My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
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Films and TV
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an American cartoon TV series launched by the Hasbro toy company in 2010 to promote
the pseudoscience of magic toys; it broadcasted 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.
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 pegasus) 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.
But it's a show for little girls!
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. 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.". 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 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 Pony (2012); Ballad of the Brony (2013); The Brony Chronicles - A Documentary on My Little Pony and Bronies (2014); and A Brony Tale (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. 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. 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") and has been called "borderline propaganda" and "a puff-piece" by various reviews due to its lack of any negative coverage at all.. 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%, 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.
My Little Pony: Liberalism is Magic
Some of the crazier conservative groups have targeted Friendship Is Magic as being part of the vast liberal conspiracy to indoctrinate children through entertainment. 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". Even crazier are the people who have accused the series of promoting the wicked gay agenda, being satanic, and being generally evil. At least one person even discovered an Illuminati connection.
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. 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," 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.
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.
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. 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.
- Official website
- Wiki, unsurprisingly dense.
- /mlp/ board at 4chan (borderline NSFW)
- Know Your Meme article, for a more in-depth look at the fandom.
- Mitt Little Brony, a blog that takes screenshots from the Mitt Romney campaign documentary Mitt and adds closed captions from brony documentaries
- As science-minded as is possible, given that she can cast magic spells with her horn.
- From 1:55
- Faust, Lauren. "My Little NON-Homophobic, NON-Racist, NON-Smart-Shaming Pony: A Rebuttal." Ms. Magazine.
- Breitbart Media goes to War against the Bronies