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Was Carrie Justified?

carrie prom stephen king

I was talking with my wife last night about scary movies. Carrie came up. I said didn’t understand what scared her about it because I saw Carrie as a revenge/comeuppance story, not a horror movie. Then she stared at me, horrified. And I asked what I could say next that wouldn’t end with me sleeping on the couch.

Because Carrie is a powerful moment in story-telling. Maybe not the strongest, but definitely a pulse. It jumpstarts Stephen King’s influence in horror and he’s no stranger to the “revenge” plot. He also wrote Rage (which literally is about a disenfranchised student taking over a classroom with a gun) and Roadwork (a man massacres the construction team bulldozing his house because of the gub’mint) and The Running Man and Thinner.

Rage (King novel) - Wikipedia
Honestly, this guy looks more at home in a Flannery O’Connor short story

The movie, some say, surpasses the book. It’s one of the top films of its decade, got Oscar noms, and is known for the best jump scare in cinema ever. Without it, there’s no Heathers or Better Off Dead.

Also, keep in mind, this is way before Columbine, when high school mass murder became a national pastime. Carrie came out forty-five years ago. The book two years before that. The original idea far before that, probably in the sixties. (And the musical in 1988, but we don’t talk about that.)

But here’s the question: did Carrie White do right or wrong? Was she justified in killing her entire high school class?


20 Bullying Cartoons ideas | bullying, stop bullying, anti bullying

On the surface, it seems the answer is “no”. Carrie’s retribution goes too far for what they did to her. No matter the situation, no one has the right to take someone else’s life away (unless it’s immediate self-defense).

But what is Carrie supposed to do? What are her options? Is she supposed to talk to them? Sit each girl down and tell them how they hurt her feelings?

Or is she just supposed to endure it until she gets out of high school? Just “take it like a man”? As if this is some punishment she deserves.

Because there is no good solution to dealing with bullies. This article tells it better than I can, but it outlines what you already know. Tell an adult? What are they going to do? Walk with you 24/7? Get the law involved? There’re no laws regarding bullying. Kids are left to fend for their own.

Look at the catalyst event–the gym teacher punishes the bullies, which motivates them to seek revenge. Not on the teachers who took away their prom tickets, but on Carrie. You can’t drill empathy with push-ups. The principal can’t even get Carrie’s name right–keeps calling her “Cassie”.

Ignoring bullies doesn’t make them go away. Either they know they’re getting to you (because you’ve been told to “just ignore it”) or they don’t care about a reaction–they do it for their own self-gratification. You can’t run away. Certainly Carrie can’t, being A) a teenager B) having no money C) having an overbearing mom. In fact, Carrie’s worst fear is living the rest of her life with her mother, gaining weight, getting lonelier & lonelier.

You can’t fight back. Think about it–did any fight you have in high school resolve the situation? For one thing, that’s just not “how it’s done” in the girls’ world of 1974. For another, you might not win. For another another, there will be consequences. There’s the possibility of a permanent injury for one (one of my HS teachers told a story about a kid in a fight whose eye was hanging out of its socket, dangling by the optic nerve). For another, both of you get punished. Because no one cares to dig deeper into who started the fight or why it came about.

In Carrie, we are witness to two major incidents of bullying. One is where they throw the tampons at her in the shower. The other is the bucket of blood at the prom. But we can presume there were many many more incidents before this, given everyone’s behavior and the “carte blanche” the school gives them, given they fail to recognize any wrong-doing. “Girls will be girls.”

But bullying is insidious. It’s only been recognized as a problem recently, thanks to Columbine, various other school shootings, and documentaries like “Bully“.

Keep in mind bullying is not about power, it’s about pride. Pride is the domination of the self over others*. The bullies’ pride comes from believing that they are not lowlifes like Carrie. They reinforce that by abusing her and the lack of consequences of that abuse proves they were right. Until consequences come. But rather than accept them, the bullies double down so their beliefs don’t have to change.

*In fact, all sins are about power and abuse of it.

  • Gluttony – power over sustenance/nutrients/abundance (the consumption of food when you don’t need it is a demonstration of power over those who have no food)
  • Anger – power over the power of others (e.g. power over those you hate, either those above you on the totem pole, like politicians, or below you, like immigrants or other races)
  • Sloth – power over lack of action (a.k.a. the power of choosing to do nothing)
  • Pride- power over the self and others’ perception of yourself
  • Greed – power over material objects
  • Envy – giving power over external desires
  • Lust – giving power to internal desires
And you now know the acronym I use to remember the seven deadly sins — GASP GEL.

