Equestria Uncovered: Cutie Mark Crusader Edition! YAY!

CMC 1

Who out there is ready to do some crusading?  Will I get my Cutie Mark in writing?  I sure as hell hope not.  If this is supposed to be my super special talent, then that says a lot about how bad I am at most things.  Anyway, the Cutie Mark Crusaders are pretty much the B team for the series.  Whenever we aren’t focusing on the Mane 6 or Spike, these ponies take the forefront and have given us some really great episodes.

So what do we know from canon?  Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are updated versions of G3 ponies, but most of what has been brought over has been their design and names.  For instance, in G3 Scootaloo wasn’t a tomboy and Sweetie Belle was actually able to cook.

CMC 2

Applebloom on the other hand is a G4 original that was created by Lauren Faust.  Her original name was Appleseed, but copyright issues forced the name to be changed.  While Applebloom gets introduced to us earlier than the other two it isn’t until Call of the Cutie that the three come together to from the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

This shot was actually not intended to include the CMC.  The Layout artist used them originally but was later sent different characters to use in the shot.  Assuming it was a mistake he put the CMC in anyway.

This shot was actually not intended to include the CMC. The Layout artist used them originally but was later sent different characters to use in the shot. Assuming it was a mistake he put the CMC in anyway.

Cutie Marks, while present since G1 and getting their name in G3, have never been explored in detail until Friendship is Magic, so the idea of a Cutie Mark being something earned through self-discovery instead of something you’re born with was an original idea that was brought to the new series.  It does bring up a few questions, the biggest of which being whether the Cutie Mark is predetermined or not.  Is the Cutie Mark there from the start, or does it develop as the pony grows up and discovers the world?  Episodes like Magical Mystery Cure and The Cutie Pox seem to indicate that the pony’s Cutie Mark has some control over their actions, but that can also be an effect of the spell/illness itself rather than giving a pony’s agency over to a mark on their ass.

Magic! Because we say so!

Magic! Because we say so!

If events aren’t predetermined though, then how is it that everypony eventually develops a Cutie Mark?  Wouldn’t there be some ponies that, due to unfortunate circumstances, weren’t able to find out what truly makes them happy in life?  There are several different ways to look at this issue, but it basically comes down to the nature versus nurture debate which essentially boils down to ‘does a child’s development owe more to the environment in which they grow up, or their genetics?’  We don’t really know the answer, but it’s a fair assumption that both are very important in the development of a child, and the same basic theory can be applied to the development of a pony’s Cutie Mark.

”Blank Flank? Or is it a metaphor for John Locke’s theory of Tabula Rasa?”

”Blank Flank? Or is it a metaphor for John Locke’s theory of Tabula Rasa?”

However a Cutie Mark comes about, the goal of the CMC is to do whatever they can to earn theirs.  Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle are the only other characters in the show, besides the Mane 6, to get episodes, which tend to follow their misadventures in searching for their Cutie Marks.  Since the group’s creation, they’ve added Babs Seed as a member and, most recently in the Micro Series comic book from IDW, Imp who’s a Mimicker.

CMC 6

While most episodes tend to focus on the CMC as a whole, each of the three primary members has had episodes that further explore their personalities.  A connecting thread between the three of them is the fact that they all have a member of the Mane 6 that they look up to, but to what degree and the way they each handle it are unique.  For instance, Applebloom has her older sister Applejack who she appreciates greatly, as well as the rest of her family.  Considering the environment in which she grew up in, it makes sense for her to have a deeply instilled sense of responsibility and appreciation for those who are related to her. However, it’s clear early on that, while she cares deeply for her sister, she doesn’t look up to her to the extent that she wants to be like her when she grows up.  When compared to the other two members of the CMC who have role models they wish to emulate, Applebloom has not shown any indication that she wants to go into the family business (unless of course her Cutie Mark has something to do with it).  She’s also shown that she can be independent and rebellious in episodes like Bridle Gossip and The Cutie Pox.  Her single minded goal of obtaining a Cutie Mark has led to her making obvious mistakes but of the three main members of the CMC, she seems to be the most ambitious in discovering what makes her unique.  On the other hand, it is a bit odd that she shows no interested in any specific hobby or goal other than just to obtain a Cutie Mark.  Think about episodes that focus on her specifically, which include The Cutie Pox and Family Appreciation Day.  The Cutie Pox is an episode about her pursuit of a Cutie Mark, just like every other CMC episode, and Family Appreciation Day shows that she has some interest in making Zap Apple Jam, but no more than most of the kids, as we can see at the end of the episode.  With the other two, we know what they want out of life (even if it isn’t what they should want), but Applebloom just seems to want a Cutie Mark so she can finally be seen as a grown up, or to stop Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon from messing with her.  She’s been so dedicated to this that she’s even dropped Twist as a friend once she got her Cutie Mark.  Will she do the same thing if Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo get theirs before her?  It’s something I’m hoping will be addressed at some point, but for now, the show hasn’t really given us much else to determine about her character.

