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My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic? More Like My Little Hasbro:Sponsorship Is Tragic! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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November 4th, 2012


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09:16 pm - My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic? More Like My Little Hasbro:Sponsorship Is Tragic!
I was curious enough about this Internet phenomenon that when it became available on Netflix Instant, I figured, what the hoof, let's see why this show is so incredibly popular.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic takes place in the fantasy land of Equestria, which is amusingly populated with mythical creatures from cockatrices to minotaurs. Also talking ponies. With accompanying dolls sold by Hasbro! The basic premise is that a pony named Twilight Sparkle is sent to Ponyville to learn about friendship. Seriously, that is her actual mission; she has to write weekly letters to Princess Celestia in Canterlot about a lesson she has learned. But how is she going to learn about friendship if she doesn't have any friends? Well, luckily, she makes some pretty quickly, and the Mane Six (look, if you can't deal with horse puns, you're out of luck, because, hoo boy, they keep on coming...and they're pretty brilliant a lot of the time) comprise a diverse array of personalities.

Twilight Sparkle is a studious unicorn, which means she learns lots of spells to use with her magical horn. Friendship is magic, but magic is also magic. Twilight is sort of the main character, and she kind of functions as the straight man, the regular girl. Although this does not mean she is devoid of personality. She's a nerdy bookworm and a little neurotic. It took me a while to realize that we had a lot in common, at which point she became my third-favorite character.

Pinkie Pie is the life of every party, largely because she throws them. She is extremely hyperactive and full of energy and joy and impossible not to like and if you do not like her she will make you like her dammit. She's kind of a weirdo, but she is not embarrassed by herself at all; I admired how self-confident she was. She also tends to be a little bubbleheaded at times, which means she gets some of the funniest lines. She's one of my two favorite characters, as she represents my extroverted side.

Fluttershy, as her name suggests, represents my introverted side. She is very meek, but it's clear she does have a lot bottled up inside her, and it's not a pretty sight when it gets let out. She's great with animals, big and small. She also has a dry wit to her that I wanted to see much more because some of her retorts killed me. I basically wanted to give her a hug all the time because I identified with her lack of assertiveness. Funnily enough, my two favorite characters are voiced by the same voice actor. They do have the cutest voices.

Applejack is a tomboyish farmer who really, really likes apples. It's the family business, after all! To that end, she's very family-oriented and business-oriented, and she's always looking for ways to find a new market. She's also good with animals, but only if they can be herded and/or lassoed.

Rainbow Dash is a tomboyish athlete who really, really likes flying. Flying really, really fast. She dreams of joining the Wonder Bolts (the Equestrian equivalent of the Blue Angels, I think). She's super cocky and kind of irritating, but she has a good heart. Funnily enough, I frequently think both of these characters are dudes (I had to stop myself from typing "He" a couple times just now), and they are both voiced by Ashleigh Ball, of Hey Ocean! fame.

Rarity is a fashionista unicorn, which means her clothes are literally made of magic. Okay, more like made with magic. She loves making pretty dresses and hopes to be the premier designer in Equestria one day. For a while, I had no interest in Rarity at all because whatever, fashion, but I warmed up to her as I saw that she was actually not as superficial as she seemed on the surface. She may be a little snooty, but she's also passionate about her art, and I can respect that.

You may have noticed that this show has six main female characters, which is just unheard of. As a result, every episode Bechdels all over the place. There's one major male character, a baby dragon named Spike, who is Twilight's sarcastic, genre-savvy assistant. He has a mad crush on Rarity and likes eating jewels. Because he's a dragon. All the characters are distinct and surprisingly well drawn; they all have clear strengths and flaws. (They are also well drawn: the very fluid animation on the show is quite nice, and the candy-coated color scheme is a treat for your eyes.)

With the exception of the occasional two-part premieres and finales, there is very little emphasis on serial storytelling, which is sad but understandable given the target audience. There is a modicum of continuity, but not much. Instead, most episodes are stand-alone adventures wherein the ponies learn some sort of lesson about friendship or life in general. It is a testament to the show that even though it is treading familiar ground—trust your friends, listen to your friends, friends are great—it still feels fresh and new, if only because they're talking ponies and the writers do have lots of fun with the worldbuilding (even though it's sort of episode-specific and mostly an excuse to be clever). And I was surprised that even though Twilight Sparkle literally explicates the lesson she has learned at the end of each episode, it didn't come off as sappy or cheesy because it was earned.

Creator Lauren Faust left at the end of the first season, and the second season is a bit different, especially because the writers became aware of their older male fanbase. I found the dialogue a bit wittier and snappier in the second season, and there were more homages and clever stylistic touches that little girls might not appreciate. On the other hand, the second season seems to turn the ponies into dicks more often for the sake of teaching somepony a lesson. The writing on the show overall is a bit mixed; the same writer would produce a great episode one week and then a dud the next. Plus, the show is unfortunately constrained by the fact that, in the end, it is actually a big commercial for toys: there have been times when the writers wanted to feature a supporting character more but were not allowed to because said character did not have a doll to sell. They manage to work around the marketing admirably, however, and the show never actually feels like a commercial at all; it feels like a fun, entertaining show about likable characters. That is also super duper adorable and colorful.

