Monday, October 5, 2015

Episode Talk: S5E17, Brotherhooves Social

I've idly mused on trying to brew my own beer in the past, so for my birthday, my sister got me an everything-included beer-making starter kit; it comes with all the equipment, mash and yeast for your first batch, etc.  So this weekend, I thought I'd get that first batch going... only to discover that the one thing that isn't included is a handful of chestnuts, which you're supposed to boil with the mash.  I don't even know where to get chestnuts; do they sell them at grocery stores?  Eh, I'll figure it out next week; if I'm lucky, I'll have home brew in time for Thanksgiving, at least.

But hey, Saturday wasn't a total bust; at least we got another new episode!  Click below to see my slightly-delayed thoughts on it.  As usual, I'm saving the true analysis for the legions of episode reviewers who enjoy doing that; what follows are more "reactions and things that caught my eye."  Onward!

-First thing's first:
Carrot Top!  And her sister!  And they're wearing those green headband-bows!  The rest of the episode could have garbage, and I would still have been thrilled to see this part.  I swear, the matching headgear makes these two the cutest thing in a world which is primarily defined by how cute it is.

-It does slightly annoy me, though, that we still can't definitively say that Noi (or whatever your preferred fan-name for Lil'Top is) is CT's sister, since the episode is literally all about how the "sisters" part of "Sisterhooves Social" is enforced with all the strictness and diligence of speed limits; as long as your sort of in the ballpark, you're fine.

-The other big news to me that nobody else seems to be excited about was that this episode featured the first explicitly gay character we've seen on the show!  How is this not a bigger deal?  I mean, sure, Lyra and Bon-Bon are BEST FRIENDS and all, but this was the first time we saw a character who was explicitly attracted to a member of his same gender.  Amusingly, I suspect this only came to be because the writers didn't stop to think through how two standard cross-dressing jokes--"man attracted to man in dress" and "nobody's fooled by the man in the dress"--would interact.  But hey, I still thought it was a neat moment for the show.

-I sympathize a lot with Mac in this episode.  It's always hard to realize you're not as central to someone's life as you used to be, and it's also tough for an older sibling to cede the spotlight to a younger one--to let go of that "senior, therefore more important" dynamic.  When you're not as central to someone's life because you're ceding the spotlight to a younger sibling, though?  That's a rough place to be.  It was easy to root for Mac, and I think that made the fact that the crossdressing portion of the episode was so full of stock jokes go down a little easier for me; even if the humor was unoriginal, it wasn't hard to root for Mac.

-Plus, you know, the crossdressing portion of the episode was where the Top sisters were.

-That all said, I've seen a lot of people praising the end, where Big Mac gets his little speech.  Personally, I though it ended the episode on a disappointingly sour note: Big Mac feels extremely passive-aggressive to me, not-so-subtly blaming Apple Bloom for his bad mood.  I mean, I understand why the end was structured the way it was; Mac needs to make his feelings explicit for the benefit of the audience, and Apple Bloom needs to have a chance to see how much her opinion means to him.  But telling someone you're sad or upset because they don't look up to you the way they used to puts all the burden on them, and ending all that with a "I just want to be alone" is... well, the point is that it came across as a massive guilt trip for Bloom.  Even if she did kinda deserve one, Mac is literally the one pony who can't (shouldn't) give her one over this.

And it could have been so easily fixed!  If Mac had spilled his feelings to Granny Smith, or AJ after she got back, or heck, to anyone else, and Bloom had overheard them and come up to him afterward to comfort him, that would have felt much less manipulative.  Having Smith/AJ/anyone else talk to Bloom after talking to Mac (the talk with Mac presumably being off-screen, for reasons of both time and redundancy) would work, too.

-One last thing: take a look at this shot, right after Mac's "disguise" falls apart:
Let's look a little closer at the bottom left corner, shall we?
Last year it was Rarity and AJ tag-teaming the course.  This year it's Big Mac wrecking-ball-ing his way through every obstacle.

