Why I’m a Brony, or, Aristotle’s Revenge

Seems like a strange thing to blog on, yes?  Well, it is.  But it’s worth it.  In celebration of the premiere of Season Three this Saturday, it seems right.

So…My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  A kid’s show.  A kid’s show that managed to attract an unforseen fanbase of which I call myself a member.

“Why do you like a show made for little girls?”

Sure, it was made for little girls.  But the intended audience happens to be irrelevant to why I like it.  I don’t like it because it is a kid’s show, I like a show that happens to be a kid’s show.

I like it for several different reasons.  Here are the top ones.

It’s clever.

The creators of this show took what has been a show for kids, that appealed only to kids, and shifted the goal of each episode to make it a show for kids that appeals to nearly everyone.  This is the fourth generation of the show, and a comparison of the episodes of the past and shows from Friendship is Magic show that difference.

The art style is neat.

The show is animated with Flash, and has a unique art style that works very well for the show and world that was created for the reboot.  It has its own benefits and challenges, which differ from the old hand-drawn shows, but without it we would not have the endearing Derpy Hooves (more on her later).

It’s good clean fun.

It’s completely guiltless: like being able to eat an entire pie with no adverse side effects.

Aristotle would have been a brony.

I think so, and here’s why: Friendship is Magic is ethics in disguise.  Instead of being just a show about ponies, the show uses the characters to teach a lesson about friendship, but which is almost always rooted in good ethics.  It’s no longer about ponies just doing things: it’s about ponies doing things that exemplify what friendship looks like, and it looks an awful lot like good, old-fashioned ethics.  It becomes a sort of new Aesop’s Fables (up to and including a tortoise winning a race).  Which I then get to discuss with my nieces and nephews if they watch any episodes.

Each of the ‘Mane Six’ characters each exemplifies a given virtue.  Applejack is honest, Fluttershy is kind, Pinkie Pie is joyous, Rainbow Dash is loyal, Rarity is generous, but the main character Twilight Sparkle is on a mission to learn about these attributes of friendship and to learn as much as she can about them.  And each of them has a ‘cutie mark’ that shows what their given virtue is.

But the more I watch the show, I’ve come to the conclusion that of the mane six, their cutie marks are emblematic of what saves them.  In a few cases, this is dramatic: Fluttershy is saved from being turned into a pancake by butterflies, right before she discovers her love of nature; AJ’s farm saves her from a life she found much different than what she expected; Pinkie Pie is saved from an joyless vacuum by her discovery of what brings joy; and so on.  This is not often the case with other ponies, most of whom have random cutie marks.

Derpy Hooves.  

As mentioned earlier, this poor pony would not have existed had it not been for an animation error which flipped one of her eyes upside down, which gave her a very funny expression.  She immediately became a fan favorite, and the animators even worked her into later episodes (one of which she features very prominently).  This poor pony is a complete klutz, but this does not stop her from trying to help as much as possible–and almost always with disastrous results.  But if she were to exemplify a virtue, she would surely exemplify magnanimity.  She is selfless, and always tries to help with a cheerful attitude, even while the world crashes down around her as a result.  You can’t help but love this little pony.  She’s downright adorable, and I hope we see more of her in the future.

The other things I like:

The music.  Daniel Ingraham is a gifted composer, and the show’s music is enjoyable as a result.

Pop culture references: while usually subtle, they are a nod to the show’s other audience.

Things I don’t like: 

There are a few things I don’t like about the show.  But they are few:

The show has a skewed idea of ‘the supernatural.’  Twilight dismisses a particular book because it has the word “supernatural” in the title, and describes the supernatural as things like ghosts or zombies and such.  Which is not exactly accurate.

Pinkie Pie gives Twilight a world of trouble in one episode because her intuition refuses to fit squarely into Twilight’s sense of explaining things through science.  Eventually she just gives up trying to figure it out.

Some of the fans.  Yes, some of the fans: because a subset of the teen/adult fans have taken the show and interpreted the characters through their own ideas, and the result is quite a few supposedly lesbian characters, up to and including Rainbow Dash.  But this ignores that it is a kid’s show; and it also seems an unnecessary imposition upon the character design the show has cultivated.  It also seems to ignore the show’s focus on what friendship looks like.

In closing:

By all means, give the show a try, but I recommend starting with Episode 3 of Season One; I found the pilot to be a bad indication of what the individual episodes were like.