King was remarkably prescient about all this. But was that his intention?


Stephen King | On Writing | Josh Mosey

Carrie (the character) is partially based on a real-life girl Stephen King knew in elementary school. A “peculiar girl from a peculiar family”. A girl everyone wanted to stay in her station.

“[T]he girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she’d bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she’d changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had ever seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold.”

From “On Writing”, I think

What do you do with that? What are you supposed to do when society itself won’t let you up? They make fun of your clothes, but when get better ones, they treat you worse.

That’s the character. What about the plot? Strangely, fear of student-led mass murder was not the original theme. In Danse Macabre, King says:

“Carrie is largely about how women find their own channels of power and what men fear about women and women’s sexuality… which is only to say that, writing the book in 1973, I was fully aware of what Women’s Liberation implied for me and others of my sex. The book is, in its more adult implications, an uneasy masculine shrinking from a future of female equality.”

“Danse Macabre”

I take that to mean the fear factor is men’s anxiety of women getting power (remember — this is the seventies). What happens when girls realize they are women. What if they pull the whole rotten society down? It’s a worst-case scenario, but that’s what horror movies do. This means Carrie’s actions are justified if you think the world tree needs its misogynist branches severely pruned.

Broke Horror Fan on Twitter: "Original artwork & prints from  @Galleries1988's Stephen King tribute art show are now online:…"

Often, King’s stories are about monsters all around. In Pet Sematary, it’s not the people coming back to life, it’s the people who bury them there in the first place because they can’t deal with their grief. In The Stand, it’s not the virus, it’s the psychos and selfish ones left (as in any apocalypse story). In It, it’s not Pennywise the Clown, it’s the adults of Derry that cause the fear that Pennywise exploits (okay maybe it’s a little bit Pennywise). My point is, there’s no one you can turn a blind eye to.

Which means we have to determine what kind of story this is to glean its meaning. In Save the Cat, there’s no category for vengeance stories. It’s not a Golden Fleece or Whydunit or an Institutionalized. Revenge, as a motivation, can fit into any category.


I can’t decide whether what Carrie is a Superhero story, an Out of the Bottle story, or Rites of Passage.

Premium Photo | Superhero cat, scottish whiskas with a blue cloak and mask.

Superhero stories have three key elements: a special power, a nemesis, and a curse.

The special power is obviously telekinesis. She didn’t have to work for it, but she does have to learn how to use it. Some clues imply that her emotional trauma causes the power to manifest, but there’s no firm evidence.

This emotional trauma is the curse she must suffer for having these powers. You could say it’s the curse of womanhood, since getting her period is what triggers her powers. But bullying is what she has to put up with, like Harry Potter being hunted by Voldemort or Superman having to balance his alien/human life. The difference is Carrie succumbs to this curse. With great power comes great responsibility not to kill your entire high school.

The king bully, the nemesis, is her mother. She’s supposed to be Carrie’s salvation, but instead, she directly hammers her back down whenever she shows an inkling of rebellion. She represents the “old way” of woman, that they must be disciplined and subservient and everything is sinful. But here’s her daughter going out with boys and wearing make-up and doing all these progressive things. She lacks faith in her daughter.

This lack of faith drives the nemesis to destroy the hero. (That’s why she’s so mean–if Carrie’s mother really believed she was right, she wouldn’t need to tyrannize Carrie to prove it.) And when Carrie fights back, that faith is shattered. The only recourse is to kill her.

But Out of the Bottle has similar elements: a hero deserving of magic, a spell, and a lesson to learn.

Carrie, our hero definitely deserves her magic–she’s been powerless all her life, at school and at home. Her telekinesis forms part of her “B story” as she learns about the new world where she has clout. How she came by these powers is irrelevant. (Someone somewhere mentions genes, but who cares. It’s what do you do with it that’s important.)

And finally is the lesson. Carrie learns two. First is at the prom: humans gonna human. Her mom was right–they were all gonna laugh at her after all. So there was no point in reaching for something she was never going to get.

