Confessions, Stereotypes, and Ponies
Confession #1: I’m a brony.
Confession #2: I really do not care what anyone has to say about it.
I, on the other hand, have zero coordination, little interest in cars, and the only girls in my inner social circles are family members.
Young adult males are also supposed to like playing video games and drinking beer. I prefer making games (though there are a few I play), and have absolutely no interest in liquor at all.
I like shopping (though I rarely buy anything). I enjoy alleged “chick flicks” like “An Affair to Remember” and “You’ve Got Mail”. I read voraciously. I’m a gardener. I like cooking. And I LOVE watching My Little Pony.
I don’t fit the stereotype, but I’m still a 21-year-old male. There is absolutely no way around that. I plan to marry a woman someday and have a family. I lift weights (though, alas, I couldn’t get to the gym this summer). And I’m a MAJOR Seattle Seahawks fan.
What is it with stereotypes, anyway?
Society enjoys trying to crunch people into these little molds. If you’re a girl, you’re “supposed” to have a size zero waist, adore pink and frills, and enjoy shopping and watching romantic movies. If you’re a guy, as I’ve said, you’re supposed to be muscular and like sports, cars, and pretty girls.
And guys are most definitely not supposed to like My Little Pony.
I actually did not start out liking that show either. I can blame my sister Jordyn for the initial exposure to it. She had mentioned it one day, and when I saw it was on TV, I decided to see what she was raving about. I rather liked it. However, I wasn’t totally into it yet. I still figured it was “for girls.”
Then my artist friend Mallory mentioned it, and I decided to look up an episode on YouTube. I was completely hooked. Over the next few months, I watched the entirely of all three seasons.
Yet, it was still something I wasn’t about to tell anyone besides Mallory, Jordyn, and my mother. I wasn’t supposed to like something so “girly”.
It took me a while to realize that “girly” is another one of those stupid societal labels people slap on things. What, because the animation included pastel colors and lots of sparkles and hearts, it was “girly”? By that same standard, “manly” implied dark colors, scantily clad women, and lots of explosions. I’ll take the girly, thank you VERY much.
I also realized that I wasn’t alone. My Little Pony could very well hold the record for the “girly” show with the most young adult male viewers.
That in mind, I finally got up the courage to tell my brother Nehemiah about my new interest. We’re both psychology majors, so our discussion led to my curiosity as to what made so-called “bronies” tick. A Google search for “brony psychology” led to an article about a psychological study of the social group.
At first, I was really surprised. The study reported that, not only was there no trace of deviancy in the majority group, but that bronies actually displayed BETTER social skills than their non-brony peers.
That initial surprise wore off as I realized that everything that study had concluded was right in line with what I already knew about myself. I made a decision right then and there: I was a brony, and I was proud of it. I no longer cared what anyone thought about my interest in the show.
Of course, with that now unbridled (pun intended) enjoyment of the show, I began to use my skills as an author to break down why exactly it had developed such a massive following of guys.
In my own research, I discovered that Lauren Faust, who developed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, had made a significant decision when she started the job. She condemned the shallowness of the previous incarnations of the show, and declared that the new version would include deeper characters and more significant life lessons.
The very phrase “Friendship is Magic” sounds incredibly trite and shallow, I know, but that theme is addressed in a way that few other television programs have DARED. Sure, it’s easy enough to teach kids things like “believe in yourself” and “be nice to people,” but Faust and team took it several steps…no, miles further.
I have rarely seen programs deal with topics like “What do you do when your life-long dream involved compromising your ethics?” and “How do you assert yourself without totally trampling over other people?” Yet My Little Pony does.
I have also rarely seen programs display such a thorough continuity. Case and point, the character Rainbow Dash (a Pegasus) is well known in the series for being reckless, yet throughout the first two seasons, she slowly learns how to consider the possible risks and consequences of her actions.
Finally, in Season 3, she is accepted into the “Wonderbolt Academy”, a flying school that she has ALWAYS dreamed of attending. However, Rainbow Dash’s new flying partner is just as reckless as she used to be. Back in Season 1, she probably wouldn’t have cared, but now she takes serious issue with it – to the point of quitting the academy. “If being reckless is what it means to be a Wonderbolt, I want no part of it.” (Probably paraphrase, but you get the idea.)
I won’t spoil the ending of that episode, but I will say that I was blown away by that episode’s writing. Normally in television shows, especially those for children, personality-altering lessons learned will be reversed before the end of an episode to prevent the need to take it into account later, something I’ve always considered lazy writing. Yet, the “pony scribes” (as the show’s writers are called) are so dedicated to the moral value of the show, they ensure that such character growth STICKS.
All that to say, if you haven’t seen the show because you thought it was girly, I seriously encourage you to look past the pink sparkles and quirky names to the heart of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. You might be surprised.
It really is amazing what we miss by believing in stereotypes. God has created such an intricate world, it is near impossible to accurately categorize much of anything…ESPECIALLY people.
Just as Twilight Sparkle would say, “Everypony is special.” That’s a seemingly simple lesson that is desperately needed in today’s society, and if six cartoon ponies are what it takes to deliver it, I’d be the last person on the planet to protest.