Author’s note: Before you start, I really want to emphasize that this is NOT written in the style of a traditional story - I really wanted to see if I could pull off something that seemed like part interview, part sociological/anthropological essay with MLP:FiM characters. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea that’s fine, but I want to be sure you know what to expect.
“Ugh…that is just typical,” Rainbow Dash muttered under her breath.
I was sitting in Dash’s cloud home near Ponyville, taking notes as she sat hunched over my laptop. Exactly how I as a human wound up as a pony in Equestria is something I currently do not wish to divulge out of respect for the privacy of the scientists on Earth and magicians in Equestria who made my transportation/transformation possible, but I will say it’s amazing who you can meet when you pursue a joint academic degree in anthropology and hippology.
As part of my exchange program with Canterlot University, I was conducting some research regarding Earth-Equestrian relations. Equestria has some knowledge of Earth, but it’s new and sketchy at best, something ponies have but a vague concept of and even less interest in – you see, most Equestrians are intrigued by their world and justifiably proud of the civilization their kind has shaped out of it. I’m not sure if it’s the strong ties the local inhabitants feel to nature or the direct link to the heavens Equestrians already have through their royalty, but Equestrians in general seem to only have interest in the universe beyond their world in so far as it directly affects them. As such, the knowledge of intelligent life beyond their world seems to have come not with shock, fear or delight, but with a shrug as everypony accepted the news before returning to their daily life.
On the flip side of that, Equestria has only recently been introduced to human audiences through media like the popular Friendship is Magic documentary series and has captured much interest among humans, being the ever-curious creatures that we are, persistently dissatisfied with the status quo (a concept that barely exists in Equestria, as it were). My curiosity brought me here to learn about Equestrian culture, which is how I wound up sitting across the kitchen table from a certain blue pegasus with a rainbow mane and tail.
“Just…typical,” she muttered again.
I must admit, I was nervous about this meeting. I had met with Rainbow Dash previously, but I was curious about her reaction to her popularity among Earth audiences. She was aware that her character in particular was popular with fans of the Friendship is Magic series, but she didn’t understand to what extent. Within Equestria she was still little known beyond Ponyville and while she seemed to like the idea of being a television star, she explained to me that she was at heart a flier and wanted to be know more for her skill and accomplishments as a weather mare and potential Wonderbolt than as a pony with a unique color scheme. I decided to bring along some examples of fan material from aficionados of the series, trying to offer a fair sampling of what was available regardless of personal taste, though I admit some bias was involved in my choices – I generally stuck to things that were at least well-regarded by myself or the brony community at large.
At the moment she was skimming through the third example of a shipping fanfic starring her that I had stored on my laptop’s hard drive. She had a bored expression on her face as she repeatedly tapped the down key, her eyes glazing over as she read through a passage describing a confession of love between her and somepony else. I was terrified she would react angrily to this, which is why we had spent most of the day looking over artwork featuring her pulling off Sonic Rainbooms or diving through epic storms, but the fascination with shipping Rainbow Dash in the brony community was such that my curiosity to her reaction overwhelmed my common sense.
Finally, she looked up at me. “You humans are horny, you know that?”
I stifled a snicker and blushed slightly, looking down at the table. “You don’t know the half of it.” Perhaps I should have found something else to represent the human race, but my morals told me I should present as full a picture as I could without offending anypony’s sense of decency.
Dash looked back at the screen. “Ew. With Applejack? Yeah…no thanks. Who wrote this, anyway?” she muttered, scrolling to the top of the page. “Brad Palomino? Is that a colt or a mare?”
“Brad is a male’s name, if that’s what you mean…” I responded.
“Well, maybe it’s not a human thing but like a colt thing,” she said, scratching her chin.
“You…speak from experience?” I asked hesitantly.
“Eeyup,” she said, doing her favorite Big Mac impression. “Flight school I’d get all these guys hitting on me, trying to get me to go on a date. They could never figure out that I just wasn’t interested.”
“Not interested in dating, or not interested in…well…” I realized the awkwardness of what I was about to ask just as it was forming on my tongue. “…colts?”
Dash shrugged. “Dating, I guess. I dunno, I just never thought about it. I just want to be a flier! Maybe one day I’ll fall for a colt or maybe I’ll fall for a mare, I don’t know what but I figure I’ll know when I know, you know?”
“So…you don’t even know your sexual orientation?” I asked.
“I really don’t care.”
“But you do see yourself settling down with somepony at some point, right?”
“Not really,” she replied before raising an eyebrow. “Why do you look so surprised? It’s like you think we’re all supposed to get married or something!”
