The "Friendship is Witchcraft" expectation test

by PhilGoetz1 min read15th Jan 201337 comments

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Personal Blog

My mother won't watch animated movies.  It doesn't matter what the content is.  Whether it's Sponge Bob or Grave of the Fireflies, she believes that animation is used only for shows for children, and that adults shouldn't watch shows for children.  She's incapable of changing this belief, because even if I somehow convince her to sit and watch an animated film, she sees what she expects, not what's in front of her.

I think this is the same thing that creation scientists and climate-change deniers do.  They literally cannot perceive what is in front of them, because they are already convinced they know what it is.

Here's an interesting test, which I discovered by accident:  There's a hilarious series of fan-made parodies of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on YouTube called Friendship is Witchcraft.  They took show videos and redubbed them to have different stories in which various ponies are robots, fascists, or cult members planning to awaken Cthulhu.  I've shown these videos to four people without explanation, just saying "You've got to see this!" and bringing up "Cute From the Hip" on YouTube.

The same thing always happens.  They watch with stony, I-must-be-polite-to-Phil faces, without laughing.  Eventually I realize that they think they're watching an episode of My Little Pony.  I explain that it's a parody, and they say, "Oh!"  I'd think that lines like "I know we've taught you to laugh in the face of death," "If you think one of your friends is a robot, kids, report them to the authorities so that they can be destroyed!", "I'm covered in pig's blood!", or, "Are you busy Friday?  We need a willing victim for our ritual sacrifice" would prompt some questions.  They don't.  They are so determined to see a TV show for little girls that that's what they see, regardless of what's in front of them.

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[-][anonymous]9y 33

Alternative hypothesis: Your friends assume this is one of those cartoons-not-just-for-children that you talk about, and find it completely unfunny because it's a parody of something they haven't seen and don't care about.

I've been in the situation before of having a friend show me a "hilarious" parody of some computer game or whatever, and finding it completely pointless and unfunny, despite the friend loving it. And I'm pretty sure it's not because of some creationist-level bias, because I'm fine with good parodies of computer games I'm familiar with.

The humor is less to someone who doesn't know the show. But they should realize that it's a parody, and they don't.

Do they think, "oh, an unfunny show for little girls" or "oh, an unfunny show for nerdy men?" The latter is both consistent with everything I have heard about the pony show and with a cartoon about Cthulhu jokes.

I've created this issue when attempting to show Excel Saga to non-anime-fans. It doesn't work if you're not familiar with the tropes it's laughing at.

I just went and watched (half of) the video you just linked to. As someone who has heard of My Little Pony but never actually watched any of it, I can say that while I knew that this was not real, and knowing that I could see how it was not real, I see how without that I would not have been able to tell. While I am sure you can tell the differences at a glance, it is not obvious to someone who has not watched it. In other words, the Illusion of Transparency is kicking in.

With all that said, I think this post just got me to try watching My Little Pony. I have heard nothing but good about it in the past, and this post gives me just that little push that might get me to actually watch it. When I do watch it, if I like it, (which I most likely will, given the fanbase it has here on Less Wrong), please accept my thanks for finally pushing me to watch this (presumably) great show.

You're welcome, but about half the episodes are bad. The season openers are the worst. YMMV. I recommend "Look before you sleep", "Green isn't your color", "Sisterhooves Social", "Hearts and Hooves Day", "Read it and Weep", "MMMystery on the Friendship Express", or "Sweet and Elite". Avoid "Feeling Pinkie Keen", "Over a Barrel", and "Canterlot Wedding".

I can't believe I just wrote that.

The show's writers are often sloppy about consistency--characters, history, apparent time period, etc., change wildly from episode to episode. There's a lot of fridge horror in things that the writers threw in without thinking through the implications. There are a number of episodes with stupid (as in, possibly harmful) "morals".

What the show has is a certain attitude that's generally been lacking in entertainment (niceness, basically), and it's the only show I can think of at the moment where the characters are grown-ups. In pretty much every other show on TV, there are a bunch of characters who come together for one specific purpose or reason (to run a news show, fight vampires, get off the island, hunt aliens, run a hospital, talk with each other in a bar, whatever). Then they go back to whatever it is they do when they aren't together, which isn't important. In MLP, the characters all have their own lives, and there is no one thing they all get together for. The lives they are having offstage aren't irrelevant; they're often the ultimate causes of the conflicts that cause them to get together.

