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I’ve been pony-fied

I had two My Little Ponies that I played with when I was about six years old, until their manes turned bright green from me bringing them to the swimming pool too many times. But I totally don’t get the whole My Little Pony reboot fandom thing. Bronies? What?

But I don’t care. Along with the other Skepticon speakers (here and here), I’ve been pony-fied, and it’s pretty damn cute:

I love it. My favorite color blue (nabbed from the Blag Hag logo, I assume), badass pegasus wings, a DNA symbol, a mane that accurately depicts my bushy brown hair, and a pony pun that PRONOUNCES MY LAST NAME CORRECTLY! Win.

Comments

  1. Crommunist says

    Thanks to Google’s awesome ad-sense, the ad that comes up for this post is “Pony vs. Pony – Battle is Magic”. Gender stereotypes are colliding in ways that make me need a brief sit-down.

  2. Vern says

    As a brony I think I can explain some of the reasons for it. First, the stories are engaging and well written for a children’s cartoon. Second, it’s very much female-centric. This isn’t that I’m this creepy guy but because I happen to like stories with strong female characters. The characters get upset when something bad happens, but they don’t get all weepy-waily and mope around, they actively pursue a solution to their problems in creative and moral ways. In other words, they take responsibility for their lives. (The Alien movies wouldn’t be as good if Ellen Ripley hadn’t been such a strong character or male.) Third, the stories encourage critical thinking. Fourth, the characters have strong, consistent three-dimensional personalities. Fifth, the stories show that one does not fix everything by herself, rather if you need help, reach out to your friends. If they’re real friends, they help as best they can. In short, they’re just well done cartoons.

  3. Alisa says

    Oh man, you’re missing out! Ponies are the best thing ever, and MLP:FiM is possibly the most (deliberately!) feminist cartoon you will ever see. Awesome animation quality, wonderful music, shout-outs to the adult fans and pop culture references… it really does deserve to be put on a pedestal as the best all-ages cartoon that all other cartoons for that age group should look up to.

    I’ll just mention one thing where I disagree with Vern, though. There’s one episode that made me, a scientist and a skeptic, very very sad due to LACK of proper critical thinking, and that’s Feeling Pinkie Keen. My teeth clench whenever I think of it. But, that’s 1/33 (and counting), so not too bad a ratio for a cartoon targeted at such a young age group.

  4. Kate from Iowa says

    Wow, your pony experience was rather lacking, Jen. My sister cousins and I played with the damned things well into our teens.

    Of course, but then it was more along the lines of us running through the basement stuffing our pockets and sweatshirts in preparation for playing strip poker while sneaking gramma’s Wild Irish Rose…

  5. Ms. Anthropy says

    Because it’s done by the same people who did Powerpuff Girls! You have to remember THAT at least.

    That show was so boss.

  6. PDX_Greg says

    My FSM!!!

    A “My Little Pony” jingle just started playing in my head and it won’t stop! How the hell do I even know it?!!! It’s looping itself in a saccharine little girl voice chorus over and over and over and over! How many seditious neurons have been patiently waiting to fling this malignancy directly into my conciousness? Must … stop … mental … insurgency … its … still … being … heard … help … me … God … nnnoooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

  7. says

    First of all:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! DON’T JOIN THE DARK SIDE! D: I see enough ponies on the Minecraft forums. I don’t want to see them on my favorite blog too. D:

    Second of all:

    That’s an awesome picture! ^_^

  8. magistramarla says

    My four little girls grew up loving My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. In fact, the older girls helped to choose the youngest one’s name – Meghan – in honor of Meghan and her Little Pony. She still has the doll and pony.

  9. Azkyroth says

    Hmm. Strong female characters and good moral lessons without constantly reinforcing the idea that fashion and recreational shopping are the only important things in a young girl’s life. This might be a significant improvement on the “Barbie” videos my daughter’s taken to watching… >.>

  10. Twin-Skies says

    @Vern

    A good portion of the animation work was also done in Studio Top Draw here in the Philippines, so I can’t help but feel a tinge of national pride when I watch the episodes

    And the musical numbers are awesome – they remind me of Disney’s glory days before their quality went to hell.

  11. Twin-Skies says

    //A “My Little Pony” jingle just started playing in my head and it won’t stop! How the hell do I even know it?!!! It’s looping itself in a saccharine little girl voice chorus over and over and over and over!//

    Wait till you hear the heavy metal cover :)

  12. Don Nelson says

    Love your pony-fied self, Jen!

    My girls love My Little Pony. I cringed when they asked me to put it on for them the first time–my mind going back to the mindnumbing treacle that was MLP when I was a kid.

    The first episode I watched with them was the one with the song linked above. I expected it to give me cavities, but I was pleasantly surprised: decent storytelling… and the musical numbers are really quite good. (check out the inspiration for the song linked above: http://youtu.be/1uwV1Wf8tUo )

    Now I find I can watch an episode with my girls and actually *talk* with them about this or that lesson, issue, etc. Not alot of kid shows out there you can say that about. Although Phineas & Ferb is just made of awesome.