“Well…” I rubbed my front hooves over each other, trying to figure out the best way to explain my surprise. “It’s just that…in my culture if you don’t find another person you love within your lifetime, you’re considered something of a failure.”
“Oh,” Dash said, giving me an odd look. “Well that’s stupid. Here if you don’t get married it’s not a big deal. I mean if you have foals, yeah, you gotta marry for that, but lots of ponies never marry.”
“Huh…” I muttered, rubbing a hoof over the back of my neck, a habit I had developed after growing a mane. “I guess that would help explain why there’s more focus on friendship in this world. But anyway, let’s get back to what you were saying about colts.”
“Oh, just that they would always hit on me,” Dash shrugged again. “You know, they have their fantasies about girls being madly in love or hiding their true romantic feelings or horseapples like that when we’re not. Well…most of us aren’t,” she muttered, and I could tell she was thinking of Rarity at the moment. “But reading this junk just reminded me of that.”
“How weird…” I puzzled over this for a moment. “I would have thought in a female-dominated society like Equestria all that stuff about girls…err, mares being the romantic type wouldn’t exist.”
“Colts are just hopeless romantics. What can you do?” Dash chuckled.
I laughed. “So it’s like a desperation card. I guess that’s true for humans too…though often it’s a display of domination on the part of the male.”
Dash snickered at this. “Friend, you’re in a place where mares control the sky, run most of the business, are some of the best fliers, and are the best magicians. Colts can have their silly romance.”
Indeed, there seems to be a lot of truth to this. Further research into this has shown me that while gender inequality is not nearly what it is on Earth, many of the aspects of Equestrian life are heavily segregated by gender. So while colts have a strong hold on the fields of manual labor and are compensated well for it, mares have a pretty solid grip on the academic (which includes magic), political and economic arenas (though one can find plenty of colts working in politics or the economy, they are still undoubtedly the minority). Sports are one of the few aspects of Equestrian society that are pretty evenly divided between the two genders, which would explain the diverse make-up of groups like the Wonderbolts.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t factor in the existence of the princess figures in this matter. Besides being female role models for the society, there is also their power to consider – for much of human history, brute physical strength has been an important factor in war and conquest, something that simply doesn’t exist in Equestria. Much like the Cold War concept of mutually assured destruction, there is a sense that any nation – even those run by carnivorous or omnivorous creatures stronger than herbivorous ponies – that would dare attack Equestria would only seal their own fate when considering the potential wrath of the god-like figures of Princess Celestia and Luna. This, coupled with the fact that skill in magic and flight hold just as much pragmatic value as muscular strength, places the advantage colts have over mares in physical strength at a much less central value to society than they would have to humans.
But I fear I may be veering off topic here. Allow me to return to Rainbow Dash’s views on the brony community. Following her comments regarding males of both species, we abandoned the shipping fan fiction and took to reading other examples of fiction from bronies. This may come as little surprise to those familiar with the series, but Dash particularly took to those stories that portrayed her in an epic or heroic light. Among her favorites were excerpts I showed her from It’s a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door and Controlling the Weather (though she pointed out several flaws regarding weather control within the latter story), but she also took well to some of the comedic works such as Sofa, So Good. Dash scoffed at the shipping stories and generally found the grim or sad stories not much to her liking. Afterwards we returned to looking at some of the artwork featuring her, which she seemed to enjoy to no end be it comedic, epic or otherwise.
“So why do you think you get so much attention in the brony community?” I finally asked.
“Uh, like you even have to ask?” she chortled. “I’m only the coolest pony around!”
“Would you say at least 20% cooler?” I couldn’t help but say.
Dash rolled her eyes. “Oh hardy har har. You know how often I hear that said back to me? And I only said it like once.” Nevertheless, she later admitted that she was pleased that the line (along with the phrase “Ten Seconds Flat”) was so popular within the brony community.
Ultimately though, Rainbow Dash told me she didn’t think about the brony community very much, and was admittedly thankful for this fact. “Don’t get me wrong, I love what they do,” she told me, “but if I thought about them all the time I couldn’t focus on flying.” Ponyville may be the representation of this world to Earthly audiences, but within Equestria it is but a single small village out of many overshadowed by its proximity to the capitol city of Canterlot, relatively isolated and unknown amongst most Equestrians even despite recent events. As such, Rainbow Dash’s popularity within Equestrian only extends to a few small circles, namely the village of Ponyville and close followers of flying competitions – casual fans of pegasus sport tend only to pay attention to the Wonderbolts, while only hardcore fans will pay mind to specialized events like the Best Young Flier competition.
