August 28th, 2014:
Today I did something I thought I would never do.
I watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
I thought it was good.
I saw two and a half episodes, so I can’t judge the show as a whole. I can see why people like it, though, and why it is so popular.
The animation is very good, the characters are entertaining, the world of the show is intriguing, and there’s a moral at the end of every episode — or, at least, the episodes I saw.
UPDATE: August 29th, 2014.
I’ve seen three more episodes.
In one of those episodes, I was introduced to a new character — a zebra named Zecora.
Her character seems out of place in this show. She’s a herbalist who comes from a faraway land and who frequently helps the other characters.
That got me thinking about the portrayal of magic, and other mystical elements, in TV shows and movies. For example, I know that many people avoid Harry Potter, but I myself enjoyed it. Yes, the series had dark moments, and I can understand why many want to stay clear of it. But, at its core, I think of Harry Potter as just an adventure story.
No piece of media is perfect. TV shows, music, and movies are all made by imperfect people and as a result will be imperfect. What matters though, I think, is looking closer at a piece of media to figure out what it’s saying. For example, The Lord of the Rings has elves, dragons, magic, and all kinds of fantasy elements that many people would object to. But what makes The Lord of the Rings what it is is that underneath the elves, dragons, and magic, is a story of Good v. Evil, of resisting temptation and doing what you should do even when you don’t want to. Those are just a few of the themes I’ve discovered in The Lord of the Rings, and that is what I think makes the series worthwhile, despite any issues people may have regarding its content.
The introduction of Zecora, for some reason, also got me thinking about fandoms in general.
No matter how many shows you binge-watch, movies you wait in line hours for, or songs you buy, you still have to confront life.
There are so many TV shows, movies, and songs, that it wouldn’t surprise me if it weren’t possible to listen to, or watch, all of them in a lifetime.
But if you could, would you want to?
If I do continue to watch My Little Pony, I’ll only do so whenever I have nothing better to do. (I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll never say “I’m bored,” and that I’ll always be doing something, or looking for something to do, instead of just sitting idly.) And I’ll never go to a My Little Pony convention, or any convention for anything because, and I don’t mean to sound mean-spirited, the people who go to those need to re-think their lives.*
The reason I say people going to conventions need to “re-think their lives” is because taking a look at pictures from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, the people there seem to have turned their fandom into their religion. It made me think, “What would these people do if their fandom didn’t exist?” To these super-fans, it seems, fictional characters are God.*
*UPDATE: May 7th, 2015: I take back what I said about how I’ll never go to a My Little Pony convention, that the people who do go to conventions need to rethink their lives, and the dismissive remark I made about how “super-fans” treat fictional characters like God. I haven’t been to a My Little Pony convention yet, but would go if I had the money, time, and means to go. While I do think that there are fans — of anything, not just My Little Pony — who do take their fandom too seriously, I don’t know of any personally. And I realize now that the people who go to conventions aren’t cult-like followers of their fandom — they just have their own way of expressing their appreciation for what it is that they’re a fan of. Specifically, it was Youtuber “DRWolf001” who changed my mind. If you haven’t seen his Youtube channel, I highly recommend it. Truth be told, my previous feelings were the result of jealousy: Of me looking at the happy and smiling faces of fans at conventions and thinking, “Why can’t I be that passionate about something?”
UPDATE: August 31st, 2014.
I can’t believe a show called “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” has made me think so much, but it has — about the quality of kids’ TV shows, the kind of media we consume, fictional characters, fictional worlds, and morality. Wow.
UPDATE: September 27th, 2014.
My Little Pony is the best kind of kids show, and a good show in general. It is a show that can be enjoyed not just by kids, and not just kids can learn from it. It is also a show that teaches empathy.* (With people on websites like breitbart.com and movieguide.com calling those who disagree with them “liberals” and not even seeming to try to understand where the other person is coming from, empathy is something that is lacking in today’s world.)
An example of empathy in the show: Zecora comes from a faraway land and she is, at first, seen as strange. She was strange to me, too. I wasn’t sure what to think about this character when I first saw her. I haven’t seen every episode she is in, but I will say that I can now understand why she does what she does, even if I wouldn’t do the same.
*Empathy — “the capacity to share or recognize emotions experienced by another sentient or fictional being.” This definition comes from the Wikipedia entry on the word “Empathy.” Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy
UPDATE: October 18th, 2014.