  13. karleyjohnston says

    Argh, I finally found a way to log in on my phone. I’m glad you liked it, as I wasn’t sure what direction to take with your design. I had no idea blue was you favorite color, I just picked it because it went with the cutie mark’s light blue. Serendipity!

  14. rickpikul says

    Yes it would be an improvement. Here’s a couple reasons:

    One of the core themes of the show is “there’s more than one way to be a girl.” There is enough of a spread in the mane 6 that anyone should be able to identify with at least one.

    While one of the mane 6 is obsessed with fashion, she isn’t the kind of pony who deals with it by going out shopping: She makes her own in her rather successful shop between custom designs for others.

  15. joshuawhite says

    As one of the more active skeptical posters on the Ponychan /dis/ board I have to respectfully disagree with Alisa.

    I thought that if you took Feeling Pinky Keen at face value it was a good episode from a skeptical point of view. I told religious folks at ponychan that it was a good example of the kind of thing that would be convincing to me. A repeatable, testable (despite the scene in the library) phenomenon that violates what we know about how the world works. It’s a great example of the kind of thing that theists and supernaturalists would have to show me in terms of evidence.

    Now Bridle Gossip, that was a good skeptical episode! That episode is why Applebloom melts me with DAWWWWWWWW!!!

  16. John Horstman says

    Ah, yes, Zecora and the bison. I feel like these are victims of the postmodern paradox. While the depictions definitely invoke some colonialist “other” stereotypes, the narrative arcs serve to completely dismantle the otherness of the characters (and they are multidimensional characters, not simple racial caricatures). It’s really difficult to do this kind of thing, because one can’t deconstruct a stereotype without first rendering that stereotype, which can paradoxically serve to reinforce that stereotype even as it attempts to challenge it. If we’re trying to promote respect for the customs of indigenous cultural groups in colonized spaces, for example, we can’t present the indigenous people in assimilated, “non-stereotypical” fashion because then they’re no longer identifiably “other”, no longer threaten cultural norms, and the need for acceptance disappears, because there no longer is an “other” culture to accept/respect. We have to present a stereotypical “other” about which we don’t know much (this is how many people actually experience radical cultural differences) in order to show that this “other” is actually deeper than our stereotypes, many of our stereotypes are misconceptions, and it’s possible to work together across the differences.

    If Zecora or the bison were just like all of the other ponies, 1) there would be no conflict in the first place and 2) the show would basically be pushing a narrow hegemonic view of culture. By using extant racist (or sometimes-racist, depending on context of production, transmission, and receipt) tropes, the show attempts to challenge actual, real-world racism instead of less-relatable fantastic racism. It may fail to do so, or it may only partly succeed and come off as ambivalent, but I’m not sure there are any perfect options here, so we have to consider how they handled the cross-racial/cross-cultural dynamics in relation to the other options. They could have simply ignored the issue, which I think would be worse (a show about friendship and working together across difference should not ignore cultural/ethnic/racial issues); they could have stuck to fantastic racism with conflict between the different sorts of ponies (pegasus/unicorn/mundane), which would probably be less-relatable and a much less direct challenge; they could have used meticulously-researched and realistic depictions, which would be exploitative (using a single specific culture as a stand-in for all “others”), out-of-place, and potentially-marginalizing for a specific real-world group. Given the options, using imaginary characters that (at first glance) embody a number of real-world racist tropes (which are then directly challenged) strikes me as the best option, as it allows the show to challenge actual extant racism without further marginalizing or exploiting any specific real-world group (since we’re still using imaginary characters that AREN’T supposed to be representative of any particular real-world group).

    Of course, if you have suggestions of how to better handle this sort of thing, I would very much like to hear them. As I said, I don’t think there are perfect solutions (and I obviously can’t think of every possibility), so the more ideas, the better.

    Also, @Jen, the fact that MLP is grappling with these issues (as well as all sorts of other contemporary feminist discourses) is part of what makes it a great show. It upends male-as-normative with an all-female primary cast that can appeal across age and gender groups, challenges prescriptive femininity by presenting a greatly varied array of ways to be a girl/a woman/female (through diverse and realistically-flawed characters), and focuses on pro-social messages. The show challenges the assumptions and cognitive biases of its characters at every turn. Pinky Pie is unapologetically (and very successfully) strange, which I think is fantastic. Also, Tara Strong is a voice-acting rockstar, as any fans of American animation know. The irony that this (including challenges to a culture of materialism) is done in the form of a show that is ostensibly an advertising vehicle for Hasbro just makes it that much more awesome. MLP: FiM is easily my favorite American animated show since Avatar: The Last Airbender ended.

