~Or, The Redundancy of the Term 'Alicorn' and the Contention of Fan Misinterpretation~
The word 'alicorn' has become widely used within the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom to describe a pony that has both the wings of a pegasus and the horn of a unicorn. 'Alicorn' is used as a catch-all term attributed to any pony that matches these vague descriptions. From a basic glance, there is no real problem with this: after all, a fandom can create content as it sees fit, even if the word that they are using is technically inaccurate. However, if we risk delving a little deeper it becomes clear that these are turbulent times within the pony community, and that the liberal use of 'alicorn' has created a chaotic dynamic that seeks to severe ties between fanon and canon altogether!
One of the key problems that I'm talking about here stems from the contention that surrounds ponies dubbed 'alicorns'. For one, the fandom seems to unite in a fairly substantial act of aggression against anyone who would dare to have an alicorn original character: only those that are deified, such as the fan-envisioned Lauren Faust, seem to be allowed a pony character that has wings and a horn. Despite the fact that 'alicorn' is a user-attributed term 'alicorn' originally being a fictional material for the horn of a unicorn there exists a uniformity in despising those that would have an alicorn character. The argument seems to be that, seeing as only ponies of great power are allowed to be alicorns, that having an alicorn of your own is considered to be elevating oneself above everyone else. Amusing, given that an original character is a fictional creation that can technically look like whatever the creator envisions, but that's not how fandoms work, apparently. There is an inarguable hierarchy, and if you mess with the laws of this system then elitist pony-fans will strike you down for stepping out of line. Know your place, maggots.
The user backlash towards original character 'alicorns' isn't even the biggest concern here; it is a minor complaint that exists alongside a much bigger issue that must be addressed. At the time of writing, a new character has been revealed within Hasbro's toy line with an in-show vector: Princess Cadence. Cadence is a pink pony who will be getting married to a happy-chappy called Shining Armor at some point in the future. This will surely be a glorious time for them both, where they can engage in all of the celebratory mirth that one would come to expect of wedlock. Sadly, their wedding day will not be accompanied by the sound of bells; the church will be burnt to the ground by the indignant cries of foul-play spewing from some fans with too much time on their hands. Shed a tear for these two star-crossed lovers, if you have the heart to do so. For you see, Cadence, being a pony with wings and a horn, has thrown a spanner into the works for some, creating this incredibly unbearable situation where wait for it there is another 'alicorn' in Equestria!
You may be asking yourself why this is a problem. Frankly, I don't personally care in the slightest if the talented writers and animators over at Studio B have decided to make a new pony with wings and a horn. Hell, I'm not even judgemental if Hasbro pushed the character on the studio and encouraged them to stick her in an episode in order to promote their new toy. Why? Because, bizarrely, I actually have some faith in the writers of this show and believe that they will make this character charming, interesting and relevant to her respective episode.
Sadly, a lot of bronies within the fandom have, of course, taken the time to write great streams of angst-ridden text about how they hate that the show is now breaking its own canon and lore by introducing another 'alicorn'. It's no lie to say that whenever a new revelation comes about regarding Cadence, although there are some that look forward to her début, there are many who start breaking out in a sweat and crying into their pillows, proclaiming that the end of Friendship is Magic is nigh! After all, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are the only 'alicorns' in Equestria, aren't they? The show even tells us that from Episode 1, right?
Well, actually, no. I have seen enough amusing comments for it to appear a common-place belief that Celestia and Luna are some sort of exclusive dynamic duo. To paraphrase such mistaken people:
"Luna and Celestia are the only alicorns! They can't just introduce another one!"
Does this roughly resemble anything that you've read? Chances are, if you frequent internet pony updates like I find myself doing in order to reflect on fan opinion, you may have seen a comment like this before. There are two points of contention that I must address here. The first, simply, is that the term 'alicorn' has never been used within the context of the show. The fandom has, to an extent, broken off from the show, but any argument that wishes to avoid the pitfall of ad hominem must root itself in some sort of factual basis derived from the show. While fans are invited and encouraged to generate user-content, there's very little that can be born out of pure fiction that can stand under close scrutiny. The endearing term of 'alicorn' may be a fan-favourite accepted by most it sure does roll off the tongue but it's not actually a canon phrase.
