Source: MLP:FIM, Forever Filly. (Note how Rarity and Sweetie Belle are framed in such a way that they appear as equal as possible. Rarity is actually a lot taller than Sweetie, but this trick of the eye really drives the point home).
Filly Forever explores a very complex issue, and it tackles the subject matter so effectively that I can hardly contain my need to reflect upon it. The lesson here is loud and clear, and easy to read, but the web of conclusions one can draw from based on one’s personal experiences is near infinite. I’ve been turning it over in my head for hours, and the themes just get richer the more I think about it.
This story captures the bittersweet anger and joy one feels watching those of a younger generation come of age. It captures the rage, and frustration that the younger generation feels as they struggle to be taken seriously. Most importantly, it captures the tension in between.
After hours of being treated like a foal, Sweetie Belle, in her frustration, snapped at Rarity, “You don’t even know me anymore.”
It’s a devastating thing to have to say, and it’s a devastating thing to have to hear, but it’s true.
As an adult, I can think of a great many friends and relatives with whom I was very close during my childhood who don’t know me at all these days. I don’t know them either. It sucks and it hurts.
Preventing loved ones from drifting apart takes a surprising amount of work, and once you have drifted, reforging those bonds can be very difficult. Add a generation gap, and it becomes even more complicated. You go from dealing with each other as child-and-adult, to dealing with each other as adult-and-adult. It’s a tumultuous transition for everyone involved. For starters, the need for new boundaries never becomes clear until they are broken, and until both parties can examine, and articulate the problem accurately, which takes rather a lot of trial and error.
It’s frustrating. It’s painful. Most of all, it’s frightening. You both need to work at it, and if you can’t figure out how to grow together, you are doomed to grow apart.
Forever Filly tackled that problem head on. The story itself is quite simple, but the complexity of this conflict lies in what we already know about the characters.
Let’s start with Rarity. She had, in past episodes, found Sweetie’s childishness irritating when it got in the way of her work and her ambition. In Sisterhooves Social, Rarity had had a lot of important work to do. That work of hers got in the way of bonding with Sweetie, just as much as Sweetie Belle’s presence got in the way of Rarity trying to meet her deadlines. Sweetie Belle wanted to help, but she was just a kid, and her efforts just ended up getting herself underfoot (under hoof).
It’s a scenario that most of us know very well from our own lives, in one form or another.
However, now, it’s the total opposite. Rarity finds herself at the top of the fashion world, having achieved most of her dreams and ambitions, but she misses her sister. v She yearns for the days when they had bonded together, and longs to spend uninterrupted time with her. Sweetie, on the other hand, is now the one who has responsibilities to take care of. She has become an entrepreneur in her own way, and doesn’t have time to spend with her sister.
The scene where Rarity admires the wall of the crusader headquarters, and the photos of their satisfied “clients,” is brief, but it tells us volumes about Sweetie – profound information. It tells us exactly the type of pony that she is growing into.
They say that kids don’t learn from what you tell them; they learn from what they observe. In this moment, we see just how much of an influence Rarity has been on Sweetie’s life. The work ethic that Sweetie had despised in her sister as a child, has sunk in, and become her own, as she cultivates real responsibilities, and moves toward adulthood.
It’s the sort of thing that’s impossible to put into words, but when you see it, and really think about it, it shines a light on both characters – who they are – what they mean to each other. There’s a piece of Rarity that Sweetie will always take with her, and it will arm her throughout her life. The problem is that Rarity can’t see that. She mistakes that genuine professionalism for flight and fancy – a quaint form of child’s play.
That tiny moment not only captures so much about the characters, it conveys the very essence of the conflict at hand – the gap that needs to be bridged.
I could spend rather a lot of time pointing out parallels in the dynamic between the two sisters in this episode, and the dynamic that they had back in Sisterhooves Social. It’s certainly a topic worth discussing, as there are quite a lot of subtle differences in characterization that make this episode an elegantly told story. However, I’m concerned more with the message than dissecting the narrative itself.
When Rarity realizes the error of her ways, she expresses her sorrow that “[She] didn’t know that the last time [they] did those things would be the last time [they] did those things.
This line pretty much says it all: about growing up; about life; about the need to cherish every moment, while at the same time, not being afraid to let those moments go. I personally didn’t know that the last time that I pushed my youngest on the swingset would turn out to be my very last time doing that. It was a day like any other. I don’t even remember anything about it right now because it was so very unremarkable.
I don’t remember the very last time I helped with my kids’ shoelaces either, nor the very last time my own mother needed to help me with mine.
There was no ceremony. No grand announcement in either case. It just sort of happened when no one was paying attention.
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