“My favorite pony is <insert favorite pony name here>.” If I had a dollar for every time someone told me who their favorite pony was, I’d be out buying blind bags right now. This is one of the most interesting and informative things that bronies like to know about one another, it gives indicators of their personality, and it can also give bronies insight into themselves.
What motivates someone’s choice of best pony? Is it the character depth? The aesthetic appeal? Perhaps it’s something else entirely?
A while back, I wrote a really long blog post about why Scootaloo is my favorite pony. To those who aren’t interested in a long-winded explanation, it’s because she appears to have been dealt a really bad hand in life, yet she keeps her head up and never lets her past haunt her. She has infectious optimism, something that I aim to have in my interactions with my fellow man. She is, for all intents and purposes, a role model.
In order for a pony to be best pony, they don’t need to be a role model. They don’t really need much of anything. Colgate, Lyra, Derpy, and Carrot Top are common favorites as well, yet none of them have ascribable character development in the official series. What does Bon Bon have that Rarity doesn’t?
Perhaps it’s the aesthetic appeal? In part, that’s quite likely. Looking at a pony with a good color scheme always seems to just put a good vibe in the character overall. Mixing the wrong colors can end up making a pony look pretty horrifying, anyway. This almost certainly contributes, at least in some small part, to who a favorite pony is.
That can’t be everything, though. Nearly every single pony has a well thought-out color palette so as not to offend the eyes, so unless we all think that all ponies are best pony, aesthetics are only a small portion of what goes into having a best pony.
Perhaps, instead of backstory and visual appeal, it’s the lack of character development. There are small, almost teasing hints of who these ponies are, but nobody really knows. It’s a mystery in itself. So, what do we do when we don’t know enough about a pony? We come up with things. This is usually referred to as headcanon.
In retrospect, my reason for liking Scootaloo so much is actually headcanon. There is no explicit statement that Scootaloo is an orphan, or that she is homeless; by virtue of what the show is, it’s highly doubtful they could tell us this even if they wanted to. However, the way things have formulated in my mind for this character have drawn me to this conclusion, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In a weird little way, Scootaloo is my favorite character by what I don’t know, rather than what I do know.
Put into this light, appreciation for characters such as Rumble, Cloud Chaser, Snowflake, and Doctor Whooves begin to make a lot more sense. These characters are almost blank slates, perhaps a few scribbled annotations creating a basic framework for personality, that we take and fill in with our own ideas on just who they are.
If I could hazard a guess at just why blank slate characters are so appealing, it would be imagination. We see a show that’s rich with character development for its key protagonists and antagonists and ask ourselves, “What about the others?” According to the recent Herd Census, only four of the Mane 6 are at the top of the favorites list; Applejack and Rarity are both beaten by Princess Luna. Despite how little character development has gone into Princess Luna, she is still well-liked enough to be above two of the characters that appear in nearly every episode. Perhaps it’s not what we explicitly know about Princess Luna; it’s the things they don’t explain that make us want to see her more, hear her talk more often, witness her interactions with fellow ponies. Though she’s not as open-ended as she used to be, Princess Luna has been a common fan favorite since episode 2 of season 1.
What do we know of Lyra? Her special talent is the harp, she’s mint green, and she sits somewhat strangely compared to other ponies. Based on these characteristics, there has been a legion of fanart, fanfiction, and discussion on just who Lyra is. All of it is headcanon, none of it is confirmed, and Lyra will most likely remain a blank slate for the foreseeable future. Isn’t that part of the beauty of it?
Despite the appeal of the blank slate characters, however, those with developed character are still the overall favorites. The top of the list contains (from highest to lowest) Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Princess Luna, Rarity, and Applejack. Barring Princess Luna, all of these characters are persistent in their appearances, getting the most face time out of all of the characters, and this appears to be reflected by their rankings in the list.
This, I would attribute to the wildly varied personalities of those who watch the show. There are bronies from nearly all walks of life, living in both congested and remote locations, living with their parents and independent as well, who have each been through something different and having made them into different people. Bronies aren’t just “grown men who like ponies;” rather, there is a huge diversity in the brony fandom that can only be emulated when looking at things on the cultural level.
In fact, the only thing that’s remotely “common” about us is our liking of the show. We can’t be expected to all like the same thing, and statistically, we obviously don’t. The highest percentage of anything that’s been measured as an “applies to all” statistic of the brony fandom is the Jung personality test results showing that a little over 25% of the fandom is a specific personality type; that’s still nowhere near a majority, and trying to say that all bronies are introverted, intuitive, thoughtful, and judgmental is asserting that 75% of the fandom is irrelevant for the statistic.
The statistic does serve to reinforce that certain personality types are attracted to certain characters, though; if we made the assertion that bronies of the INTJ personality type typically most closely identify with Twilight Sparkle, that would explain why she’s usually at the top of the list. There are always exceptions to the rule, but this doesn’t seem too bold a conclusion to leap to.
To those who prefer blank slates over well-developed character, what is their reason? They don’t identify with vague characteristics. My personal thought on this is to give themselves an aspiration, of sorts… a role model. The development that goes behind the more open-ended characters is a large part of the process of discovering oneself.
To put this into perspective, when I was first tuning in to watch ponies (around September 2011), I’d seen all of season 1 and chosen Scootaloo as my favorite character. She seemed to have quirky personality traits that helped her stand out from the rest of the characters, and she had a lot of unexplained storyline that could be filled in by any number of ideas. As my viewing of the show progressed, so did my headcanon of Scootaloo. In this phase of molding Scootaloo to be the incredible character I see her to be, I was simultaneously going through a molding process myself in real life. I turned Scootaloo into an inspiration without even realizing it, and now I attempt to be like her in everything I do.
It would be silly to think that every single brony finds their favorite pony a role model, but it’s not too farfetched an idea. Nobody’s perfect; we can all admit that, right? Nopony is perfect, either… but we still look at them and see something to admire. Isn’t that what role models do?
To those who think every pony is best pony, that’s understandable as well. Every single character in the show has certain personality traits that we can aspire to have, and limiting ourselves to a single influential character is a handicap in itself. I can appreciate the broad scope of desire to improve.
All in all, we can always look to our best pony as some form of inspiration. Whether it be Twilight Sparkle or Derpy Hooves, we each see a different pony and aspire to be like them in our own way. There’s still a lot of learning to do, but I consider it better than not trying to better oneself. Bronies, continue to be diverse; it makes best pony discussions interesting.