In fact, if we look at Episode 1, which really establishes much of the lore that defines Equestria throughout future episodes and forms the foundation that inspires subsequent fiction, we see that Celestia and Luna are both referred to as unicorns. Here is an excerpt of the transcription from the oft-incorrectly-cited first episode:
"One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn."
This pretty much proves that the show is under the impression that Celestia and Luna are unicorns. This fan-invented concept of the popularised 'alicorn' is therefore fundamentally non-canon in its very existence, making those that claim that having another 'alicorn' in the show to be breaking the established canon a great hypocrisy. No matter how much the fandom might believe that 'alicorn' is the definitive term, it doesn't change the fact that it is, in any relevant context, an incorrect label.
Moreover, let's look closely at this idea that Celestia and Luna are the only 'alicorns' in Equestria. Despite the fact that the show hasn't ever suggested that they are, it would be a very poor argument to suggest that just because we haven't seen any others like them thus far, there simply cannot be any other ponies in Equestria with horns and wings. Perhaps it is a mark of royalty this would certainly make Cadence's appearance understandable or maybe it's just a rare occurrence; what it isn't, however, is an exclusive right available only to these two princesses. To quote the episode that started it all once more:
"Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land..."
I imagine that this line is arguably responsible for the misinterpretation regarding Celestia and Luna. While it does suggest that there were two sisters, it doesn't in any way argue that there weren't others like them. If I write a story that begins, "Once upon a time there was a little boy and a little girl" that doesn't mean that they are the only little boy and girl in the world, does it? If it does, then the population of the Earth is being reset to two every time a mother reads her children a bedtime story.
The reason that this becomes an issue worth talking about is because misinterpretation allows for concern and resentment to fester under false pretence. There's a lot of anger out there towards Cadence for being this world-breaking character, but I fail to see any evidence that what she's doing is in any way breaking the world of Friendship is Magic or any degree of canon lore. Which really boils the argument down to its most irritating conclusion: that the fandom is once again getting pissed because a rule that they have established based on no evidence has now become an enforceable law, with a penalty to pay whenever a degree of challenge rears its ugly head. Never mind the fact that the show entirely mediates the world that the fandom creates; it seems to be perfectly reasonable to many bronies to pick and choose aspects of the show, but then opt for fan-based conclusions and theories above that which is actually accurate when it suits them best.
I do wonder, glancing across the worrisome, hateful comments towards Studio B, Hasbro and the characters that get caught in the wrath of the frustrated generalised brony, if these people are even fans of the show. Some people spend so much time complaining about the choices that the show makes, the way that it develops its lore and the revelations of future episodes that 'sound concerning' that I do find myself curious in regards to if they even enjoy the show, or if they have become so indebted to the fandom that the show is this irritating anti-fanon device to them that keeps messing up their fanfictions and opinions on how the world of Equestria should be. The obvious solution, of course, is to either stop taking things so seriously, or actually base your fictions etc. on supportable evidence within the show. Then, just maybe, the show won't 'ruin' your hard work.
Ultimately, fans will do as fans please. I merely find myself increasingly bemused when it comes to this particular issue. An invented fan-term is one thing, but when this term manifests itself as a force that actually tries to prevent the show from introducing a character it becomes ridiculous. Fans will continue to use 'alicorn', as it's an easy, recognisable way of referring to ponies with the double-graces of wings and horns. That said, those that use the term should be able to recognise that it is entirely fan-orientated and not a part of the show that governs the fandom. Furthermore, to those that seem intent on discrediting Princess Cadence as being a world-breaking character, please realise that your constant whining about how she will ruin everything is a sensationalist concoction of refutable claims and incorrect assumptions; a bastardisation of the show and an insult to those that work hard in bringing it to us every other weekend.