Hello, my name is Piccolo Sky, I’m 30 years old…and I watch “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.
…Sorry for that. I was patiently waiting for most people to turn around and leave and what few people I have who watch my blog ”unwatch”. If you’re still here, good. You’re the “A-Team”…the gang who doesn’t immediately judge an individual based on one preference they have. Frankly, if you’re not, I don’t really care to have you read my blog in the first place.
Yes, somewhere in between Season Two and Three, I went from being one of the group of confused, mystified, incredulous, and perhaps even frightened males who stared at the phenomenon of “bronies” to a full-fledged member of “the herd”. I understand this confuses a great deal of people. I can’t say I blame you. As little as a month before I “crossed over”, I would have said the same thing. And, to be honest, I was quite scared to “come out” with it. I actually thought it made me a freak or a pervert or worse. (I can’t imagine how people with real issues they’re afraid to come out with, such as homosexuality, can do it.) However, after quite a bit of introspection, I decided to say it with pride. After all, there are much worse things in the world I could be deathly ashamed of and rightly so.
However, naturally, what comes with being a fan of that show and an adult male is weird looks, suspicion, association with the true freaks, and, of course, the big question that you yourself might be asking me right now:
“How can you enjoy that little girl’s cartoon show?”
Well, in terms of content, I could make lots of arguments. The leading misconception, and the most frustrating for a “brony”, is that the show is exactly like the 1980s version or even later incarnations.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear at the onset…the far majority of bronies think that the 1980s incarnation of the show and all other non-FIM (Friendship is Magic) incarnations are indeed dumb, childish, and suitable only for little girls. Those versions of the show had one purpose: dazzle little girls into buying merchandise. “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, on the other hand, was rebooted as a creation by Lauren Faust, who is infamous for collaborating on cartoons that appeal to adults as well as children (“The Powerpuff Girls” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”) and, although the main purpose of the show (like anything associated with Hasbro) is to sell merchandise, it’s definitely smarter, edgier, less stereotypical, and mass appealing than any other show incarnation.
It definitely tries to cater to the pop culture and adult audience from time to time. (One of the best examples is in the opening of “The Cutie Pox”. Try Youtubing that.) It’s definitely more “fun” and mass appealing too. If the only thing the characters ever did was brush their manes, go on tea parties, and run up meadows, it would probably indeed not be very admired. It doesn’t, however. It goes for a much wider range.
Most of all, compared to other Y-related programming, the show is Shakespeare. It takes a lot of talent to be able to make an interesting Y-rated show. Most other Y-rated programming currently on television is things like “Dora the Explorer” and “Team Umizoomi”. It’s nice…but it’s also so youth-orientated that it makes the typical adult want to gag themselves with how dumbed-down it is. At least MLP doesn’t feel like it’s trying to insult your intelligence (not completely, at any rate).
And while shows like that are primarily used for educational value, there’s good value in MLP:FIM as well on the social level. Most shows that have girls in mind at that age show girls doing stereotypical ”girly” things. Oh, it’s improved over the years, but you’ll still eventually see girls on a lot of programming playing with things that are pink or frilly, or having tea parties or messing around in toy kitchens, or being interested in dressing up and hosting parties.
First of all, the cast of MLP:FIM is overwhelming female. There are very few male characters and even less that are “regulars”. The only more-or-less fixed male character on the cast is Spike. Second, the girls don’t all act the same either. The closest we have to “typical girls” would be Fluttershy, who is a nature lover and always cares for cute animals, and Rarity, who is concerned with fashion and elegant things. However, Fluttershy has shown multiple times that she has an aggressive and “assertive” side, and Rarity has made it clear (especially in the episode “A Dog and Pony Show”) that just because she acts more like “a lady” doesn’t mean she can’t handle herself. After that…the cast lineup has two tomboys (as opposed to the usual token one), Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Rainbow Dash is a type-A athlete who isn’t afraid to challenge boys on even-footing. Applejack is a farmer, which is in and of itself a good thing since more and more people in the country are thinking anyone who is “country” is an “uncivilized hick”. Twilight Sparkle is a bookwormish nerd…and there’s nothing wrong with that. A girl can be well-learned and not quite as outgoing and socially adept as everyone else. Then there’s Pinkie Pie, who is essentially a transposed Looney Tunes character. (And if you’ve seen “The Looney Tunes Show”, you can probably agree that we need more real Looney Tunes characters in this day and age.)
However, in spite of all of this, there is the lingering idea that an adult who watches that show is stupid at best and a disgusting freak at worst.
