Oh, My Pop Culture Pinkie Sense: Science versus Faith in My Little Pony

s1_e15_008-700x393My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s Season 1 episode, “Feeling Pinkie Keen”, introduces an interesting conflict into the world of Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle, a scientist and evidence-driven thinker, is thrown into a world of confusion when confronted with Pinkie Pie’s Pinkie Sense, a precognitive Spidey-sense-like ability to sense danger before it happens. Pinkie doesn’t know why she sees these things; she just does, and Applejack and Fluttershy (and, I assume, the rest of the Mane Six, who aren’t in this episode) have seen her twitchy premonitions come true without fail so many times that they consider a Pinkie Sense warning as good as a promise.

Throughout the episode, Twilight becomes more and more frustrated with Pinkie. She refuses to accept that there’s not a logical explanation for Pinkie’s precognition, going so far as to hook her up to a machine to test her, and to stalk her for the day, hoping to learn something or to catch the Pinkie Sense failing. At one point she gets up on an actual soapbox to explain to Pinkie how something that’s unexplainable in that way can’t possibly exist.

A box. With soap. This episode is excruciatingly literal.

A box. With soap. This episode is excruciatingly literal.

Eventually, the evidence that the Pinkie Sense exists and is right 100% of the time becomes so obvious that Twilight can’t ignore it. She has to put aside the scientific method and accept it on faith, even if she can’t quantify it. As the episode wraps up, she sends off this Friendship Letter to Princess Celestia with the lesson she’s learned:

I am happy to report that I now realize there are wonderful things in this world you just can’t explain, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less true. It just means you have to choose to believe in them. And sometimes it takes a friend to show you the way.

The message of this episode is a little ham-fisted and confused, and what the casual viewer comes away with is the story of, essentially, a non-religious person coming to believe in a religion because they’ve witnessed a miracle.

mlfw1463_1320763870412897We start with a conflict: belief in things that she can see and study on Twilight’s part, and belief in a force that is unquantifiable on the other ponies’ side. Twilight is portrayed as increasingly silly and close-minded for not accepting the Pinkie Sense, and by the end of the episode, she makes the biggest Pinkie-Sense-premonition come true when she converts to the Pinkie Side.

tumblr_mcde9mI6or1runaoio1_500There are a few things wrong with this. First, it denigrates Twilight for trying to examine and test the Pinkie Sense with science, and constantly shames her for being a non-believer. This sends the message that skepticism and a desire to investigate and understand things you don’t understand is a bad thing. Even as a religious person myself, I found it upsetting that this seemed to push the idea that there is only one right way to think about a thing, and if a person refuses to believe that, they’re wrong. Religion is a personal thing, and shouldn’t be forced on a person; furthermore, it’s a hackneyed old trope that says religious belief and scientific discovery are diametric opposites.

On the other side of the issue, the episode also doesn’t do a great job of portraying how faith works. It doesn’t really address faith inasmuch as it is a trust in an unseen force—the way the Pinkie Sense works is Pinkie has a premonition, and then the thing she foresaw happens. Every time. It’d be like if every time someone prayed, a miracle occurred. This isn’t a fair representation of religious belief, the most important part of which is still believing even when there isn’t any proof or any sign that God or whatever given deity exists. 

300px-Pinkie_honking_Twilight's_nose_S1E15Even show creator Lauren Faust herself felt that this episode tried to go a little too deep, fearing that the message had ended up being too complicated for the show’s intended audience and that the Friendship Letter had further confused the episode’s original concept. And although I appreciate that she addressed this issue, it’s unlikely that the show’s malleable intended audience will ever see her deviantArt comment on the matter; hell, I only found it doing research for this post. The way this episode stands, it sends a message that isn’t fair to religious or skeptic/atheist viewers.

2 thoughts on “Oh, My Pop Culture Pinkie Sense: Science versus Faith in My Little Pony

  1. Thank you for doing an article on this episode! We need more ponies around here. I feel very strongly about this episode, mostly because most people are so far off the mark when it comes to interpreting this episode. Yes, it doesn’t look very good if you see it as a metaphor for becoming religious. Why? Because this episode isn’t about religion! The moral of this story is: seeing is believing. Yes, Twilight takes a lot of flak (and anvils) for not acknowledging Pinky-sense’s validity, but the fact is that in doing so she’s refusing to acknowledge something right in front of her face, which really is silly. The show is perfectly within it’s rights to portray negative outcomes when someone adamantly stays in denial about something which is obviously real.

    As a side, I will acknowledge that when the words ‘leap of faith’ are uttered, the episode does seem a little religious, and I can understand how that line/scene might lead a viewer to interpret this episode as many do.

  2. The thing that bugs me most about the episode is that, once again, science is bungled and misrepresented (if we are supposed to think Twilight is using it). ‘Have an explanation’ is not how science works. Science is concerned with what is. If Pinkie Pie can actually verify that her sense works (and she does) then that is science, and it IS quantifiable; it works 100% after all. The world has many unexplained mysteries; we don’t say science failed just because it hasn’t yet figured them out or a good experiment to explain them, or that to think said mysterious things exist is unscientific. The episode would have been much better if it had said that. Children aren’t stupid, they can swallow something genuinely educational. And it would have been nice if we could have found a genuine explanation for Pinkie Pie; would it have been so bad to have it turn out to be ‘magic’ in the end, which already exists in that verse? That we shouldn’t try to find explanations for things we know exist is a very damaging idea. We could have had Twilight Sparkle overcome her doubt in her friend and Pinkie Pie overcome her own doubt in Twilight; that would have been a lot more powerful.

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