now, what´s the biggest problem with this episode? Someone would claim that it´s Garble and the rest because they are annoying antagonists or poorly written characters. Around that time, yes, but seeing this episode in hindsight, they weren´t an actual menace but more like jerks who didn´t know any better beyond their routine. If they fought against ponies, they would endure in the battle for a quite short amount of time. Antagonists? More like they treated Spike as a punching bag for not being cool enough to fit in.
So, as Bridgefag has said before, the problem relies on the message. Let´s judge it with a twist here:
Assuming that we were blind people who we didn´t know anything about feminism nor took the feminine vs masculine values for Spike into account, let´s do the exercise of not falling into that circle and see why the message/moral is still a mess. Click on the script and read the letter written for Celestia:>>6075>Dear Princess Celestia,>Seeing the great dragon migration made me wonder what it meant to be a dragon. But now I realize that who I am is not the same as what I am. I may have been born a dragon, but Equestria and my pony friends have taught me how to be kind, loyal, and true! I'm proud to call Ponyville my home, and to have my pony friends as my family.>Yours truly, Spike.
Now, my little lurker, read those lines closely again.
This might sound really sweet at first but if you have seen the later seasons, you would realize that this letter has aged BADLY in hindsight (in my opinion). Sure, the ponies would teach the values of friendship to the rest with the school but Spike,are you serious?
He is implying that kindness, loyalty and honesty wouldn´t come from the dragons themselves, he is undermining the dragons (and himself) just because he has had a bad first impression and uses a bad sample of how rude their nature was at first for him. Sure, he was dealing with a gang but one doesn´t need to be a dragon for having that nasty attitude, ponies (or any Equestrian) can perfectly do that as well.
It becomes even worse when you watch Sweet and Smoky, Father Knows Beast and/or the Gauntlet of Fire right after watching this episode. He is implying that dragons like Ember and Smolder don´t exist. Even Ember´s father and Garble (before displaying his poetic side) sincere moments in their intentions. In Sweet and Smoky, Ember and Fluttershy introduce themselves and in a few seconds, Ember displays kindness, honesty and commitment to hatch the eggs towards Fluttershy. In Father Knows Beast, Smolder listens to Spike´s confusions about being a dragon and Sludge. She answered with a sincere tone after knowing those thoughts (compare both Smolder and Sludge, they have no color in their moral values at all)
Combine this with the line:>Spike: I wonder if dragons cry...
We haven´t seen them doing that explicitly but there have been moments of regret and solitude coming from them.
Sure, they needed a little bit of help from the mane 6 in order to boost those universal values (the "ponification" of their cultures) but the effort at becoming better comes from the individuals themselves (and their education), not from the condition of your species. He is saying that he was taught with those values despite being a dragon and sure, Twilight helped him to understand them but here is the catch, what if other dragons want to learn those same values too? Are they handicapped in order to learn them?
When you mix the stereotypes and judge on a surface level with the first impressions, these holes in the well intended message appear. Thankfully, the show hit the reset button with Ember in season 6. It gave the dragons a second opportunity for sowing potential plots/messages with a more interesting take than this but it took 4 seasons in order to see that.
Phew, I am almost sounding like a social justice warrior here but this proves that if the show had an agenda (as though we were implying that there was a genuine conspiracy behind it), it would display quite a few contradictions with itself.