offense"?

Another reason why the "Twilight hurt Moon Dancer by not going to her party" plotline doesn't really work is that all her other friends did attend that party, including the three that Moon Dancer herself points out as being the original reason why she wanted to be more outgoing in the first place. They even invited her out a few times after the party and she turned them down, because one pony (who wasn't even the impetus for Moon Dancer coming out of her shell, let's remember) didn't attend. That's simply self-sabotage, and it's not justified for the reasons I outlined above. While we're on that topic, I'm not entirely convinced the party was intended as a party for Twilight specifically. It's never stated to be the case. Even if one can infer it from context (arguable at best), that still doesn't change the fact that Twilight was unaware of the fact, and still had the right to decline to attend even if she were aware. 

The writing also suffers from other issues, even seeming to work against itself at points. It wants you to believe that these ponies were Twilight's friends, but then makes a few jokes out of her not remembering their names. Here's a friendship hint - if you need your assistant to list the names of your friends, you don't have any friends in the first place. Heck, I can reel off two dozen names of friends I had in high school and university (I'm 37 now) - Twilight couldn't remember four (after at most a few months / years). They even make the point that Twilight had no photos of her Canterlot "friends", as she had with the Mane Six. So, you'll forgive me for being a little bit skeptical of the supposed friendship. There's also quite a lot of retconning to make this former friends angle work at all. Previous episodes make it pretty clear that Twilight didn't consider friendship important until she went to Ponyville, and she previously stated that her brother was the only pony she considered her friend before meeting the rest of the Mane Six. Now we're supposed to swallow the lie (which is exactly what it is) that she had these ponies she considered friends in Canterlot. All in all, I'm simply not convinced that the relationship between Twilight and those ponies was anything close to friendship.

As another example of what I tend to think of as manipulative writing, we see again the scene from the first episode, with Twinkleshine telling Twilight about the party and Twilight declining in favour of studying. In this episode, the scene is cut short, ending with the other ponies watching Twilight running off. The original scene had the ponies remarking on Twilight's lack of social interaction. The lines excised are as follows:
Twinkleshine: "Does that pony do anything except study? I think she's more interested in books than friends."
Twilight: "I know I've heard of the Elements of Harmony."
I guess they didn't want to remind us that Twilight didn't go in for friendship back then, did they? Or that she was actually going to research the Elements of Harmony, thus giving her a valid reason to decline the party invitation beyond exercising her own free will. It's literally a few seconds of extra footage, so I doubt they cut it for time considerations. There's a difference between evoking and manipulating emotion. This lands squarely on the latter side, and I don't appreciate it from the writers. To be honest, it makes me kind of angry.

To conclude, there are many problems with the writing and characterization of this episode, which preclude me from being convinced of the emotional story the writers are trying to tell. There are fans who do find it convincing, and really, I'm glad that someone at least could get edification out of this episode where I can't. Still, I feel that Twilight is being unfairly blamed for Moon Dancer's (to my mind) self-inflicted emotional pain, and I will defend her on that count.

Until the next time I bloggity-blog, just remember: always accept any invitation. Somebody's self-worth might be on the line! That's totes on you, friend! Oh, and stay sunny side up, as always!

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Here's the thing...Moondancer blames Twilight and you're correct that's not fair, and that her reaction to Twilight not showing is over the top and not exactly logical...But the thing is, our minds don't exactly run on pure logic, there's a lot of emotion involved. Why does Moondancer have to be justified for us to empathize with her, instead of just recognizing she's hurting really bad because she feels like a friend abandoned her? Maybe that's not exactly what "Really" happened but our views of reality are always colored by our subjective experiences. Moondancer seems like a pretty insecure pony in general, to somepony else more healthy this event might not have been a big deal but to Moondancer it was soul crushing. Twilight didn't necessarily do anything wrong here, considering the Nightmare Moon threat I'd even argue she did the right thing...but every action, right or wrong or neutral has consequences on the people around us.