“Do you think you’ll have to leave Ponyville to make a name for yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah, most likely…” she said, disappointment creeping into her voice. “Ponyville’s great but it’s not very big, so I gotta leave at some point. I don’t like thinking about it though…I got the weather and I got my friends here, so I’m staying for now.”
“If you traveled to Earth, even just for a little while, I know you would be hugely popular. Humans can’t fly without special machines, so your feats would just dazzle us,” I pointed out.
“It’s tempting, but…” Dash thought about it for a moment. “I don’t really want the attention of humans. I mean don’t get me wrong, but you humans flying around in your…whachama call ‘em, planes? All cooped up in metal tubes with wings attached? That’s boring! You humans just don’t know what real flying is like, so you could never appreciate just how much work goes into what I do. I know I make flying look easy, but…” she trailed off for a moment. “I want to be seen by someponies that really get flying. That know how much work I put into it.”
I nodded. “Ponies like the Wonderbolts?”
“Exactly,” she said, looking satisfied.
The rest of the day was spent touring her cloud home, with me asking questions about various aspects of pegasus life. I should point out here that I had a cloud-walking spell cast on me, similar to the one Twilight Sparkle uses in the Sonic Rainboom episode of the Friendship is Magic series. Dash gave me a brief explanation of weather control, offering a demonstration of cloud kicking and allowing me to attempt it, but I found the technical aspects of it all far too overwhelming, which didn’t seem to surprise the pegasus. As it happens, there is a great deal of muscle memory and training involved in proper weather control, and my human upbringing and admittedly non-athletic build conspired to make cloud kicking something I could never have a proper grasp of. To paraphrase Rainbow Dash, cloud kicking was just something the wingless would never get.
Reading up on pegasus culture, I came upon an interesting fact: despite the importance placed on friendship in Equestrian society, pegasus are generally considered the most solitary of the three pony races, owing in large part to the fact that they live in locations generally inaccessible to the rest of ponykind. The importance pegasus place on flight in their daily lives means that it is often considered unusual among pegasus to make friends with unicorns and Earth ponies, although this only seems to be truly the case in large pegasus cities such as Cloudsdale. But this notion has translated into a stereotype among unicorns and Earth ponies of the pegasus as a solitary or independent being, which offers potential answers to some intriguing questions I never would have thought to ask otherwise – for instance, why a unicorn such as Twilight Sparkle would be scolded for not making pony friends, while a pegasus like Fluttershy would be accepted for spending most of her time amongst other creatures. Or why fiercely independent creatures like griffons would feel a sense of kinship with pegasus while generally avoiding the supposedly more social unicorn and Earth pony races.
Passing by the rainbow stream flowing outside Rainbow Dash’s house, I also learned something about the importance of rainbows to ponykind. While they are manufactured like all other weather phenomenon in Equestria, the advanced technical knowledge involved in creating one and the relative rarity of its occurrence mean they hold an almost sacred place in Equestrian culture – given that they occur after storms, the rainbow represents a new dawn, the end of troubles or even a rebirth, and this is perhaps best reflected by the rainbow unleashed by the Elements of Harmony which cleansed Princess Luna of Nightmare Moon’s influence. Pegasus, usually the only ones capable of creating rainbows, thus hold great pride in the symbol of the rainbow and display it much like how humans on Earth display religious icons. In the case of Rainbow Dash, while many pegasus praised her appearance as a filly some seemed to take offense to her apparent adoption of the image of a rainbow, regarding it almost as a form of blasphemy (for her part, Dash has always considered this simply the result of envy on the part of her peers), though these objections were permanently muted when it was widely revealed that Rainbow Dash was capable of producing a rainbow all her own, which adds extra significance and a deeper understanding to the importance of the Sonic Rainboom.
At this point my visit with Rainbow Dash came to its conclusion, and I wished her farewell. I hope you have found this reading worthy of your time and attention and that it helps spread a greater understanding of Equestrian culture to my fellow humans. As a final note, I would like to thank Rainbow Dash in particular for offering her time to a fanboy, one not even of her world. Your generosity is appreciated more than you can possibly know.
Cheval, Erudite. Cultures of the Pegasus: A New History. Canterlot Press, 2010.
Twinkle, Sky, and June Bloom. Gender and Race in Equestria. 5th ed. Cloudsdale: Sky, 2008.
"Pegasus." New Encyclopaedia Unicornica. 2011 ed.
Friendship is Magic. Creator Lauren Faust. Hasbro, 2010-2011.
Soaring, Sweep. "What Rainbows Mean to Me." Editorial. Cloudsdale Weekly 26 Aug. 2010: 16.
Equestria Daily. < http://www.equestriadaily.com/ >.