Maybe Lost was similar in that way. I didn't see enough of it to judge.

I still think people should realize their model is broken when a children's program contains ritual sacrifice to demons.

What's actually your model of children's programmes? That is, how do you tell whether a programme is for children or not? (Not a rhetorical question.)

That's a good question, but it would take too long to answer.

Since I wrote that, MLP had an actual episode in which they magically produced dozens of clones of Pinkie, and Twilight's solution was, "I'll just try to figure out which ones are the clones, and kill them all!" Now ritual sacrifice doesn't seem very far off.

Thank you for the information. Getting information about exactly which episodes of a show are good is not so simple, and this gives me a good starting base.

I have heard nothing but good about it in the past

If you'd like a countervailing anecdote, I was amused by the parody but I can't stand the actual show.

Thank you for your opinion. One nice thing about Less Wrong is that people are willing to give their opinions whatever they are, and even if a majority like something, the rest feel free to give their opinion, and are not harried by groupthink. Well, I am planning to watch a couple of episodes, and we will see which side of the question I come out on.

72% probability of welcoming you to the herd

Care to record that on predictionbook?

yes actually

[-][anonymous]9y 26

I think this is the same thing that creation scientists and climate-change deniers do. They literally cannot perceive what is in front of them, because they are already convinced they know what it is.

Well, that was a large jump to a conclusion.

You could have experimented on the whole community, but now the spell is broken for anyone who's read this post.

[-][anonymous]9y 8

Yes. I would reword the third paragraph as “Here's an interesting test, which I discovered by accident: look at this video on Youtube” and rot-13 everything from that point on.

I would say "phew, ponies" after few seconds and click the back arrow. What would that imply, interesting-test-wise?

[-][anonymous]9y 0

As a rule, I don't click on youtube videos without a good description provided, due to their low information/time spent ratio.

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Haven't watched the videos, but based on the quotes they don't sound weirder than actual children's cartoons like Invader Zim or... actually, Invader Zim is such a good example that I don't think I need any others. All of those quotes would fit right in on Invader Zim (which is on the dark end of children's cartoons but is a children's cartoon nonetheless). Children's cartoons are wacky. I agree with the commenters who say you're jumping to a conclusion.

I've had some success discussing the "animation is not just for kids" issue by linking people to TVTropes' article on the Animation Age Ghetto. A parent might want to read What Do You Mean, It's Not For Kids?.

Here's an issue I'm much more curious about: I have a friend who hates animation, and I don't think I can change her mind about this. To hear her tell it, she basically can't respond emotionally to animation - can't empathize with animated characters, etc. I wouldn't have thought this was possible. Does anyone know anything about this kind of phenomenon?

[-][anonymous]9y 23

I have a friend who has this response to Farscape. I recently finished it (didn't have access to cable when it was actually on-air) and consider it head and shoulders above most contemporary television SF. She came to visit during that time, and while we were watching it mentioned she can never get immersed in it, because "the muppets are too distracting."

I inquired a little and apparently she simply cannot empathize with or attribute even fictional personhood to Rygel and Pilot. Pilot is one of the more emotionally-evocative characters for me (despite being literally incapable of facial expressions in the usual sense), so it was quite odd to hear. On the other hand, I routinely perceive hermit crabs as having emotional states, goals and the other stuff that empathy can key on, so possibly I'm very far in the other direction. Even plants -- I once had to plant an onion that began sprouting in my fridge (rather than use it), simply because I was moved at its sheer tenacity.

Zim, stuffed and bloated with organs stolen from children: "More organs means more human!"

They literally cannot perceive what is in front of them, because they are already convinced they know what it is.

What other ways of testing this would you suggest, beyond showing people fan MLP parodies?

You may have some inferential distance issues here.

You need to do a reaction video. I want to see that.

You could try showing your mom hentai, although the drawbacks would probably outweigh the benefits.

Also, there's the whole squrting water into the ear canal trick. It has it's own drawbacks. Namely, it's temporary, uncomfortable, and makes you barf.