While I do like the show and am attached to the characters, I do remain mystified as to the brony phenomenon and the immense popularity of the show. It's not ~*amazing*~ or anything; when it comes to children's shows that are also great for adults, it's certainly no Avatar. But I have caught up just in time for the third season, and I look forward to seeing what my ponies are up to!
Current Mood: distressedgutted
Current Music: Lamb - Angelica

(21 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:zenkitty_714
Date:November 5th, 2012 05:32 am (UTC)
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Are you fucking kidding me, you've made me want to watch My Little Pony. I have to turn in my cynicism card now.

Why is there an older male audience for this show, though? And by "older", do you mean, like, early 20s, or what? I mean, obviously YOU like it because it's decent storytelling, but I got the sense that when you talked about the show's "older male fanbase" you were talking about grown-ass men combing toy ponies' hair. I'm missing something here.
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From:LossThief
Date:November 5th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
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Oh, you've missed quite a bit. Not long after the series started airing, males in their late teens to early twenties (though there are plenty of fans outside that range and gender) started to watch the show. As far as I can tell they initially started watching after an article on Cartoon Brew decried it, saying the fact that Lauren Faust was working on a show for a toy franchise was a sign that the "Creator driven era of cartoons" was over. The only problem was...the show hadn't actually aired.

Well, the internet is nothing if not a contrary bunch, and so many people decided to watch the show simply to mock the article writer. Little did they know that soon, they'd find themselves actually LIKING the show. And in the last 2 years it's just sort of exploded from there. There are tons of My Little Pony fanfics, approximately 1 bajillion metric fucktons of fanart and videos. There's like 5 different "Abridged" series of varying quality. This past year they held NYC "Brony-con" with over 4000 in attendance, and the My Little Pony fanblog "Equestria Daily" is soon nearing 300 million page views.

It's popular, is what I'm saying.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 5th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
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Ooooh, thanks for the origin story! I had no idea why the bronies started watching the show in the first place.
[User Picture]
From:spadada
Date:November 5th, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
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Whoa.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 5th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
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Are you fucking kidding me, you've made me want to watch My Little Pony. I have to turn in my cynicism card now.
Mwahahahaha! Watch it, and your cynicism will melt away in adorableness.

Also, haaaaaaaaa, yes, LossThief has pretty much explained about the bronies. I don't totally get it myself, but it's a good show and it's supercute and it makes for adorable GIFs so, hey, ponies.
[User Picture]
From:shamoogity
Date:November 5th, 2012 06:50 am (UTC)
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Ooh, you should start Adventure Time or Gravity Falls next--they're both really fun kids' shows that I've been watching, and I'm really curious what you'd think. Neither of them is at Avatar levels, but they both have really great world-building combined with some fun silly humor.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 5th, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
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I AM STARTING ADVENTURE TIME NEXT.
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From:shamoogity
Date:November 6th, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
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YAY! I actually want to go back and watch the early episodes, because I only started about halfway through its run, and apparently the most recent episodes have had a lot of callbacks that are going right over my head.
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From:cran
Date:November 5th, 2012 07:30 am (UTC)
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Rainbow Dash is best pony.

This article about the bronies is pretty interesting! A lot of my friends watch the show, although they're mostly female artists who also enjoy drawing the ponies.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 5th, 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
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Rainbow Dash is worst pony! She gets on my nerves sometimes. But she has her moments. I don't actually dislike any of the ponies.

I really like the art style. I can never stop looking at the bold, thick lines that outline each character and contrast with the lighter color of their skin/fur. They do seem like they would be fun to draw.
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From:spadada
Date:November 5th, 2012 08:14 am (UTC)
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My 9 year old niece is OBSESSED with this show and I loved the original as a kid so I don't hate watching it with her. I agree that the wit is sometimes surprisingly sharp. Fluttershy is my favorite.
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From:loopychew
Date:November 5th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
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I was wondering when you'd get around to this. :-) Netflix helps with everything! (If you live in the US.)

I do think the whole brony thing is a little crazy; I've enjoyed the show muchly and probably wouldn't have been piqued if it weren't for the brony phenomenon, but at the same time it's an enjoyable show that ranks in the top ten (Batman and Avatar still being my two favorites, particularly if you include LoK under "Avatar") animated series.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 5th, 2012 02:20 pm (UTC)
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I don't know, I could probably come up with ten better animated series. I mean, just throw in all the DCAU. And Gargoyles. And The Simpsons. And X-Men: The Animated Series. I enjoy the show, but it doesn't blow me away.
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From:loopychew
Date:November 5th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
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It's entirely possible; I haven't watched enough DCAU (or even Gargoyles when it was on) to really make that call. I just don't remember them nearly as vividly as I do B:TAS. (Except for the X-Men theme.)
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From:casperflea
Date:November 5th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
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My kids like this show. I HATE it.
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From:ste_noni
Date:November 6th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
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My kids and I both love my little pony. I keep using to illustrate life stuff. I think it's interesting that both my daughter and son like it.
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From:gymble
Date:November 9th, 2012 04:44 am (UTC)
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The 8 year old girl in me who was ecstatically happy to receive brand new Pegasus ponies for her birthday is cracking up right now. I LOVED those toys when I was a kid. My mom wouldn't buy Barbies, but I had a massive collection of My Little Ponies. I made up stories for them and my early photography efforts (in Polaroid!) all involved my Ponies.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 9th, 2012 06:25 am (UTC)
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For me, that was Transformers. We had so many battles up in the game room with Chromedrome and all my trucks.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:DorothyCrane
Date:January 8th, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC)
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Hi Sunil! Have you heard this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buFGzskUxk0

It's 20% cooler than the other Pony songs.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 8th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
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That was...something.

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