Heed the Steed: Moral Lessons From My Little Pony

Everypony knows that each episode of “Friendship is Magic” concludes with one of the mane six explaining what they learned about friendship. More observant viewers may even pick out multiple morals in some of the pony’s tales. The episode “Putting Your Hoof Down” is a shining example of how “My Little Pony” can offer gems of wisdom about the nuances of pleasant social interactions between people and ponies of all ages.

The Story

Tired of being pushed around, Fluttershy signs up for assertiveness lessons with Iron Will the minotaur. The Iron Will method is best summed up in the line, “When somepony blocks, show them you rock!”; in other words, the way to get what you want is to push others out of the way.

Her friends are at first impressed with her surge of confidence, but Fluttershy soon alienates herself by attacking or screaming at anyone who even mistakenly affronts her. After making Pinkie Pie and Rarity cry, Fluttershy declares herself to be a monster and locks herself inside her home where she can’t hurt anyone. When Iron Will arrives expecting payment, Fluttershy invokes the “100% satisfaction guaranteed” clause and politely refuses to pay because his techniques caused her to hurt others. When Iron Will begins to argue, Fluttershy maintains her resolve asserting, “No means no.” Iron Will, impressed with the pony’s new-found strength, leaves and comments that “No means no” may become a new mantra for his workshops. The other ponies compliment Fluttershy on her assertiveness, she apologizes for her rudeness and everypony makes up.

The Morals

1. Being assertive isn’t the same as being aggressive

When other ponies cut in front of her in line at the market, Fluttershy is at first reluctant to stand up for herself. However, after taking classes with Iron Will, she insists on always being first even if it means hurting others. Shy people sometimes must try extra hard to get noticed, but Fluttershy quickly learns that being a jerk does nothing but drive everypony away.

2. Don’t run from your problems (or your friends)

When Fluttershy realizes that she’s hurt her friends, she isolates herself instead of apologizing and trying to make things better. This scene unveils the true culprit behind Fluttershy’s problems: lack of confidence. She trusts herself so little that she gives up on taking any actions at all. Fortunately, her friends understand how her internal logic works, so they take initiative and let Fluttershy know that they forgive her. Their unconditional love demonstrates that it’s better to address problems with friends than to ignore them and hope they go away.

3. Changing your behavior doesn’t mean changing who you are

After taking lessons from Iron Will, Fluttershy disavows her polite personality because she believes that her kindness causes other ponies to take advantage of her. When her friends say that they miss “nice Fluttershy”, she insists that the old Fluttershy was a wimp and a push over. Ironically, it’s Fluttershy’s politeness that convinces Iron Will to refund her money. She didn’t need to stop being nice to be assertive; she just had to learn to be assertive in a way that fit her personality.

4. No means no!

Even Iron Will learns a lesson. He boasts that he is so confident in his techniques that unsatisfied customers won’t be charged, yet he tries to argue when Fluttershy refuses to pay for his services. Eventually, he is so impressed with Fluttershy’s insistence on him sticking to his word that he adopts her response as a new motto for his classes, which shows that teachers can learn from their students.