Two things before the actual PTOD: First, I finally broke down and got a bloody Twitter account. If you’d like to follow me, I’m @Froborr.
Second, please note, I’m linking here to an article by Amanda Marcotte, a writer and activist I greatly admire. The article in question is not her best work and makes some assumptions about bronies that I think most of us would regard as incorrect. Please don’t prove her right with your response; if you comment on the article or message her, do so with the love and tolerance that are the motto of our community.
As I discussed in my Pony Thoughts of the Day on implied viewers, I think the show does offer a space for adult geek viewers of either gender, though the original intent was most likely to make a space for the show’s creators. At the same time, there are a plethora of shows for adult geeks, but as far as I know this is the only currently airing show for small kids that depicts women as full, equal human beings, each of who is an individual. The kids need this show, so much as I love it, if it ever came to a conflict between being good for the kids and good for the geeks, I have to say that the kids should win.
Which makes Amanda Marcotte’s Slate article on Equestria Girls deeply unsettling for me, because she has an explanation for perhaps the biggest question about Equestria Girls: Why?
Turning the ponies into human girls does seem like a baffling choice on its surface. There are plenty of teenage girl dolls for little girls to buy, from the aforementioned Bratz to the ever-popular Barbie, but the Ponies were really holding down the market by appealing to the apparently genetic affinity little girls have for all things equestrian that dates back at least to National Velvet. But what if the change wasn’t about little girls at all? What if there was another audience—an older, male, and kind of off-putting audience—that also loves the Ponies and wants nothing more than imagery of them as humans to appeal to their less-than-innocent fantasies about really getting personal with their favorite toys? If there was such an audience, they have a little bit more disposable income than little girls, and selling to them, even if you alienate parents of little girls, might end up being quite profitable indeed.
If true, and it seems plausible enough, then bronies are crossing a line from enjoying Friendship Is Magic to appropriating it. If we are exerting influence on major creative decisions, then something is deeply wrong and we need to find a way to stop it.
That said, I’m not convinced this is actually true. Marcotte makes the erroneous assumption that bronies are watching the show out of a prurient interest. While it’s true that Friendship Is Magic porn exists, it’s unsurprising that a search with the word “porn” in it turned up porn. A better test would be googling a character name with SafeSearch off (I do not recommend actually attempting this); entering a female character from Avatar the Last Airbender or Pokemon produces porn much higher in the results than a Friendship Is Magic character. There’s more than there was a year ago, admittedly, but clop is still controversial—is there any other fandom where porn is debated, rather than an accepted fact?
It’s also a stretch to refer to the Equestria Girls designs as “sexy.” Yes, they all wear skirts (a decision I’ve criticized before), but otherwise there isn’t anything particularly sexualized in their presentations. They are neither realistic depictions of young women nor overtly sexualized; they look, as the mother quoted in the article says, like Bratz dolls. I find it hard to believe, and hard to believe that Hasbro believes, that “people who want to have sex with Bratz dolls” are a lucrative potential market, let alone the subset of that group that are also bronies.
No, I suspect a much more likely culprit is that, after three years, the original members of the target demographic are starting to age out of the show, and Hasbro is trying to find a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of them. They did something similar before, with My Little Pony Tales in 1992, long before bronies. Admittedly those characters were still ponies, but more anthropomorphized than the first incarnation.
So, this probably isn’t an attempt to appeal to bronies. But if it is, or if at some future point Hasbro and DHX start making major creative decisions in an attempt to appeal to bronies instead of little girls, then as I said we’ll know we’ve crossed the line from appreciation to appropriation. At that point, I believe we in the brony community would have a collective responsibility to try to find a way to encourage the show to return to being the best thing on television for little girls.