Tag: My Little Pony

Crank File: Ponies Are Magic

Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.

Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!

There is nothing better than when something as simple as a children’s television show rises above and beyond the target of just entertaining and educating children. With the combination of excellent writing and good moral values that manage to not be preachy, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has not only become a wildly popular children’s show, but has had cross-demographic success with adults, male and female, as well. Adults watch this show as much as children, and have become major fans of it, inspiring cosplay costumes, remixes, and Internet memes that have made it a huge success.

Courtesy My Little Pony
And I can name them all, dork that I am.

It seems almost too simple to explain why MLP has gotten so popular in the three seasons it has run. But then again, like most media, there can be many reasons, depending on who is considering the show and what they like about it. Fortunately for me, this is my article, and this is what I enjoy most about MLP and why it is magical for me.

1. The Characters

The characters of MLP are really what sells this show. While they may be archetypes in one way or another (the bookworm, the tomboy, the girly girl), each character is also real. They have flaws and character traits that remind us of ourselves. We can connect with them because sometimes we too forget to ask for help, or get impatient with our families, or have a fear that seems impossible to face. At times, we can see so much of ourselves in the characters that we swear show creator Lauren Faust has a camera in our homes.

Courtesy My Little Pony
There’s something here for everyone. The smart ones, the girly ones, the ones that bounce around with pink curls, throwing impromptu parties for the hell of it.

2. The Music

Everyone likes a good song. And MLP seems to have them in moderation, which is far more preferable to having them in every single episode. The show can even poke fun at its own musicality, one episode having a character pointing out that a song sung by one of the ponies was the worst song he had ever heard. But the songs (the good ones anyway) are catchy and short, and may achieve ear worm status if you watch the episode more than once. They are also relevant, and not there just to have a musical interlude.

3. The Writing

Writing a plausible, charming children’s show is so much harder than anyone thinks it should be. It can too easily become cloyingly sweet, or irritating, or embarrassingly cheesy. MLP straddles the line between okay for children and entertaining for adults with pride and grace, giving us all some dry humor, wit, and jokes that even grown ups can enjoy. Even the sight gags and the physical comedy remains in the realm of funny and stays out of the dangerous “too-Stooges” style of slapstick. The writers also work hard to preserve continuity and that same spirit of wonder and charm that keeps audiences coming back.

4. The Setting

Whether it is in the little town of Ponyville or the grand central city of Canterlot, the setting of MLP is something to be considered as well. The designers of the show made a technicolor fantasy world that is reminiscent of Dorothy first stepping into Oz, and maintains that sense of being in another world. The writing meticulously makes certain to only retain references to hooves instead of hands, “everypony” or “anypony” instead of everyone or anyone, and makes it possible so that we do not even wonder how they do things like hold pens or ride bikes. It just seems so natural.

Courtesy My Little Pony
Yep, just a normal day in Ponyville. Where’s Jean-Luc Picard when you need him?

5. The Joy

In a world where we have the worst of worst things to see every day in the news on television and online and in the newspaper, MLP gives us a world where everything is summed up at the end of twenty minutes of action. There is always a happy ending, and there is never an occasion to mourn for more than a little bit. Ponies find love, friends, learn lessons, and become better people who all care about each other without asking for anything in return. Even the most bitter of us can appreciate a world where nobody is cynical to the point of coldness, where even the chilliest disposition can be won over with the magic of friendship.

6. The Nostalgia

One of the main reasons adults even sat down to watch this show was for the nostalgia. Children of the 1980’s are reaching their late twenties and early thirties, and this show can bring back memories of a simpler time. A time without worrying about taxes and the economy, without the day to day grind of a job. The show brings back the feeling of having nothing to do on a Saturday morning but get your own bowl of cereal so you did not bother Mom and Dad, who worked just as hard then as you do now. Familiar faces in new stories just give that warm feeling inside of something that had been forgotten but not completely lost behind memories of first dates and when the next project for work is due.

Courtesy My Little Pony
I had about ten trillion of these lying around, a minefield of pink pony agony to bare feet.