“I WANT A CUTIE MARK!!!  I WANT IT!  I WANT IT!  I WANT IT!  I WANT IT!!!!!!!!”

“I WANT A CUTIE MARK!!! I WANT IT! I WANT IT! I WANT IT! I WANT IT!!!!!!!!”

Sweetie Belle has great admiration for her sister Rarity, but is very accident prone and unskilled.  She always sees her sister as an ideal to strive for but whenever she tries to emulate her, she falls way short of the example that she sees Rarity present to her.  In Sisterhooves Social, she spends the first half trying desperately to prove herself to her sister that she isn’t a nescience.  By continually failing to impress Rarity, her admiration beings to slip away until she finally rejects her idol and immediately looks for someone else to latch onto, namely Applejack.  It seems she’s afraid to forge her own path, which is why she’s too scared to pursue her singing and why she clings to Rarity so much. That being said, I think she’s the one most likely to get her Cutie Mark first.  Despite not liking to sing in public, she still enjoys doing it (though her talent seems to come and go at random).

CMC 8

Applebloom is almost guaranteed to get hers last considering her utter determination to get one and the fact that all the members of her family were the last ones to get theirs.  Scootaloo has similar issues to work out with her hero worship of Rainbow Dash, so she may be a bit distracted to get hers first.  The relationship that Sweetie Belle has with her sister is much healthier than that the one between Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, if you even want to call it a relationship.  Sweetie Belle, even though still needing someone to look up to, has a level of tolerance for Rarity that can be broken as we’ve seen in Sisterhooves Social.  Of the three, she’s probably the most typical which I think will help her find her special talent faster than the other two.

Dawww... She’s just so earnest!

Dawww… She’s just so earnest!

Scootaloo is probably the most interesting one to examine considering how little we know about her, and how much we can extrapolate given what the show has shown us.  She’s similar to Sweetie Belle in that she also worships someone.  In this case, it’s Rainbow Dash who she looks up to because of her amazing flying skills.  The situation here is actually pretty unhealthy, as was shown to us in Sleepless in Ponyville.  While the ending implies that they will have a decent sisterly relationship, everything up until then doesn’t give us any indication that Rainbow Dash is the kind of pony to take time out for Scootaloo, or even to teach her properly.  I’m hoping that they’ll take a little bit of Laruen Faust’s original interpretation of Rainbow Dash, and make her a bit more irresponsible when it comes to taking Scootaloo under her wing.  It will be a great chance for Scootaloo to learn that she can’t rely on others to find a path in life for her and that she needs to do things for herself so that she can find what truly makers her happy.

Oh Egophiliac.  Why do I even bother saying things when I can just point to you?

Oh Egophiliac. Why do I even bother saying things when I can just point to you?

Babs Seed has only appeared twice so far, and there have been conflicting reports on whether or not she will appear in season 4.  I like the idea of having the CMC having a friend from outside of Ponyville, in that it helps make the world much bigger than the one town and the Capitol, but I feel that certain aspects could have been handled a bit better with her character.  First of all, I understand her motivations for doing what she did in One Bad Apple.  A lot of people lash out when confronted with peer pressure, and it makes sense for her to do whatever it takes to not continue getting bullied.  The thing is, I never get the sense that it’s hard for her to act mean towards the CMC, especially Applebloom.  I mean, what’s the point of forcing her to sleep on the floor?  Will Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon realize she’s a loser if she allows Applebloom to sleep in the damn bed?  The ending is also a bit too forgiving of Babs Seed considering how much trouble she gave the CMC.  Forgiveness of others is a very important lesson, but letting her get off the hook like that kind of sends the wrong message.

 “Sorry I ruined your float, threw stuff at you, took your ice cream, took your clubhouse, forced you to sleep on the floor, and generally terrorize you for weeks on end.  We cool though, right?”

“Sorry I ruined your float, threw stuff at you, took your ice cream, took your clubhouse, forced you to sleep on the floor, and generally terrorize you for weeks on end. We cool though, right?”

However, Apple Family Reunion shows that everything is peachy keen between them, so maybe I’m overreacting a bit.  Hopefully she will end up in season 4 and we can get to know her a little better.

Fan Canon is mostly built around exploring them growing up and discovering what their cutie marks are, as well as giving them further adventures to go on at their current age.