But then her mom tries to kill her, so her way certainly isn’t it (the second lesson). Therefore the only solution is take herself out–she can’t live in a world that doesn’t allow her to, similar to Terminator 2: Judgement Day or the deleted ending of The Butterfly Effect.

(Fun fact: in the movie, she telekinetically collapses the house on herself. In the book and 2013 remake, she summons a meteor storm that crushes her house, like some Final Fantasy spell.)

Final Fantasy V Part #26 - Galuf vs. X-Death

Then I looked up Rites of Passage. That includes a life problem (a universal challenge that’s an unavoidable part of life — in this case, high school), attacking the problem in the wrong way (trusting others like Tommy and Sue, letting them build up her confidence, ignoring the warnings of her mother, which all lead to Carrie murdering four hundred people) and acceptance (a solution to dealing with this stage in life… which, in this case, is Carrie’s suicide. There is no place in the world for her to be happy, so she destroys herself).

It’s all about what key elements are most at the forefront. I don’t think it’s Superhero because Carrie is not about sacrificing personal comfort to become the people’s champion. And if it’s Rites of Passage, the lesson is pretty bleak. That means it’s thematically about wish fulfillment.


Victor el Bizarro - Genie. Aladdin fan art

There aren’t too many good movies where it’s all about the hero taking revenge. It’s too hard to make a hero sympathetic who’s committing murder left and right. That’s the villain’s rag. Thus they’re relegated to one of two types.

  • Right-leaning shoot-em-ups: Death Wish, John Wick, Road House, or Joker
  • Comic book levels of ridiculousness: Kill Bill, I Spit On Your Grave, or Oldboy

Maybe The Princess Bride‘s squeaks out, but Inigo Montoya is a supporting character. I did come across one recently that I loved: Promising Young Woman. It’s not a conservative fantasy or a cartoonish romp. What does this mean for cinema? I don’t know. And I’m getting sidetracked.

Carrie is a tragic hero, like Sweeney Todd or Hamlet. Their killing’s okay because they seek justice where no justice can come. Hamlet’s murdering uncle is king so there’s no way he’s going to trial. Same for Judge Turpin. There’s no fairness in this world, so we have to get it where we can. Because secretly, we want all bad guys dead. We just don’t want to bloody our hands to do it.

Don’t believe me? Heroes kill people all the time, you just turn a blind eye to it. Batman leg grabs a guy like Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat, cracks his head into a bell, then throws him down an 800-foot cathedral shaft. What are you going to say? Gravity killed him?

Then in the fourth movie (Batman & Robin) he throws a bunch of Two-Face’s coins up in the air while he’s precariously balanced on a girder. And of course, Two-Face stumbles and plummets to his death. Like, what did Batman think was going to happen when he did that?

That seems to be the go-to way that cinema gets rid of bad guys without making the hero tread those murky moral waters. Spider-man could have totally grabbed the guy who fell out the window.

The whole theme of Captain America: Civil War is the Sokovia Accords — heroes are making too much collateral damage and people are dying. It’s accidental, but it brings up the question of whether the Avengers have too much power.

Heroes like Deadpool, Wolverine, and The Punisher act realistic to their villains. Because not everyone deserves to live. These people aren’t going to have some kind of redemption day. But Superman twists Zod’s neck as he’s about to laser a lobby full of people and everyone loses their minds. The audience wants to have it both ways.

The whole crux of the “Under the Red Hood” comic arc in Batman is that Jason Todd (Robin), who was literally killed by the Joker, is pissed that Batman keeps letting Joker live. It’s just a perpetual cycle of he’s arrested, he escapes and kills people, he’s arrested, he escapes and kills people. One might argue the justice system is letting him out, but the whole point of Batman is that he can operate outside the broken system of justice. That’s the point of any superhero. (Related article: Why Can’t Superheroes Kill?)

Batman: Under The Red Hood Full - Read Batman: Under The Red Hood Full comic  online in high… | Batman comic art, Batman and superman, Jason todd

I swear I’m trying to relate this back to Carrie.

My point is heroes get this “pass” because deep down, we know not all life is sacred. You know it and I know it. Do cops think life is sacred? Certainly not the black ones. Do you think the terrorists from 9/11 believed life was sacred?

