By Casey Wilson
When I first heard about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I saw it as just an internet meme. Pictures of cute ponies with funny expressions posted by message board contributors were my only exposure to the show. But it wasn’t going away, so I started paying closer attention, eventually pulling up the first episode on YouTube. Within a couple of weeks, I had watched the entire first season, an odd combination of pride and guilt taking over. Because here’s the thing about this show: it’s actually good.
Yes, it’s a glorified marketing scheme for the toys. Yes, it has been appropriated by some sections of the internet as the latest craze. No, there is no reason on the surface level for you to expect to enjoy the show on levels beyond the ironic or sentimental.
But the characters have depth, the animation is crisp and fun, and the show strikes the perfect balance of sincerity and self-awareness. This is not groundbreaking television, or even award-worthy television, but it is genuinely enjoyable. And it does some interesting cultural work as well.
Part of the cultural phenomenon of the show is that it has created “Bronies” — young adult men who watch the show and consider themselves fans. Whatever level of irony is built into the title, YouTube statistics would seem to bear it out. The first episode of the second season, viewed over 200,000 times on YouTube, shows that it is popular with females 13-17 and males 13-24. (The validity of YouTube statistics is an entirely different discussion.)
The show’s popularity with the male audiences is especially notable because the show’s world is decidedly female. With the exception of Spike, a baby dragon, all of the main characters are female, as are most of the background and supporting characters. In a TV development season that has delivered multiple shows (admittedly aimed at adults) on what it is to be a ‘real man’ and with recent cries for publishers to deliver more ‘boy books’, MLP stands as one striking example of boys being willing and able to engage with a so-called ‘girl show’.
I’ll likely return to the topic of MLP in the future, but for now, I’ll just offer you the first episode in the series and encourage you to watch it. If nothing else, at least you’ll know what all the ponies are about.
Casey is a first-year PhD student, who is only slightly ashamed to admit she is excited for the next episode of MLP:FIM.