For one of my recent “devotional” posts, I showed off my Captain America shrine. Since I’m a collector and have quite a few similar shelves/spaces, I decided it might be fun to do some more of those. Share pics, talk about what these characters mean to me, find some spiritual inspiration. Today, it’s unlikely besties Discord and Fluttershy.
They’re my favorite characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and these are not my only figures of them. Relatives and friends love getting me these guys as gifts and I’m super grateful, so they wind up all over in various collections. But this is the space dedicated just to them, on the other half of the shelf that houses the Cap figures. It’s their space in my office/prayer/recording room and therefore the one I see up close most frequently. In fact, this shelf is actually right behind me when I sit down for prayer/meditation time.
That’s more fitting than it may seem. Together, they represent some of my favorite character archetypes and tropes both in contemporary fiction and in religion/mythology. Fluttershy’s endless compassion is probably more obvious as a source of religious inspiration, but Discord is my favorite type of character in fiction. Actually, a couple of my favorites. On the one hand he’s chaotic and ridiculous and so. much. fun. But on the other he’s occasionally a major villain and has a long (and slightly repetitive) redemptive arc on the show.
He’s a bad guy, but he’s trying to learn to be a good guy through the power of friendship. This allows for lots of “awwwwww” moments especially with Fluttershy, the only pony who really has much patience for him. But there’s also “inevitable betrayal” moments that can be surprisingly heartbreaking for such a generally light series. I love those. Tragic villains regretting their actions and trying to be good is a huge guilty pleasure for me, I don’t know why. Just always has been.
But what’s even more interesting for me here is the way the two interact. Endless-compassion types have also always spoken to me in important ways. The Doctor, Sigyn (actually, Discord and Fluttershy often seem to me like a kid-friendly modern version of Loki and Sigyn, or at least something like I’d expect from them if there was a kids’ cartoon loosely based on Norse mythology), Disney’s Cinderella…it could be a long list, but those are my favorites and the ones that come to mind immediately. And they’re always just a bit better when they have a rival they care about but who is almost certainly going to hurt them again at some point.
Their decisions to trust and love anyway mean so much more when you know they know they’re likely to be disappointed. They don’t do it because they’re clueless or because they think they’re special and can save the other person or whatever. It’s just the way they are. Giving in to anger or fear or whatever and not continuing to show compassion in the face of betrayal would be truly losing. They lose in the short term but stay true to their values and because of that have hope that the betrayal isn’t the end of the story or the friendship. They can fight and win and deal with the betrayal when it happens but also rebuild when it’s over and gain back everything they lost.
It’s obvious that Discord truly cares for Fluttershy. I love the moments the show gives us that show they spend a lot of time together off-screen, that he puts her first when they’re together and goes out of his way to be kinder to her than he is to anyone else. I love tiny silly things like him pulling out her chair – just hers – when they’re in a group, and the way no one reacts to it because it’s not weird that he’s nice to her. It’s just the normal response to being around someone who radiates kindness and love the way she does.
I saw a comic panel shared where Hawkeye talks about Captain America and how just being around him makes you want to be a good person, and I think that’s part of what I love about both Cap and Fluttershy. There’s something very touching and hope-inducing about a character who’s so good that they don’t make you feel less good, they just make you want to be and do more good. No rivalry or shame, just hope and partnership. That’s the sort of world I want and the relationships I hope to build. I want us all to encourage the best in each other, not compete with each other. (BTW, if you know what comic that panel is from, please let me know. I want to read it.)
It’s not difficult for people to be nice to Fluttershy. She’s always nice to them, there’s no reason to be angry with her and being rude would feel especially awful because it’s so undeserved. It’s a lot harder to be nice to Discord. And when he does truly terrible things and she continues to be kind, she wins. It’s where her strength and goodness are shown the most clearly.
I worry that praising this kindness may seem like I’m decrying resistance or something, so I want to talk about that briefly. I get angry a lot. Quite often, that anger is justified. And my life isn’t even all that bad. So I’m not going to tell individuals and groups that face a lot more discrimination than I do how they’re supposed to respond to it, and my general feeling is that there is no amount of loving your enemy that will stop someone who is determined to hurt or kill you. Sometimes we will have to fight. The important thing to me in all this is that I not let myself be corrupted by it and start to see fighting or hurting others as the goal. That I can stay true to myself and love through the fight, and never become cruel or cause unnecessary harm. It’s sometimes difficult for me to fight injustice from a place of love rather than living in my fear and anger. But I have to believe it’s possible, and characters like these help me remember.