The 80s, a time of bad hair, loud music, and if you were a kid at the time, marketing. Toys were, for the first time, marketed as entire universes, and had narratives and conflicts. These were used to drive toy sales, by creating brands, and virtual monopolies, because while any company can sell you a doll, only Mattel could sell you a Barbie.
During these times, no company was better at it then Hasbro. Transformers, G.I.Joe, and My Little Pony were all popular cartoons, and successful toy lines, and they all had a universal appeal…well, except for My Little Pony.
Now, I’ll be honest, while I’m sure I watched all three of those shows, I don’t actually remember them. So the following paragraph will all be from information I got second-hand. So, while Transformers and G.I.Joe were actually watchable for anyone with a soul. My Little Pony was a different story. One dimensional characters, and flat, uninteresting plot lines, but with enough colour and shiny things to hypnotize the small minds of its target audience.
But one thing about history and human nature, is that we never expect anything to really change, and sometimes we resist or deny it. This is what causes some conspiracy theories to develop. So when I first heard about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the new My Little Pony TV series, I was skeptical. I thought it would have the same amount of appeal the old series had, that being zero.
So when Dan Shive, author of one of my favourite webcomics, El Goonish Shive, started talking about My Little Pony on his twitter feed, I assumed there was some twisted appeal that I never heard about. So I asked him about it, he said “You’d be surprised. I know I was.” So I gave it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Shock and horror, the show’s good. The characters actually have personalities, the plot lines have depth, and the jokes are simply hilarious.
The reason for this is, oddly enough, inconsequential to the branding. Which should come as no surprise. If the main characters were bunnies, or faeries, or humans, the show’s quality would be unaffected. What makes the show great is the characters.
We begin with Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn (that’s right, they have unicorns) with a special talent for magic. All unicorns can use magic, but Twilight is unique, because magic is her special talent. She’s also a consummate bookworm. The brainiac of the show. Always coming up with the nerd solution to almost every problem. A magical nerd solution, but a nerd solution nonetheless. She lives in a library and spends half her time studying the various books within. But despite her intelligence, she is a complete idiot when it comes to social skills. So much so, that she never even had friends until the series begins, when she arrives in Ponyville, and oddly enough, made a bunch of friends without even trying. In fact, she was avoiding it. It does strain credulity to see everything come together that quickly. But no one I know of considers the first episode to be the strongest anyway, so…let’s move on. Throughout the series, her nerdiness takes centre stage, not only as the town egghead, but as an actual nerd.
There’s also the episode where she holds her first slumber party, literally by the book. Yes, she has an actual book, and she uses the term, “officially fun.” It’s a hell of an episode. Especially when the event goes downhill, she panics and asks if a tree in her bedroom counts as camping.
Then there’s Pinkie Pie. If anything, she’s the polar opposite of Twilight. Easily excited, Pinkie often acts before she thinks, and throws parties at the drop of a hat. She also breaks into song at random intervals, much to the chagrin of her friends. Which is one of the many things I love about this show. In any other kid’s show, the other characters might act as if random singing is normal, they might even decide to join in. Not so much in Equestria. Character breaks into song, the others start slinking away, hoping the crazy person doesn’t notice. It not only grounds the show a bit, since Pinkie’s friends are pretty much saying what we are all thinking, it also amplifies Pinkie’s weirdness, because everyone recognises that this is abnormal behaviour.
Sadly, that is not only her best performance, it managed to start a war.
Next is Rainbow Dash, the local badass! Described by some in the fan community as a tomboy and a lesbian, Rainbow Dash is a blue pegasus with an apt mane. She’s cocky, reckless and has an attitude that you just want to slap…I like her. Her competitive nature has done a great job of driving the plot in some cases, and her shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude has done a great job of escalating it. She’s also ambitious and impatient, which are two qualities that tend to conflict to a certain extent. Plus, like Pinkie, she loves having a good time. Only her insanity is about half Pinkie’s.
Then there is her constant crashing…
But one thing I want to deal with is this, she is not gay!! I find it odd that people automatically assume, because she’s not a girlie girl, she must be gay. We have a character who doesn’t fit into the typical female stereotype, that doesn’t mean she falls into the typical lesbian stereotype. Of course much of the main cast gets identified as gay within the fan community, but Rainbow is just the most frequent, as far as I can see. But of course that’s not the only reason people think she’s gay, it’s because of her rainbow mane. Of course, the rainbow flag is the flag of gay pride, and that’s all a rainbow can mean, it’s not like her rainbow mane could represent an actual rainbow, which would be appropriate considering her involvement in weather control. No, it has to represent her homosexuality. What the hell!? We’re talking about a kids show! You may be wondering where I’m getting this, well it’s from a hippie vegan feminist with a penchant for conclusion jumping, whos never actually watched the show. Which is funny because the same author wrote this comic pretty much saying there is no connection between the two. Which shows me she’s schizophrenic.