I’ve been doing research on the villains Discord and Lord Tirek. It would seem that Discord and Tirek are, in their own way, the My Little Pony equivalent of Satan. For example, both enjoy causing destruction and chaos and trick others into doing what they want.
Discord is called the “spirit of disharmony.” According to the My Little Pony wikia, the word ‘discord’ means “‘a lack of harmony’ or ‘a disagreement.'” (“Harmony” is a reoccurring theme on the show.) He is a “draconequus” — “dracon” meaning “dragon” and “equus” meaning “horse”; a “dragon horse.” Discord also once ruled Equestria (the land in which the series takes place), and Satan has been called “The ruler of this world” so there’s a connection there. In the episode “Twilight’s Kingdom — Part 2″ there is even a stained glass window in Princess Celestia’s castle that depicts Discord, during his rule of Equestria, dangling ponies like marionettes over a fire.
Both Discord and Tirek are complex characters, though, and saying “Both of these villains are Satan” seems to be an oversimplification.
According to the My Little Pony wikia, Discord is inspired by the character of Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Q is someone who, like Discord, loves tricking others and causing chaos. So the assertion that Discord is the My Little Pony equivalent of Satan is flawed. Tirek is another story. He looks more like a demon (he has red skin and horns, whereas Discord, again according to the wikia, is technically a chimera — a hodgepodge of animals) and wants to absorb all the ponies’ magic in order to become all-powerful. According to the My Little Pony wikia, he even tricks Discord into doing what he wants, until Discord and the ponies eventually defeat him. So we have one villain being tricked by, and then ending up helping to defeat, another; I’m not sure what to make of that.
There is also the fact that the realm of Tartarus and the three-headed dog Cerberus exist in the world of My Little Pony. Tartarus and Cerberus are from Greek Mythology. In Greek mythology, Tartarus is a pit beneath the Underworld where people suffer for eternity. In My Little Pony, Tartarus is a prison for the most ancient, evil creatures. Tirek is just another prisoner there. (It is also revealed that Tirek has a brother. This brother chose to use his powers for good, and leaves Tirek.) Discord (as far as I can tell, from my research and from the episodes I’ve watched) has nothing to do with Tartarus.
UPDATE: December 28th, 2014.
For awhile I felt bad. I felt bad because I didn’t consider myself a fan of My Little Pony, and I wanted to. I didn’t consider myself a fan because there were so many other people who were much more into the show than I was: They’d seen every episode, they bought the merchandise, and they went to fan conventions.
And then I realized, I don’t remember how, that it was okay that I hadn’t done all of that stuff, and that I didn’t have to do all of that stuff in order to be a fan.
I am a casual fan of My Little Pony.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that I enjoy the show, I think it is well-made (the writing, animation, and voice-acting are all very good), the characters are entertaining, the world of the show is surprisingly complex, and the morals it teaches are good. (An example of a good moral: Sometimes our desire for responsibility can outrun our actual ability to handle it.*) But I don’t go to My Little Pony conventions or buy My Little Pony merchandise, and I haven’t watched every episode.**
I just watch episodes which I think have plots that I might like. (Having Dish Network — being able to see the plot of an episode just by pressing “Info” — makes this possible.) I haven’t enjoyed every episode that I’ve watched: Characters might not be their usual selves, the moral of the episode may be badly delivered, etc.
My Little Pony isn’t perfect. No show is. But it does enough right to be deserving of praise.
*”Baby Cakes.” Episode 13, season two.
**See earlier in this post for an update on my thoughts about My Little Pony conventions.
UPDATE: March 4th, 2015:
Is there such a thing as curses in My Little Pony? Yes.
Even though Apple Bloom says in the episode “Bridle Gossip,” (Episode #9) “You know there’s no such thing as a curse,” in the episodes “Hearts and Hooves Day” (Episode #43) anf “The Crystal Empire: Part 1” (Episode #53) and curses are mentioned.
In “Hearts and Hooves Day” Apple Bloom and her friends Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo give a love potion to Miss Cheerilee and Big McIntosh. The love potion is later revealed to be a “love poison” and Sweetie Bell says that Miss Cheerilee and Big McIntosh are under the influence of a “love curse.”
In “The Crystal Empire: Part 1” it is revealed that the evil King Sombra put a curse on the Crystal Empire, causing it to vanish for 1,000 years.
There is a continuity in My Little Pony. It is for this reason that I say that there is such a thing as curses.