Mom & Pop Culture: When (My Little Pony) Remakes Get it Right
After my last post, I felt a little bad. Could I really not think of a remake that did justice to the original, or improved upon it in some way? I thought hard (but all I could think about was the rumored possible remake of Carmen Sandiego with Jennifer Lopez), and still came up blank.
Then I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about the revamped version of the toy-turned-cartoon classic My Little Pony. The original My Little Pony toys debuted in 1982, with the cartoon show following ten years later. I had a couple of ponies growing up and still remember them fondly. I'd brush their manes and tails and have them romp around the room, all while enjoying their vaguely vanilla-esque scent.
As far as toys and cartoons went, My Little Pony was pretty benign. Since they were horses, they didn't have the same unrealistic body image concerns that plague Barbie, and their story lines on the TV show were filled with mostly friendly, mild plots that ended in lots of smiles and whinnying.
The show, and toys, were certainly intended for and marketed to young girls, and they did exceptionally well. When Hasbro and animator Lauren Faust decided to bring back the ponies in 2010, the concept was the same: a TV show, supported by branding and heavy marketing, to draw in the 5-10 year old female market. The ponies got a little style update (although nothing like Strawberry Shortcake's!), but overall, everything stayed relatively the same...except for the fan base.
When My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic debuted in October of 2010, it started amassing a group of fans that nobody intended on: guys. Male fans of the show, or "bronies" as they call themselves, steadily grew in numbers and fandom—even getting together to watch it, trade/sell toys, write pony fanfiction, and talk all things pony.
Bronies say their hobby has nothing to do with their sexuality or gender. "I don't care about showing to the world that I am masculine," says Jason Subhani, a 19-year-old college student in Astoria, N.Y. A Pony poster on his bedroom wall mingles with images of heavy-metal icons. - WSJ
This is why the remake of My Little Pony is so fabulous. It's not the actual show, but that there doen't need to be such strict gender stereotypes surrounding things like toys, TV shows, etc...
Whenever a little boy likes a show or character intended for girls, there's always a raising of an eyebrow, a concerned look or shaking of the head. But why? What negative effect would it have for a young boy to watch a show about princesses, or in this case, ponies? Perhaps seeing male fans like the "bronies" will help remind people that it's okay to like things based on their actual preferences rather than their gender.
I spoke with Seth from Equestria Daily, a brony website. I asked him a bit about how he got into the show and his thoughts on how he, as a male fan, fits in to the My Little Pony world.
"When I gave it a shot, I actually turned it off and didn't try again until a week later," said Seth. "It has a pretty massive barrier of entry, but once you get past the initial stigma, the show rewards you with something that is really tough to match from an animation perspective."
Seth told me he hasn't really had any issues with people finding his love for My Little Pony all that strange, but admits to hanging with less conservative people, which might be a reason for the easy acceptance of his brony status.
"I think it's primarily how you present it to people. All of my friends know I like weird cartoons anyway, so this wasn't that big a surprise. I know some people that really struggle letting people know they like it. Different situations call for different approaches I suppose!"
While My Little Pony's resurrection may not be changing the world, its fan base is at least helping to break down gender stereotypes...one pony at a time.
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