 As for Twilight not remembering her names, you're right they weren't really her "Friends" in the past, maybe acquaintances or whatever. The thing is, the Twilight of today now sees the value of friendship and thus retroactively considers those ponies her friends. The entire point is to show how she didn't value friendship much back then but does so now, and thus her view of them is changed.

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Hi there, @BastementSparkle, thanks for the comment.

Why does Moondancer have to be justified for us to empathize with her, instead of just recognizing she's hurting really bad because she feels like a friend abandoned her?

As I said before, I don't necessarily think anyone is wrong for empathizing with MD. But I personally cannot, since I don't think her hurt is 1. Twilight's fault and 2. enough of an excuse to turn into a hermit. She even turned her back on the exact same ponies who she herself admits as making her more social and who were clearly trying their best to be her friends. Those actions she took of her own free will. To blame Twilight for them is an injustice. It's in some respects as if one were blaming a celebrity for the actions of a stalker.

...but every action, right or wrong or neutral has consequences on the people around us.

If that had been the clear message of the episode, I wouldn't complain (as much as I do :mlp_please: ). The fact is, Twilight's action of not attending MD's party is clearly cast as the wrong decision in the context of this episode, and the message becomes unclear precisely because that decision is focused on so much. It's plain bad writing, and it should be called out, no matter how effective it is on a person emotionally.

I'd also be interested on hearing your (or anyone's) thoughts regarding what I've alluded to as the "emotional manipulation" of the writers. 

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I agree with most of this.

Going back to the event, Twiight lacked empathy for Moondancer, and indeed her other classmates; we see that also in Episode One Ponyville (in the party scene that ends with Twi holding a pillow over her head and declaring all the other ponies in town are crazy) and of course Twinkleshine's line is spot on.

Moondancer clearly had similar problems; her unhealthy focus on Twi's non-attendence indicates that she DID see Twi as a friend, but of course that would seem in retrospect to be pretty one-sided, and she must not have felt the same about her other classmates given her withdrawal and rejection of them after the party incident.

So, while Twi did nothing wrong, or out of character for her, she also was responsible for the hurt Moondancer felt; that THAT was largely Moondancer's own doing (and created from whole cloth in Moondancer's head) doesn't mean it hurt less.

So, to contrast with the lesson of "forgotten friendship" - maybe it's not good enough to NOT be mean to someone - maybe you have to be nice. As Spike pointed out, as Princess of Friendship, Twilight is now holding herself to a higher standard, and her actions back in Canterlot clearly didn't meet that higher standard. Clearly also Pinkie would easily make a better Princess of Friendship than Twi does :)

So, if we distinguish between "old Twilight" and "new Twilight" (hopefully with less violence than a "new Fluttershy") then "old Twilight" did nothing wrong, by her own standards, but *was* a bad friend. "New Twilight" by contrast strives to be a good friend and a better, more empathic pony, so it is only right that she tackles this "Friendship Problem" in canterlot, without being pushed there by the Table.  It is her duty to fix this, even if she wasn't "wrong" when she did it.

Edited by CypherHoof
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3 hours ago, Sunny Fox said:

Hi there, @BastementSparkle, thanks for the comment.

Why does Moondancer have to be justified for us to empathize with her, instead of just recognizing she's hurting really bad because she feels like a friend abandoned her?

As I said before, I don't necessarily think anyone is wrong for empathizing with MD. But I personally cannot, since I don't think her hurt is 1. Twilight's fault and 2. enough of an excuse to turn into a hermit. She even turned her back on the exact same ponies who she herself admits as making her more social and who were clearly trying their best to be her friends. Those actions she took of her own free will. To blame Twilight for them is an injustice. It's in some respects as if one were blaming a celebrity for the actions of a stalker.

...but every action, right or wrong or neutral has consequences on the people around us.

If that had been the clear message of the episode, I wouldn't complain (as much as I do :mlp_please: ). The fact is, Twilight's action of not attending MD's party is clearly cast as the wrong decision in the context of this episode, and the message becomes unclear precisely because that decision is focused on so much. It's plain bad writing, and it should be called out, no matter how effective it is on a person emotionally.

I'd also be interested on hearing your (or anyone's) thoughts regarding what I've alluded to as the "emotional manipulation" of the writers. 

