Sunday, July 3, 2011

Some initial thoughts on "My Little Pony"

I've been talking a lot about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic lately, to quite a lot of people. First the episode of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! a few weeks ago, then a few segments on a local comics podcast I do with a few friends, The Geek Report. In particular, I recorded a separate podcast episode of the Report, only about three minutes long, in which I read a prepared, written statement on my feelings about both the show and the media coverage thereof.

Here's the thing. I didn't set out to become a spokesperson for the brony community. I don't think I'm the right person to be that spokesperson. And I certainly don't feel like being that spokesperson on a regular basis. But if my various ramblings and incoherent explanations of this weird subculture can contribute at all to its acceptance by a wider audience, then hey, I'm content to keep explaining my love of ponies and their magical friendship to anyone who'll listen.

I've said quite a bit on my various appearances, but there's two more points I haven't really been able to cover. The first is why I think there's been so much mockery of and downright hate towards the fans of MLP:FiM. Virtually every media forum in the world seems to have made fun of us at some point or another—heck, one of the first stories about bronies came from Fox News, the pinnacle of ill-informed hate. The obvious answer for why we've endured such opprobium is that it's just the latest in a long line of objects, ideas, and media that grown men should have "grown out of" long ago. Comic books, action figures, video games, animated television shows: all these are hallmarks of childhood (boyhood specifically), and thus should be left behind once we leave childhood. Anyone who admits to still enjoying anything from this list is seen as being in a state of suspended childhood, unwilling or unable to grow up and accept adult responsibilities.

But I think there's another reason for this mockery, especially that mockery which comes from other "suspended children"—that is to say, other nerdy subcultures. It's an obvious and accepted truism that we put others down to feel better about ourselves, and this only becomes more true—or perhaps more visible—the more we need to feel better about ourselves. The more we feel we are under attack, the more we look for someone else to attack, and nerds are nothing if not under attack by the "normal" world. Thus, we find someone lower on the totem pole to mock: the Star Trek fan makes fun of the Star Wars fan; the action figure collector looks down on the comic collector; the video gamer feels superior to the Dungeons & Dragons player. For a variety of reasons—the show's newness, its "girly-ness," the fact that its fans self-identify using a fairly ridiculous name—MLP:FiM fans are currently the absolute lowest on that totem pole.

Will that change? Maybe. Eventually. Hopefully. Once people realize that liking a show for young girls does not diminish adult viewers, especially adult males, and that the show itself is actually good, their opinions will change. But that'll take a major cultural shift, I think, because of how firmly certain notions of gender and adulthood are entrenched in American society. (And, probably, elsewhere, but I'm only really familiar with America, so.)

The other point I wanted to make, and which demonstrates perhaps most conclusively that us bronies are not horrible weird perverts, is that the creators of the show themselves have acknowledged us and accepted us as just another group of fans. Lauren Faust, creator of MLP:FiM, had this to say when someone commented on her DeviantArt page about bronies:

This makes me extremely happy for two reasons: first, obviously, it shows that Mrs. Faust knows we're out there and understands that we're not strange perverted freaks, but second, it confirms what I've been saying all along, that the show is enjoyed by these adult males not because it caters to them but simply because it's good. Other people who've worked on the show have responded to fans, answered questions, and otherwise made it clear that they regard bronies as just another group of fans. They acknowledge that, while the show isn't made for adult viewers—officially, lest we forget, the show's demographic is 6- to 8-year-old girls, and I think it's perfect for that audience—anyone can and should be able to derive enjoyment from it.

Frankly, I feel sorry for Faust and everyone else who's worked on the show, because their hard work and talent are being ignored in favor of talking about these supposedly messed-up fans. The story is "hey look at these weirdos who like a show for little girls," when it should be "hey look at this show based on a toy franchise that is actually really good." A great deal of time, effort, and love went into this show, and from the stories that have been published, you'd think its only viewers are unemployed 30-year-old Asperger's sufferers.

As with all my other appearances, I have no idea whether this will change anyone's mind about the show and its fans. But I'd like to try.


  1. Lol of course a person making money selling this merchandise is going to say they made the show for the kids and their adult male audience. They are shocked as everyone else that all these "foreveralones" are actually risking public recognition to obsess over a pink pastel crusted show about cartoon ponies. No way would they would risk this gravy train by alienating these sad geldings. I am only shocked that there is less resistance to this sadness. I am hoping that its just underground enough that a response hasn't organized yet. The thought that my son might be standing in line wearing a pony eared tiara buying a pink pony doll at a convention at the age of 32 complaining that girls wont talk to him but its worth it to see season 37 makes me want to commit suicide so I don't see it.

  2. Wow, Oghma, you created a Blogger profile just to make fun of me? I'd be flattered, but I'm too busy being saddened by the reminder of how much spare time some people have that they could be spending doing something useful.