I went into the abyss

by Mr. Nobel

The horror, the horror, the horror…

mlpI don’t like to condemn from a position of ignorance.

So, for my sins of antagonizing bronies, I gave myself a mission: sit through at least one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If it turned out that I do, in fact, enjoy this show, I said to myself that I would, without another word, simply walk into the nearest lake and drown myself.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Watched: 1.01 episodes

You know what? After watching a little more than one episode of My Little Pony, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make fun of My Little Pony again. That’s not to say that it’s any good – God, no – but…well…I pretty much had the same reaction to this as I had to the Twilight novels.

The show isn’t that bad. All of the criticisms lobbed against the show are kind of just…unimportant, I guess. I was kept mildly entertained for 20 minutes by a gang of hideous animated…things, so I can’t really hate.

I realize now that projecting all my disdain for the brony movement onto the show was wrong. What I should have figured out was that I needed to ascertain why people, men in particular, formed such a close bond with the show. Then I can finally make peace with myself and the universe, and evolve into a higher form.

The issue is that after “Friendship is Magic: Part 1,” I still have no idea why bronies exist. Admittedly, a little over one episode might not be sufficient material, but the level of quality attained in this one episode does not suggest greatness. Let’s break it down:

The narrative: Something about someone trying to do something with some people. I imagine that actually sinking more time into the show and understanding its characters would make things more involving. But what if I don’t want to blow that much time? What if I’m an incredibly successful, handsome, rich, charismatic stallion of a man (shut up, just bear with me for a moment) who wants a good quality half hour of television without any other prior knowledge necessary because I’m too busy receiving fellatio from supermodels whilst driving my Ferrari whilst saving the free world from radical North Korean Whedonites? After all, Gravity Falls and Nichijou managed to get across their appeal in one measly episode.

On the strength of this single episode, My Little Pony left me rather cold. A bunch of weird shit happened involved prophecies, a purple dragon (Barney?) and a huge pony brigade, but everything was too disconnected and scattershot to elicit any significant response. I got bored. My cursor hovered over the timeline several times throughout.

Characterization: I gathered from my limited discussions with bronies that character work is a big strength of the show. I can kind of see that, from this one episode. The show does a good job of introducing large casts of almost instantly identifiable characters and giving each of them a personality. Some of it just goes with the terrain – giving each pony a different color and different tattoo was smart – but a lot of the credit goes to some tight writing and conceptualization.

The first episode’s vague plot proved to be a good way to introduce Twilight Sparkle (and, by extension, us) to a decent number of Ponyville’s inhabitants. Oh my God. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. I’m going to need a drink.

Calmed down now. So, even though I don’t remember almost anyone’s name, I think I’ve gotten a decent sense of who these ponies are, a remarkable achievement for a single episode.

Adorableness: The characterization is good, maybe even impressive, but the actual story hasn’t been anything close to compelling. Guess what? That’s fine! Because the target audience is of an impressionable mindset, so anything involving cute little ponies will be enthralling as all hell. Right? Right?

Right?

WRONG (and, again, shut up).

The issue here is that I could not find anything in Ponyville to be even remotely visually appealing, let alone adorable. The show’s sense of cuteness and aesthetic merit is like that of a gonzo porn star. Everything’s lathered in such dense makeup, pageantry and excess that the end product isn’t sexy at all. I mean cute. At all. Fuck. Forget that just happened.

Wrapping this crap up: After all that, I’m still no closer to figuring out this show’s crazy appeal. I can see how the characters might become compelling enough that even mediocre plots will be somewhat entertaining. However, nothing in the show’s appalling art and weak storytelling could sell the show. It’s one thing to have a set of interesting characters, it’s quite another to do something worthwhile with them. You can limp through a weak season on the strength of your ensemble (see season 4 of Community), but you can’t hide that gaping hole forever.

It’s easier, I suppose, for children’s television, but why, then, have so many grown men, many of whom have good taste elsewhere, becoming so enraptured by this particular show?

I had a pet theory. I hypothesized that maybe My Little Pony was not so different from 50 Shades of Grey. Much like how the latter novel enabled overly modest women to think about and talk about S&M, My Little Pony liberated the feminine within the minds of men. Suddenly, this show and this fandom burst on the scene, telling guys that it’s okay to temporarily shun masculinity and indulge in liking something expressly made for little girls. Do you know how fast a boy would get beaten up at elementary school if he copped to liking pretty ponies and such? Here was this movement that said it was okay to cast away those fears. Come, set your weary self down. It’s safe here. Warm. Inviting.

But, as I put these thoughts to words, I realized something: I am such a massively pretentious prick. Why the fuck do I have a right to understand something people clearly take great joy and solace in? Why do I have to make sense of and render mundane and unmagical the pretty ponies?

Fuck that shit. I do not want to be the kind of crank who shits all over other people’s likes to feel smugly superior, as if my taste was objectively better or  nobler.

If you like My Little Pony, then great. I will never, ever in a million years understand you, but, please, shine on you crazy diamonds.

If you don’t like My Little Pony, then take a seat at the bar. We can toast to our mutual befuddlement, crack a joke about /r/clopclop and maybe find a little bit of happiness for ourselves out of all these glittery weirdness.

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