Personally, if you don’t like the show for its content, I can appreciate that. If you say: “Eh, I just don’t find it entertaining” or “It’s not for me”, that’s fine. There’s a lot of very popular shows I don’t like, after all. I can’t expect everyone who watches the show to say they enjoy it. (Although, I will point out, after I watched my first episode, I too said: “Eh, it’s not that great of a show.” I continued to say that as I watched a second and third episode to confirm to myself that it wasn’t that great of a show. )
However, if you just don’t like the show for some intrinsic reason, this essay is for you.
All arguments not related to show content about why adults shouldn’t watch “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” ultimately boil down to one of two possibilities:
1. An adult watching the show is bad.
2. It is bad for an adult to watch the show.
These two arguments are similar-sounding but very different. The latter argument assumes there is some characteristic about the show that makes it unsuitable for adults to watch, and is therefore intrinsic to the show itself. The former argument, on the other hand, assumes that an adult himself/herself is flawed in some way that, in turn, makes it “wrong” to watch the show. It also varies in its defense. In the first case, the burden of proof is on the watcher to show that their watching the show is not wrong. In the second case, the burden of proof is on the nonwatcher to show that watching the show is wrong.
Let us start with argument one:
AN ADULT WATCHING THE SHOW IS BAD
The logical question becomes why is an adult “bad” (immoral, weird, insane, stupid, etc.) who watches the show? There are a couple of arguments for that which are traditionally used that serve as all encompassing. If the adult watching the show is themselves bad or engaging in something “bad”, then there can only really be two reasons:
1. The adult is immoral or “weird” in some way (the fault causation is internal to the individual).
2. The adult is mentally deficient in some way (the fault causation is beyond the individual’s control).
Argument One Premise 1: The adult is immoral or “weird” in some way.
It is true that there are very unsavory types who enjoy MLP:FIM…people who I, for one, would be anxious around or would never even want to meet. Some adult fans collect the toys and play with them. Some adult fans dress up, which can range from wearing a black t-shirt that has Fluttershy saying “yay” (no caps) to a full body costume more akin to a “furry” (which is a whole other can of worms). And some…and this, of course, is the type I would avoid like the plague…do unsightly things while watching the show. I’d rather not mention what. Suffice to say it involves things certain men do by themselves in their rooms in the dark while traditionally reading “adult literature”.
Naturally, this stuff can be unsettling, unnerving, or even downright immoral. However, it’s inaccurate to make an umbrella statement that all adult fans of the show engage in such behavior. I myself have never bought one of their toys and I never intend to sit around brushing their hair or doing anything else in my own room in the dark. I’m by no means “unique” in that regard, either.
There is, unfortunately, an overlaying idea that has come out of modern culture: adults who engage in behavior normally reserved for children must do it out of a perverse sexual desire. I blame modern media for this. After all, on many adult shows such as “Family Guy”, “South Park”, and “Robot Chicken”, often something iconic is taken from childhood and remade to be twisted into something perverse and disgusting. It’s enough where anyone who is engaged in said things is suspected of being perverted or demented.
Not only is that an empty argument, it is logically flawed. Everything has its share of fans who are perverted. By extension, all of us would be freaks for using the Internet in the first place as it has the highest level of perversion and filth anyone can find anywhere nowadays.
Argument One Premise 2: The adult is mentally deficient in some way.
It’s a fairly common (if not juvenile and argumentative) statement to say that “anyone who does X is an idiot”. That statement is several logical fallacies wrapped into one, naturally, and ultimately is completely irrelevant.
How exactly is “stupid” defined? If in terms of cognitive function, obviously this statement is fake. Many adult fans of MLP are quite intelligent and skilled as evidenced by the fandom’s ability to program, animate, compose, and generate a fan-universe worth of material.
In terms of cleverness or “street smarts”, that statement is entirely subjective. It implies that because the content of the show is not totally “adult” that it must only appeal to people who have non-adult levels of cognition. However, no one really would seriously think someone who routinely watches people who make poor choices on Youtube, or is a fan of the show “Jackass”, or a watcher of gross-out comedies is stupid.
“Stupid” is highly subjective in any other context. In the 1700s, you would have been considered stupid for piercing your nose and getting a tattoo. In the modern day, you are considered stupid if you wear a powdered wig. Therefore, unless one can elaborate on what exactly makes one “stupid” who watches the show, and is able to apply it to the body of “bronies” as a whole, this statement is moot.
The conclusion that is drawn is that an adult is themselves not necessarily “immoral” or “stupid” in at least some cases, if not most. Assuming that MLP:FIM has no more fans who could be considered “immoral” or “stupid” than any other fandom that is widely accepted (unless, of course, the other fandom is itself far more guilty of being immoral or stupid and just not accepted by society, but assuming that isn’t the case), then one cannot conclude that an individual is themselves “bad” for watching the show. At least some fans of the show are perfectly moral and at least of average intelligence. So why is it bad for them to watch the show?
