I take this class during lunchtime every week with a bunch of kids one year above me.
Unlike regular classes, this was more of a teacher led discussion on the dynamics between the media and our society/culture.
I was the only person there in school uniform (last year students get to wear whatever they wanted) and I was shy by nature so for the whole year, I never said a word. That was, until last week, when we discussed female representation in the media. After listening to some analysis on movie blockbusters and hugely successful TV series such as the Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black and debates on whether a few standout pieces with strong female characters equated to better representation or not, I spoke up for the first time about… my little pony.
Hey, give me a chance.
I stand by my point that my little pony is an example of improved female representation in the media.
I stumbled across the show when it was already a big deal on the Internet (with audiences way out of the demographics range) and curiosity drove me to watch the first episode.
Initial thoughts? Not bad at all for a show targeted at kids. So then I ended up watching four seasons in one fell swoop. (Whoops.)
So what was it exactly that drew me to watch 4 whole seasons of this show and how is it in any way representing women in a better light?
I could try explaining it but it is presented perfectly in the words of the executive producer of the first season herself, Lauren Frost.
“I was extremely skeptical at first about taking the job. Shows based on girls’ toys always left a bad taste in my mouth, even when I was a child. They did not reflect the way I played with my toys. I assigned my ponies and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls distinctive personalities and sent them on epic adventures to save the world. On TV, though, I couldn’t tell one girl character from another and they just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying–which miraculously inspired the villain to turn nice. Even to my 7-year-old self, these shows made no sense and couldn’t keep my interest. No wonder the boys at school laughed at my Rainbow Unicorn Trapper Keeper.
From what I’ve seen since I’ve grown up, little has changed. To look at the quality of most girls’ cartoons, it would seem that not one artist really cared about them. Not one designer, not one background painter, not one animator. Some of the more well-meaning, more expensive animated productions for girl audiences may look better, but the female characters have been so homogenized with old-fashioned “niceness” that they have no flaws and are unrelatable. They are so pretty, polite and perfect; there is no legitimate conflict and nothing exciting ever happens. In short, animated shows for little girls come across as boring. Stupid. Lame.
This perception, more than anything, is what I am trying to change with My Little Pony.”
Ultimately, a reflection of society is best seen in the values we teach our children right? Thanks to Lauren Frost, my little pony is teaching all the right lessons, here’s how.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
When Twilight Sparkle (main character) became a princess while her friends (the other main characters) remained ‘normal’ ponies, it upset the mostly equal friendship dynamic presented in the first few seasons and enraged quite a few fans of the show, including myself (albeit not to the same extent).
However, I have come to accept it begrudgingly due to the fact that ultimately, it sends a positive message.
Normally, stories end after the main character becomes royalty however with my little pony, that is not the case.
(despite this cynical voice inside my head telling me that’s because of the $$$ from the show but I digress)
In the next season, we see that TwilightSparkle has no idea what to do with her new status or what her role entails. Ultimately, this uncertainty at her purpose as a princess is what makes the show so unique. This flips the generic perfect princess storyline young girls are customarily exposed to right around. There is no happy ever after, Twilight is not suddenly flawless, she has the same fears and doubts as before and how she works through this and maintains her friendships despite her change is worthy of respect.
So even though I still and always will think that RainbowDash is best pony and should have become a princess more than TwilightSparkle, I urge you all to check out the show or at least now know that the phenomenon of ‘bronies’ isn’t entirely unexplainable because my little pony is a show that “confronts real conflict and real consequence, while remaining light hearted and fun” making it not just appeal to girls or children but to everyone.
It is a huge step forward for female representation, teaching the future generation that being a girl isn’t all about sitting around being ‘nice’ so that prince charming will find you and live happily ever after. It’s about having a personality and pursuing a fulfilling life that does not rely on latching your life onto someone else.