Jun 29 2011

Not-Sucking Is Magic: My Little Pony

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Well, I binged on the first five (six? I lost count after the Ursa Minor) episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic via YouTube last night, while workin’ on various stuff. It was enjoyable and I can see why it’s popular, although it didn’t cause me to squee with the light of a thousand suns the way it has some others.

I can see the Powerpuff Girls influence in it, and that can be nothing but good. I also wholeheartedly applaud a Very Girly Show For Girls That Is Girly that has things like well-defined and likeable characters, plots with conflict, and themes of self-reliance and personal development, without actually being a show for boys where the characters all have long hair and squeaky voices (a pitfall PPG could occasionally fall prey to).

In the episodes I watched, it never quite reached the level of awesome, although it did have moments that approached it, such as “I cannot tolerate such a crime against fabulosity!” and “But … the rainbow one kicked me…” With a few nudges in the right direction, it could easily become awesome, but my gut feeling is that Hasbro wouldn’t tolerate it.

So what’s my analysis of the whole Brony thing? Well, some of it is the same “breath of fresh air” phenomenon that made the original Star Wars such a hit after a decade of sci-fi movies that made you want to kill yourself. My Little Pony is a well-written, enjoyable, decently-animated show, which means it blows the doors off of anything else happening right now. Since the collapse of TV animation in the late ’90s, there’s been painfully little that wasn’t outright crap, and since it’s not crap, MLP shines like gold. And while I don’t want to belittle the quality of the show, I do think the lack of competition has a lot to do with the sheer enthusiasm of the fandom that’s building up around it.

Fans are gonna glomp onto something, and if there’s only the one thing around worth glomping onto, it wins. Once upon a time, animation fans could geek out about Animaniacs, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Powerfpuff Girls, Balto, Cardcaptor Sakura, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Lion King, even the good old-fashioned Looney Tunes, and all still be fairly current. But all those things are old now (sorry, but it’s true, people like the New Hotness), and even if they weren’t old, they’re not being broadcast. You have to already be a fan of those for them to still be relevant to you.

If MLP was going up against the WB at its height, or even Cartoon Network during the Space Ghost: Coast to Coast era, it would have had a harder time of it, true, but on the other hand, it is a show being made right now that could stand up to those and give them a run for their money, and in the current climate that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

-The Gneech

Filed under : Reviews | 6 Comments »

6 responses to “Not-Sucking Is Magic: My Little Pony”

  1. Nissl says:

    A couple of quick thoughts. One, this show is also a breath of fresh air because it doesn’t go for the cynicism, irony, and “that’s so wrong” adult jokes that permeate kids TV, indeed virtually all animated TV today. It’s a very noticeable break in tone that returns to something more innocent, and it shockingly doesn’t suck. In fact for the sake of argument I would say that the last couple decades of animated shows, Simpsons, South Park, etc. have fundamentally been about speaking out on the ugly truths that lie behind cultural facades, putting an end to the saccharine sitcom culture of the 80’s/early 90’s. But that trend has played itself out, Simpsons were mostly done years ago, South Park is staggering very noticeably now, etc.

    Two, shows like PPG and Animaniacs ran thin for me after about 5-10 episodes. It seemed that there were too few characters, and they were constructed too thinly, to sustain many episodes of interesting watching. PPG for example I think made too much of the fact that the heroines are preschool girls. Other than that from watching 4-5 episodes I got that there’s a tough one, a sweet one, and the leader. That just doesn’t last that long. MLP continues to develop the characters in more depth.

    Three, a lot of the fervor again has to do with the fact (again) that the show shockingly doesn’t suck. First, the sheer surprise evokes comment. Second, it has a ridiculously tarnished brand outside the under-10 female demographic and is on a channel nobody watches, so it will disappear if nobody talks about it. Third, it provokes lots of irritating cultural pushback. Nobody is going to give me shit for saying The Lion King was a good movie or that I enjoyed Animaniacs when I was younger. This last is probably why I bother commenting on thoughtful reviews of the show, like yours. Thanks!

    • The Gneech says:

      FWIW, I intend to continue watching it, this post was just a summation of my initial thoughts. I’ll be very interested to watch and see what character development they manage to do within the construct of a show that can’t develop from episode to episode — which was one of the Hasbro-imposed limits on its awesomeness from what I’ve read. The producer originally wanted to do a magical-girl-anime style show with seasonal arcs, which I can’t help but think would have been seriously great.

      -The Gneech

      • Nissl says:

        Yeah, I agree with you that the lack of arcs does limit the show, and I do wonder how it will last beyond 3-4 seasons in particular. I am hoping they at least can have a few recurring villains each season.

        While most episodes develop at least one of the characters a bit (#7, which you’re coming up to, does a decent job with Fluttershy) I think the best examples I’ve seen so far through 19 episodes are Suited for Success (Rarity) and Winter Wrap-Up (Twilight).

  2. Nissl says:

    By the way, none of what I typed above is meant to refute your review in any way. It just kind of spilled out. I think because I would reasonably expect to take a very similar perspective on the show, watch a handful of eps like I have for most the shows listed above and be done with it. But for some reason it struck a chord with me and a lot of other people more than any show in years, and we’re all trying to figure out why the hell that is given the show’s limitations that were so well described above.

    • The Gneech says:

      The show is charming, the characters are likeable, and the world seems like a pleasant one to step into, especially if you’re having a rough time with the real one. That’s more than enough!

      -The Gneech

  3. […] all this wanders My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which as I mentioned before is a very girly show for girls that is girly, but is also just a straight-up awesome show, thus having a lot of crossover appeal. That there […]