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Gender Roles: My Little Pony and Equestria Girls

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My Little Pony: Equestria Girls

I will admit: I am a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

No, I will not call myself a "brony" or a "pegasister" or whatever other term fans associate with the show. I dislike labels and don't believe that one must succumb to the dreaded appellation monster in order to show interest in a form of entertainment let alone inclusion in a particular fandom.

So, now you all know my secret: I like a colorful "girly" cartoon. Actually, I'm a huge fan of cartoons, comics, and animation. I own Adventure Time on DVD and watch Powerpuff Girls when I get the Netflix to myself. Last week, I marathoned the first season of Digimon with a friend out of pure 90s nostalgia.

I digress.

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I was never able to swallow the Pretty Pretty Princess Promenade that was the season 3 finale. I felt that it was a bit contrived, and it left a sour taste in my mouth. See, all this time we've been watching a show centered around friendship and learning to respect and tolerate all walks of life. I didn't know that the ultimate end goal of learning was to suddenly become royalty. I'm still somewhat concerned that it sends mixed messages to little girls. Implying that all girls want to grow up to become princesses is destructive. It's bad enough that "girl" and "boy" toys are steadfastly holding on to their old-school ways. I was under the impression that My Little Pony wanted to shake gender barriers, not reinforce them.

Faust's vision of MLP was completely different from the tea party throwing disaster from the 80s. In an interview with the fansite, Equestria Daily, Faust says, "I was also so passionate about making quality entertainment for girls, and I didn't want to be responsible for adding to the pile of entertainment garbage that’s so often targeted toward them." She goes on to explain that she wanted characters whose personalities developed through trial and error, who went on adventures and had other interests besides standing around and fawning over cute boys.

MLP:FiM was created around the idea that little girls should not be force-fed outdated female tropes and be wedged into specific gender roles at a young age. Each character represents different sets of personality traits. Some are very femme while others are boyish or somewhere inbetween. Sometimes there are conflicts and they don't get along, but that's the beauty of real life; we don't fit into nice, cookie-cutter patterns. You might not be the same as someone else, but you can still be their friend despite this.

Ultimately, this is what I think the show sought out to personify in the beginning. It wanted to tear down social stigmas and bring people together. (And with the brony subculture, I would say it was successful in this endeavor.) Not popular and kind of shy? That's okay, you can still be friends with the pretty fashionista. Prefer sports over books? You can still hang out with the nerdy girl who practically lives in a library.

Unfortunately, the Equestria Girls spin-off does not give me high hopes for the future of My Little Pony.

I understand that Hasbro is looking to expand their fanbase even further and make more money, but this makes me sad for the future of girls' television. What made these girls independent and unique is completely shattered. No, it will not be the same show, and I am very much aware of that. And for the record, that's not why I'm upset.

Equestria Girls

Just look at that image. All I see is a group of very stick-thin girls who all share the same body type (I'd go as far to say body base, even). Their clothes are even similar in style: shirt top, skirt, complete with legwarmer shoes. Their tails and manes have been more or  less pasted on from their original models, though I don't think they will look like that in the actual show. We went from generic pony body base to tweeny, Disney-esque sexualness. They've been styled to fit the "standard" girly image that seems cohesive with all the new Disney princesses' images. There's a lot of added shine and sparkle. WHY does Rainbow Dash look like a cheerleader?!

I know that the original characters were very visually similar to one another (body type), but their image was not that of a overtly sexual animal creature. They had unique characteristics, but they were not supposed to be representative of the human norm. It's media like Equestria Girls that perpetrates body image issues in young girls. It instills this idea that you have to look and act a certain way to be fun, cute, or normal. See: Bratz, Monster High, etc.

This is most definitely not the first concept art for this show, as it was announced quite a while ago. (If you want a peek, it's here.) Oddly enough, the new art shows the characters with most ponyfeatures intact: ears, tails, wings. The producer claims they wanted to stay as close to the original design as possible. Not only is that ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS, it's just plain weird.

The plot will be some odd, crossover style where the mane 6 find themselves transported to the human world, and have a dramatized high school experience. Cue eye roll. Here's the official statement, via Hasbro:

"Learn all about the magical parallel universe with high schools instead of castles, where six pony friends become real girls with a love for fun and fashion."

Key words:
> real girls
> love for fun and fashion

That dangerously deviates from the message of the original show (which is seemingly veering off track by the looks of the previous season). You know what it says to me? Ponies are things for little girls. They can dream and be whatever they want to be and go on adventures, but when they're ready to be real girls, they'll have to grow up to be shallow pretty little things that learn to be fashionable and fit in.

Is it because Faust bounced after the first season, leaving her vision to be interpreted by a different staff? Or is is because Hasbro is seeing dollar signs in its greedy, corporate face? Who knows, but all I can hope is that I'm extremely off the mark with my cynicism toward Equestria Girls.



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1 comment:

  1. Well, I have some very good news. I went to see the movie yesterday, and it was actually quite amazing. Yes, They were all in human forms, but the only one with a fashion problem was Rarity, and lets be honest, that is her character.

    The theater I went to see it in was packed with fans of the show. Bronies and Pegasisters, as well as the actual target demographic of the show. Everyone left the theater happy and even surprised at how well the movie was made. This was not My Little Pony: The Movie all over again, where everyone thought the film was just a 2 hour commercial for the toys.

    In Short, this movie was much better handled than anyone could have imagined. All the characters stay true to their Pony versions, even down to the Cutie Mark Crusaders and their search for what makes them special. I won't go into spoilers for you or anyone, but I will say that you should give this movie a try and then make up your own mind.

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