Do you think the terrorists’ lives themselves were sacred? Let me ask you this: if you had the chance to save Mohamed Atta‘s life right before his hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, would you do it? I can guess your answer. (And no, you can’t save him so he stands trial–he’s teleported to an African savannah or somewhere he’s safe and out of jurisdiction).

So if heroes don’t think all life is sacred, why should Carrie? Why should you?

Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan - Carrie | Carrie movie, Stephen king  movies, John travolta

All these people are the worst kind of people (like I said–King writes about monsters upon monsters). Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan aren’t going to be missed. They’re not on their way to promising careers as doctors. Hell, not even good enough to be TikTok influencers (if that was a thing at the time).

All of them (except Sue, who becomes the final girl), take great delight in the misery of Carrie. At different degrees, sure, but they do it. And taking pleasure from someone else’s pain is the definition of evil. It’s not whether they deserve to die, it’s whether they deserve to live.


You simply can’t go through what Carrie went through and come out the other side a normal upstanding young woman.

Through the story, Carrie goes from the lowest point in her life to the happiest. She starts by cowering naked in a corner of the shower, at her most vulnerable, being abused and assaulted by people who are supposed to be her friends and peers

At the end, she’s on a date with the cutest boy in school, dancing, dressed and beautiful like the girls she wants to be like. There she is on stage, crowned as prom queen. Everyone loves and praises her. It’s like a dizzying dream.

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Then it’s all taken out from her. She’s standing in front of everyone, covered in blood, like she was before. They’ve all gone from cherishing her to laughing at her. She’s right back where she started in the shower. You can’t go from the best moment in your life to the worst so quickly and not expect something to snap. The human mind simply isn’t fixed for that.

I read something in a book recently that sums this up perfectly.

“[H]uman beings have limits. And you can say all you want about the world being unfair and people rising above the atrocities done to them, but everyone is different. Some are hard as steel, but some are fragile, and you never know which one you’re going to get.”

-from Memory Man by David Baldacci


The thing about vengeance is you can’t stop. It gets bigger and bigger until it takes out everyone. Maybe that’s why Batman keeps dissuading Robin from killing Two-Face in Batman & Robin. Maybe that’s why he has his vow against killing. Because once he jumps into that abyss, there’s no jumping back out. It destroys your ability to differentiate the guilty from the innocent. As suddenly everyone looks like they were part of the crime.

“The person who pursues revenge should dig two graves.”

Old proverb

So Carrie is like a shockwave. First, she takes out those who were mean to her. The ones who wronged her. Then those who laughed at her. Then everyone.

It’s like a rolling boulder. And the only way to stop it is to run in front and get killed. That’s why so many vengeance plots end with the protagonist dying at the same time. (e.g. Ravenous, The War of the Roses, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, The Prestige, The Hateful Eight. Oh, spoilers.)

Add some temporary insanity to that, and you have a gym full of high school student soup. He who fights monsters must ensure they do not become one themself.

Carrie Review | Movie - Empire

The sad thing is, if Carrie had done nothing and waited until she could get out of the crap town she was in, the crap high school, the crap house, the crap life, things might have gotten better for her. But when you’re pushed against the wall like that, with no ways to answer back, how do you act? You might say Carrie acted wrong. I say “what options did she have?”

What Carrie did wasn’t right. But if I was on the jury at her trial, I would vote “not guilty.”

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Tropes vs. Anita Part Deux

anita sarkessian women video games

Oh look, Anita Sarkeesian made a new video. That only took her, what, two months and twenty-one days? And she’s got 12 videos to make? Fantastic. At this rate, she’ll be done by November 2015. Good investment for all those kickstarter contributors.

I feel like I should offer a critique like I did before, but I actually have fewer bones to pick with this one. The same issues I had with the last video remain. Like cherry-picking data — she’s starting with her point and then finding just the evidence that proves it. She doesn’t consider the medium as a whole. If you only use movies like “A Serbian Tale” and “The Human Centipede”, of course you’re going to have a skewed view of patterns in the medium.

If I wanted to, I could make a great case about the representation of fathers vs. mothers in the same medium. We’re vilified as being incompetent, evil, or unnecessary. Any movie about fatherhood is either “Daddy Day Care” or “Taken“. But I won’t because I’m already playing on the easiest level.

