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F.F. White ([personal profile] ffwhite) wrote2013-08-10 04:39 pm

An open apology to bronies, or how I learned that friendship is magic

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    I need to apologize for my previous disdain towards and contempt for fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. You see, I did not realize what a progressive force the show was, driven away by its marketing as cute and saccharine pablum for children. Only after swallowing my pride and watching the show could I appreciate its subtlety and completely justified iconic status. I often tell others to read/watch/experience a thing before they judge a thing, and I failed to do this before. Now, I have done the work and I must admit that your support and zeal is warranted. I wont join you in your creative celebrations of the shows, but I am glad so many of you feel comfortable taking up artistic practices for this occasion, and I have some pretty good reasons why I changed my mind, which I shall enumerate in this post. But I just needed to put this out here. The problems I had were with me, not you, bronies of the world. Please, carry on loving what you love and I'll do my best to explain how I finally came around to appreciating what you represent as best I can.


    - f. f. white

So with my apologies out of the way, I'd like to point out the very positive social implications of the existence of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and, by extension, bronies. Necessarily, I am going to reference several fan blogs because all the good media for this column came from fan sites. So, please understand that what you read and see here is sourced from the blog list at the end of the post.

I'd like to start by saying that this show is amazing. Yes, the pilot was a little bland, but as soon as I got about four episodes into the first season, it dawned on me that the six pony characters – Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinky Pie – represent prime female archetypes designed and executed in a positive light. The most surprising is the inclusion of the sixth, Twilight Sparkle, who doesn't fit any of the popular molds, proposing that essential 'real girl' who is trying to become something great in her own right as the protégée of a powerful political and magical mentor (Princess Celestia). This is the sort of role model boys and girls can really integrate into their gender paradigms to accept the idea of personal ambition in women. Prejudice against the personally ambitious woman is a trend that we are still struggling to escape. Twilight Sparkle isn't feminist, nor post-feminist (it's a kids show, y'all), but almost independent of the gender power dynamic, progressive, and self-determined. In fact, she often takes it upon herself to solve problems even when the prominent male character (a somewhat lazy dragon named Spike) suggests she not bother. She starts as a neophyte and progresses into a weighty position of power where she learns about the importance of honest, genuine friends from her past, and to accept the responsibility her great abilities require.

The very fact that a show for kids features a variety of girl protagonists with distinct personalities beyond 'princess' is enough to elevate that show beyond most others. But further, this show passes the Bechdel test in the first minute. This is a show about girls succeeding and failing in the dramas of their lives, and there exists the occasional vital elements of romantic dreams without it being the subject of the show, unlike most of the Disney franchises. Frankly, this is the most femme positive show I can find on television anywhere. It doesn't talk down to its audience, has plenty of internal and external comedy, and places its characters in reasonably complex social situations that allow them to grow and complexify. Their behaviors aren't monotonic or wholly contrived either, as in successive episodes various ponies compete with one another, lie and cheat, take on too much responsibility, possess too much pride or arrogance, indulge their vanity, screw things up because they are clumsy or dumb, and cower in the face of adversity. They are fleshed out characters despite their archetypical presentation and can seem sympathetic or not depending on the current plot. This is also one of their strengths because unrealistic standards are not being set here. It's nice to have heroes, but eventually we all need to look at things more realistically. Its funny how a show with a very simplified artistic vision provides the breadth this one does.

And at last, here is my word about bronies. Whatever they may be, they represent the qualities of sensitive men that are so sorely needed in our culture. Sadly, I started off too stuck in my cultural identity to appreciate the ponies. You see, cute things to me represent an idealized and non-threatening version of the world that is almost universally deceptive. I don't trust cute things, nor cute people, as I've consumed plenty of the aforementioned Disney media only to analyze it later and find that it was just another piece of patriarchal or plutocratic propaganda designed to exploit children and move merchandise. I mistakenly assumed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was just another version of this same exploitative phenomenon because it looked like one and there was a toy franchise behind it. Why or how My Little Pony came to be something better I do not know, but Seth Green (pictured to the right) is absolutely correct. This show is not the usual exploitative crap. Further, those who really like it are, whether they know it or not, appreciative of more varied and positive portrayals of the feminine. If you doubt me, watch the first season and see for yourself what it is about. I sincerely think you'll be surprised, or at least satisfied that the show speaks about real wholesome values as opposed the party of line of some greater entity with a political agenda (e.g. Jesus and any organized church). I even catch myself asking sometimes, WWFSD – What Would FlutterShy Do?

And yes, I will grant some of you a bro-hoof …
-f. f. white

referenced blogs:

  • Zooxie: http://zooxie.blogspot.com/
  • Young Wombs: http://youngwombs.wordpress.com/
  • Ubuntu Forums: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2075298

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