And I’m back, with another exciting entry regarding the world of ponies and the people who love them. This time, let’s talk about racism!
So in the grand scheme of things, MLP is all about the love and tolerance. But two of its episodes, Bridle Gossip and Over a Barrel, are really problematic in a way I really hope is unintentional.
In Bridle Gossip, a zebra comes to Ponyville, and everyone’s scared of her because they’ve never seen one before. Twilight Sparkle refuses to believe the sinister rumors everypony’s spreading, but when the Mane 6 all get sick with mysterious illnesses they fear that Zecora the zebra is an evil witch. In the end, however, Zecora’s knowledge of natural remedies is what cures them all of their sicknesses. Seems legit, right?
Well Zecora looks like this, and her house looks like this:
And she speaks in a deep voice with an ‘exotic’ accent and also in rhyme.
So I’ve seen a defense of this that says that Zecora could just be an accurate example of what the Zebra nation within the Ponyverse looks and acts and sounds like, rather than a stereotyped and misinformed reflection of what people who are from where zebras are also from are like. But My Little Pony does not exist in a vacuum, and its stories are informed by and inform viewers’ preset ideas of human race. And even though Zecora herself says: “Maybe next time you will take a second look, and not judge the cover of the book,” and the point of the story is that everypony is the same inside regardless of how they look outside, Zecora is still treated as a sort of mysterious other throughout the rest of the series.
Over a Barrel is possibly a more problematic episode. In this episode, the Mane 6 are helping Applejack transport an apple sapling to her cousin who lives in an Old West-style town. The train they’re on is hijacked by buffalo, who claim that the apple orchard is build on their native tribal land. Despite the Mane 6’s attempts to make peace on both sides, the buffaloes and the ponies battle fiercely (with apple pies). But when the Chief realizes how delicious the pies are, he agrees to share the land with the ponies.
As one user on the MLP:FiM wikia page mentioned: “Thanks to this show, I now believe it is okay to appropriate another nation’s land and natural resources, as long as you get them perpetually addicted to a substance.”
Wow, cuz that’s not a troubling theme for an episode or anything. The Letter-to-Celestia moral of the story is that by sharing and learning to understand each other, even the best of enemies can become friends. But there are so, so many plot possibilities that would support that moral that don’t involve this sugarcoated retelling of America’s brutal treatment of its native peoples.
No show can be perfect. I just wish that My Little Pony had screwed up in a less culturally icky way.