Marianne Raves About Children’s TV #2A
When you ask someone how they got into this show, the most common response is, “I don’t know how it happened! I thought I’d watch for a few minutes to see what all the Internet hype was about and now I’ve seen every episode and my favourite character is Fluttershy!”
That’s exactly how it went for me. Except my favourite is Applejack.
In all honesty though, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of my favourite shows. And I have literally no idea how it happened.
If you spend even a fraction of the time I spend on tumblr (or reddit or any other site whose lifeblood is composed almost entirely of memes), you will already be at least vaguely aware of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I immediately recognised the images cropping up over and over again on my dashboard as the latest incarnation of Hasbro’s enduring franchise. However, I couldn’t quite figured out why they were on my dashboard, specifically. To my knowledge, I don’t follow many pre-teen girls. Closer inspection made me realise that these pony memes were all permutations of Arrow To The Knee and the ubiquitous rage guy comics, as well as the "ponification" of movie trailers and a truly bizarre amount of My Little Wu-Tang Clan.These are not the offerings of eleven year-old girls. These are the offerings of nerds, clearly. At this point, I discovered that the withered husk of apathy that was once my natural curiosity was not yet completely inert, and at its feeble behest, I decided to spend five seconds googling this new wave of little ponies.
Five seconds was all I needed. The second or third result told me all about bronies. Bronies are a legion of young men who are proud and self-proclaimed MLP: FiM fanatics. They are the ones proliferating these memes and as far as I can tell, their adulation for the inhabitants of Ponyville is completely sincere.
Lauren Faust is the producer of this show. Her former credits include The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. You know, those kids’ cartoons with a distinct adult edge that play on the tropes of popular culture that go right over their tiny heads of their proposed target audience? So this makes sense, Faust has obviously made Ponyville edgy and hip. Now, it’s all one giant reference to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with distinct Tarantino undertones and voice cameos from cast of the original Dr. Who or something and everyone is happy!
So, because I’m me and the only real prompting I need to spend hours watching children’s TV is a hangover and an edible vessel for transporting hummus to my mouth, I decided to watch a few episodes. I have been known to re-watch entire series from my childhood for nostalgia purposes. (I still don’t understand a lot of X-Men, or pretty much any of Gargoyles.) I was a fan of the original My Little Pony cartoons from the 80s, despite its amorphous cast of near-indistinguishable ponies, questionable musical numbers, horrific animation and two human protagonists who wore frilly pastel dungarees as a matter of course. That said, it actually had some fairly dark story-lines. If I were the kind of person who could remember the name of specific episodes I would recommend “The Return of Tambelon” as a prime example of all these things, but moving swiftly on…
Seriously, Megan? This is a choice you made?
The first thing I will say about MLP: FiM is that it is beautifully animated; smooth chunky lines, vivid block colours, lush landscapes, detailed interiors. It follows the tried and tested colour scheme of most TV shows aimed at girls aged 8 -11, i.e. rainbow with an emphasis on pinks and purples. It also follows the tried and tested character formula of a lot of female-centric entertainment (which has carried over to everything from Sailor Moon to Sex and the City) in which an unlikely group of best friends (the nerd, the tomboy, the princess, etc.) share fun and adventures, which can and often do range from world-saving quests to sleepover shenanigans within one series. Or indeed, one episode
The first two episodes were not even remotely what I was expecting. Like their dedicated brony following, Twilight Sparkle and her new group of varied-but-surprisingly-compatible friends rise to prevent the impending destruction of Equestria by the evil Nightmare Moon with unflinching sincerity. I could not locate a single tongue even partially inserted into the adjacent cheek. There was none of the satirical sadism of Dexter’s Labratory, the slapstick gross-out factor of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy or even the latent stoner appeal of Adventure Time.
It is the sort of show I would have been absolutely engrossed by as a little girl. The voice acting is uniformly strong, the plot barrels along at an entertaining pace, the world is well-realised and, to reiterate, the animation is stunning. It’s also a really genuinely clever. It does not patronise its audience. It’s great to see a show focused on female friendship that isn’t simultaneously focused on boys and fashion. Still, I couldn’t fathom what set of pop culture planets could have been in such a perfect and precise alignment at the moment of first airing that this charming, thoughtful, witty show about female friendship had become an online phenomenon so poignant that a community of young men with girlfriends and careers stood up as one and said, “This show is so great that I want everyone to know I like it. I don’t care if it’s meant for little girls. It’s the best thing ever. Also, Pinkie Pie is way better than Rainbow Dash.”
And so, I kept watching.
And now I’m up-to-date with Season Two, and I look forward to my regular pony fix every week. And I still don’t know what on earth it is about this show that has me and hoards of other quasi-cynical pseudo-intellectual 20-somethings so absolutely enchanted.
But I think it’s a good thing.
I will elaborate on why I think this in Marianne Raves About Children’s TV #2B, but for the moment, there’s only so many pony-related things I can credibly link to in one post.
For now, I remain, your faithful brony,
(Yes, this is what I think I would look like as a little pony.)
(Yes, it is awesome.)
(Yes, you should totally make your own on the Pony Creator.)