My Little Pony: Positivity is Magic

Recently I have become obsessed with My Little Pony.

Yes. This will be relevant to skepticism and feminism. I promise.

Before I started watching it, I read an article about My Little Pony and feminism and scoffed my way through most of it. How could a show in which all the characters speak in high pitched voices and make disgusted noises at worms possibly be feminist? One where the ponies have powers like decorating and parties? I was sure it would be good for a laugh and nothing more. As Ms Magazine suggests, My Little Pony perpetuates racist and sexist stereotypes as we all would expect it to (because none of us expect little girls’ TV shows to do something right).

But the article at Global Comment explores a different side of My Little Pony, one that I think we should celebrate. The show is about women (or girls), their relationships with each other, and their personal strengths and weaknesses. All of the ponies have positives and negatives and are complex characters (for a show directed at five year olds). I think it is a good thing that we have a TV show which allows girls to see a variety of role models for what femininity is. This is progress from many kids shows in the past (see Recess, which, while a wonderful show, still stuck two girls into the really stereotyped roles of tomboy and geek), but clearly there is still a long way to go as evidenced by the first article.

What I want to emphasize though is our ability to praise a show for what it’s doing right. The majority of the time, people on the left are watching out for things going wrong. This is generally a good attitude. It keeps us vigilant and it keeps a bunch of really nasty and harmful things from slipping by us. It’s a skeptical attitude to take: careful and a little bit suspicious of first impressions. But in this case, I think we should allow the first impression to have its say. This is a show that celebrates femininity in many lights. We should be proud of it for that. Even if there are still things that are wrong with it, it’s doing something important RIGHT.

I’d like to see more people celebrating the things they see well done in the world. YES we have shows like My Little Pony that give us a better image of women. YES we have a black president modeling a successful black marriage. YES we have slutwalks that encourage women to take control of their own bodies.

There are problems with all of these statements, but I would rather focus on the positive in them.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

1 Comment

  1. September 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm —

    It’s worth noting, also, that the Ms Mag article is quite clearly written by someone who has not even taken the time to actually watch an episode, let alone the two-part pilot.

    Immediately settling on Rainbow Dash as the only ‘feminist’ pony is… well, ridiculous. She’s a tomboy, an athlete, and both brave and loyal, but a feminist, in any sort of explicit way, she is not.

    Meanwhile, Rarity, in may ways the most girly of the friends does actually (in the season closer) meet her ‘prince charming’ – only he’s kind of a self-obsessed loser, so she ditches him. And Twilight Sparkle’s smarts and book-learning as well as her organizational skills save everyone’s bacon more than once.

    The racism allegation is… dubious at best. The writer spots a pair of grey-coated palace guard horses – in a world where such coat and mane colours as green, purple and pink aren’t even uncommon. Incidentally, two bright white such palace guard horses draw a chariot on several occasions later on. There is in fact a character who’s a zebra, rather than a pony, and the episode where she’s introduced is a bit heavy-handed, but has the moral of not judging a book by its cover.

    I’m going to have to say, MLP:FIM does a better job than most cartoons I’ve seen or even heard of at portraying a diverse cast in positive ways. But you only actually see that by, well, in fact watching it.

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