  17. John Horstman says

    I agree: Twilight remains skeptical until she is presented with consistent evidence that Pinkie Sense is real, even if she doesn’t understand the mechanism. This is exactly how science approaches the unknown. Keep in mind, this is a world where “magic” is commonplace, so predictive phenomena like those demonstrated are not outside the bounds of possibility. This relates to the discussion of skepticism in True Blood (and other fantastical universes) a month or two back.

  18. daenyx says

    I had… issues… with that episode. Mostly with the way they ‘capped the lesson’ at the end – I did like how Twilight went about collecting evidence, and that that changed her mind, but in her ‘what I learned today’ letter to the Princess, I think they got it wrong. The lesson was framed as how it is important to have faith in your friends, rather than anything about accepting evidence, and to me that really undermined the point.

    But all in all, the show generally does pretty well from a rationalist viewpoint.

    Also, it is adorable, and 20% cooler than everything else out there (with the possible exception of Avatar: The Last Airbender). >_>

  19. leftwingfox says

    From what I hear it was a munged writing on the moral rather than an intentional snub on the creator’s part.

    The show itself is actually pretty good from a science standpoint right up to the end, with Twilight Sparkle starts from a position of denial, which she has to abandon in the face of the abundance of throughout the show.

    The problem is that the moral then goes to say you have to have faith in FRIENDS regardless of the evidence, which turns the whole thing from encouraging scientific thought to encouraging passive gullibility. The events of the show go from “Science: you’re doing it wrong” to “Science is wrong”.

  20. Alisa says

    My main issues with it are

    1. that she gives up about the whole thing forever (where are your new hypotheses about how it works, Twilight? about what types of events can be predicted, and how far into the future? what, you say “it exists” and then never wonder about it ever again? you’re not a very curious scientist, are you…)

    2. that the ‘doozy’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Pinkie Pie hadn’t stated out loud the location of the ‘doozy’, the other ponies would not have gone there and encountered the hydra. Of course, Fluttershy would be dead… but still, if Twilight hears about her death, and the ending is exactly the same but she’s in Ponyville, then clearly the ‘doozy’ was in Ponyville all along and Pinkie’s prediction was broken! See how that works?

    3. The ‘doozy’, at first glance, isn’t correlated with any real event. It only becomes correlated with one after Twilight decides it’s real with no explanation. But, on what planet would you consider that a data point that fits your null hypothesis is confirmation for your active hypothesis in the first place?

    Am I making sense? It really is the ‘doozy’ bit right at the end combined with the moral that I hate, not the rest of the episode.

  21. Alisa says

    Wait, hold on, I missed that – you live on the /dis/ board? We simply MUST have come across each other at some point! I started that thread on evolution a while back… should bump it back to the top sometime. :3

  22. says

    I also think that Feeking Pinkie Keen was, overall, pro-science and skeptic friendly. It was just the wording of the Friendship Report that was ploblematic. I have some sympathy for them though. The various meanings of ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ as so often conflated that their mistake was an easy one to make.

    What I want to know though is, what is a brain-scanning device doing in the basement of a government building?

  23. inflection says

    Wow, Feeling Pinkie Keen really hit a nerve with a lot of us. I’m on the side of the fence saying it could have been done better, but doing it better would take an awful lot of work for a children’s show. (Which it is; I love it, but it’s going to stay aimed at its core audience.)

    Personally, I rewrote that entire episode in my head into “Twilight Sparkle Teaches Confidence Intervals and Hypothesis Testing.”

    “But why two lists, Twilight?”

    “Because we’re trying to see if the two events are *independent*, Spike…”

  24. Emrysmyrddin says

    I’m one of the World’s Biggest Fans Evah of General Zoi, the creator of the pony generator. She’s a verrrry clever lady – she used to design and animate custom Sims objects, something for which you need a hell of a lot of grey matter and patience (EA hates customisers with a passion and makes it as awkward as possible). I released an involuntary ‘squeee!’ when I saw the name, and went to the site to confirm that it was her. It was!

  25. penn says

    I didn’t actually read your entire comment, but I wanted to commend you on how well thought-out it was. Some people would say that you were over analyzing, but I say there’s no such thing. The world is meant to be analyzed.

  26. Azkyroth says

    PS I am Bi so no assuming I am a Bigot OK!!

    Technically, these things aren’t exclusive.

    However, your comment wasn’t something I would infer as being bigoted anyway. (Actually, the idea that any casual reference to gay people or gay culture is necessarily bigoted is itself absurd and reprehensible. “Kid gloves” are something we should be confiscating from priets, not putting on ourselves.)

  27. Rick Pikul says

    You aren’t the only person who thinks they got the moral wrong: Lauren Faust herself has admitted that they messed up the moral.

  28. says

    erk! you called me on that one. I suspect I have been told off for making ‘Gay’ references too often for some people I know. Time to remove a habit from my brain :-) or set up a different set of habits for different groups of people? Sigh, unexpected side effect of being really inclusive. Anyways, cheers for pointing it out :-)

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