Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Journey into Madness: Diving into My Little Pony

"Bronies." It is a term that describes one of the strangest examples of cross-demographic appeal in recent memory. Males from the teenage years to adulthood who have fallen in love with the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a cartoon series aimed at little girls. Now, this isn't the first time these two demographics have overlapped, but since, as far I could tell, My Little Pony is not a Magical Girl anime featuring miniskirts and naked transformation sequences, there seemed to be no obvious reason for it. And yet, the Brony phenomenon has taken the internet by storm, with bronies flooding message boards, creating pictures, music videos, and... whatever this is. I figured that there must be secret I was no privy to, and so I decided to take a dive into the extremely colorful world of My Little Pony. Below are my discoveries, and my conclusions.

So I went I found the first few episodes and started watching. Right off the bat, I could see one of the main draws of the show: the animation.

The animation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is very good. It's fluid, it's lively... The show is animated in more than one sense of the word. I admit I haven't been keeping up with current western animated shows, but of the few I have seen in the last few years, MLP's animation quality is definitely higher than average.

However, the animation alone isn't enough to hold someone's attention. I need to go deeper.

My God, they have ponies for everything, don't they? (source)

The first episode wastes little time in establishing our protagonist: Twilight Sparkle. ...That better not be a reference to anything. Anyway, Twilight Sparkle immediately wins my respect by being a nerdy bookwormish girl who hangs out with a dragon (the dragon's name is Spike). Of course, being a bookworm, Twilight Sparkle doesn't have time for friends, which makes her an outcast in pony society. I don't know which part of that sentence bothers me more: the phrase "pony society" or the fact that I just felt the need to specify that having no friends makes someone an outcast.

HOWEVER, Twilight Sparkle soon discovers that the evil Pony of Night and Darkness, Nightmare Moon, is going to return to the land of Equestria tonight! She urgently sends a message to the pony princess (did I really just type that), Celestia, warning her of the danger. Celestia responds by telling Twilight Sparkle to chill out and make some friends, which I guess is the G-rated version of telling someone they need to get laid.

And so Twilight must go to the town of Ponyville, and arrives there in a chariot pulled by male ponies who don't speak. Come to think of it, all the major ponies in the first two episodes are female... Oh my God. Are the ponies of Equestria like the khepri from Perdido Street Station? The females all intelligent artists, and the males small little mindless creatures that exist solely to breed? Is a pegasus pony going to lose her wings and then hire a mad scientist to create new ones for her, thus unleashing unspeakable horror!?

Twilight meets five other ponies: Applejack, the country girl, Rainbow Dash, the energetic tomboy, Rarity, the beauty-obsessed one, Fluttershy, the shy one with a love for animals (why does that sound so familiar?), and Pinkie Pie, the cheerfully hyperactive airhead. Twilight Sparkle tries to find some information on Nightmare Moon, but unfortunately the other ponies throw a party for her, and then Nightmare Moon returns to bathe the world in eternal night. So I guess the lesson here is that friends are crazy and will prevent you from saving the world? That's an interesting moral.

But wait! Twilight discovers that there are six Elements of Harmony that can be used to defeat Nightmare Moon! Unfortunately, the sixth was lost to time, leaving only the five: Laughter, Loyalty, Honesty, Kindness, and Milla Jovovich.
I can't find a Milla Jovovich Pony. Get on that, internet.
Long story short: Nightmare Moon destroys the elements, but then we learn that the elements are inside our main cast, and Twilight Sparkle is the Sixth Element (Magic, of all things. Here I was expecting it to be, like, Knowledge or something), and Nightmare Moon is defeated. Then Celestia extends the hand (hoof?) of friendship to Nightmare, who is actually her younger sister, Luna. And Luna accepts and hurray.

Nitpick: The opposite of Celestia (which means "heaven") would be Inferia ("hell"), and the opposite of Luna ("moon") would be Sol ("sun"). But since Sol is a masculine word and Inferia means hell, I guess I'll let it slide.

So... After watching the first two episodes, I can definitely see why it has found such a large and unexpected audience. The show is good. Not just the animation, but the characters are fun and the writing is tight and the voice acting is solid. It's an enjoyable show that really sucks you in. Hell, it does a better job of holding my interest and not insulting my intelligence than a lot of shows meant for adults. How does that work?

In addition to the high quality, however, I also see something... reactionary, in MLP's popularity. Most media marketed toward young adult males is full of violence and darkness and cynicism. Compared to all that GRIMDARK, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is downright refreshing. It's bright and colorful, its first two episodes tell a solid story with an intimidating antagonist without having to resort to stupidly wanton violence, it's got an upbeat message. It's like the anti-Warhammer 40K.
Oh my God, this image actually exists. (source)
And I now leave you all with one final closing remark:

Twilight Sparkle is the best pony. And I will fight anyone who disagrees.

UPDATE: After viewing more of the show, I must revise that final remark. Twilight Sparkle is only the third best pony. The best is Fluttershy, followed by Pinkie Pie.


  1. Rainbow Dash is best pony. And I am ready to fight in order to uphold that claim.

    1. I'm with Omega on this one.

      Unless, of course, you count Spike or Discord, in which case....

  2. Applejack is best pony.

    And i'm the Cold Boy, i'll FREEZE anyone who disagrees!