Let us move onto the next argument…
IT IS BAD FOR AN ADULT TO WATCH THE SHOW
This, of course, is perfectly possible. Adults can themselves not be immoral, stupid, etc. but still engage in behavior that is “not good”. Drinking and driving, for example. Or cheating on taxes. People may be otherwise “fine” or “good” and engage in behaviors that are “bad”. Therefore, the question becomes what makes MLP:FIM and/or the act of an adult watching the show “bad”.
There are a multitude of reasons out there, so I will choose only what I perceive to be the most dominant:
1. Watching the show leads to negative consequences.
2. The show is childish and immature.
3. Adults should not watch programming targetting a non-adult demographic.
These three cover a great deal of arguments. The first covers the main default reason for banning programming in the first place as morally imperative for everyone. The second targets the show specifically as having a quality that makes it bad for adults to watch. The third is more of a general statement that considers an inclusive set of what constitutes programming that adults should watch.
Argument Two Premise 1: Watching the show leads to negative consequences.
It’s no secret that pop culture can lead people to do some pretty stupid things. “Beavis and Butthead” was routinely blamed during the 90s whenever a child acted out and was suspected in cases of juvenile arson. In more recent years, “Teen Mom” resulted in many underaged girls attempting to get pregnant to be put on the show. Whether you can hold the show truly accountable for this or attribute it to human stupidity is ambiguous, but the general solution society implements is to not try the (admittedly) monumental task of controlling human stupidity but instead “protect them from themselves” through censorship and warnings.
As alluded to earlier, individuals can use this show as an excuse to do things most people would agree are stupid or, worse yet, immoral. If you’re within the crowd who believes that shows should be held accountable for the stupidity of their viewers, then you might debate that MLP:FIM should indeed be avoided by adults.
However, this argument falls apart relatively quickly unless you grow far more ambitious in scope. If you believe MLP:FIM leads to negative consequences for adults, are you willing to examine all other things that lead to negative consequences for adults? What about alcohol? Guns? Even cars? Each one of those can be proven to be highly detrimental to the safety and health of others with concrete evidence and within the hands of only a few individuals who “abuse” them. If you prefer to confine yourself to media, what about video games? R-rated movies? Adult movies? Some of these can even be proven to have a “corrupting” influence on certain individuals. Should we eliminate those as well? If not, what sets apart MLP:FIM from them that makes it a more “pressing concern”?
The conclusion is that even if MLP:FIM does represent a dangerous influence to some adults, it is something that society normally “tolerates” in far greater dosages from other forms of media, and it is unfair to “audit” one show so severely.
Argument Two Premise 2: The show is childish and immature.
This is an argument more frequently used. It is somewhat equivalent to simply saying “it’s stupid”, which is a vacuous claim that was countered earlier. However, it is true that much of the humor and dialogue is orientated to a younger audience (though not very much so, in my opinion, as much of the lines are for individuals with greater levels of literacy than a typical young child). Adults know full well that cartoon multicolored horses exhibiting neonaty, some of whom have horns and others of whom have wings, are fully impossible…let alone quasi-anthropomorphic ones. And people would say that most adults are not terribly interested in a purple unicorn filling out a weekly report to an alicorn goddess about what she learned about friendship this week, or whether three small ponies are able to get pictures on their flanks indicating what their special talent is. So, yes, we could conclude that the show is, at minimum, for children and applicable to people with lower levels of maturity.
My big response at this point is as follows: So what?
C.S. Lewis, renown author and Christian philosopher, once said the following:
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought… to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Most adults my age are not ashamed to admit that they were enthused about seeing a “Transformers” live action film in spite of the fact that the show was both for children and designed to sell toys. They may also talk about how much they loved movies like: “The Goonies” or “Aladdin” or “Beauty and the Beast” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (the TV series). Under the right conditions, they might even sit down to watch a round of said material. By the same token, adults who are walking around might see an abandoned playground and try out a few bits of the equipment. Or still collect comics that they started as a child.