CMC 12

While Applebloom and Sweetie Belle haven’t been expanded upon in great detail, Scootaloo, due to the lack of some basic details, has gotten many different back stories and explorations from the fans.  Due to the fact that we never see her family, some have come to the conclusion that she is an orphan.  While there is interesting material to explore with that, I find that most of the time it’s done pretty poorly.  It’s one thing to never actually see Scootaloo’s parents.  It’s another to imply that she doesn’t have any caregivers and that the people of Ponyville are okay with a young child living on the streets.  Saying that she has no parents doesn’t actually explain their absence in the series, it just changes the question from ‘where are her parents?’ to ‘where are her guardians?’  Meghan McCarthy recently indicated that she does in fact have parents, so I feel that the justification of this angle, while already pretty weak, has all but run its course.  I don’t mind people coming up with great ideas for this, but I’m hoping that it stops being one of her defining characteristics in the fandom.

Oh yeah, I TOTALLY believe that no one in Ponyville would have a problem with this.

Oh yeah, I TOTALLY believe that no one in Ponyville would have a problem with this.

Other than that, the other big fan characteristic has been Scootaloo being unable to fly due to some sort of disability.  This one actually has some decent traction considering that it was Lauren Faust’s original intent for the character, but what a lot of fan made content tends to miss (at least from the stuff I’ve come across) is that Scootaloo would eventually accept her problem and end up leading a happy life.  Whenever I see this brought up, it always focuses on how much it must suck to be a Pegasus who can’t fly.  Lauren Faust wanted her to learn the difference between what someone wants and what they are good at.  Whenever I see fans bring this up, it’s mostly just about being sad she can’t fly.  I find it somewhat bothersome that the two most defining characteristics that the fans have given her are both tragic.  While these two are the most prominent additions to her character, there is just as much, if not more, content out there that explores her as the show presents her, so not everything out there is doom and gloom.

So how have the CMC fared in the show?  Considering that their age is about the same as that of the target audience, it’s no wonder the show creators decided to have them be the focus of several episodes.  Overall they’ve been really good at showing us their determination at getting a Cutie Mark, and all the mistakes they’ve made along the way.  The kids aren’t saints, but they try to do the right thing most of the time and sometimes fail with the best of intentions.  Episodes like Ponyville Confidential are great at showing us how good intentions can sometimes go badly and the dilemmas that sometimes arise when trying so desperately to achieve your goals.  There is however an issue I have with that episode specifically.  The fact that none of the Mane 6 have a moment of introspection once the identity of Gabby Gums is revealed bothered me because of how harshly they started treating the CMC.  Aside from Twilight, no one bothered raising concerns about the column until they were personally affected by it and it felt like a huge oversight for none of them to realize the part that they played in perpetuating the mean spirited gossip.  Other than that, it’s a great example of how to do a CMC episode right.  If there’s one episode I felt should have been done differently, it would be The Show Stoppers.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode, but the fact that they so obviously reveal their special talents is something that I feel really undercuts any future CMC episode.  Pretty much right out of the gate, we know what their special talents are, so now there’s no way to do an effective episode that is just them trying to learn their special talent.  We know in episodes like Ponyville Confidential that they not gonna get their Cutie Mark, so it makes it harder for us to sympathies with their moral dilemma.  I would have held off on such an obvious indication of their special talents for at least a season or two so that we can get a few good episodes out of their adventures without feeling like it’s a waste of time.  All that being said, it does mean that episodes about the CMC can’t just focus on earning their Cutie Marks.  Episodes like Family Appreciation Day and One Bad Apple have them going on misadventures and learning a lesson without relying on their search for their Cutie Marks.  While an opportunity may have been lost, that doesn’t mean they don’t have enough good ideas to keep the characters interesting.

You never know.  They COULD have been great super villains!

You never know. They COULD have been great super villains!

So what does the future hold for them?  TV shows are usually slow to change a winning formula, so we’ll probably get more of the same for another few seasons.  At some point they might get to their Cutie Marks, but I feel that doing that would be a sign that the show is ending (tying up loose ends while they can).  They might go for a “glimpse of the future” episode where we’ll see them as adults, but that’s also something that will only happen once they start running out of ideas.  Again, having their special talents revealed so early hasn’t helped this because we all know where the story is going to end up, but to keep the show going they’ll just have to dance around it for as long as possible.  There is a way to do this that might actually work out, and that would be if they did another straight to DVD outing like Equestria Girls.  Television shows have done this in the past where they used a movie as a chance to change something in the show.  The Rugrats did it twice, adding Dil in the first movie and Kimi in the second one who both ended up in the show.  It would be one thing to change the current formula that may or may not work out in the end.  It’s another to thing to do that with a movie which will be a big boon for the franchise financially and would absorb some of the damage if the series ends up suffering because of the change.  Having something feature length would also give enough time for each of the characters to be truly fleshed out and give the event in question the magnitude it deserves.  Specifically, I’d have Babs Seed get her Cutie Mark at the stat of the movie, which spurs the CMC into doing something stupid and desperate to get theirs.  The rest of the movie is getting out of the jam they got themselves into and learning about what it really means to have a Cutie Mark and the prospects of growing up.  Send me my check Hasbro.