If I had a choice of watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on television, or one of the processed, homogenized re-make movies that are so popular right now, without a doubt I would choose MLP. The story, the style, the complete package make this an original show that still has a flavor of nostalgia to it that keeps adults coming back as well as children.

Got something for the Crank File? Email me here.

Kids These Days & Their Stories

Columnist on WSJ is a jackass! Read all about it!

Plenty has already been said about this WSJ article pertaining to young adult fiction. As usual, Chuck has written what we’re all thinking with an extra dose of profanity and buckshot. Instead of adding more fuel to the fire by talking about how wrong this opinion is, I’d like to furnish you with an example of contemporary fiction, aimed at a younger audience, that works effectively and is well-written without being saccharine-sweet and ‘safe’ all the time.

The example is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

… Yes, I watch My Little Pony. Get it out of your system now.

Anyway, I vaguely remember the original cartoon from the ’80s. My sisters were into it. I was more of a mind for Transformers, as I’ve mentioned, because robots that become cars and change back were far more gnarly than girly ponies. I was too young to pay attention to things like plot (which was non-existent), characters (who only rose above ‘broad archetype’ on rare occasions) and Aesops (that got beaten into your soft heads every episode) when things were exploding in a colorful fashion. But that was kid’s programming back then. It was safe.

Fast forward about twenty-five years and some hard-learned lessons about what does and does not make for good storytelling. When I was first made aware of the new Ponies, I was skeptical. I’d seen what they’d done to Star Wars and my beloved Transformers, after all, and besides it was ponies. I didn’t indulge or even glance at the show for the longest time. Then my wife got into it. I figured I’d try at least one episode, make her happy, secure the future of my sex life, maybe have a laugh.

I wasn’t expecting to get hooked.

I wasn’t expecting good characterization. I wasn’t expecting well-done animation and decent voice-acting. I wasn’t expecting legitimately funny, frustrating, joyous and touching moments.

And I certainly wasn’t expecting dragons, hydras, a cockatrice or a griffon so bitchy I’ve never wanted to roast a lion-bird on a spit so much in my gorram life.

My Little Pony isn’t afraid to go shady places. It deals with jealousy (a lot, I guess that’s a problem for girls growing up), isolation, growth from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, fear and even crisis management and racism, all in the context of the magical kingdom of Equestria and without being terribly overt or insensitive about things. Sure, there’s an Aesop every episode but they range from mildly anvilicious to rather well-presented. I mean, they do a Clients from Hell episode. I wasn’t all that inclined to like Rarity (the seamstress unicorn) but watching her put up with the demands of her friends as customers made me a lot more sympathetic and that feeling hasn’t gone away. Clients suck, whether you’re building websites or magically assembling pretty dresses for your pony friends.

Courtesy Hasbro
She’s not a shopaholic. She’s an artist. HUGE difference.

…Where was I? Right, children’s lit.

My point, other than these ponies being awesome, is that the show and its writers go into the darker corners of a girl’s adolescence and drag some pretty nasty issues kicking and screaming into the light so that the girls in question can face them without fear or shame. As I said, some of the Aesop-dispensing is a tad on the overt side, but when this show cooks it does so with gas as well as gusto. The relationships of its characters, the way they handle situations and the delivery of their lines is handled so adeptly and consistently that I can’t help but feel very strongly about the show. This is how children’s entertainment should work. This is how you write young adult lit well without sacrificing decent characterization, complex themes and dark subject matter.

The writers and animators of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are wise in that they handle their stories in this way, and also in the way they keep the humor working on levels other than juvenile slapstick for any adults that watch and in the very adept and clever ways in which they handle character relationships and their reactions to the subjects at hand. While some cartoons and even major motion pictures and triple-A video games look at writing as a necessary evil to string together a series of flashy spectacles, this show knows its writing is the foundation upon which its appeal and meaning are built. Those other, flashier, more ‘masculine’ forms of entertainment could take a lesson or two of their own from this humble, pretty, bright and very awesome girl’s cartoon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do something manly. Like bench-press something, or drink really crappy beer while yelling obscenities at a sporting event.

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