My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

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My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an American cartoon TV series launched by the Hasbro toy company in 2010 to promote toys, and broadcast on the Discovery Family channel. The show takes place in the magical land of Equestria and focuses on Twilight Sparkle, a studious and science-minded unicorn pony who is sent to the town of Ponyville to learn how to make friends.[1]

Although originally written for young girls, Friendship Is Magic has developed a large and unexpected cult following among men (nicknamed "bronies" - women are "pegasisters" after pegasusWikipedia's W.svg) in their 20s and 30s. This demographic has become a controversial cultural phenomenon, generating debate about what this instance of fandom says about gender neutrality and tolerance. The show has also attracted discussion and controversy about other topics of interest to rationalists and skeptics.

Contents

[edit] But it's a show for little girls!

It's very pink...

Friendship Is Magic's cult following originated on 4chan where a group of posters decided to watch the show in response to an alarmist editorial claiming that programming produced by an advertiser (in this case, Hasbro) signalled the end of "creator-driven" entertainment and quality children's television. Although this was originally meant to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek, many who watched the show genuinely enjoyed it. Explanations for this included the show's high-quality animation, the presence of strong female characters who defy conventional gender stereotypes, and moral lessons that are typically in line with a modern inclusive worldview as opposed to "family values" (although these do show up from time to time).

The overly colorful and feminine nature of the series has led to widespread mocking and derision of the bronies, who are at times called gay, furries, or zoophiles. While some use homophobic language to mock bronies, some LGBT activists have criticized them for appropriating their terminology, such as "coming out of the stable," a phrase describing when a fan makes it publicly known they enjoy the show.[2][3] Series creator Lauren Faust has expressed disapproval for those who are critical of bronies, explaining that she feels it is important for adult men "to be encouraged to be caring, emotional people."[4]. It should, likewise, be noted that a large majority of those who have a problem with bronies as a culture seem to have a problem with examples of them being the exact opposite of that, e.g. how easily anyone critical of them can be targeted with a hate mob, as further detailed in this article, or how the culture's 4chan roots still have a large foundation upon how some members of the brony fandom behave (including, but not exclusive to, mountains of porn of characters of dubious age), and some of the fandom's ties to the MRA Anti-Feminist culture, despite the show's feminist leanings. It should also be noted that some of the exasperation felt seems to be due to the over-defensive nature of parts of the fanbase, and those members' readiness to say "Not all bronies! You're just a hater!" when any controversy has occurred, such as the princess molestia debacle (though there are many others), rather than condemning said controversy.

There have been several documentaries produced about the show and its fan following, including: Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little PonyWikipedia's W.svg (2012); Ballad of the Brony (2013); The Brony Chronicles - A Documentary on My Little Pony and Bronies (2014); and A Brony TaleWikipedia's W.svg (2014). The films explore various issues experienced by bronies such as an instance of homophobic persecution and the difficulties they face in telling friends and family members about their hobby. Some bronies have complained that these documentaries ignore the majority of the fanbase who keep their fandom as only a facet of their life and do not feel persecuted for being bronies, and by focusing on the 'martyrs' it makes them all look like losers.[5] The films typically only highlight the male portion of the fan base as well, which prompts complaints from the pegasisters. The documentaries contain little criticism of the fandom and tend to avoid or ignore major issues in the brony community such as bullying and harassment, death threats, transphobia, and the cloppers which aggressively sexualize the show and proudly display their "plush ponies with makeshift orifices" on brony forums.[6][7] For example, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony was widely criticized for its portrayal of bronies (with one critic flabbergasted that it seemed to portray bronies as "on par with civil or gay rights movements"[8]) and has been called "borderline propaganda" and "a puff-piece" by various reviews due to its lack of any negative coverage at all.[9][10]. This is not surprising given that these films are produced by bronies themselves, as opposed to any third party, which is understandable, to a point. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an aggregate score of 43%[11], which makes it comparable to Ted 2 or Charlie's Angels Full Throttle. Why anyone cares about the merits of a low-rent documentary into the Brony sub-culture cannot be answered by Rotten Tomatoes, or any other agency on Earth, so feel free to jump onto the talk page and add your two cents like every other person that reads this section of the article.

[edit] Specific controversies

The show's explosive popularity has caused its fans, critics, and mainstream media sources to butt heads on a variety of subjects.

[edit] Godless liberals again!

