Episode [2.09] – “Sweet and Elite”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“I learned that no matter where you go in life, you should never forget that you are the product of your home and your friends. And that is something always to be proud of, no matter what.”
“A very valuable lesson to have learned.”
She’s the type of pony every pony should know.
Rarity is easily the fanciest pony in Ponyville. Far and away fancier than anyone else in town. Behavior, clothing, hair, her style and sophistication are simply incomparable. Ponyville is not beneath her, certainly, but it is very lucky to count her among its inhabitants. So when she’s exposed to the rarified culture of Canterlot while shopping for fabrics for her shop, it’s a bit like coming home. A super judgmental home where ponies are rated based on who they know and how important their opinion is.
An early encounter with Jet Set and Upper Crust (these names, ach) throws sharp contrast on the difference between Canterlot and Ponyville. When they dismiss Rarity based on her origin in the latter, she bridles so hard that she designs the most magnificent gown that anypony will ever see. Unfortunately, while out purchasing materials for the dress, she literally runs into Fancy Pants, the fanciest pantsless pony in Canterlot.
Are most high society ponies Unicorns? There seems to be a theme here.
Rarity has already promised Twilight Sparkle a fancy dress for her birthday party, and now she has an invitation to see the Wonderbolts from the box seats. I’m pretty sure that her friends would encourage her to see the Wonderbolts, since it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Rainbow Dash in particular would want her to go. I mean, come on. The Wonderbolts. Box seats.
This leads to Rarity’s first lie.
Rarity likes the weight given to her opinion. For these few days, everypony in Canterlot hangs on her every word and action. She’s the greatest new popular fad since the last one, and her opinion must be sought on everything. She is, after all, a guest of the Princess. She overcommits to additional engagements, consuming all of the time she had scheduled for Twilight Sparkle’s dress, and pushing straight into the birthday party itself.
The lies start to snowball, as they usually do. Poor Opalescence pays the price.
The caper culminates with Rarity attempting to attend two parties simultaneously: Twilight Sparkle’s relocated birthday, and the second biggest party in Equestria after the Grand Galloping Gala, the Canterlot Garden Party. Her figurative worlds begin to literally collide when her Ponyville friends crash the Garden Party. In the ensuing mayhem she makes one final choice; to publicly acknowledge her friendship with the ponies of Ponyville and own her roots. Fancy Pants applauds her conviction, and everypony else mimics his opinion.
I was expecting this to go a little further. That Rarity would actually disown the rest of the Mane 6 to fit in with the Canterlot elite, and that she would have to be called out on it before recanting. I’m pleased that didn’t happen, and super happy that Rarity stood up so firmly for her friends.
Probably important to note that Twilight Sparkle is originally from Canterlot. These are literally her people. Not the specific clique, mind, as Twilight wasn’t a terribly social pony (understatement) before reaching Ponyville, but I’m sure she’s familiar with at least the theoretical underpinnings of the upper crust.
And why did that poor valet not carry the bags his magic? He’s not an Earth Pony. Maybe not all Unicorns can lift things magically. Or, more likely, that was just way too much stuff.
Sweet and Elite, aka “Rainbow Dash is a j-” oh wait, this isn’t another Dashie episode? Thank Celestia!
Just to answer (or at least, try to) some of Weston’s questions (Westions?), yes, Twilight is from Canterlot originally, although she kind of falls into the category of “ridiculously sheltered”, and as the implications were that she didn’t spend much time at all not at home, school, or studying directly under Celestia, her view of Canterlot might be just a bit skewed. She seems to know that there is a high society core to her home city and that important things happen there (it is the capital of Equestria and where Celestia resides, after all), but isn’t terribly familiar with that portion of society or the social graces and trappings that come with it. What’s more, she doesn’t really even seem to realize that she’s ignorant of that aspect of the city (which probably has a lot to do with her upbringing, after all, when you’re practically family to the god-queen of ponydom it probably doesn’t occur to you that the social tier several steps below that is anything special).
