I quite enjoyed this meme-tastic episode, although it did raise a lot of questions.
For instance, at one point, Twilight says, “[Applejack] is as stubborn as a mule. [camera pan to nearby mule] Uh… no offense.” However, as every farmboy knows, mules are a mixbreed of horses (the father) and donkeys (the mother). So… hm I wonder if the random mule is a relative of Applejack or just a worker they higher to help on the farm? Of course, if the Apple family does have hired help (like many farmers with large acreage) why does AJ continue to try and work by herself in this episode?
Ah, because here we have a microcosmic demonstration of the cycle of totalitarian governments throughout history. In Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed, he talks about the principles of generalists vs specialists – whether it’s possible for a mind to have enough grasp of everything to centrally run a society or rather things work best when decentralized. The totalitarian impulse arises when one believes that he/she is smart & capable enough (or an elite group) to run everything. Here we see AJ’s drifting tendencies towards absolute rule.
After all, the episode starts with Big Macintosh having a mysterious injury which occurred offspring (AJ attempting a purging – perhaps) and when he doubts Applejack’s capabilities, she pokes him in the injury (obviously a subtle reminder about how much worse he’ll be if he continues to oppose her).
Then we find that a stampede is threatening Ponyville. A stampede of cattle (which can do a lot of harm – this will be important later). Of course, in the world of MLP:FiM, the cattle are as sapient as any other animal. Like all totalitarian regimes, we see them first sprouting from a brief public panic as people run blindly, only for the leader (AJ in this case) direct the crowd, establishing the principle of this person in the public’s mind as being the solution to every problem. In recognition of this, the town holds a rally celebrating AJ. Like every rally held by a dictator, she shows up fashionably late, looking harried to solidify her image as a worker of the people. Almost nopony can contain their exuberant near-worship of their new leader.
Ah but after obtaining her power over the town, we see Applejack’s fall like every regime ultimately collapses, for no one mortal can hope to contain the variances of life within their mind.
The first task is a simple enough one: help out her friend Rainbow Dash. All AJ has to do is land on a see-saw like contraption. Except the classification effect of bureaucracies (in this case, represented by AJ’s exhaustion and blurred vision) cause even the simplest of tasks to take on Herculean proportions (represented by AJ’s repeated falls). And even the eventual success leads to the death or injury of the intended recipient of the aid.
Of course, Twilight Sparkle sees this accident and as a representative of the bourgeoisie or capitalistic system in this episode, goes to her friend in an attempt to enact reforms (represented by her attempting to talk sense into AJ). She knows that the only hope is the division of labor and her friend must give up her position and power less more are hurt. To emphasize this point, she repeatedly teleports just five feet to stand in front of Applejack. A task that can’t be any easier than just walking over, but by doing this, she demonstrates something which AJ cannot do, trying to push through AJ’s skull that her dream is hopeless. But AJ doesn’t listen and runs off to help Pinkie Pie. Their attempts to make food a clear example of totalitarian regimes attempts to feed their people, and like in history, the town ends up starving or sick. AJ’s rule cannot last much longer.
It ultimately falls apart when trying to help Fluttershy count bunnies (obviously a metaphor for many governments’ social policies). This task, while initially seeming to be suited to AJ’s talents, but she ends up causing a stampede of bunnies! And so we come full circle. A smaller, typically easier to manage crisis that mirrors the greater one which put AJ into power has swept through, demonstrating to the populace that il Duce is no longer fit to serve as leader. And so the regime crumbles as it began.
Or maybe it’s all about not letting our pride get the best of us. Sometimes part of being a good friend is letting our friends help us and not just helping them. There’s no shame in accepting aid.
(I’ve been watching a lot of Farscape recently and noticed that Crichton calls his faithful gun “Winona”. Just like AJ calls her faithful dog, “Winona”. When did the name Winona become synonymous with “faithful”?)