Some of the crazier conservative groups have targeted Friendship Is Magic as being part of the vast liberal conspiracy to indoctrinate children through entertainment.[12] Their evidence includes the fact that the show's core tenets, such as loving and accepting people who are different from oneself, are obviously evil liberal conspiracies. Fox news, always on the ball, declared that bronies are grown adults that become so obsessed with the series that they "stay home from work" and "are filing for disability".[13] Even crazier are the people who have accused the series of promoting the wicked gay agenda, being satanic, and being generally evil.[14] At least one person even discovered a Illuminati connection.[15]

Particular focus has been placed on Rainbow Dash, one of the main characters, whose macho behavior, rainbow-themed appearance, and rejection of feminine social norms has been widely suggested to be proof that she is a representation of butch lesbianism.[16] Although most fans reject this, and the show's creator, Lauren Faust, has rejected wholesale the idea that Rainbow Dash is supposed to be a "stealth lesbian,"[17] the rumors and myths have persisted. Accusations that one or more of the characters are "secretly" lesbians and are trying to convince America's children to be gay are reminiscent of the conspiracy theories that conservative groups have leveled against other children's shows like SpongeBob SquarePants or the 1960s Batman series.[citation needed]

The fact that the series portrays positive female characters that fall under a variety of archetypes and suggests these lifestyles are all equally valid has been accused of being a nefarious feminist plot.[18]

This was not the first time My Little Pony faced such accusations, as Phil Phillips attacked the original cartoon in the 1980s and claimed that My Little Pony heralds the coming of the Anti-Christ, based on a reading of Daniel 8:4-5.[19][20] This verse actually describes flying unicorn goats, not horses, but close enough 'ey? For some reason the "Four Horsemen" in Revelation 6:1-8 are not used, even though this does actually describe four multicoloured horses (white, red, black, pale) and is arguably a more "accurate" My Little Pony analogy.

[edit] Kathleen Richter's criticism

Kathleen Richter, writing on the Ms. magazine blogs, made some allegations of homophobic, racist, and "smart-shaming" messages in the show. Rainbow Dash was supposed to represent a stereotyped view of lesbians as "angry and tomboyish" (usage of rainbows being common to many LGBT organizations). Black-furred ponies were supposed to represent enslaved black people (since in the intro, several black-furred unicorns can be seen acting as royal guards for the white-furred Princess Celestia), while the premise of Twilight Sparkle getting her muzzle out of her books for the purpose of making friends was deemed to be "smart-shaming."[16]

Lauren Faust wrote a thorough rebuttal, insisting that Richter was reading far too much into a children's cartoon. She insisted that the color of ponies' fur was never intended as any sort of indication of race (and the presence of white-furred, pink furred and yellow-furred ponies also acting as royal guards throughout the show more or less disproves Richter's black-slavery claim as well). She also explained how Twilight Sparkle being ordered to get her head out of her books to make friends was because of how unsociable she was, explaining that, "since socializing and making friends is an important, healthy aspect of anyone's life, her mentor encouraged her to, essentially, go out and play." She refuted the claim that Rainbow Dash was meant to be a negative stereotype of lesbians as "angry tomboys" as untrue, since nowhere in the show is her sexual orientation mentioned, and that by assuming that the tomboy character was meant to be a stereotypical lesbian, Richter was being, "extremely unfair to both straight and lesbian tomboys".[17]

[edit] Religiosity?

Bronies criticized the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen" as being anti-science and anti-skepticism because it features a character suddenly obtaining a new magical power and another character who is the pony version of a scientist (in a world of magic) deciding that there is no rational explanation for the new power so she will just accept it as fact. Show creator Lauren Faust was dismayed that the episode was seen this way,[21] and the episode's writer Dave Polsky has said the episode's message wasn't meant to be religious; it was that people should explore a new idea rather than reject it simply because it doesn't fit their worldview.[22]

[edit] "Derpy Hooves"

An animation error of a cross-eyed background character in the first episode led to an unexpected fandom for this one unnamed character. Fans on 4chan dubbed the character "Derpy Hooves" based on the appearance alone, pulling from an Internet joke referring to stupidity or mental disability. The production team, unaware of the latter meaning of this joke, decided to give a nod to the bronies by including the character in more background shots, and even giving the character lines in the episode "The Last Roundup" where she was renamed behind the scenes from "Ditzy Doo" to "Derpy". The character was portrayed as clumsy and uncoordinated, and Tabitha St. Germain gave "Derpy" a more boyish voice, having been unaware that the character was intended to be a girl. Amy Keating Rogers, who had written the episode, had herself received complaints about the show which hit home, as she has a son with a mental disability, and had been contacted by the producers at Hasbro for suggestions on how to respond to these comments. Ultimately, the name "Derpy" was cut from further broadcasts of the episode, her eyes were uncrossed, the character's lines were redubbed to a more "ditzy" and girlish voice by St. Germain, and the character was officially credited as "Muffins".[23]