Then there’s the failure to take into consideration the culture of origin for the games, i.e., Japan vs. America. Japan is not great with its feminism in the first place. They value style over substance. They don’t make many original stories or take creative risks. “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down”. Just look at the Final Fantasy or Godzilla.

Then there’s knowing the audience. A dark and gritty game centered on violence/combat as the chief mechanic is going to cater to males. Nuff said. Video game companies do not make these with women in mind. Women simply are not the market for those games. I’m not saying women don’t like those games. But their dark and gritty tends more towards Jacqueline Carey, Mira Grant, The Hunger Games, or various animes.

And that’s what she’s focusing on today. Instead of looking at any game from 2001-2013 that’s sexist, she focuses on those “dark and gritty” games like The Darkness, Castlevania, and Shadows of the Damned. The damsel in distress has become the damsel stuffed in the refrigerator.

She did sum up the problem nicely. You give the protagonist a revenge motivation at the start or a savior motivation to work towards. It’s a common way to heighten dramatic tension when the “damsel in distress” has been done to death. You simply up the stakes. Not only is she kidnapped, but she’s dead. Not only is she dead, but her soul is trapped in limbo. Not only is her soul trapped in limbo, but it’s become fused to a demon. Not only is she fused to a demon, but the only way to kill the demon is to kill her.

This makes it seem like the violence is for her own good, which is a common rationalization for violence against women. And sometimes it’s the only way to “win”. It’s strange that even in this time of advanced games, mechanics and player choice, there are still games that don’t allow you to move forward unless you pull a trigger. When you look at each individual instance, each game, it’s not as meaningful. But multiple games together you see the common threads.

Side note: I love how when she’s talking about Bionic Commando she first: totally spoils it (thanks for the warning Anita — thank god you didn’t mention Bioshock: Infinite), and second: fake laughs when she says that your departed wife is the central AI in your bionic arm. Lady, if that’s what makes you lose your shit, you haven’t begun to scratch the surface of real geek culture.

My main issue is that I don’t really see a way around it. Female disempowerment goes hand in hand with dark and gritty. It doesn’t necessarily have to, like in “Sin City” or Spawn. But for every Angela, there’s a Wanda Blake. For every Miho, there’s a Nancy.

The other thing is this is not so much violence or victimization of women, but lazy writing. These are all games where the only way to express anything is with a gun. And the only way to express love through a gun would be a mercy killing. I don’t believe it causes violence against women, as Sarkeesian seems to imply, but treating a symptom doesn’t cure the disease. No one goes out and beats women because they saw it in a video game. The same reason no one goes and shoots up a school because of a video game. (for more, see this)

If you play nothing but games like Infamous, Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, and Dante’s Inferno, will you get desensitized to it? Yes. But if you are victimizing women, there was something wrong in the first place. Video games like these are part escapist fantasy and part effects of the issue, not the causes.

By the way, it was about 6:25 when she first mentioned God of War. Although it wasn’t in the sense I thought she would. Come on, you missed the multiple gratuitous sex scenes and Pandora’s sacrifice? Anita, you’re dropping the ball.


Matrix Guns lots of Guns

In the wake of the CT shootings, there’s been a lot of talk about gun control. I’m surprised we’ve gone this long and no one’s mentioned video games yet. (UPDATE: I wrote too soon. Thanks Fox News. Stay classy.) I see a lot of people calling for action, but not a lot of viable solutions proposed (mostly people saying the 2nd amendment has become obsolete, ban all guns, gun control is a joke, disband the NRA and their lobbying ways, etc.). There’s a solution I’ve thought of that’s viable for everyone. It minimizes the possibility of a high body count due to someone mentally ill going Columbine and keeps the second amendment intact for everyone. We don’t need to ban guns. In fact, everyone who wants one can get a gun.

Just one.

You get one gun. Ever. (And it’s obviously not free, you have to pay for it). If it doesn’t work, you can trade it in, like a video game. Reasons to own a gun include A) hunting B) home self-defense. For those, you only ever need one gun. A person can only hold one gun at a time anyway. And in those incidents, you’re only ever going to need one.

One gun per person. For all time. And that gun is registered to you — no filing serial numbers off. Your gun is always yours and you are responsible for it. If someone else fires your gun, that’s a paddlin’. It’d be great if you could DNA encode it so only you can fire it. I think that technology might be here already, but it might be expensive.

