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Thursday, May 19, 2016

I Have a Pony in this Race: My Little Pony and the Hugos

You know, it’s kind of appropriate that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was nominated for a Hugo in order to troll people. Our entire fandom was built on some trolling.

Way back in 2011, some guys on 4Chan started posting My Little Pony pictures and memes from the then-new series, Friendship is Magic. Other people complained, and being 4Chan, they responded by flooding the site with pictures of ponies.

But somewhere in there a strange thing happened. People checked out the show, whether because they thought the characters were cute or because they thought it would be dumb and wanted to mock it, and they liked it. Not ironically, and not because it was subversive or slipped adult humor in under the radar. They just really liked the simple stories about Twilight Sparkle and her pony friends. And Bronies were born.

I personally come from a unique place in pony fandom. I’m a 33-year-old woman, and I watched the old My Little Pony cartoons back in the 80s, but I was never a big fan. I joined the Friendship is Magic fandom about four years ago, and two years after that I had a daughter, so I’ve gone from looking at the show as a fan, to looking at it as both a fan and a mom. It shines in both ways; it’s a rare show that a two-year-old can enjoy, with messages I’m happy to have her grow up on, and that I still wake up for on Saturdays, even when her father is letting me sleep in (parents of small children know how big a deal that is).

So, from my perspective, I hope this Hugo nomination can do what the show has done from the beginning: turn something sour and ironic into a chance for new people to enjoy it, and offer people some friendship and harmony in a situation where it’s sorely needed.

But Hugo voters are not 4Chan kids; they’re people who are neck deep in the best the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre has to offer, with sophisticated taste and some good reasons to want to avoid feeding these particular trolls. So, the question is, why should Hugo voters spend 44 minutes giving an episode of a children’s cartoon a chance?

There’s plenty to recommend about the show: clean, creative, and often adorable animation; catchy songs that are often up there with Disney; character-driven comedy and development. Those are all things that make Friendship is Magic great, but I’m not sure I’d argue that they’re why you should check it out. There are other shows, even kids shows, that can boast those things.

What I think makes My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic unique is that it’s a show about diversity, and through its unique characters, setting, and design it does a better job portraying that than any other media I’ve come across. It’s not about diversity in the sense of races, or genders, or political views, or any other box you could tick on a form. It’s about diversity of perspectives, passions, values, and talents, and how very different kinds of people can be good and bad, and still care for each other, help each other, and teach each other.