Pony Looks

MLP Street Art, Berlin

I was mulling a post on MLP after seeing this video of the Christmas 2010 ponies which seem to be split between (1) a skinny pony with a round, human-skull for a head, reminiscent of a Hollywood starlet in “lollipop” mode, and (2) humanoid creatures which play tennis on their hind legs. Hasbro’s last crack at a real crossover from pony to human was My Little Pony Tales, in 1992, which saw ponies rollerskating and going to high school, although they largely remained on all four hoofs. I gather it wasn’t too popular. Perhaps toy buyers have moved on sufficiently to not need ponies to ressemble, well, ponies…

While the ponies bodies morph at an alarming rate, one thing hasn’t changed: the message. My Little Pony is one of the chief promoters of what I call the “tyranny of friendship” enforced on little girls, stressing that the most important thing is to have lots of friends, and not, say, to be a warrior-queen saving the earth and letting your friendships just fall as they may. You must be popular, and being popular, as Rachel Simmons learned in her study of girls’ friendship behaviour, Odd Girl Out, lies in not being exceptional in any way, and in being nice. To everyone. Except when you’re not nice – because anyone who’s been a little girl knows that this mindset results in intra-girl psychological warfare.

Good news, though, as it’s “My Little Pony Week” on the Ms magazine blog and the (only slightly tongue in cheek) deconstruction is in full swing. Even the title, “My Little Homophobic, Racist, Smart-Shaming Pony” gives me a warm, fuzzy, pink glow. Enjoy the antidote to Ponyland!

One thought on “Pony Looks

  1. Too bad the writer of the blog has never seen a single episode of the show and is whining about problems that don’t exist in it.

    “Racism”–The ponies she says are “slaves” are guards and there are also at least four white pony guards. Not that it makes a difference because ponies don’t have any race beyond “pony.” Grey unicorn does not equal black human. Just like white pony doesn’t equal Caucasian and green pony doesn’t equal Martian.

    “Homophobia”–Man, if a cartoon aimed at kids had an openly gay, positive role model at all that makes it progressive, not homophobic. But at any rate, the pony is not meant to be either heterosexual or gay. She’s just a pony with rainbow hair. She was originally designed as a pink pony with blue hair (Firefly, 1980s pony), with Firefly’s adventurous personality. But Hasbro lost the rights to Firefly, so they used Rainbow Dash’s name and appearance instead. There’s another character who’s even more tomboyish (and orange in color) who the blogger doesn’t mention. Because she’s never even watched the damn show.

    “Against intelligence”–The main characters book smarts and analytical intelligence has saved the day multiple times. She’s also typically reading a book or doing a scientific experiment at the start of episodes. Yes, she has friends. Having social connections is important for all human beings. Girls being forced into the “tyranny of friendship”? Have you never watched Transformers or G.I. Joe? They are also focused on groups of friends. Even Batman has a regular cast of friends he relies on.

    The ponies also go “warrior queen” frequently, fighting against giant bears, dragons, and evil gods. I’m always baffled by people who think they do nothing but sashay around playing dress-up.

    Yes, the toy designs you linked to suck. They are awful. They are not part of MLP: Friendship Is Magic, but the line from just before. However, they weren’t an attempt to make sexy toys. They were designed when Hasbro was attempting to market solely to very young girls, 0-6, so they tried to make the ponies look more babyish. Big eyes, big head, short nose, cooing mouth, and a tiny body to make the head look even bigger. If you watch the videos from that time period (G3.5), they also switch all the ponies from adult voices to young sounding voice actors. Hasbro literally published a pamplet informing merchandisers that ponies “aren’t ponies, they are six year old girls.” They were going to act like six year old girls and do the things six year old girls like to do (ie have parties, eat cake, blah blah.)

    Very stupid, IMO, because when I was a kid I wanted ponies who were “grown up” and could go on fun adventures, not just eat cake all the time, but at any rate, now you know why they look like that.

    “You must be popular, and being popular, as Rachel Simmons learned in her study of girls’ friendship behaviour, Odd Girl Out, lies in not being exceptional in any way, and in being nice.”

    This is sort of an accurate assessment of 1980s MLP and MLP Tales, but laughably inaccurate when it comes to MLP Friendship Is Magic. If you don’t watch a show, how do you expect to be able to critique it?

    This was the blogger’s main problem. She obviously hasn’t watched a single episode, instead she rattled off a bunch of buzzwords, assuming that she could form an opinion on a show–which was written by a feminist–without even glancing at the content. If we formed opinions of people with no accurate information we would be sexist, racist, homophobic . . . When someone forms opinions of a show with no accurate information, it makes them a fool.

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