Recap: MLP: Friendship Is Magic S2 E19 "Putting Your Hoof Down"
When life becomes a thorn, GRAB IT BY THE HORNS.
Iron Will: Don't be sorry, be assertive! Never apologize when you can criticize!
Story by Charlotte Fullerton
Written by Merriwether Williams
Fluttershy's having a rough morning. Angel Bunny angrily refuses to eat his breakfast, and insists Fluttershy make a big, fancy salad instead. She goes grocery shopping for the ingredients, only to repeatedly get cut off by other ponies in line. Pinkie Pie and Rarity try to help by teaching her to be assertive, but Fluttershy's attempts to emulate their techniques backfires, and she eventually leaves without the last ingredient — the cherry on top. She makes the salad anyway, but since it wasn't completely perfect, Angel throws a tantrum... and throws Fluttershy out the front door!As Fluttershy laments just how much of a doormat she is, she finds a flyer from Iron Will, a motivational speaker who's holding a seminar to teach ponies to stand up for themselves. Iron Will turns out to be a hulking, boisterous minotaur who advises his audience to be aggressive and pushy, and lures them in with his show-boating and a 100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee. Will demonstrates the effectiveness of his techniques with the meekest pony in the audience as a "volunteer" — and, naturally, that pony is Fluttershy. True to his word, Iron Will quickly gets Fluttershy to stand up for herself against his assistants, and she's pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to be assertive.Back home, Fluttershy puts her lessons to good use, to the delight of her friends. But it isn't long before "New Fluttershy" grows more and more aggressive, eventually lashing out at ponies for slights big, small, or imagined. Pinkie Pie and Rarity try to talk some sense into her, but New Fluttershy thinks they just want the push-over "Old Fluttershy" back. She lashes out at them with personal insults, then dismisses their interests as shallow and frivolous, driving them off in tears.Finally ashamed at how monstrous she's become, Fluttershy boards up her house and hides inside, for fear of hurting anypony else ever again. Concerned about her, Pinkie Pie and Rarity come by, then try to coax her out by saying she doesn't have to be a bully to be assertive. Midway through their discussion, Iron Will and his crew show up as well, to collect Fluttershy's payment for the seminar. Frightened of what he might do to their friend, Rarity and Pinkie stall him, but Fluttershy accidentally gives herself away with a sneeze, whereupon Iron Will threatens to tear her door down if he doesn't get paid. Fluttershy finally comes out... and tells Iron Will that she refuses to pay. Calmly but firmly, she explains that he had promised 100% satisfaction... and she's not satisfied with the seminar at all. Unable to argue with that, Iron Will agrees and leaves without a fuss.As Pinkie Pie and Rarity celebrate the return of the Old Fluttershy, Fluttershy dictates a letter to Princess Celestia about how you don't have to change who you are to stand up for yourself. Of course, it helps that she uses "The Stare" on Angel to stop his fussy eating habits.
When somepony denies these tropes, you show them the ropes! (YMMV tropes can be found here)
Absentee Actor: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Spike do not show up. Also, this is the first of only two episodes in the series in which Twilight and Applejack are both absent (the other being "Flight to the Finish").
Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: A non-videogame version. The cost of tomatoes seems to increase every week. And one pony deliberately raises the price of a single cherry because Fluttershy was so desperate to buy one. She allowed the seller to gain a huge advantage in bargaining. The free market is not kind to the likes of the -shy.
An Aesop: Being assertive and standing up for yourself is good, but no license to become a jerk or a bully yourself.
Aesop Amnesia/Plot Hole: Despite what Fluttershy was ableto do in Season 1 (where she showed genuine moments of assertiveness), for some reason all of it was thrown away for the sake of this episode. Justified in that those instances were to protect those she cares for or to put disorderly animals in line (while Angel was one of the latter here, he seems more intelligent than her chickens). Some fans speculate that, with Twilight missing from the episode, there's nothing to conclusively prove that it doesn't occur before the first episode, meaning that it's not necessarily a case of Fluttershy being handed the Aesop Amnesia Ball. For example, Angel is much more bratty and mean to Fluttershy here than he ever is anywhere else.
It must have happened at least after Lesson Zero, since Fluttershy is narrating a letter to Princess Celestia at the end.
Alternate Aesop Interpretation: In-universe. Iron Will's courses on how to be assertive and stand up for yourself are misunderstood by Fluttershy, and she takes it to the extent of being a bully that intimidates others into doing what she wants.
