Over the weekend I saw “Too Many Pinkie Pies” (FiM S3 E3). A good episode, but one that had a jaw-breaker of a moral punch packed inside it.
For those who haven’t seen it –
(turn back now)
Ok, no complaining if you’re still here. Ahem. Pinkie Pie magically clones herself. A lot. Her clones aren’t perfect copies though – they have the ability to feel at least some emotions (fun, and boredom, and anxiety) but are easily distractible, don’t seem to think much, and don’t share all of Pinkie’s memories of her friends. They aren’t zombies, but they aren’t fully Pinkie either. Maybe a moderately mentally disabled Pinkie (yes, insert joke here, haha).
As the episode title suggests, this creates an ecological dilemma. Ponyville’s Carrying Capacity of Pinkie Pies is greatly exceeded. This is resolved by MURDERING ALL THE OTHER PINKIE PIES. They call it “returning them to the Mirror Pool” – but c’mon… a thinking, sapient person (if perhaps a mentally handicapped one) has been removed from existence. The fact that there’s no body shouldn’t make that much difference. The animation when they are “returned” is also pretty gruesome – Twilight literally blasts the Pinkie Pie with a laser (repeated shots of the laser cause her horn to heat to the point of glowing), and that Pinkie Pie then swells up grotesquely, eyes bulging, before winking out.
No one in Ponyville has a problem with this. The Mane Six are all present and approving.
The “we cannot support more people, sorry but you must die” narrative is a classic one, and it can make for great stories. I’m familiar with the SF/F genre, so I immediately think of The Cold Equations, but there’s many examples of it. In every one that I’ve read there is a great deal of angst. It’s acknowledged that this is a terrible situation and the killing is wrong, but the killing must be done because the consequence of NOT doing so is even worse. The emotional impact of the story comes from being forced to do something monstrous to avoid an even greater atrocity.
Too Many Pinkie Pies followed the structure of this story, but without any sort of regret or compassion or even acknowledgement that killing people is sorta a crappy thing to do. Just “Zap! Mass Murder! Ok, now cake!” It was really creepy. It was particularly creepy because you don’t expect to see this sort of callous disregard for life in a kid’s TV show. It actually shocked me, and I tried to shake it off, but it’s stuck with me. So I’m writing this post. I wish to register my disapproval with the board!
Seriously though, WTF? There was no hesitation, no discussion about the morality of idealism vs pragmatic survival. No debate as to whether the diminished half-brain-damaged Pinkies have a right to life, or comparing their quality of existence to that of the fully-functional Pinkie. I know it’s a kid’s show and I don’t expect it to engage the question on that level. But if you’re not going to address these sorts of problems you should just ship the excess Pinkies off to Canterlot and Manehattan and all the other places across Equestria to avoid that moral landmine, rather than going straight for the final solution. There’s ways to dodge this bullet dammit! Either dodge it and be a fluffy show, or bite it and make a cool GrimDark story of harsh survival. Not acknowledging anything is wrong is disturbing.
Also – The Real Ending below! :) (Warning – really creepy. Not canon tho.)
I kind of really like that episode. I do not think that the *other pinkies* are in fact real sentient beings. They are magically created clones. No one was getting murdered. The other pinkies never actually displayed what you might refer to as sentience (unless all animals are sentient and I dont see how that works if you arent a vegetarian), nor do we have any reason to believe they arent just going back from whence they came since this is a magical fairytale world after all. So since im in no way shape or form sure its murder im also unsure that things did not in fact transpire as they ought. Besides if they other pinkies didnt come from the mirror pool, then where did they come from. If they did come from the mirror pool, why cannot they be sent back to it.
I like it too actually. It was funny, had some good character- and world-building, and the intended moral was well-delivered. It was just the murder that was jarring.
I don’t think it matters how a being came into existence. Why should a magically-created being have less moral weight than a live-birth being? If the origin is a mirror pool rather than a uterus… so what? Could you force your clone into slavery, if you so chose? IMHO – no, a sentient being is a sentient being and has its own rights regardless of how it was conceived. Maybe this is why some people were so against IVF originally, and why they’re so against human cloning now – they haven’t internalized that.
In my opinion the only question is whether the new Pinkies are, in fact, sentient beings. From what was portrayed in the episode, they did appear to be so. Although perhaps somewhat brain damaged. So they may have lesser moral weight (arguable), but they shouldn’t have none.