Digital Gonzo 122: My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic

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In the 80′s while all the boys were watching Transformers and obligingly buying the toys Hasbro were also targeting girls with a similarly multimedia manipulative marketing campaign to sell them pretty, plastic ponies.

Twenty five years and three terrible Michael Bay movies later and the boys, now grown up are feeling pretty dismal about the once awesome mythos they loved. However after many years of quiet My Little Pony resurfaced in 2010 and to the surprise of everyone turned out to be not bad at all. Really rather great in fact. Well written with lovable characters and amusing dialogue.

In an unusual turn of events it picked up a following of male viewers. Dubbed ‘Bronies’ these men, young and old have a tough battle trying to make their case for why they aren’t twisted child molesters. This podcast is about the show, the fans and why it’s become beloved. My remit is to examine it with varying levels of perspective and delve in rather than making fun of it as outsiders or being overly defensive fanboys.

My two specialists are Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits and Connor Milford, Zephyr Lite in the Gonzo community. It’s very much a podcast aimed at people who know nothing about Friendship is Magic so if you’re curious, this is the Pony investigation for you.

Author: Alex Shaw

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  1. I’d hate to be ‘that guy’ but bronies no longer (and has not for a while now) refers to just males. I know I know it’s hard to see females being called something with the ‘bro’ moniker however that’s just the collective term for the whole of the fanbase.

    While there’s nothing wrong with digesting all the information and breaking down the bits and pieces to figure out why exactly men and boys enjoy the show so much, I can’t help but feel as if you’re missing half of the story, and missing the point in general.

    The topic of ‘why males enjoy MLP’ comes up time and time again and I think we’re looking in the wrong direction. Perhaps we should focus on ‘Why do people enjoy My Little Pony?’ or maybe we need to examine why we enjoy cartoons in general.

    The podcast itself is well done, I have no issues with it. I just would like, for once, someone to interpret the whole cake and not just a slice.

    • While I know that there’s plenty of women who don’t mind referring to themselves as “bronies”, I can’t help being bothered by that the fandom’s name has a gender attached to it.

      So while I listened to this podcast, it hit me: gronies/grownies. Referring to that we’re “grown up” pony fans, obviously. I know it’ll never catch on, but it would have been cool if we’d had a term like that to begin with.

      • Well… as to that, we have a saying (or some of us do), referring to the fact that we aren’t much into labels.

        If you are a male fan, and call yourself a brony, then you’re a brony.
        If you’re a female fan, and call yourself a brony, then you’re a brony.
        If you’re a female fan who prefers to call herself a pegasister (which many female fans prefer), then okay, you’re a pegasister– which isn’t any different from a brony, just looking better in a skirt. Usually.
        And if you’re a male fan who calls himself a pegasister, well… It’s a bit odd, maybe, but hey, love and tolerate, right?

        In other words, most of us do not take that seriously. It’s the messages, the happiness, and the (often needed desparately these days) sheer escapism that matters.

  2. I adored this show. I was absolutely happy to call myself a brony. But the way they “handled” the Derpy Hooves controversy was such a slap in the face to its’ audience, and to the handicapped population that I had to give it up.

    MLP: FiM had a lot going for it. It’s a real shame the show’s staff didn’t have the nerve to stand up for it. It saddens me that Jason Thiesson, Hasbro and The Hub care so little for their own legacy.

    • I think that is an unfair point of view to have. Derpy was perceived (I’ll put emphasis on the word “perceived”) to be a mentally handicapped character. This is something that can (and did) garner much controversy. The show, My Little Pony, being first and foremost, a vehicle to sell toys, will never sit well with controversy. Confronting that controversy head on is only rub someone up the wrong way, regardless of what decision they make.

      Derpy is still a part of the show in the same way as she first discovered, in the background. There is much more to this show than just a single grey furred, blonde maned, wall eyed pony.

      • ZEN: I don’t think Derpy Hooves is mentally handicapped. A lazy eye would be a physical handicap.

