In a time before there was ponies, the world still existed. People were happy, and people were sad. There were times of peace, and there were times of war. The world turned, and time passed us by. We didn’t consider ourselves a lost cause, a world without direction, and there was still a significant population of humanity that was dissatisfied with the direction our species is taking.
Now, there are ponies. We have several seasons under our belt, and some of us anticipate several more. We, as a fandom in general, are psyched about it. Whatever misgivings existed about alicorn Twilight, they typically seem to have been forgotten in the interest of new episodes. Just what has driven us to make this a part of our lives? What of our lives before ponies? What is so special about a few animated horses singing about friendship?
The sheer concept that a TV show can change lives is absolutely ridiculous. Who has such a bland existence that they’ll take direction from a few cartoon characters?
Obviously, this isn’t my perspective, but the outsider looking in may feel as such. It seems a frivolous, childish notion, to learn from a cartoon how to be a good person, how to treat others with civility and honesty, and, perhaps most importantly to me, how to set aside one’s own self-centeredness in order to benefit the greater good (love ya, Dash). How can we possibly derive such powerful concepts from such a… a… kid’s show?
Let’s go back, before a time of ponies, before a time of children’s cartoons, before even animation, or moving pictures. Since before man even knew how to write, he drew pictures. On cave walls, on dirt, on their faces… they didn’t care. It meant something, a form of expression that is lost on so many other creatures on this earth. They don’t find the same fascination with a representation of things that we do.
We have been creating art as a species for a long, long time. From Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the Mona Lisa, to Banksy, a famed graffiti artist whose wall art (literally, the walls he drew on) is being auctioned for small fortunes within his own lifetime, these still frames, painstakingly labored over to the point of perfection in their mind’s eye, are all created to spark the imagination of others.
Collectively, things which are created for the sole purpose of expression are called art. Paintings, drawings, and some pictures are a means of expression; thus, they are art.
Another eons-ancient form of art is that of the play. Shakespeare, being the most famous playwright, is the logical figure to point to when we ask how this can change lives. I’ve been stuck in an English classroom long enough to know that Shakespeare created some revolutionary plays, something of which only high society could afford and that has been sought after, once again, since before even the letter A was written.
Let’s jump ahead a few millennia, to when moving pictures started to become a larger staple of entertainment. I remember my old history teacher telling me about some of the first showings in the cinema of things like this, such as a steam train pulling into a station that was so realistic to the viewers that they dodged out of the way of the train so it wouldn’t hit them.
Think about it: A form of expression that, rather than a snapshot, is an entire story that can play out over time. Pictures still have their place in the world, and dramatization is a highly acclaimed form of expression as well, but… take a play, then turn it into a series of pictures, then put it on a medium which can be given to the wide world to view.
It is all these things which eventually lead up to the cartoon. The first popularized cartoon ever created is Steamboat Willy, which found its way onto film through the imagination of Walt Disney. Now, this was a revolutionary concept: Something that could never exist in our world… happening. And you see it happen. Never mind the silly constraints of reality; the animation of drawings is a way to let the imagination run free, and to have an audience while you do it.
It is here that we find ourselves today. With a few shaky crossovers between picture cinema and animation—like Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?—we find ourselves in a market that is saturated with original, creative ideas, sometimes drawn by hand, other times created with this great thing called a computer. However the drawing is made, watching such a thing come to life is a marvel of man in itself. I can’t imagine that Shakespeare would have expected his plays to be put onto these little discs and distributed to several billion people to watch, and reflecting on how far we’ve come in artistic expression is truly something to be grateful for.
Yet, some art is considered less valid than others. Not finding the same appreciation in it makes sense, sure… but to be so judgmental as to find another’s appreciation of art wrong? Now we’re getting to something interesting.
What exactly is it about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that has us bronies going so crazy over it? It’s just art.
The Mona Lisa is just art. So is Hamlet. So is music from Nirvana, as is the Washington Monument. What practical purpose do these things serve? Nothing, of course; that’s why it’s art, not necessities of life.
So, do we consider My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to be art? It’s an animated series created by Lauren Faust’s imagination to earn Hasbro more money and perhaps entertain its viewers in the meantime. Sure, it’s imagined… but its main purpose in existence is to get a corporation more money. Is money a valid means to posit creativity?
I will say that, regardless of the means for which the show was created, it is still most undeniably art. Music gets people money, as do paintings, hand-embroidered brooches, and museums.
