By Evelyn Allen
A large portion of how we think tends to sprout from what content we consume as children, and so having positive messages in shows aimed at younger audiences is important for us to learn our morals and how we should treat others. One show that I grew up with was the cartoon “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” which was just like any other children’s cartoon with bright colors, cute characters, as well as every episode ending with a lesson about friendship that the main character learned through interactions with her friends. This show was a huge part of my childhood and taught me what I know about selflessness, diversity, and acceptance of other’s faults.
While it seems a little childish to be looking at a kid’s show for this topic of neurodiversity which is ever so real and impacts people of all ages, what this show does differently is integrate the message not just that friendship is magic, as the title suggests, but also that friendship and teamwork is composed of more than just one type of person. In fact, many of the problems that the characters run into is being so polar opposite in ways of thinking and being, and in the end this conflict is resolved–not by changing one’s ways to be more like the other, but by coming to a mutual understanding of how their differences complement each other and how they can pick up where the other leaves off.
The show is about a pony named Twilight Sparkle, who is an intelligent but reclusive individual who puts no import in making friends. Her journey involves meeting and befriending all different types of ponies that she has a serious conflicting personality with and coming to terms with that. The first pony she meets is Pinkie Pie, a loud and boisterous character who makes it her duty to know everyone in town and be best friends with them. She is very much her polar opposite. Next she meets Applejack, a farm pony who is hardworking and outgoing, taking in others as family, which is foreign to Twilight, as she grew up in the city rather than the country. After that there’s Fluttershy, a shy character who is just afraid to even speak. There are more characters, that seem to highlight Twilight’s faults.
I phrase it this way because each character seems to have something that our main character does not. Throughout the show, as they become closer friends, Twilight learns how to be a better friend, but never has to be someone she isn’t. She doesn’t have to pretend to be like her friends because where she falls off in some areas, her friends pick up. Therefore there isn’t a total reliance on one’s self, but on the closeness of others. There are clear differences between all of the characters, but these differences are not seen as an obstacle, but a strength, and even are necessary to function.
There is one episode in particular that really focuses on this idea, which is also one of my favorite episodes. Twilight and her friends are called to a village in the middle of nowhere, where everyone lives peacefully... except it’s almost eerie how similar they are. Each pony is exactly the same, with the same haircut, same defining mark that would normally highlight one’s strength, same faded colors. The leader of this colony believes that in sameness, there is no conflict, and no struggle. However to the outsiders, who know how their differences make them stronger, this is a strange idea. While there is no conflict, there is also no room to improve or innovate or make connections, and with no sadness comes no happiness. While in the village, the main characters have an argument, but quickly resolve it because in conflict, there comes a solution and an understanding.
These messages just from this episode are so important to recognize. Just because people are all forced to be the same, so that no one feels jealous of anyone else, or if we level the playing field by quelling achievement, that doesn’t create progress or solutions. It only holds us back. Struggle is what molds us. Individuality is what brings us together. And when you look at the world around you, there are so many different people with so many different ways of thinking and being and yet they are still there around you and you can reach out to them and coexist and they are still making it in the world, no matter how success is measured.
I chose this show because it really is one of my favorites, but it also has taught me so much about how my differences don’t make me a bad person, they don’t make me a failure in the system around me, they are just the parts of me that will interact with others and in turn will make us both better people. I like to think of it as gears in a watch, or a big Rube Goldberg machine, where we will
progress, but we have to play off of our differences and work together to do so.