Carrot Top doesn't even care about winning the race anymore.  Just once, she'd like to take Noi to a Sisterhooves Social where the Apples don't ruin everything.  Just once.

Is that so much to ask?


  1. When I watched this episode I had a hunch—nay, a premonition that you would specifically point out Carrot Top's disgruntled I've-had-it face on your blog. It was just too perfect.

  2. This year's "we're not too strict on the definition of 'sister'" revelation means that all those busted headcanons from the original Sisterhooves Social can begin to mend at long last.

  3. I have a problem with the way you're describing the end, and it's that this sort of compulsive worrying about how "manipulative" you're being by being honest about your feelings is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to the excessive hiding of one's feelings and leads to this very situation, and which I would argue is the very thing this episode is making a case against.

    No matter what you do or how earnestly you do it, it seems like there's always someone waiting to call you out for not doing it just right and being abusive somehow, without being in the situation themselves and understanding the pressures that lead to it.

    Why should it be so important that Mac doesn't think what he says will reach AB? What lesson would we be teaching by using your version? That you should be honest with someone unrelated and freak coincidence will solve your problems?

    1. Why is it important that Mac doesn't tell Apple Bloom that he's upset because he doesn't feel like she looks up to him? Because it puts Apple Bloom in an unwinnable situation. Mac is saying--not just implying, actually saying--that it's Apple Bloom's fault he's upset, and the thing she's done "wrong" is failing to admire him sufficiently. Nobody has the right to expect to be admired, and by placing the blame squarely on Apple Bloom's shoulders, he's doing exactly that.

      People should not say exactly how they feel at every moment without regard for the feelings of others, any more than they should speak every thought that passes through their heads. It seems to me that in this situation, had Big Mac been thinking about anyone other than himself, he would have bit his tongue.

      The lesson I would hope Apple Bloom would learn in my version is how much her opinion matters to the people around her, which she could then act on by showing Mac that she does care about him. What she learns from the current episode is that, if she doesn't want Mac to be sad, she needs to act like she looks up to her big brother--whether she actually does or not.

    2. I think this is a needlessly uncharitable way of characterizing Big Mac. He's not saying it's Apple Bloom's fault he's upset; he's saying he can't measure up to Applejack's accomplishments, try though he did, and doesn't feel like he can do it any more.

      I think he outright says he's ashamed of himself at one point during the speech. Both his reluctance to opening up and his clamping down on himself (his "just leave me alone" moment) make more sense because he's too disappointed with himself to continue.

      If he's upset with someone, it's himself. Thus, Apple Bloom's decision to give him some time rather than hail AJ immediately is her sign that she puts family relationships over admirable accomplishments, which is showing Mac that she does care about him. She learns the same lesson about how opinions matter, and better still, she learns it straight from the horse's mouth, in an honest and open way.

      I'm baffled as to why, given what the episode was leading up to, you would interpret it as Big Mac putting Apple Bloom on the spot, especially when a) it's a pretty deep matter that affects him strongly, and b) Apple Bloom asked him what was up to begin with.

  4. That didn't count as a gay character because he's too old :p

    That bit reminded me so much of Some Like It Hot, even though they ended differently

  5. Damnit! Stupid thing ate my post, AGAIN!

  6. One more time....

    I think most people are praising the ending because they're seeing the situation from Big Mac's POV.

    For whatever reason, I empathized with Apple Bloom, and so spent most of the episode cringing. And I was actually a bit angry with Mac at the end for laying such a passive-aggressive guilt trip on AB. I can understand HER reaction, because she doesn't have the life experience to see it for what it was.

    I've seen that sort of crap in real life and it always leads to worse behavior further on, so it really soured my view of the Apple family dynamic. Big Mac gets some exploration of his character and what do we see? He's manipulative, dishonest, and a bad sport. Eugh!