One of the things that has always confused me is when people create art, then expect money for it. I create for the sake of creation; it’s not my place to question the reasons of others for wanting to get paid for their creative genius, but putting a price on the machinations of my imagination seems, to me, a poor motivator for creating.
Did Lauren Faust create G4 ponies to make ends meet on her bills? Perhaps she did; I have seen many create in the name of profit, and Lauren, while being the god of ponies, is most definitely an average person in the greater scheme of things. Financial reasons may drive a creative artist to use that spark and produce something wonderful, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So, is there something inherently wrong with bronies for appreciating the work of Faust? Does it rain in Seattle? Will the sun come up in the morning? Is global warming a valid concern? The answer to all of these is fairly self-explanatory by now, I’d imagine.
Obviously, some forms of art aren’t for everyone; I know a man who’s very supportive of bronies and will defend us at every turn, but hates the show. I don’t like the Mona Lisa because I find it bland and unimaginative; judge him as you would me for not appreciating such contemporary art.
Now, what artistic expression exists in the show? There’s drama, comedy, life lessons, music, setting, background, lore, morals, and societal influence, to name a few things off the top of my head. A brief explanation of each of these:
Drama: Suspense, action, twists. See: All hour-long specials.
Comedy: Jokes, humor, witticism. See: Pinkie Pie, references.
Life Lessons: Progression, learning, parallelism. See: Letters to Princess Celestia.
Music: Instrumental, atmospheric, vocal. See: Winter Wrap-Up, E26 – True Love.
Setting: World that has been created, not borrowed. See: Equestria.
Background: Unique story for each character. See: Cutie Mark Chronicles.
Lore: Comprehensive legends and history. See: Friendship is Magic P1, Hearth’s Warming Eve, Princess Twilight Sparkle P1 and P2.
Morals: Characters perform actions based on their own sense of right and wrong. See: Nightmare Moon, Discord, Queen Chrysalis, Princess Celestia.
Societal Influence: Assists in awareness and acknowledgement of perspectives in pertinence to modern society. See: Character-to-character interaction, human personality traits.
All of that was generally reflexive thinking on my part, parts of the show that I have observed and appreciate as positive traits in this specific piece of art. Everyone’s list of positive traits will differ depending on what they appreciate. If the list is small, appreciation for the piece of art will be less… but it’s awfully judgmental to try to say that someone’s list of appreciations is, by any stretch of the imagination, wrong.
Whenever I find someone who tells me that My Little Pony sucks, I first ask if they’ve seen the show. If they haven’t, I tell them to go watch it before they judge it. If they have, I tell them that’s their opinion, and I have a different appreciation for it than they do. Isn’t that really what a disagreement is?
I’m entitled to appreciate art, as is a CEO that listens to punk rock, or a father who’s fascinated with Picasso’s work. That’s all well and good.
Is it more than art?
Now, this is where things start to get a little more convoluted. There’s art appreciation, then there’s… whatever our fandom is. I mean, dreams of having sex with ponies, endless obsession with wanting to live in Equestria, mobs singing songs about friendship while at conventions devoted to the show… it can’t be just art, can it?
Being a brony isn’t necessarily liking a show; this was covered in the previous article. Some of the most esteemed members of the fandom don’t really care for the show, when all is said and done. Sure, the art was appreciated, but that part is over now. People move on with their lives, forget all the memorable quotes of the episodes, and generally don’t wonder what’s happening in the world of Equestria as far as the official show.
So, what’s so special about this show, that it has such a devoted yet divided fanbase? This is the part that most of the world doesn’t recognize—that, even amongst themselves, bronies have extremely varied opinions in everything, including the show itself, as DeepShadowSky has stated:
This fandom is, in my opinon, actually not a single enity. To say that all “bronies” have certain qualities, likes or dislikes is just as correct as saying all “American” or “white” or “Christian” or “European” or “black” or “atheist” people all share certain things—not to say that they can’t, of course. “Brony” is a term used to describe individuals who for whatever reason have stumbled upon Lauren Faust’s work and have found themselves enjoying it for any of a variety of reasons.
Society in general thinks that we’ve latched onto My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and turned it into a perversion of our own minds, when in reality, it’s still the innocent children’s show it’s always been.
So, what influence does the show have on us? It has to be something, not just another bland re-hash of oft-repeated concepts; if it was, we wouldn’t have all latched onto the show.