That fulfills the second amendment (or interpretation of it). Everyone gets the right to bear arms, if they want to. And if you’ve got enough people with guns, you should be able to form a militia.

Of course, there’s a remaining question: if you can only have one gun, which gun should it be? That’s a good question, and keep in mind, all I really know about guns is what I’ve learned from video games. If you’re a hunter, I guess you can pick a hunting gun. Maybe you want your spouse to have the self-defense gun. Now self-defense, I figure you can pick one of two. Either a basic, reliable handgun, like a glock (or whatever cops recommend). Or you can use a pump-action shotgun.

This is from Adam Carolla, featured in his book “In Fifty Years, We’ll All Be Chicks”. This is his philosophy of self-defense, but I’m repeating it here, because it’s interesting. He proposes that the only gun you ever need is a pump-action shotgun. When you hear that click, you know whoever’s home you’re invading means business. For extra intimidation, the first round is a blank. If the guy still calls your bluff, then the second round is rock salt. It’s non-lethal, but should make an impact, assuming he’s not wearing body armor. If the guy (or guys) continue to attempt intrusion after that, then “whoever it is is hell-bent on hurting me or my family, and the rest of the rounds are live.” I think that’s fair enough for self-defense.

If you want to hunt, you can either use the gun you have or maybe you can rent a gun, like bowling shoes. I understand target shooting can be a fun sport. No problem with that. But there are certain guns you target shoot with and assault rifles aren’t one of them.

If you want them for historical reasons or mechanical reasons, they must be decommissioned, or somehow made inactive (I don’t know how guns work, sorry. I assume they don’t have batteries). I’m not too worried about these because A) they’re old and probably don’t work B) anyone interested in them for these reasons is not likely to shoot up a school.

Some people say there’s no reason to regulate guns, because people who want one will get one. You’re just creating a black market for it. There’s a black market for C4 and snuff films too, doesn’t mean people are blowing up malls or watching murder on the cineplex. It’s the not the issue of “I can get a gun: Y/N”, it’s the ease of getting one. Before Napster, getting free music was hard. You had to trade cassette tapes, CDs. You had to tape off the radio with some DJ yakking in front or back of the song. You had to hold a tape recorder up to the TV. And the quality was awful. Now we’ve got torrents and direct connects, and it’s damn easy. The easier it is to do, the more people will do it.

Now this topic is all about gun control, but in my opinion, I think the bigger and less controversial problem is dealing with the mentally ill. I have a brother-in-law doctor who’s been saying there’s been problems with mentally ill since before 2000. I’ve seen 20/20 news features where mentally ill are simply put back on the streets because there’s no room for them. I know mental illness is impossible to measure, so it’s not an exact science, hence the new edition of the DSM-IV that everyone’s in arms about (it eliminates Asperger’s, and there are about 500 types of autism). It’s not that these people can’t be identified, it’s that the help they need isn’t being provided. I shudder to think what I’d be like without my medication.

Fluttershy Is In a Domestically Abusive Relationship

flying fluttershy bunny my little pony

You already know that I love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Don’t need to reiterate that it’s a good show.

You already know that Fluttershy is my favorite. Maybe because I identify with her the most — she’s introverted like me. Or because she’s the most broken of the ponies, or the most innocent, or least threatening.

It might surprise you to know that I still haven’t seen all the episodes yet. I’m almost done with season 2, and was disappointed by the lack of Fluttershy episodes. I understand why, though. It’s difficult to write an action-oriented plot with a main character who’s shy and reactive. Unless you rehash the same cliche of the quest to gain confidence. Which they do, on occasion. But there was something I’ve always been suspecting, and now that I’m almost done with season 2, I’ve put my finger on it.

Fluttershy is in a domestically abusive relationship.

All the ponies have some kind of “pet” (read: accessory for the merchandise). It’s kind of a callback to the first MLP’s. Fluttershy’s the most pet-oriented, because her thing is taking care of animals. And, reflective of her personality, her pet is a rabbit named “Angel”. The name, true to the show’s cleverness, is ironic. But I think it’s gone too far.

Don’t believe me? Tells me what this sounds like. In one scene, Fluttershy gently tells Angel not to chew his food so fast, out of genuine concern. Angel is taken aback. Then, instead of eating even faster, choking, and learning a lesson, he refuses to eat at all, out of spite. Then he runs away. Fluttershy runs after him, reminding him it’s not playtime until he’s finished. She encourages him to eat three more bites? Two more bites? One more tiny bite?

