Don’t let the cool-sounding title fool you. This is a My Little Pony post. In particular, this is a post about Spike the baby dragon, Twilight Sparkle’s servant and friend, a disturbingly accurate symbol of boyhood in feminist America.
Imagine a world in which each person has a unique talent and destiny, and it’s conveniently printed on her ass. That’s the world of the ponies of Equestria. Each pony has a predestined role, revealed in due time by the appearance of her cutie mark. The role may be humble, but it is always a fit to her interests and abilities, and it is always good. (There are, so far as I know, no evil cutie marks.)
Spike is a dragon, although unlike other dragons, he is missing his wings (a symbolically significant detail). Dragons don’t have cutie marks, but they do have undoubted powers and inclinations. The trouble is, Spike has been raised since hatching by ponies, who know nothing about dragon society and have no idea how the distinctive qualities of dragons are meant to relate to survival or the common good. Unlike the ponies, Spike exists in a state of alienation from his nature. It is no artistic accident that Spike is also a boy dragon in a girl-dominated environment. True, Spike’s master, Twilight, has an older brother who seems masculine in a well-adjusted way (former captain of the royal guard, married to the unmistakably feminine Princess Cadence), but Spike doesn’t seem to have spent much time with him or with any other masculine role models. His friends are Twilight and her five major girlfriends.
How does Spike relate to his dragon nature? In the season 2 episode “Secret of my Excess”, receiving birthday gifts trigger’s Spike’s dragon hoarding instinct, causing him to begin growing up into an increasingly large, voracious dragon. No doubt, these instincts serve some important purpose in a dragon’s natural habitat, but in Ponyville, they seem purely anti-social. In the end, Spike repudiates his natural greed, shrinking back into a baby dragon. He is thus left in the unnatural state of having no morally acceptable way to pass into dragon adulthood.
How like boys of today! They find themselves confronted with powerful new urges without an adequate social context to understand their purpose, to morally validate them. In a healthy society, fatherhood is honored, and so the sex drive exists in a clear moral context, restricting but also validating it. Feminist America demonizes male sexuality, seeing it as ordered, not to fatherhood, but to rape. A boy who takes his society’s values seriously is bound to see his new desires as monstrous. Even greater is the hostility society shows toward natural male aggressiveness. Traditional society restricted, but also validated, masculine aggressiveness by giving it a meaning: the calling of a man to protect his family and city. The modern world thinks it has no need of protectors, and so hopes to shame or drug these instincts out of men.
Perhaps Spike could come to terms with his dragon-nature if he were to seek out the society of fellow dragons. In the season 2 episode “Dragon Quest”, Spike, finding his alienation from his nature unbearable, sets out to join the Great Dragon Migration and learn “what it means to be a dragon”. He meets up with a gang of unsupervised male teenage dragons at a volcano. The gang tease Spike and subject him to a number of difficult and embarrassing tests to prove his worth. Three of Spike’s pony friends, watching in disguised, are shocked to find Spike responding with enthusiasm. What’s brilliant about this episode is that it’s shown from the perspective of these girl ponies who can’t understand the psychological forces at play. Probably most of the little girls watching don’t understand it either. Spike is getting his first taste of male companionship and camaraderie. Having to prove himself is important to him, although he is frightened and probably doesn’t understand it himself. What the ponies don’t recognize, but adult viewers will, is that although the teenage dragons are acting tough with Spike, they’re actually showing quite a bit of restraint and accommodation to this baby. Belly flopping into lava is not actually impressive, but it lets them give him the sense of having earned membership. Men being the ritualistic sex, Spike is them put through an initiation ritual, followed by a night of revelry with his new companions. Again, the ponies are horrified. How can Spike want to stay with these awful dragons?
Unfortunately, the gang, lacking adult supervision, is prone to mischief. They take Spike along to raid a phoenix nest and then turn on him when he refuses to follow along and smash an unhatched egg. Spike runs away with his Pony friends, and ends the episode accepting his state of alienation as permanent, writing to Princess Celestia that “what I am” and “who I am” are not the same. From now on, Spike will take no guidance from his dragon–or, one fears, his masculine–nature. He will rely only on the abstract guidelines the ponies have given him about kindness and loyalty.
It is a disturbing ending, at least to those who understand the episode fully and realize the magnitude of the tragedy. There is nothing wrong per se with the moral principles the ponies have given Spike. What the ponies haven’t given him, because they cannot give it to him, is a way to relate these abstract moral imperatives to his own nature, a way to see his own abilities and inclinations in their light. So it is as well with boys in today’s world, deprived of natural law and traditional culture. We conservatives like to sneer at the morality of “niceness”, but in fact, young people today are given basic principles much better and sterner than mere agreeableness. They know that doing the right thing can sometimes involve unpleasant confrontations. They know that they should be promoting other peoples’ interests and positively contributing to society as a whole. All true, as far as it goes. And yet it is missing the connection between the abstract and their own given natures and histories that natural law and tradition exist to provide.
Spike the baby dragon has real virtues–courage, loyalty, compassion. And yet I fear he will always be trapped in a truncated existence. His boyish fantasies of heroism and adulthood (yet even his comic books are about superhero ponies) shall remain like his crush on Rarity–yearnings with no imaginable consummation.