        And I would say that the show USED to be about something more. It used to be about understanding and accepting people. Editing/removing a character, just for being different is not brave; It’s prejudice. It is saying that a person’s genetic defect makes them less deserving of inclusion or acceptance than “normal” people. It sets the precedent that the handicapped aren’t welcome, in this show that’s supposed to be about loving and tolerating people.

        It goes out of its’ way to tell anyone with a similar handicap that they are problems, who need to be fixed. THAT’S what I call an “unfair point of view”.

        It’d be like if two seasons into the original Star Trek, they significantly reduced the Sulu character. Just so they wouldn’t get hate-mail from people who don’t like Asians. Yes, there was more to Star Trek than George Takei. But if Star Trek had removed a character just for their cultural background, it couldn’t hold onto its’ reputation for intergalactic diversity. And I couldn’t support a show like that, and still call myself a good person.

  3. Sulu wasn’t a nameless, meaningless background character mistakenly animated cross-eyed once and then bestowed fanfic to make him a character in the eyes of the fans. The only thing that the creators could have done to nip that in the bud would be to issue a firm press release the moment this became a known fact and slapped down the fan community with “This is NOT your character Derpy Hooves, it is our tertiary pony Grey-Blossom (or whatever). The crossed eyes were a mistake. She is in no way physically or mentally different from the other ponies in ponyville.” That they didn’t do that was a bonus. That some of them actually went to the trouble to include the fan community’s input by naming Derpy is a truly wonderful touch on their part.

    What followed was reality.

    • I’ve seen enough fan-art of this character to know that, for a lot of people, this was not a “meaningless” character. Hasbro and The Hub knew how much Derpy meant to people.

      So you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t see them leaving their audience high and dry as some noble gesture. Yes, they are a business, and they have to protect their interests(even if they only protected people who send hate-mail to children’s cartoons). And we may never know if there was even one handicapped child who was upset by the changes made to Derpy.

      But in the 21st century, what kind of sick son of a bitch rolls the dice on that?

      • If just one little girl with a dodgy eye and a learning difficulty gets slapped with the nickname “Derpy” as a result of this character then it wasn’t worth the fans creating the character and the show creators running with it.

        Not everyone can be trusted to be mature about situations like this.

  4. All in all, this was a pretty nice podcast (first time listening to this podcast series).

    However, one thing started to grate on me after a while. The hosts constant assertion that boys need a male character to identify with. Sure the number of female characters vastly outweigh the number of male characters, but I don’t think that it’s necessary for a character and viewer to share gender in order for the viewer to identify with said character. To this end I think FiM does a pretty good job at presenting a wide array of different characters to identify with, regardless of what gender they hold.

    • Yeah, I’ve never understood the mentality that people need a character to be their gender to connect with them.

      I mean, the Harry Potter franchise is popular with females. The main character’s penis doesn’t seem to interfere with the immersion. Most of the fan-art on Tumblr for The Hobbit movie is by the ladies(at least that I’ve seen). And while I can’t speak for everyone, a mostly-female cast didn’t prevent me from loving Azumanga Daioh, Sailor Moon or even MLP for a time. I even roll FemShep in Mass Effect. It just doesn’t seem to me that it really matters to people, as long as they’re entertained.

      I think maybe executives can’t see past the surface, and just assume their audience can’t either. “No, guys, he NEEDS to be an 18-25 white male.”

    • I would say it is not really about a male character to idetify with.

      Alex wife Sharon (which is featured in many gonzoplanet and gamerdork pocasts) made the point before that a fictional world that is only populated by one gender doesn’t look real. We are used to seeing both males and females in our surroundings and will notice it if one is lacking.

  5. Wow i diden`t expect to see a podcast about this show here its so nice to hear your dry objective summary of the show like you do with every thing else, also the first time i heard your daughters name i thought you were bronies and named her after the show.

    As for shoes made for girls but that could have a wider appeal i recommend W.I.T.C.H. its an underrated show because of similarities with Sailor Moon in premise but it has great animation with little reused scenes, an over arching plot and the transformation takes only 5-10 second’s.

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