Saturday, December 7, 2013

If I Can't Be Buffy Summers When I Grow Up, I'll Be Twilight Sparkle

Picture the scene. It's a dank room, with faded streamers and deflated balloons strewn around. A bunch of embarrassed people are seated in chairs in a semi-circle. I step up to the podium. "Hello, my name is Carol, and I'm a bronette." The group shuffles shamefacedly as they declare, "Hi Carol."

Yes, I'm a bronette.

If you're like I was, just a short year ago, you would have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm talking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I never intended for this to happen. It all started innocently enough. B and I went on a date, and our daughter, N, (don't ask - it's complicated) babysat. And she turned the television on to the Hub and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The next day, my children, boy and girl, demanded to watch "the ponies". We sighed, we moaned, we gave in and coped.

And one day, we realized, hey, this isn't so bad. We then later realized, hey, this is pretty good.

Let me give you a little background. Equestria is a country with earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi, ruled by a very, very old (but young looking!) Princess Celestia. Her most faithful student is Twilight Sparkle, a brilliant but socially awkward unicorn who is assisted by a green baby dragon (I didn't say this is based in reality). Princess Celestia sends Twilight to Ponyville, with an unusual assignment - learn about friendship. She meets five ponies there, and becomes friends with them. She discovers, to her surprise, that she and her friends represent the powerful Elements of Harmony.

Applejack represents honesty. She speaks with a Southern twang and runs an apple farm with Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, and Apple Bloom. She's forthright, plain-spoken, and hardworking.

Pinkie Pie represents laughter. Born on a rock farm, she realizes she has a passion for parties. Her goal is to make everyone happy, and she's pretty much friends with everyone.

Rarity represents generosity. She's a fashion designer with a gift for making the world a little more beautiful.

Fluttershy represents kindness. She communicates with animals and has a soft and gentle manner.

Rainbow Dash represents loyalty. She's an athletic tomboy who wants to join the Wonderbolts.

And Twilight represents magic.

I didn't want to leave out Spike, Twilight's dragon friend. He provides a lot of comic relief, often through his sarcastic one-liners.

I'm sure you think I've lost my touch on reason at this point. What in the world is wrong with me? But like the best in cartoons, MLP (as we've taken to calling it) provides more than entertainment for children. The stories appeal to children, but they do to adults as well, because they are funny and don't take themselves too seriously. They've referenced Music Man, Indiana Jones, and The Big Lebowski. And who can't love it when they hire John DeLancie to provide the voice of Discord, a chaos demon?

But there's more. I love the fact that the main characters are all strong characters in their own right. They aren't all interested in shopping, cooking, or boys. The only one interested in finding her prince is Rarity, but when she finds one and he treats her like a door mat, she lets him know exactly what she thinks (and even smashes the glass slipper she left behind to prevent him from finding her!). Rainbow Dash is a typical tomboy, tough and competitive, with no time for boys (except to rescue them when they need it). But neither one of these extremes is promoted as superior to the other. Rarity demonstrates that even if she wants to be a lady she can still take care of herself, as the Diamond Dogs discovered after kidnapping her. Rainbow Dash thinks reading is for sissies and eggheads, until she finds herself with nothing to do in the hospital. I don't know what my daughter will be like, and I want her to be able to explore all aspects of herself, not just a limited idea of what femininity is. I like that the ponies are all so different and yet, so okay.

I also like that the ponies aren't smart-mouthed brats who are smarter than their clueless out-of-touch parents. Instead, they work together, and if there is conflict, it is based on character differences (see Rarity and Applejack learn they can be friends even though they are so different). The friendship between the ponies is important, and I really like what it is saying about being friends.

But I'm a little unnerved that I've joined a seemingly clandestine group of adults who like this show. It appears that most are male, many of them fathers of their own pony-loving children. There are many websites devoted to the show, most run by males. And one man even found that being a brony can get you get you fired (and being a brony is not a protected class). Why does it make us uncomfortable for men to be fascinated by this show? Although they don't appear to be predators, I guess their love of MLP makes them seem so. All I know is I will not make a picture of Rainbow Dash as my screensaver at work any time soon.

The Hub aired a MLP special over the fall in which Twilight Sparkle went through a magic portal to a world in which she and her friends were all humans. The kind of humans where the girls had teeny bodies and big heads. I didn't live the images as much, but the focus was still on the friendship, so it wasn't too bad.

The show airs on the Hub, the channel owned and operated by Hasbro, a toy company. Yes, the show is designed to make you want to buy their products. Yes, we have a number of My Little Pony ponies. Yes, you can comb their hair. Yes, we bought MLP bandages. Oh, well.

Be that as it may, we'll keep watching MLP. We usually watch On Demand (and have bought the first two seasons on DVD), so we get minimal commercials. And we aren't going to stop, until our children tell us they don't want to watch it anymore. (Seriously, did you think the two adults watched it on our own?).

Star Trek: TNG Fan Alert: John DeLancie, Q, is the voice of Discord. He also narrated a DVD on bronies (which I don't own!).

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