Friday, November 21, 2014

Why Little Pony?

Why, indeed.  I’m a horse person.  I never liked ponies.  All the ponies I knew when I was growing up were mean.  They bit, they kicked and they were not exactly beautiful.  They were squat little wooly monsters that only came close to me in order to rip the buttons off my coat with their teeth.
I liked Arabians.  There were none of those in the Texas panhandle where I lived.  Only Quarter Horses and mutts – “grade horses” they were called.  A fringe of hair at the fetlocks often betrayed a draft-type ancestor.  Clunky, slow and frequently barn-sour, they had little appeal to me.

I knew two just like this.  Evil, mean, nasty critters.
Later on in life I discovered Gypsy Cobs.  Sweet, beautiful and yes, a little on the chunky side.  As I studied these horses and met a few, I began to gain an appreciation for the ponies in their family tree.  Dales ponies in particular, became a favorite.

The Gypsy Cob stallion, Starbuck.  Now that's a horse!
Then, a year or so later, something else made me even more potentially vulnerable to the charms of “My Little Pony.”  

I had been a lifelong hater of all things pink.  Pink was the epitome of girly.  And girly I was not.  Growing up, I wore jeans and sweat-shirts year round, and disdained all things overtly feminine.  But somehow, in the last year or so, I got over hating pink, although I still look askance at all things frilly and scented.  

Barbie - Mistress of all things pink and EVIL.
So, I lost my hostility to pink, and when that happened, a lot of other pastel and candy-colors slipped in with pink.  I became more tolerant of “sweet” things.  I got hooked on a Japanese cartoon about a kitten called “Chi’s Sweet Home.”  

Chi and her family.
People began to knit their brows at me.  “What’s wrong with you?” they wanted to know.  I didn’t know how to answer them.  I was slightly alarmed by it all, myself.  But as time passed I began to relax and feel a bit less self-conscious about my cute -tolerance levels.  And then it happened.

My first exposure to “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” came when I saw a trailer for a documentary film on Vimeo.  The film was called “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.”

Well.  Having been a “cultural underdog” all my life, I could really sympathize with these guys.  And it was guys.  Here were a bunch of adult males who were enthusiastic about a little kid’s show – a little girl’s show about pastel-colored ponies.  WTF?  They weren’t homosexuals, sexual deviants or nuts.  They were just a bunch of guys who liked “My Little Pony.”  

These guys were taking heat for being Bronies.  Some were merely sneered at, but another had pony-decal-festooned car windows smashed, and was threatened at gunpoint.  I had always thought that sort of harassment was confined to racist thugs, religious zealots, and haters of homosexuals.  But, as they say, "Haters gotta hate."  But here were a bunch of guys being targeted for liking a TV show about the value of friendship.

So I bought the movie from Amazon.  It was fascinating.  These seemed like just a bunch of very likeable people.  And they dressed up in “My Little Pony” gear.  Well, for those of you acquainted with the Science Fiction television series called “Firefly,” this may have resonance.  In one episode of “Firefly,” a super-macho guy named Jayne – yeah, I know – gets a package from his mother with a funny, knitted, orange and yellow sort of Sherpa-like hat.  Jayne immediately puts it on.  His crewmates suppress their snickers, and the captain says, “Man walks down the street in a hat like that; people know he’s not afraid of anything.”

Jayne, from "Firefly."
And that’s kinda how I felt about the Bronies.  Hell, I’d never even seen “My Little Pony,” and I wanted to be a Brony.  (Yeah, girls can be Bronies too.)  But then I thought.  “Wait... what if I watch “My Little Pony” and I hate it?”  

So I got some “My Little Pony” DVDs.  I bought the first season.  I was a little nervous when I put the first one in.  Did I just waste thirty bucks on something that’s going to nauseate me? 

But it didn’t nauseate me.  I like it.  It’s fun.  I like the animation, the stories, the characters (my favorite is the tomboy, Rainbow Dash) and, All.  That.  Color.

And it’s about good stuff.  Friendship.  Kindness.  Honesty. Loyalty.  Generosity.  Laughter.  And evidently they don’t feel that they have to coat it with cynicism.  How refreshing!  So yeah, I’m a Brony – loud and proud.  

And in case you’re interested, here’s some stuff from Wikipedia about the series and how it came about, etc.:
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a children's animated television series produced by Hasbro Studios in the United States (for scripts) and at DHX Media's studio located in Vancouver (for animation; formerly known as Studio B Productions). The series, based on Hasbro's My Little Pony line of toys and animated works, is intended for girls age two through 11 and considered to be the fourth generation (G4) of the My Little Pony franchise, following earlier lines and television show tie-ins in the 1980s and 1990s. The series premiered on October 10, 2010, on The Hub, later rebranded as the Hub Network, an American pay television channel partly owned by Hasbro. The show ended its fourth season with a two-part season finale, which premiered on May 10, 2014; a fifth season is planned for the 2015 television season, and will be the first season to air on the rebranded Hub Network now known as Discovery Family. The show is broadcast internationally in dozens of countries in more than twenty languages. Two feature films, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls and its sequel Rainbow Rocks, have made and shown through limited theatrical screenings prior to broadcast and home media release. A feature-length film separate from the Equestria Girls brand has also been announced for 2017.

Hasbro selected animator Lauren Faust as the creative director and executive producer for the show. Faust sought to challenge the established nature of the existing My Little Pony line, creating more in-depth characters and adventurous settings, incorporating Hasbro's suggestions for E/I ("educational and informational") content and marketing of the toy line. Faust left the show during the production of the second season, but is credited as a consulting producer. Jayson Thiessen, the show's supervising director, became the showrunner starting with season two.

The show follows a studious unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle as her mentor Princess Celestia guides her to learn about friendship in the town of Ponyville. Twilight becomes close friends with five other ponies: Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie. Each represents a different face of friendship, and Twilight discovers herself to be a key part of the magical artifacts known as the "Elements of Harmony". The ponies share adventures and help out other residents of Ponyville, while working out the troublesome moments in their own friendships.

The show has been critically praised for its humor and moral outlook. Despite the target demographic of young girls, Friendship Is Magic has also gained a large following of older viewers, mainly young and middle-aged men, who call themselves "bronies". Reasons for this unintended appreciation include Faust and her team's creative writing and characterization, the expressive Flash-based animation style*, themes that older audiences can appreciate, and a reciprocal relationship between Hasbro, the creators, and the fans. Portions of the show have become part of the remix culture, and have formed the basis for a variety of Internet memes. As a result, in part of this unexpected cross-demographic audience interest, the series has become a major commercial success, becoming the most highly rated original production in the Hub Network's broadcast history and leading to new merchandising opportunities for Hasbro, including books, clothing, collectible trading cards, and comics.
Rainbow Dash rocks!
One of my first purchases of "Pony Merch."  A rubber Bracelet.

*A Flash animation or Flash cartoon is an animated film which is created by Adobe Flash or similar animation software and often distributed in the SWF file format. The term Flash animation not only refers to the file format but to a certain kind of movement and visual style.