By Joey Turner
Pop culture is home to some of the weirdest yet most entertaining TV and internet shows today. There are programs like a team of teenage heroes in multi-colored spandex, mutant turtles that eat pizza and study Ninjutsu, and a big-headed masked wrestler who answers emails and picks on an armless white athlete with a red-starred shirt. But what happens when a TV show about multicolored ponies intended for little girls becomes a nationwide phenomenon for grown men?
You get “Bronies” – young adults who watch and enjoy the animated kids TV series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. In the last three years this show has become a nationwide popular culture icon to men and women ages beyond the intended audience. But just what is it about the show that’s so appealing? Why do people get so drawn into this weird franchise?
“I became one last year when my boyfriend introduced the show to me,” FSU student Emily said. “I actually scoffed at first, but then realized it was an intelligently written show that addressed issues extending beyond children.”
FSU student Sean said, “I was hooked on the show because it was a page from my childhood. It was a well-written cartoon with good jokes, familiar characters (or at least character types), and plenty of in-jokes revolving around Easter eggs and surprising mature humor. The show may have been set in a world where cute ponies had parties and lived in a virtual utopia, but there was genuine conflict that evolved between the characters and their world.”
Based on this, the reason why such a girly little show is so popular is because the show’s writing takes its audience seriously with lessons that anyone at any age can take into account. It also has a good sense of humor with pop culture references. In fact, in one episode there were background characters designed to look similar to the characters from the comedy movie “The Big Lebowski.”
It has even served as an inspiration to many fan fiction writers such as Pen Stroke to try their hands at writing all different genres of stories and to experiment on how to write their favorite pony characters. Along with that, the show has also inspired many aspiring songwriters to compose their own songs reflecting the show, including up-and-coming artists such as MandoPony and his emotional melodies; WoodenToaster along with his steam punk techno remixes; and MC Quicktrot is another with his fast-paced, and slightly offensive rap covers.
The genius is behind Lauren Faust, known by many to have worked alongside her husband Craig McCracken on other cartoons such as “The Powerpuff Girls” or “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”, who was hired in 2010 by the toy company Hasbro to recreate a whole new TV show centered on the “My Little Pony” toys initially targeted for little girls. A ridiculous idea based on the history of the franchise, right? Well, apparently not. In a matter of days, weeks, and even months the show became critically acclaimed by people ages beyond the intended audience.
Of course, no great franchise is without its fair share of controversy. For example, last year an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” called “The Last Roundup” aired, where a clumsy gray pony with walled eyes (Given the name “Derpy Hooves” by the fans) was given a chance to speak after making nothing but background cameo appearances. The Brony community was thrilled to see that the writers of the episode were paying attention to the fan base, however weeks later the scene featuring “Derpy” was censored because angry mothers thought it was deliberately making fun of the mentally handicapped. The fans still manage to keep her character alive with their art and stories.
One of the more recent controversies is that Hasbro, the company that owns and finances the show, has been taking charge of the productions and has ordered the writers to make some rather drastic additions with the sole purpose of selling more toys. Emily responded to this by saying, “As long as Lauren Faust and her crew continue writing, or at least monitoring the episodes, I feel fine with Hasbro having their way.”
Sean contributed, “Hasbro taking control basically means they are going to try hard to push more merchandise, and I pray that doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of the show.”
This current Hasbro take over has left many Bronies concerned about how the quality of their favorite show shall be affected, but there are still many who believe that the writers will keep the spirit of the show alive and strong. Few would ever believe that a show intended for such a young, female audience would earn the appeal of teenagers and young adults.
An anonymous FSU student even said, “I’m not astounded because our generation tends to like children-esque shows (‘Adventure Time’ anyone?), although it is a little weird that more guys seem to like it than girls.”
But there are many Bronies who even find themselves astounded by how much of a cultural impact the show has left. FSU student Emily said, “Sort of, but it’s not too much of a surprise. Although I love the show, so I think everyone should at least watch one episode.”
Sean also commented, “I am a bit astounded that a show like “My Little Pony” has gained such an incredible popularity in the last four years, especially amongst such a large male demographic. However, considering the quality of the show, I am also anything but surprised. The show would not be as successful if the writing or humor had been sacrificed to make it cuter, so in a way I see the huge popularity reaction as proof that people do pay attention to quality.”
Even a local student and writer Chris Withers said, “As a pop-culture analyst and historian for most of my life I’m constantly astounded by it. I remember shows from the 80’s about cowboy cows, ‘Cowboys of Moo-Mesa’, but the ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ success astounds me every day.”
This only goes to show that as long as a show has quality writing and can take its audience seriously, it doesn’t matter if it’s for a younger audience, for it can very well leave a cultural impact.