Angry Hoof Shake: After kicking the other pony out of the taxi, Fluttershy gives one to her unlucky victim
Appeal To Flattery: Rarity's tactics for getting the last bundle of asparagus from the nerdy teenage colt is to flirt with him.
Artistic License - Biology: Angel acts like he's going to vomit when he tries the salad at the start of the episode. Lagomorphs (ie, rabbits) can't vomit.
Audience? What Audience?: When Pinkie Pie and Rarity first confront Iron Will, he gives the viewers a thumbs up. Rarity and Pinkie Pie both glance around in the audience's direction, visibly confused.
Rarity and Pinkie Pie run away in tears after enduring several insults from Fluttershy, including personal attacks and calling their lives' purpose "frivolous."
Fluttershy herself shortly thereafter; looking into a puddle and seeing that she's gone too far with her 'assertiveness' the breakage leads her to seal herself in her home and vow to never leave again. Lest she keep hurting people.
The Cameo: This episode's Derpy cameo is just her at market and at Iron Will's seminarnote Don't worry folks, she's got her derp eyes back. And a muffin bag!. The notable cameo is Pipsqueak, who appears for the first time since "Luna Eclipsed", and without his costume. He's in a blink and you miss it moment when Fluttershy is checking her shopping list.
In the same shot you can also see Lyra Heartstrings sitting in yet another atypical fashion, reaching for something to drink, almost as if she were wishing that she had hands.◊ Bon Bon sitting down and talking to Lyra.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The cherry vendor could have sold the cherry to Fluttershy for anywhere between three and twelve bits, after Fluttershy's haggling failure, but instead sold it to somepony else for two bits.
A Day in the Limelight: This is the first Fluttershy centered episode since A Bird In The Hoof, and the first one of season 2.
Didn't Think This Through: Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Iron Will all try to teach Fluttershy how to be more assertive. None of them ever stop to consider the possibility of her starting to stand up to them as well. All three were pushing for her to change while still expecting their respective relationships with her to remain exactly the same as before.)
New Fluttershy's behavior is understandable during the first few times; ponies were pushing her around, but freaking out at someone for accidentally mixing up your mail and making you drop your letter in a puddle?
Angel Bunny tosses Fluttershy out of a window because she didn't include the cherry in a salad. Which Angel only noticed because Fluttershy had to apologize for it.
Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Pinkie Pie tricks the pony selling tomatoes into giving her the tomato for one bit instead of two bits with this trope. She does it again with Iron Will, but Fluttershy accidentally ruins it.
Exact Words: Iron Will's workshop guaranteed 100% satisfaction, or no payment. Fluttershy uses this to avoid having to pay Iron Will, because she wasn't satisfied.
Extreme Omnigoat: Iron Will's goats can be seen munching on each other's neckties and, at one point, Pinkie's tail.
Fantastic Racism: Averted. Rarity and Pinkie were blaming Iron Will for what happened to Fluttershy (she calls them out on this, by the way) and by the end, they accepted that is was Fluttershy's own doing as much as she did. They never show any dislike for minotaurs in general.
Feather Fingers: In one scene, Fluttershy uses a wing like a hand to open her saddlebags.
Fisher King: When Fluttershy isolates herself due to realizing her recent horrid behavior, her normally pleasant little cottage becomes completely gloomy: The flowers and foliage disappears, the stream turns to a mud wallow, all the entrances including the bird houses and a burrow are all boarded up. This all happens in the space of a few hours, even though the cottage looks like it's been abandoned for years.
Foil: Iron Will could be seen as one to Trixie, Gilda, and the Flim Flam brothers, as he combines elements of all of them and still comes across much more sympathetically. He also leaves more gracefully and even learned something from his venture in Ponyville compared to the other three.
Right after the scene at the market, a goat with a certain basket in its mouth can be seen leaving Fluttershy's place.
In Sugarcube Corner, after asserting herself to the front of line Fluttershy begins talking to Pinkie Pie and Rarity. During this little chat, Pinkie cracks a joke regarding punch. Fluttershy mistakes the laughing as being directed at her so she pushes the punch on her. This will explain her behavior later in the episode where she takes Rarity saying they want the old Fluttershy back as a way of saying they want to her to be a doormat again.
Forgot I Could Fly: It would have defeated the purpose of the story, but Bon Bon and Cherry Berry weren't technically in Fluttershy's way since Fluttershy could have flown over the canal. Fluttershy probably just refused to take that option, since it would have defeated the purpose of being assertive. Also, Fluttershy doesn't like flying in the first place.