As Lewis indicates, it is a childish thing in and of itself to insist that one is “too old” for “childish” things. After all, who is the type of person you encounter who says: “I’m too old for that!” (HINT: Replace “old” with “big”.) If you did reach the point in your life where you would walk by a playground with a friend and, rather than try walking about it or moving on the equipment a bit, you simply said: “Bah, I’m too old for that silliness.”, would it be more of a testament about the inappropriateness of the playground or your own tragedy at so willingly losing a part of you that was still child-like, carefree, and enjoyed having “a spot of fun”? While it’s important to be an adult in terms of responsibilities and duties, I think we’d all be happier if at least some parts of our lives would be like Peter Pan and “never grow up”. It is a very sad thing the day you remember how something as a child gave you a great deal of joy and one day you realize it doesn’t anymore…but even more so when you realize the main reason it doesn’t is because you’ve grown too sharp, cynical, and “old” to let it.
A quote frequently comes to mind in my case: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” It amazes me how so many people are in a rush to grow up and become adults their early lives, only to leave high school and be on their own and realize: “…Why was I in such a hurry to leave all of my ‘child’ self behind?”
Argument Two Premise 3: Adults should not watch a show that targets a non-adult demographic.
This is the most “loving” objection I get to my appreciation of the show. All other arguments are either snickers, insults, or ones that imply my childishness and immaturity like above. This one is “gentler” and more non-offensive. It is also one of the most ridiculous complaints when one pauses to think about it.
It’s no secret, of course, that the show was made with little girls in mind. That’s who Hasbro was trying to sell to, after all. And although Lauren Faust isn’t the sort of woman to patronize kids or dumb things down outside of the adult level, and neither are the various writers on the show who went with her premise, the target audience is still little girls. The show is supposed to first be a viable program for them before anything else, even with all the fanservice included that’s geared toward adults.
However, it does not logically follow that adults should therefore not watch it. The very fact that there is pop culture fanservice shows that the creators have realized part of their audience has expanded to include adults and are now catering toward them specifically. Rarely, if ever, will a show specifically tell certain demographics not to watch it or to discourage fandoms. Even shows like “South Park” are explicit for the purpose of attracting viewers, not repelling them. They use shock value as a marketing strategy. To try and discourage individuals from watching a show is simply bad business in the media world.
This covers the “marketing” perspective of the show, but the social perspective shouldn’t discourage it either. There are rating systems in place at the moment that restrict children from watching adult programming, but I have yet to see a rating system that restricts an adult from watching a child’s programming. The central idea is that as you get older, your maturity develops to be able to handle more “adult” programming without being influenced by it. Nowhere is there an idea that as you get older, you should now be prohibited from watching certain programming that you used to be free to partake in, as if somehow you should be restricted more as you get older.
Furthermore, why should I, as an adult, be confined to watching adult programming? Why am I not a “true adult” unless I watch only adult programming? Most adult programming is not suitable for children for a reason…it has only entertainment value and nothing of practical “worth”. If I watch “Family Guy”, I have to be willing to tolerate that drugging and raping a woman is funny is some contexts. If I watch “Breaking Bad”, I accept my protagonist is an increasingly-corrupt sociopath. If I watch “Dexter”, I accept my protagonist is a serial killer. Even if I watch a typical news program, I’m accepting that I should be constantly egged on to hate one political affiliation or another and consider everything they do, no matter how minor or benign, to be an attack on me personally and the foundation of America. I don’t have time to get into “Game of Thrones”, “True Blood”, or countless reality TV shows. Why am I, as an adult, required to watch programming that we consider too filled with “trash” for children to watch?
Ultimately, I think the underlying psychological reason adults flocked to MLP:FIM is that it was “mature” enough, with enough wider-demographic facets compared to other Y-rated programming, to be a “breath of fresh air”. Let’s be honest…adult programming is tarnished with violence, immorality, smut, and perversion. Even going away from a show that’s popular or with a good story, something often may happen on it that leaves one feeling “soiled” or “dirty”. Something that makes you feel guilty about watching it. Plus, the whole standard for humor on a lot of explicit comedy shows is to take things that are good and wholesome and make them twisted, sickening, and corrupt. Adults want to watch MLP:FIM so they can finally feel “clean” after watching a show.
And by the way, if we as a society have reached the point where we can watch an episode of “South Park” and walk away feeling fine but watch an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and walk away feeling uncomfortable…then there’s something wrong with our society that is not bronies.
My conclusion is this: I don’t expect many adults to readily embrace “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, and these same adults may be puzzled at those who do. However, there is no legitimate reason to call such behavior “bad”. It might be unconventional, yes, or different…but many things are. I have yet to hear a legitimate reason with solid founding as to why an adult should not watch the show. Until I do, I will continue to watch.
For those of you who simply don’t like it due to its content, that’s fine. To each their own.
And to those who simply like saying people are “stupid” with no real reasoning behind the statement for watching the show…here’s something you’re probably used to hearing by now:
Tolerators gonna tolerate.