The brony fandom took this change just about as well as could be expected, with cries of "political correctness gone mad" and "censorship" being common. Change.org petitions were started to restore the character to its original depiction with one reaching 45 thousand signatories.[24] The DVD release of the episode featured the original dialog, leading to much rejoicing by the bronies. The character continued to appear in the series in the background of multiple episodes, and once in a more major role, but not in major spoken roles. Some members of the fandom didn't take the original change as lightly, and went after someone who had criticized the fandom's treatment of "Derpy".[25]

Some bronies overreacted so terribly that they sent death threats to DeviantArtist and Tumblr user Yamino[26][27]whom they believed to be responsible for the censorship of "Derpy Hooves". Apparently a human life is less important than the 'horror' of a few minor changes to a beloved character.

By 2014, the creators of the show have quietly reconfirmed the character's name as Derpy with the script of a season 5 episode "Slice of Life", although according to Hasbro, her name is still Muffins.[28]

[edit] Rape culture

Another issue arose out of a fan blog on Tumblr that had an alternate depiction of a character as a rapist nymphomaniac. Hasbro had the blog shut down under a copyright claim, and some bronies began a harassment campaign against a fan of the show who said she had alerted Hasbro to the blog's existence.[29]

[edit] My Little MRA

The brony community, possibly as a result of its origins on 4chan, has ended up with some misogynists, men's rights activists and other conservative lines of thought on feminism, homosexuality and transgender identities among its fans.[30] The fact that some MRAs love the show is strange, considering that it was created by a feminist who wanted the show to reflect feminist ideals. There seems to be surprisingly little cognitive dissonance as a result of this.

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. As science-minded as is possible, given that she can cast magic spells with her horn.
  2. http://thegeekyblonde.tumblr.com/post/93796611183
  3. http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/noise/bcp-the-problem-with-bronies-20140801-story.html
  4. http://www.usatoday.com/story/popcandy/2013/09/12/bronies-movie/2805503/
  5. http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Entertainment/bronie-documentary-draws-criticism-male-female-fans/story?id=18418745
  6. http://www.dailydot.com/society/bronies-documentary-sexism-my-little-pony/
  7. http://exclaim.ca/film/article/bronies-directed_by_laurent_malaquais
  8. http://exclaim.ca/film/article/bronies-directed_by_laurent_malaquais
  9. http://www.btchflcks.com/2013/09/the-bronies-documentary-is-borderline-propaganda.html
  10. http://www.themarysue.com/review-a-brony-tale/
  11. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bronies_the_extremely_unexpected_adult_fans_of_my_little_pony/
  12. http://chronicle.su/2015/02/16/lebal-drocer-announces-plan-to-publish-my-little-pony-fanfiction-the-ebook-serfdom-in-equestria-challenges-the-liberal-agenda-behind-mlp/
  13. From 1:55
  14. http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthread.php?t=106084&&&/content.php
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCQ-RO00mhk
  16. 16.0 16.1 http://msmagazine.com/blog/2010/12/09/my-little-homophobic-racist-smarts-shaming-pony/
  17. 17.0 17.1 Faust, Lauren. "My Little NON-Homophobic, NON-Racist, NON-Smart-Shaming Pony: A Rebuttal." Ms. Magazine.
  18. Breitbart Media goes to War against the Bronies
  19. http://www.cuttingedge.org/ce1021.html
  20. http://americanloons.blogspot.nl/2014/05/1029-phil-phillips.html
  21. http://comments.deviantart.com/4/1603670/1869379117
  22. http://www.equestriadaily.com/2014/08/dave-polsky-panel-at-buckcon-2014.html
  23. Sethisto, "Amy Keating Rogers's Response to Derpy Hooves", Equestria Daily
  24. https://www.change.org/p/hasbro-studios-the-hub-return-derpy-s-scene-in-the-last-roundup-to-normal
  25. Adrian Chen, [Gawker.com: archive.is, web.archive.org "Bronies Furious After Minor My Little Pony Character Is Changed to Seem Less Mentally Disabled"], Gawker
  26. http://www.metafilter.com/114216/Trouble-in-Ponydise
  27. Gawker.com: archive.is, web.archive.org
  28. http://www.equestriadaily.com/2015/06/ma-larson-reveals-all-sorts-of-fun.html
  29. Aja Romano, " bronies attack one of their own after a racy 'My Little Pony' blog disappears", The Daily Dot
  30. http://feministfiction.com/2012/08/21/my-little-pony-hate-is-magic/
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