Funny Background Event: During the market scene, we see Lyra Heartstrings sitting at a table, bored, reaching for a drink as if wishing she had hands. She is soon joined by Bon Bon, and they strike up a conversation. Later, when Fluttershy tries to get the last cherry from the cherry stand, we see Derpy walk up to the asparagus stand, only to look disappointed when she finds they're out of stock.
Furry Confusion: Not from the Minotaur but from his assistants, the herd of goats. One was seen in "May The Best Pet Win!" as a pet Rainbow Dash could choose. That said, none of the goats speak, so they may just be highly intelligent pets like Angel. Although Iron Will seems able to understand their bleating just fine...
Furry Reminder: The goats again. While they're smart enough to understand English and competent enough to use machinery and headsets, they talk in bleats and chew on things like the Extreme Omnivore goats they are. One even tries to eat Pinkie's tail. The goats' eyes even have horizontal pupils like real goats,◊ which is very unusual in a cartoon.
Gale-Force Sound: Fluttershy does this three times; when she screams "NOPONY!!!" at the end of her rant before leaving town, again when she says to her little critters friends "Am I RIGHT??!!", and again when she exclaims to Rarity and Pinkie Pie that Old!Fluttershy is "GONE!!"
"New" Fluttershy comes pretty dang close to a common vulgar phrase during one of her rants:
Fluttershy: [finishing her rant to Pinkie and Rarity] ...when they are throwing their own lives away on pointless pursuits that nopony else gives a flying feather about!
When she jumps in the taxi, she gives a gesture that makes it evident that if she had fingers she'd be Flipping the Bird.
Grew a Spine: Iron Will tries to help Fluttershy do this. It works a little too well.
Gollum Made Me Do It: Before New Fluttershy takes completely over in the third act, Fluttershy alternate between her old, kind self and her new assertive side within moments, whenever she's being treated unfairly. Most noticeable when she leaves Sugarcube Corner.
Jaw Drop: Pinkie at Fluttershy's assertiveness towards Iron Will.
Jerkass: Bon Bon shows off her nastiness again along with other ponies and stall-owners, and the "New Fluttershy" becomes one after Iron Will's motivational seminar. Angel Bunny is also particularly horrible to Fluttershy, to the point of slapping her when she doesn't make him the right food, and throwing her and his food out of her own cottage when he doesn't get it made the exact way he wanted it.
In fact there's a surprising number of them in this episode. Yes it's to help Fluttershy stand up for herself but sheesh, they just come out of the blue all of a sudden.
Surprisingly averted with Iron Will. Despite being portrayed in a role expected for a big douchebag who's in it only for the money, he's actually very reasonable and polite when not asserting himself. All indications are that his stated goal of helping ponies become more assertive is completely genuine.
Jerkass Realization: The "New Fluttershy" doesn't know how far she has gone until after she insults Rarity and Pinkie Pie.
Fluttershy:Iron Will is not a monster! HE'S A MINOTAUR!!! (sees her angry reflection in a puddle) I'm the monster...
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Fluttershy goes from actually sticking up for herself against Ponyville's sudden infusion of total jerks to being a complete asshole as if the line weren't even there.
Angel never suffers any consequences for the horrible way he treats Fluttershy.
Kick the Morality Pet: Fluttershy's assertiveness training works too well, and she begins acting like a jerk and treating even innocent ponies terribly. It isn't until her insults cause Rarity and Pinkie Pie to run away in tears that she realizes just how bad it's become.
Make Me Wanna Shout: Assertiveshy has some powerful shouts, literally knocking small critters over. Iron Will can do this as well, and was probably her inspiration.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: In-universe. Iron Will, who acts tough for his seminar and to try and get his payment, but he doesn't mind too much about the money if Fluttershy isn't satisfied. He guaranteed after all.
Mirror Monologue: New Fluttershy gives herself a peptalk before leaving her cottage.
The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Twice. After Rarity and Pinkie Pie run off, Fluttershy sees her angry self in a puddle and realizes what she has become. The second time, she tells Rarity and Pinkie Pie that she's afraid of becoming a monster again if she were to attempt to assert herself. She then looks in the mirror and her reflection shows her with horns. Actually just the horns from Iron Will's torn photo taped to the mirror.
Moving the Goalposts: The cherry sales-stallion jacks the price from 2 bits to 10, then from 10 to 20 when Fluttershy says she needs a cherry really, really badly.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Angel Bunny was willing to eat the salad until Fluttershy apologized for missing out the cherry, which only brought it to his attention.