As to the valet… unicorns don’t all possess the same amount of magical power, and the sheer amount of Rarity’s luggage might just be too much for the poor kid to handle with magic alone. You’d think a valet unicorn would be specialized in doing that sort of thing with magic… but we never actually see his cutie mark and he’s pretty clearly either still a teenager or only barely an adult, so the valet gig might be an in-the-meantime job rather than his actual calling or career.
We’ve looked into the split between Rarity’s love for her friends and her desire to grow past Ponyville and make it within the upper crust of pony society, and she’s dipped her hooves into that pool before (both successfully with Hoity Toity and Sapphire Shores and less so with Photo Finish), but this episode drops her right in the middle of Canterlot, the place she’s always dreamed of living and the home of both the royalty of Equestria and most of it’s high society citizens. Without the others there, it allows her to live out her dream of hobnobbing it up, both on the smaller scale that she starts with as well as the much higher end of pony society that she literally stumbles into. Unfortunately, it also allows her to start lying her butt off once she gets convinced that her humble roots are an obstacle in the way of being allowed to partake in being the creme de la creme.
Speaking of that line, oh my god I love the song in this episode. Rarity’s songs (usually) tend to be contenders for the best of the season, and Becoming Popular is (at least in my opinion) one of the best songs of season 2. It serves a definite purpose in the episode, carrying us through all of the events and gatherings that Rarity has gotten herself swept up in while in Canterlot, as well as really just summing up the dream that she’s getting to live. The song itself is just gorgeous, and the visuals are stuffed with easter eggs (most of Rarity’s outfits in the song are ones that she wore in previous episodes, and there are quite a few character cameos dropped in at various points of the song).
This is, oddly enough, in part another episode about a pony’s ego getting the better of them and the lengths they go to in order to make themselves look good, but it’s done so much more gracefully than last episode (and the very different flavor of Rarity’s ego compared to Rainbow Dash’s keeps it from feeling quite as repetitive as the two Dashie episodes in a row did). The problems Rarity causes for herself are plainly set up, with her putting less and less time aside for making Twilight’s dress. She tries the entire episode to have it both ways, convincing herself that her dwindling amount of time is still plenty to make a proper dress for her friend while never actually devoting any time towards doing it. In the end, her lies start swinging around to bite her in the rear. There’s no outside force exacerbating the situation (although Jet Set and Upper Crust definitely don’t help things), the situation that’s been set up that’s pulling Rarity in two directions is entirely her own doing, and she’s very clearly facing the stress and the consequences for having made that bed as she frantically tries to hold up both facades at the same time as they threaten to crash headfirst into one another. She’s clearly paying for her actions before anyone has to hold up the mirror to what she’s done, and it makes the payoff when she owns up to her actions on her own that much better and more genuine.
The end third of the episode also has some of the absolute best laugh-out-loud gags in the episode, and they almost entirely come from Rarity herself. Her initial sneaking outside to the garden party is the single best visual gag in the episode, and her excuses for hopping between parties deteriorating as she gets more and more frazzled eventually culminating in the muffled “What croquet mallet?” might be my favorite bit of the whole thing.
And last, but certainly not least, we have this… thing… that Twilight’s doing. Keep on bein’ adorkable, Twi.
Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge Tessa’s astute observation that this is the third ego-tastic episode we’ve had in a row (and, spoiler alert, the ego train may not be stopping at this episode either!). Rainbow Dash patting herself on the back is about as difficult to spot as the broad side of a barn, but somehow I absolutely missed the fact that this episode is indeed full of Rarity patting herself on the back, or at least feeling self-important enough to want to do so, anyway. For some reason I’m drawing an analogy of getting onto city streets after having been on the highway for hours whereby everything seems so slow to the point where you’re sure something must be wrong: going from Rainbow Brash to Rarity Suave in ten seconds flat is similarly disorienting, so much so that I totally didn’t make that connection even after all these years until reading that above.
