The My Little Pony term "cutie mark" always seemed a bit twee, though fourth-generation goddess Lauren Faust's replacement for it — "butt symbol" — seemed a bit off, even though it was perfectly accurate. Desert Brush in my story Second Act:

"If you're going to promote my technological brilliance, such as it is, you might as well stencil a hammer on me. Or an abacus. Something at the bottom of the list." He laughed. "Won't that look sweet? The most advanced practitioner of magic from sea to shining sea, walking with a big, goofy-looking oaf with a row of beads on his butt."

Of course, said practitioner — this would be Twilight Sparkle, who actually marries that big, goofy-looking oaf somewhere in the nowhere-near-completed The Life That Late He Lived — can now fly, as of the third-season finale Magical Mystery Cure, which was controversial for swapping around cutie marks and therefore destinies. (Brush, of course, misses the whole thing, workaholic bureaucrat that he is.) Codex contemplates this alteration of destinies, and comes up with an explanation:

At first blush, it seems that cutie marks absolutely dominate a pony's destiny, whether they choose it or not. The shuffling of cutie marks and destinies seems to reinforce that belief. I have a contrary theory; choice, free will, is the determining factor in both a pony's destiny and their cutie marks. I have elaborated on this point in my earlier essay "Oh What a Cutieful Morning," but the beginning of Magical Mystery Cure would seem to contradict my conclusions.

It seems like a premise that's ridiculous on its face. The swapped ponies are obviously not enjoying their lives or their occupations; why would they choose to do something they are pre-eminently unsuited for? The most likely answer is that they either do not realize they have that choice, or else feel they made it long ago. If you look around your own life, you'll likely see many people who have ended up with the lives they have not because of the choices they made, but because of the choices they feel they never had. Such mismatched lives are fodder for so many stories we love to tell; the football captain who loved the ballet, the hockey player who was actually a pro-class golfer, the team of also-ran poor kids who just needed a coach who cared and decent equipment to reach the top. All that's required is belief in yourself, a crystallizing moment of choice, and the support of your friends. That's what happened when each pony helped their friends with a task they could not handle, despite a cutie mark and a lifetime of memories telling them they should do this one thing. When faced with what they were as opposed to what they wanted to be, they chose. With the power of friendship, that choice stuck, and the imprint on their flank changed to what it was meant to be.

"Flank imprint" might work, come to think of it.

Still, this analysis lends credence to my continuing belief that this is a far more sophisticated series than most people — even many of its fans — are willing to believe; the fact that this scenario was brought to fruition in two-thirds of a 22-minute episode tells me that a hell of a lot of thought is going into these scripts.

And, inevitably, I'm putting a hell of a lot of thought into these matters, not only because I write the occasional story in this universe, but because I've clearly established an emotional connection to it, sometimes in preference to my own: when I am confronted with yet another instance of Man's Inhumanity To Man, I start wondering if a concept like this even exists in Equestria — and if not, are ponies therefore the superior species?

Probably not. As always, Mark Twain was there first. In the very last paragraph of his essay "What Is Man?" we find:

Where the temperament is two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or religious beliefs can change the proportions. The vast majority of temperaments are pretty equally balanced; the intensities are absent, and this enables a nation to learn to accommodate itself to its political and religious circumstances and like them, be satisfied with them, at last prefer them. Nations do not THINK, they only FEEL. They get their feelings at second hand through their temperaments, not their brains. A nation can be brought — by force of circumstances, not argument — to reconcile itself to ANY KIND OF GOVERNMENT OR RELIGION THAT CAN BE DEVISED; in time it will fit itself to the required conditions; later, it will prefer them and will fiercely fight for them. As instances, you have all history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Russians, the Germans, the French, the English, the Spaniards, the Americans, the South Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Turks — a thousand wild and tame religions, every kind of government that can be thought of, from tiger to house-cat, each nation KNOWING it has the only true religion and the only sane system of government, each despising all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it, each proud of its fancied supremacy, each perfectly sure it is the pet of God, each without undoubting confidence summoning Him to take command in time of war, each surprised when He goes over to the enemy, but by habit able to excuse it and resume compliments — in a word, the whole human race content, always content, persistently content, indestructibly content, happy, thankful, proud, NO MATTER WHAT ITS RELIGION IS, NOR WHETHER ITS MASTER BE TIGER OR HOUSE-CAT. Am I stating facts? You know I am. Is the human race cheerful? You know it is.

Is [name of pony] happy? I know she is.

The Vent

#829
  14 July 2013

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