It was of Moondancer's own free will to turn into a hermit, yes. But you're still looking at this event through an objective lens, not an emotional one. This was apparently the first time Moondancer had ever put herself out there and done something like throw a party, and Twilight, the pony she seems to have considered herself closest to, didn't show up. Moondancer's best friend didn't show up to her first ever party, and left Canterlot for years without even a single goodbye. That's all Moondancer sees. Moondancer was seemingly a social recluse who didn't think she "Had any value" until her other three friends started to convince her she did, she didn't even think anypony would want to be her friend. The kind of person who sees themselves as not having value in the first place is going to be easy to hurt, they're likely going to look at every interaction and event and see the worst parts more than the good.

 The only ponies in the episode who treat Twilight's decision as the "Wrong" one are Moondancer who is biased and has her view clouded by her own emotions, and Twilight herself who is feeling guilty for hurting somepony and being harsh on herself. Nopony else ever tries to say she did the wrong thing, just those two. As @CypherHoof says, Twilight is judging herself and her past actions by her current standards and views which are very different. I don't think the episode is written manipulatively because it never tries to hide the fact that previous Twi wasn't a very sociable pony, it spends the entire episode trying to show us just how different the current Twilight is from her pre-season 1 self.

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16 hours ago, BastementSparkle said:

It was of Moondancer's own free will to turn into a hermit, yes. But you're still looking at this event through an objective lens, not an emotional one. This was apparently the first time Moondancer had ever put herself out there and done something like throw a party, and Twilight, the pony she seems to have considered herself closest to, didn't show up. Moondancer's best friend didn't show up to her first ever party, and left Canterlot for years without even a single goodbye. That's all Moondancer sees. Moondancer was seemingly a social recluse who didn't think she "Had any value" until her other three friends started to convince her she did, she didn't even think anypony would want to be her friend. The kind of person who sees themselves as not having value in the first place is going to be easy to hurt, they're likely going to look at every interaction and event and see the worst parts more than the good.

I don't really disagree with this, and it's why I can't bring myself to take Moon Dancer's side. She's wrong to blame Twilight for her own emotional weakness, but the episode tries to make out that she is in the right for doing so. I understand why MD feels the way she does, I just don't think it's admirable or pitiable.

16 hours ago, BastementSparkle said:

The only ponies in the episode who treat Twilight's decision as the "Wrong" one are Moondancer who is biased and has her view clouded by her own emotions, and Twilight herself who is feeling guilty for hurting somepony and being harsh on herself. Nopony else ever tries to say she did the wrong thing, just those two. As @CypherHoof says, Twilight is judging herself and her past actions by her current standards and views which are very different. I don't think the episode is written manipulatively because it never tries to hide the fact that previous Twi wasn't a very sociable pony, it spends the entire episode trying to show us just how different the current Twilight is from her pre-season 1 self.

The writers are saying Twilight was wrong, and I find it a pretty horrible moral. A few changes to the script, such as I've explored before, would have gone a long way to preventing that, for me. The writing (at points, not all the time, of course) still seems manipulative to me, particularly with the editing of the flashback, and the deliberate retcons.

I get what the writers were going for. I just think they botched it. Other fans think they nailed it perfectly, and they're entitled to that opinion. At any rate, I've already dedicated three blog posts to this episode (might be a new record ;)) so at this point, I've said what I wanted to. You're free (as is everyone) to comment further, of course. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it has been an interesting debate.

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Honestly, I agree entirely. And looking at it "through Moondancer's perspective" makes it worse and not better, because the episode is then saying that Twilight should validate Moondancer's chronic insecurity and approve of it making Moondancer lash out at her.

Yes, it IS nice to help somebody like Moondancer - with actual help, not by condescendingly telling them they should never have had to deal with a common, reasonable disappointment that reasonable people have to deal with all the time. Not by telling them that their friends should/will always protect their ego from such blows. That's just you making yourself feel better by telling them what they want to hear (probably making their problem worse). And I'm worried that's the secret to this episode's appeal.

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