I listed all the reasons why I liked My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to make it art earlier. However, there are plenty of shows out there that meet the criteria of art, are thus considered art, and have a small token fanbase that have a higher-than-usual appreciation for this art.
Samuel Kim expressed his desire to see something akin to the brony fandom pop up around Korra in the last article:
I’d love to see Avatar/Korra gain a fanbase like ours, having meetups and entire conventions dedicated to work and stuff.
So, why don’t we see a convention for Last Airbender/Korra material? Why are ponies a better show?
I personally put my stock into the pre-judgmentalist viewpoint that was shattered when so many of us watched the show. Even a good number of people who end up disliking the show still begrudgingly admit that it’s very high quality and far better than their initial expectations had been—not to mention that, if I had to estimate a minimum, probably 95% of us expected a pile of crap on first impressions.
What other show out there was everything you were never expecting? Doctor Who is exactly what you would expect in a crazy wonky sci-fi time travel show, and Adventure Time is exactly what you would expect in a silly, crazy, ridiculous children’s show. A staggering number of shows, despite being an outpouring of creative soul, are appreciated for a time, then discarded. Star Trek, Star Wars, Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb, Code Geass, Trigun, Mr. Nobody, Ink… all, in my opinion, revolutionary concepts. Yet, not a single one of them got my brain to say, “This is going to be absolute crap,” then, three episodes in, be telling me, “You have got to watch more of this.”
The entire concept of My Little Pony sounds excruciatingly horrible. Put it in the hands of a creative genius who knows how to make it worthwhile, however, and you have an entertaining show.
It’s not that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is art. It’s not that it’s good, either. It’s that it got so many of us to realize after we judged that, regardless of our initial judgments, it ended up being good anyway. That is something difficult to do in our clichéd, over-romanticized society.
The show started out as a joke, but a couple guys gave it a shot and had their entire worldview changed. Maybe I’m trying to simplify it, but nobody really thought it was going to actually be good. Wading through brony testimony after brony testimony, I’ve come to this conclusion: One thing that all bronies have in common is a shattering of pre-judgmental worldview.
Some bronies have taken this revelation to heart, remembering to not immediately accept their initial feelings about certain matters, especially when pertaining to stigma based on gender. I don’t like Winx Club and Monster High because they actually do kinda suck, not because I think they suck and I haven’t seen any of it. I also don’t like G3 because I’ve experienced an episode of it and don’t think I could possibly stomach more… except Puzzlement. I still think she should be in G4.
Other bronies think of this as an isolated incident, as if nothing else in the world could ever prove their judgmentalist viewpoints wrong. Everyone is welcome to an opinion on such matters, but having an opinion on something that one has no experience in is exactly what the knee-jerk reaction was to ponies—and we found something wonderful out of it despite our initial aversion to such an odd concept as a show for girls that was actually good.
So, because some bronies took the life lesson to heart and others have since dismissed such a notion, it’s still one of the differences in one of the most fundamental concepts of being a brony. The only question that all bronies I’ve met (whom I’ve asked) actually agree upon is, “Was the show what you expected?”
So, there you have it. What’s so great about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? It’s exactly what we didn’t expect it to be. I can’t speak for every brony out there, and I’m almost certain that at least one of us disagrees… maybe I’ll even get a comment on this from the one brony that feels the show didn’t surprise him in the least. I can’t imagine anyone who expected something as well-written and entertaining as the show has ended up being.
And so, with the reinstatement of Saturday ponies, some of us have been reminded of what the show originally evoked in us; others don’t feel quite the same on such matters, as there will always be discontentedness with the show henceforth. That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten what brought us all together, or why we’re still a steadily growing and increasingly well-received fandom.
Even if the show ended abruptly, on a cliffhanger, with no new episodes being released, it wouldn’t harm my commitment to being a brony. I will never forget that moment in my life when I came to the realization that I had been dead wrong about such a thing, and I hope no other brony does, either.
So, if there is nothing else to celebrate, let’s celebrate the show that opened all of our minds to a world that we never thought would interest us before: Equestria. Thanks, past, present, and future staff of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, DHX, and The HUB for creating this great thing for us, and thanks to Hasbro for all the blank checks you’ve written them—not your decisions concerning the show.
And, most of all, thanks to my fellow bronies for admiring this great show for what it is.