Out-of-Character Moment: When New Fluttershy is getting angry with Pinkie and Rarity, she hovers around them, while she's normally the most earth-bound pony around. It looks like her self-confidence also re-inforced her confidence in her flight capacities.
Pay Evil unto Evil: More like Pay Jerkassery unto the Jerkasses. Although the citizens of Ponyville might had been unfair to her earlier on, her eagerness to fight back with others who push her around is portrayed as alarming nonetheless. Also, fans are expected to understand that Fluttershy's Unstoppable Rage is considered extremely disproportionate. Her sticking up against Mr. Greenhooves is considered understandable while the sticking of the mailpony in the mailbox is not.
Picky Eater: Angel will only eat his salad with whipped cream and a cherry on top. He also dislikes cucumbers until Fluttershy uses The Stare and he eats them...and soon devours his whole salad!
Protagonist-Centered Morality: Played with, and ultimately defied. While Pinkie Pie and Rarity try to blame Iron Will for Fluttershy's wrongdoings in an attempt at making her feel better, Iron Will at no point acts like a real villain (ignoring a bluff or two) and Fluttershy takes responsibility for taking Iron Will's teachings too far.
Iron Will: When somepony tries to block, show them that YOU ROCK!
Iron Will: Never apologize when you can criticize!
Fluttershy when she repeats Iron Will's lessons:
Fluttershy: Maybes are for babies!
Fluttershy: You cut in line, I take what's mine!
Fluttershy: You make me lose, and I blow my fuse!
Pinkie: Fashion is her passion!
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A non-lethal example. After getting her assertiveness from Iron Will, Fluttershy goes around to fight back against the Jerkass ponies who even dared to take advantage of her. However, it becomes a misguided Disproportionate Retribution and she ends up yelling at Rarity and Pinkie Pie, reducing them to tears.
Sanity Slippage: Fluttershy becomes more of a complete bitch every hour. The first time she learns how to be assertive by telling off the goat on stage in an imaginary scenario, and after she splashes Mr. Greenhooves who flooded her garden, her actions becomes increasingly aggressive and her interactions more insane. Made particularly obvious in that Fluttershy knows in that without it, everyone would be seeing her as an easy pushover and target again, and she decides to throw caution to the wind and at least earn back her approval from Rarity and Pinkie Pie again.
Schizo Tech: The cutie mark for the nerd trying to buy asparagus is a robot. Also, Iron Will and his henchgoats all sport headsets and microphones, and their seminar stage has large loudspeakers.
She Who Fights Monsters: After Fluttershy insults her friends and realizes that she's become the monster. Also alluded to when she sees her own reflection in the mirror with Iron Will's horns transposed on top of her head.
New!Fluttershy, especially in the second phase of her rage.
Angel too, who went from a mildly rude attitude to throwing his owner out of her house for a single cherry.
Ponyville as a whole. We don't usually see so many characters trying to take advantage of Fluttershy. Even Rarity's and Pinkie Pie's methods are somewhat jerkish. While the shop owners and Angel took advantage of Fluttershy already, the rest of Ponyville appeared to follow suit afterIron Will's seminar.
Unstoppable Rage: Fluttershy, especially towards the pony who hops unto her intended taxi.
Valley Mare: A couple of rude ponies would like you to move back; cuz, you're like.. in their personal space.
We Want Our Jerk Back: Inverted. Whereas a typical WWOJB plot involves teaching a Jerkass to be nice and having that lesson go too far and making the friends lament the change, here an attempt to teach Fluttershy to assert herself go so far that she's a raging Jerkass, causing her friends to lament the change.
Wingding Eyes: Happens to Iron Will, with bits (currency used in Equestria).
What Have I Become?: Fluttershy realizes what a jerk she's been after she hurts Rarity's and Pinkie Pie's feelings.
Who's Laughing Now?: Fluttershy relishes her payback on everyone who walked over her before and tries to after Iron Will's seminar.
Downplayed with Iron Will. He's clearly holding back when pushing Pinkie and Rarity out of his way (the most he'll do is toss them into the mud). Against Fluttershy he made direct, personal threats but didn't lay a hoof on her.
Angel smacks Fluttershy at the beginning of the episode while demanding a fancy salad.
Zeerust: The design of the robot on the nerd pony's cutie mark reminds strongly of the old science-fiction style.