Here’s a short but important consideration today. It starts with some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic spoilers: in Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?, there’s a nightmare monster from Princess Luna’s dreams called the Tantabus. It looks a little like a blob from her mane, and it escapes her dreams to the Mane Six, and then into every pony in Ponyville, with the threat of escaping into the real world. At the end of the episode, Luna reveals that she created the Tantabus to torment her dreams with memories of when she was Nightmare Moon, to remind her how she’s actually a totally awful person who never deserves to be happy ever because she hurt ponies in the past. The Tantabus is defeated when Twilight Sparkle and her friends are able to convince Luna that no seriously, she’s not Nightmare Moon anymore, she’s the awesome good pony Luna, and everyone forgave her and can’t she trust them and forgive herself? On forgiving herself, the Tantabus is destroyed.
Nightmare Moon was the first big villain of My Little Pony, who appeared in the first two episodes. Following her rainbow-induced defeat, she was able to pull a heel-face-turn to become
one of my favorite characters Princess Luna.
But she still has guilt. So much so that she creates a literal tormentor to makes sure she never forgets that she was once evil and never, ever deserves to be free of her past ergo never ever deserves to be happy.
Going through a redemption process is difficult because of guilt and the lack of forgiveness in others. My own analysis on that last one is that it’s fair to expect people you hurt won’t trust you for a while once you say you change, but that people who withhold forgiveness as a form of punishment are now doing a wrongful act themselves and also grossly misunderstand how forgiveness works.
It’s easy to think people never really change, but they do. Just not usually in a dramatic swoop. And that’s the interesting part of a redemption arc, changing in a way people don’t normally change, in dealing with the fallout.
Guilt is a difficult thing to deal with, though. Guilt is defeated with forgiving yourself. And the tough thing is that a lot of the time it feels like you don’t have permission to forgive yourself. Like, if the people around you are still angry, how can you be okay with what you did? And as for whether or not you are allowed to forgive yourself before everyone else has forgiven you, I think depends on how the individual defines forgiving themselves – I think so long as they decide not to identify with the act(s) anymore, and not to hold it against themselves because they’ll do better, that’s an integral part of the redemption arc. Because Nightmare Moon lived on in Princess Luna, as Princess Luna kept Nightmare Moon alive through her guilt. Like, kind of literally. And that’s ridiculous. That means the Bad Guy is never really gone. And maybe the Bad Guy is just tormenting the reformed character, but that’s still awful that the Bad Guy is allowed to live in any capacity. So a critical part of full redemption is killing the Tantabus – in whatever form it may take for the character who is trying to find redemption.