I’ve always enjoyed slice-of-life episodes, and this is about as narrow a slice as you can get as Rarity is isolated from the rest of the Mane Six for the majority of it. And I think it’s for this reason I find the slice so delightfully rich and tasty: it shows that not only can Rarity exist apart from her friends, but that she can in fact thrive apart from them. Of course I’m not trying to imply that the Mane Six should stay away from each other more, but it really helps deepen Rarity’s character (who we already know to be quite independent and successful) to see her on her doing so well alone while still keeping her friends close to her heart. Relying on your friends to be a crutch (as I feel Rainbow and Pinkie do from time to time) seems very… what word do I want to use… not “shallow,” but not as appealing to me as knowing that you could still be okay without them. Sure, Rarity’s life would be emptier without her friends, but I think she could still succeed. Again, I don’t want to come off as sounding like I don’t value friendship (this is Friendship is Magic, after all!), but rather I find it important to be your own pony and let your friends fill your heart with sunshine… not be the only way to keep your own stormclouds at bay.
Of course, as Rarity quickly learns, not all friendships are truly friendly. Yes, they may get you onto fancy ships (har har), but they can also be as vapid as Fleur de Lis.
The other major reason I enjoy this episode? THAT SONG. This is a firm 1 on my rating scale, and to this day remains one of my favorite songs to listen to both in its original form and countless remixed forms. Yes, the subject matter is about getting tragically lost in your own sense of self-importance, but sweet Celestia it’s such a catchy and singable tune. Like Tessa, I find Rarity’s songs to be top-notch: Daniel Ingram sets her up with some great lyrics and Kazumi Evans absolutely nails them every time. The sheer amount of stuff that goes on during the song is also very impressive: many different locales, many different outfits, many different activities, many different ponies on-screen at once that I’m sure the animators’ heads spun when the storyboard was shown to them. Well, okay, with Flash you can just copy-paste-paste-palleteswap-paste-paste and you’re done, but still awesome work. Rarity is best toast. (And not Sweetie Belle toast, either.)
If there is one thing I had to grumble about this episode, it would be the Friendship Report. Yes, remembering where you came from and who your friends are is important, and is absolutely something that one should take to heart. But I don’t think that was the cause of Rarity’s undoing this episode: while she did try denying her ties to “uncouth” Ponyville, she never once forgot where she came from or that her Ponyville friends were her true best friends. In fact, I would argue that it was because of her inability to forget her friends that she set herself up for trouble. The wheels came off the moment she began lying to her friends (both the Mane Six and her Canterlot “friends”) about what she was up to, and when the worlds collided (I like that description, Weston! 😉 ) the horseapples just went straight into the fan. True friends would have understood her situation and would have loved her just the same. As it turns out, true friends also forgave her when she lied so much that she was caught with a croquet mallet in her mouth, so it’s all good after all. Nonetheless, a Friendship Report about the dangers of lying to one’s friends probably would have made more sense this episode.
Also, of note is that watching this episode again has changed my perception of Fancypants. For whatever reason I had gotten it into my head that he was an arrogant, stuck-up snob, and while he may be he’s not hostile or d-baggy about it. In fact, he’s quite the gentlecolt. Props to you, sir.
I like listening to songs that go on forever, and trance-y/dance-y/house-y remixes have a tendency to do just that. And what would you know, Becoming Popular lends itself quite well to trance-y/dance-y remixes! Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love it so much? Anyway, Becoming Popular by Archie is possibly the all-time greatest of greats in this regard; in fact, I believe this (and his other remixes) were some of the very first MLP remixes I heard, and I was hooked immediately. So much so that I began seeking out other remixes… and came across My Little Pony – Becoming Popular (JayB Remix) by JayB, which became another one of my all-time favorite remixes of this song. If a DJ played this on infinite loop at a club I’d dance to it until the management kicks me out. Great stuff.