I’m reminded of a classic Simpsons line by Martin Prince, “I’m not gay, I’m nothing yet.” I have a hard time believing this is a show that will ever talk about romance or homosexuality, because it’s not an issue it’s target audience will have to deal with at this point in their lives. The closest they might come to talking about that kind of thing, will be an episode about a character revealing a life-changing secret. Perhaps they kept this secret for so long because they were afraid their friends would judge them negatively because of it. The final lesson would be: they’re your friends, and they love you no matter what, so get over it. It would be like talking about homosexuality, without talking about homosexuality. Maybe Rarity will reveal she dyes her hair, or something. I would have said Rainbow Dash dyes her hair, but I thought that might be a bit on the nose. Anyway, this brings me to the next character…
…Rarity!!! The fashionista of the group. Much like Rainbow Dash, she has high ambitions. What I love about her is she’s not a fashion victim, she’s a perpetrator. A designer whose taste in fashion doesn’t seem to be based on what’s popular, or hip, but on what looks good, and fits the wearer’s personality. There was an entire episode based on this. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that bothers me about Rarity’s designs. She overuses gemstones. Now, I don’t blame her per say. She’s really good at finding them. In fact that’s supposed to be her special skill, and sometimes it works, like when she’s designing a suit for Lady Gaga. But for anyone else, it always looks gaudy. For instance, compare and contrast.
But that’s just my opinion. She’s also very good at using her feminine wiles to get men to do what she wants. By both attracting and annoying them. You know, that’s just a nice way of saying manipulative isn’t it…
Anyway, next there’s Applejack. The local apple farmer. Not much to this character. Not that I can see. Her big thing seems to be honesty and dependability, but she’s also very bull-headed. She also has enough pride and arrogance to give Rainbow Dash a run for her money. In fact there’s a whole episode about that. Anyway, I really don’t know what to say about Applejack. She is certainly unique. A businesspony, first and foremost, her biggest priority during the Grand Galloping Gala, while everyone else is busy partying and fulfilling lifelong dreams, is bringing home the bacon. Not a bad idea per say, but it’s a friggen party. Not a sales conference. I wonder if she asked permission from the caterers.
Finally there’s Fluttershy, the quiet one. The one you have to watch out for. Possibly my favourite character because she’s just so damn adorable. She is an expert in animal husbandry. Which animals? Eh, pretty much all of them. Her quiet, passive nature makes her perfect for dealing with the more skittish species in Equestria, which appears to be all of them. One of the coolest things about her though is her freaky knowledge of sewing.
The weird thing is, it’s a major part of this one episode, then it is never brought up again. Meanwhile, she is also the most cowardly, being literally afraid of her own shadow, however she also manages to be the bravest character when others are in danger. It’s as if she really doesn’t care about her own well-being so much as the well-being of others. This is also demonstrated in her non-confrontational attitude. Always apologising for the most trivial stuff. Other characters often tell her to be more bold and assertive, which she does…unfortunately, she’s a pony of extremes, and this results in bad things happening.
You know, it’s not often you see a cartoon where the main characters have severe mental breakdowns.
Which is one of things that makes My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, unique. The characters aren’t caricatures, nor are they copy-pasted from the same template. They are all unique, and they all have flaws. Compare this to the last generation of My Little Pony media.
That shit now haunts my dreams. They all have the same fucking face! They don’t feel real. But the new characters do. They are fleshed out, and have depth, and are different from one another, and more then anything else, this makes it one of the best shows for children. Because it basically tells them, it’s okay to be different than everyone else. If you’re a guy who doesn’t care about sports, or a girl who doesn’t care about fashion, or a college student who doesn’t vote Democrat/Liberal/Crazy-Socialist, or a shy person, or a crazy person, it’s all okay. You don’t have to fit in, and if your friends are that way, that’s okay too. It teaches people who might be insecure about their personality or interests, that they don’t need to be, and teaches those who are judgemental about those things, that they shouldn’t be. Being different is a good thing, and it’s something we should embrace. Besides, if you ask me your true friends are the ones who are least like you.
That’s all I want to write about for now. There’s certainly more to write regarding My Little Pony, but it can wait for another time. In the interim, I’d like to leave you with one final point. Regarding why anyone over the age of 18 would even want to watch a kid’s show, and why you should at the very least, give it a chance. Well, as a great man once said. “It’s important to understand the distinction between ‘kiddy’ and ‘fun for all the family.’ The latter is stuff anyone can enjoy as long as they’re not the kind of slack-jawed sociopath in waiting who refuses to look at any game that doesn’t have at least three police officers worth of blood on-screen at all times.”