Once upon a time, I made a joke about Applejack having totalitarian impulses.
Clearly I was wrong.
As this episode shows: she comes from a totalitarian culture. (Though AJ seems more inclined to it. Notice how she puts a bridle – a symbol of slavery among equestrians – on Rainbow Dash? All must serve der leader [wannabe].)
“Everything lives on its own,” comment the other ponies about their fear of the Everfree forest. Obviously, Ponyville is a fascist state, conditioning their citizens to fear the outsider, the different. It is rather brilliant of the Equestria government to make those who would offer the subjects liberation and freedom. No, those of a liberal, even libertarian bent, are painted as “unnatural” and “to be feared”. A masterful move probably orchestrated by Celestia herself to maintain control on her subjects. After all, who is the prime target of these states? The children, for they must be “taught” the good and proper way. Who do we see bucking trend in this episode? The child Applebloom. She doesn’t fear the outsider’s allure of freedom; several times we see Applejack and the others having to “instruct” AB in the proper way ponies behave (for her own safety of course). Zecora is worse than a rebel. She’s a peaceful subversive; and nothing is more dangerous to the ponies in charge (hence their clear banishment of her as well). Nine episodes in, and we’re really starting to see the dark underbelly of Equestria.
OR maybe it’s a really good lesson on not judging a book by its cover. Here is where I think we can see a bit of conflict between what the creators wanted, and what the studios encouraged. Had the 2-part opening been stretched out (or moved to the end), it would probably fit better with these other appearances of the Everfree forest. As it is, it seems weird (from a canon standpoint) that the mane six would be afraid of something they had conquered so long ago. (What, was that like… a whole week?)
Zebras are awesome, and so is Zecora.