Chances are they’re gonna keep the dynamic going for a while, but it works on the whole.  The CMC have been very endearing characters and while I may have some issues with how the show is using them, I still look forward to every chance we have of seeing them.  Hopefully they’ll also get the band back together.

♪ Don’t know what’s your mark. Till it comes!!!!  ♪

♪ Don’t know what’s your mark. Till it comes!!!! ♪

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FAN FAVORITES

Fan Fiction

Cutie Mark Crusader Camping Trip by Yukito

There are a lot of fan fictions out there that go for grand adventures, introspective themes, and other material that would go over the head of the intended audience.  This however, fits perfectly into the show’s vision of Equestria.  The premise is that Cheerilee’s class is going on a field trip into the woods, and decides that the best way to stop the fighting between the CMC and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon would be to force them into the same group for the duration of the field trip.  Naturally, chaos ensues and they end up fighting most of the time, but there are two who don’t seem as interested in perpetuation this antagonism, Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon.  The biggest strength of this story is that the author gets what works about these characters and doesn’t feel the need to add in additional content that wouldn’t work within the show’s universe.  It uses the tools at hand and makes something great out of it.  There is a ship, but it really plays out like a budding friendship for most of the story and it’s very effective at that.  If you want a delightful tale about these kids trying to get along with lots of wacky hijinks, then I suggest you give this one a shot.

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Tumblrs

Ask the Crusaders by JanAnimations

This is one of those tumblrs that doesn’t even need me to recommend it.  It’s one of the more popular ones in our community, mostly due to the fact that the mod () has created some classic videos such as the Picture Perfect Pony music video, and the Brony Song from the John de Lancie documentary.  In case you haven’t heard of this tumblr, it’s a very well done adventure series starring the CMC.  The artwork is very show accurate and the writing is very sharp.  The big event on the cruise ship (early on) is very well done and pushes the CMC to their limits without being vindictive or even outside the bounds of what we might expect from the show.  It’s very long too so you’ll have plenty of backlogs to go through if you decide to start reading it.  Definitely recommended if you’re looking for something to tide you over until season 4 comes out.

CMC 16

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Motherly Scootaloo by jake-heritagu

Not enough angst for you?  Alright then, I’ll give you one that does it right.  Motherly Scootaloo (formerly Pregnant Scootaloo) starts out with a premise that’s pretty rough.  Scootaloo got knocked up by a fellow classmate (I believe she was 13 at the time) and we’re watching as she carries the baby to term.  She’s very self-pitying and angry through most of the pregnancy which is par for the course for sadder tumblrs, but it does something that I talked about earlier.  She grows up, learns, and finds happiness in life despite the terrible circumstances she finds herself in.  The hardships she goes through (watching her mother slowly die of cancer, living with a pony who’s trying hard never really accepts Scootaloo as her daughter, the boyfriend tossing her aside after she got pregnant, etc.) are difficult for anyone to deal with, and she certainly doesn’t deal with them right most of the time, but she eventually learns and becomes a better person because of it.  It’s a hard read sometimes, but there’s always a glimmer of hope that helps pull you through it.

CMC 17

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This one took a lot out of me, but I got it done!  For once I actually know what next week’s article will be, so look forward to reading about Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon next time!  Next week’s article (and all future one) might not get posted until Wednesday because it fits better into my new schedule now that I’m back in school.  Think I’m a lazy bum making excuses?  Eh… There may be some truth in that.  Let me know in the comments below!

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Image Sources

Cutie Mark Crusaders by A-Venge

Sweetie Belle ‘Cooking’ by REPLAYMASTEROFTIME

Page 7 of CMC Micro Series by IDW

Scootaloo talking to Pound Cake from Slice of Pony Life

Cutie Mark Crusaders! by spittfireart

Cutie Mark Crusaders in: Classroom Follies COLORED by Drewdini

CMC Air Time by latecustomer

Cutiemark crusaders skydivers! by Icy-Spy

Cutie Mark Crusaders Havin’ Milkshakes by empty-10

Dreams of a Foal by 1n33d4hug

CUTIE MARK DOOMSDAY DEVICE BUILDERS, YAY!!! by Dunnstar

Tonight, We Rock! by Killryde

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