I had an acquaintance/friend in college who was always trying to get me to join the Anime Club. He occasionally would tell me about animes he really liked. If I said, "Wow, that sounds really cool!", then he would invite me to the anime club--which I didn't want to join because it was full of social lepers. So instead I would listen with apparent polite disinterest, and try to change the subject. Sometimes it's easier to pretend you just don't "get it," than it is to bluntly say, "I don't want to be associated with this kind of thing, please don't bring this embarrassing subject up anymore."

Even after reading your explanation that it's a parody the video doesn't seem interesting to myself.

So... does that mean that Phil saw what he was expecting to in the reactions he got? ;)

I think this is the same thing that creation scientists and climate-change deniers do. They literally cannot perceive what is in front of them, because they are already convinced they know what it is.

Climate-change credulists too.

Try it on yourself, if you can:

Here's gameplay video from a FPS game, with a bad commentator playing: Moderate language, extreme violence, NSFW.

I'll try to avoid priming more than needed...

Ng nobhg 40 frpbaqf va v fgnegrq svaqvat vg pbzcyrgryl, gbgnyyl, uvynevbhf... naq V'z abg pbzcyrgryl fher jul.
... Jnvg. Vf ur ba na rfpbeg zvffvba...naq gelvat gb XVYY GUR RFPBEGRQ? B.b... be abg.... Bx. Vs V'ir tbg vg evtug, ur'f gelvat gb npuvrir aba-fgnaqneq jva pbaqvgvba ol xvyyvat nyy gur rarzvrf.

Naq ur'f gnyxvat nobhg gur oybbq ba gur rkprefvfr znpuvarf ng nobhg 3:40. B.b

edit: and had to quit watching because i need to get to sleep. and then peeked.

Xvyyvat nyy gur rarzvrf vf bar bs gur gjb fgnaqneq jva pbaqvgvbaf. Vg'f nyfb abg fb zhpu na rfpbeg zvffvba nf n obgpurq erfphr zvffvba.

Jryy, vg frrzf gb zr ur'f cynlvat sbe gur yhym vafgrnq bs gnxvat gur tnzr frevbhfyl. V zrna, jura ur qvfzvffrf gur pvivyvna pnfhnygvrf evtug njnl, gung jnf n ovt tvirnjnl. V tbg oberq naq yrsg ng nobhg gur unysjnl cbvag. Jung jbhyq lbh unir orra grfgvat bhg bs guvf?

I was looking for the response of someone unfamiliar with the subject. How familiar are you with the genre and specific game?

The most recent FPS I played was Doom 2. Unless I finally gave Marathon a shot after that, I don't remember. I've read the name of this game before, but that's it.

Vg'f n qrpbafgehpgvba bs gur 'ivbyrag SCF' traer. V jnf fcrpvsvpnyyl ubcvat vs lbh unq vqragvsvrq gur rkpunatr gbjneqf gur ynfg unys: "Gurer'f nyjnlf n pubvpr" "Ab, gurer ernyyl vfa'g" Nf orvat qverpgrq ng gur cynlre, engure guna ng gur punenpgre.

Nf n fvqr abgr, erfphvat gur pvivyvnaf erdhverf jngpuvat gur PVN ntrag trg oehgnyyl xvyyrq, ohg ercynprf gur ynetr pbzong fprar jvgu n fubeg fgrnygu frpgvba. Nygubhtu gur jnl gur cybg hajvaqf, gur jnl gb erfphr gur zbfg crbcyr jbhyq or gb fubbg lbhefrys va gur svefg puncgre, engure guna gur ynfg.

I squeed when I saw this post and you should have shown the .mov series, everyone finds those funny.

Also, I don't think I can say that the root cause of climate change denial and cartoon hatedom is the exact same bias. With cartoons, people mostly reject them for fear of falling out of line with a vague but undeniably present cultural standard that could cause them grief in the future. With climate change, the issue has become so muddled in politics that clear lines have been drawn and to cross them would be labeled betrayal. Also, there are various non-scientific authorities that support either side and sometimes have personal agendas, so anyone who doesn't have a particularly strong trust in scientists, enough to take shortened summaries at face value without suspicion, has to either put time into actual research, or default to one side based on political affiliation. And I might have breached the no-politics rule there, I'm not sure.

There are so many biases behind fundamental creationism that I'm not even going to touch them.