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Found Feminism: My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic

2011 September 27
Selection of 1980s My Little Ponies - coloured plastic horses with coloured nylon hair, arranged in order of size on a glass-topped wicker table. Photo by the author

My Little Pony "Vintage" range - I feel old...

After spending a while bemoaning the absence of Cool Cartoons For Girls That Aren’t Avatar Legend of Korra, I went home for the weekend to be reunited with my My Little Pony collection when my Dad and I cleaned out the garage.

This then spurred me on to sit down and watch the new series, more in hope than expectation.

Well, that was brilliant, wasn’t it? Funny, well animated, lots of female (pony-shaped) characters – which interestingly sidesteps that all-animals-are-male problem. Then came feverish research – where did this awesome thing come from? Well, let me tell you. It was created by Lauren Faust, she ofPowerpuff Girls fame, and intended to be just as wisecrackingly cross-generational as those three super powered big eyed girls. MLPFIM is a strong candidate for being a Found Feminism on content and provenance alone.

Lauren Faust sitting by a microphone at a conference. A young woman with dyed red hair in a straight bobcut wearing a purple t-shirt and eyeliner. There is a sign in front of her with her name on it. Image via Wikipedia, shared under Fair Use guidelines and Creative Commons licensingBut what really sealed the deal for me was the discovery of the Bronies – men who like My Little Pony, and who like it so much that they went up against the Bastion of Internet Testosterone, 4chan. Seriously guys, you are my new heroes, swatting aside all kinds of gender conventions in a mighty leap of Being Able To Like What You Damn Well Please. *round of applause*

My personal favourite of the new batch of ponies are Scootaloo, who likes sports and lives in a treehouse, and Twilght Sparkle who is telekenetic, serious, bookish, has a pet dragon and owns her own steampunk zeppelin that doubles as a nightlight. I am not joking. I may have to buy one.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Stephen B permalink
    September 27, 2011

    The Brony thing is just amazing.

    That particular board in 4chan is a pit of messy death unlike anywhere else on the internet, and those guys just kept at it until they won. (Readers: this is where the tag for our post “I’m gonna love and tolerate the shit outta you” comes from!) I’m always interested in feminism which connects with men in environments where they need to keep a hard-man image, and this seems to be a case of the anonymity the internet provides working FOR love and tolerance. Possibly for the first time ever.

  2. AnilG permalink
    September 27, 2011

    Wondered if the new MLP would turn up here.

    Just thought I’d mention there’s a significant brony population on the White Wolf roleplaying forums too and the Exalted sub-forum has a specific thread at the moment, with many regulars having pony related avatars:

  3. wererogue permalink
    September 27, 2011

    I really quite enjoyed FIM, in no small part because it was refreshing to have a “girl show” that is basically enjoyable regardless of who is watching. I feel like most media “for girls” seems to aim to be “appealing to girls” and forgets to aim to just be good media at it’s base. FIM proves that if your show is good and stars girls (without making them boy-fantasies) then it’s going to be appealing to girls! I’m not part of the bronie community, nor do I make fanart or movies for the show, but I do recommend it to any of my friends who enjoy shows that are strongly child-targeted but fun regardless (a few internet in-jokes aside, it’s not really one of those shows with content aimed at keeping the adults happy, preferring instead to just make strong content for the target audience).

    My wife and I have been catching up on Adventure Time, which is clearly a show “for boys”, but has sort of transformed along the way. It’s still clearly targeted at boys, with the main characters being a boy hero and his dog friend, but there’s more and more content to show that girls are welcome.

    The boys have plenty of female friends and enemies, all of whom are perfectly happy to be who they are, and are never derided for being too feminine. At least two of their female friends are significantly more powerful/important than the main characters. Some of the messaging is pretty strongly inclusive, and certain episodes are outright feminist – my favourite is an episode in the current season (Season 3) called Memory of a Memory. The episode’s is totally a traditional “boy saves girl” plot, but… well, no spoilers.

    The show has drawn fanart from some pretty strongly feminist cartoonists, like Kate Beaton and Jess Fink.

    Plus, it has the catchiest little throwaway songs (mostly written by Rebecca Sugar, one of their screenwriters). We’ve been watching for about 3 weeks and I’ve pretty much had all of their 30 second songs on rotation in my head since then.

  4. January 20, 2012

    I’m so glad you came into this with an open mind towards the show and bronies, Cook.

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