He kicks it away. Then he starts coughing to get her to notice a black cloud heading toward Ponyville (it’s dragon smoke, but that’s beside the point). When Fluttershy finally sees it, what does Angel do? Congratulate her? No, he kicks the carrot in her face.

Severe behavior, but sounds more like a spoiled child, doesn’t it? Just wait.

In another episode, Angel is trying to get Fluttershy to realize she’s late for a party. After she demonstrates that you don’t want her on your team for charades, she gets it, then frets about being late. Angel shoves her out the door, then locks her out. Locks her out.

Sure, it’s to get her to go. But he locks her out. She even tries to get back in again, but he ignores her. Kids locking their parents out of the house? Doesn’t happen. Husbands locking their wives out? It happens.

Then we get to the inciting incident for this blog. Fluttershy is again trying to get Angel to eat. She’s even prepared him a glorious looking salad. Much better than the food pellets the other animals are eating. He sniffs at it, then turns away like a finicky cat — he wants a fancy salad, with carrots and radishes and a cherry on top. Fluttershy picks up a leaf and gently encourages him to just try it. Angel knocks the leaf out of her hand and slaps her.

He slaps her.

Holy shit.

This is a children’s cartoon. It happens so fast, you almost miss it. But I have hyperawareness disorder. Does this sound familiar at all?

The whole point of the episode is that Fluttershy needs to learn how not to be a pushover. But, after a seminar from a tough-talking minotaur, she overcompensates and becomes aggressive and bullying, in classic kid’s cartoon ennui. Eventually she learns her lesson, that you don’t need to be loud and confrontational to be assertive. She demonstrates this at the end of the episode, by refusing to let Angel eat anything but his regular food. But the slap is never mentioned.

You might think I’m trying to make a funny post here, but I’m not. I care about Fluttershy, and I’ve learned a lot about abuse and women over the past years, starting with a strong base in Loveline. The evidence is there, and matches patterns in domestically abusive relationships. Angel has an unpredictable, out of control temper (from the above examples with the carrot and salad). He destroys her belongings and defies her purely out of spite.  But other times, acts kind to her.

Fluttershy is afraid of Angel (in the opening credits, she cringes when Angel devours the carrot). She feels she can’t do anything right (the episodes “Dragonshy” and “Hurricane Fluttershy” are all about her lack of self-esteem). She keeps rationalizing his behavior, thinking he just needs gentle correction, or is being “Mr. Pickypants”. Fluttershy is passive and retreats to her animals for sanctuary, rather than her friends. In fact, in “The Best Night Ever”, Fluttershy tries to make friends with the exotic animals at the castle. They run away, and she blames herself. As the night goes on, Fluttershy runs out of patience, to the point of laying down traps, and chasing the animals into the ballroom with her most famous line in the series.

Can anyone say “personality disorder”? I know all the ponies have their flaws — Applejack is stubborn, Rainbow Dash is self-absorbed, Pinkie Pie is insane. But Fluttershy being a victim toes the line. The tension builds up, and when Fluttershy can’t get the one thing she wants — the one thing’s she’s been looking forward to — she goes psycho. I admit, I thought this was the funniest thing when I saw it — so hilariously ironic, so unexpected. But now I’m thinking whether this is a piece of a larger puzzle.

I’m really surprised this sort of thing made it in the show, past the producers, past the censors, past the parent groups. We’re talking physical abuse here, people. I can’t be the only one who realizes this is wrong. Are they trying to say something? Is this part of a larger arc, like the Cutie Mark Crusaders? Because this crossed the line of comic relief into tragedy for me.

It wouldn’t bother me if they had addressed it somehow through the episode. But they don’t. It’s a throwaway gag, like the early Family Guy episodes where Stewie is horrible to his mother.

In Family Guy, it’s funny, because that’s the established tone — it’s vulgar, it’s offensive, it’s subversive. Everything that MLP:FIM is not. It shouldn’t have been included at all, but it is, and now it’s an elephant in the room.

I love Fluttershy. I love Lauren Faust. I love My Little Pony. I hope this is just a mistake that got past the radar, because I would hate for my kids to see something like this, and think that getting slapped deserves no reaction.