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Gender And The Popularity Of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

A comment was offered by a nice young lady on this site’s post about the MLP:FiM Season 3 Teaser that got me to thinking. What is it about this incarnation of My Little Pony that is creating such devotion?

Jenn wrote in the comment:

“23 years old and I’ve been on Team MLP since the 80s – even based my college senior thesis project on them – still trying to understand where the brony fascination came from, but the more the merrier!!”

Well, I know where my fascination with My Little Pony started…I was something like ten and could not openly play with girl’s toys, and I was jealous of my sister’s few My Little Ponies. Today, I now own some of my own dolls- right now just Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Trixie. They are set up in front of my TV with Twilight and Rarity ‘cuddling’. Yeah, mentally, I’m still something of a little girl. I never quite got to grow up into an adult.

Then again, as Erin at Girls With Slingshots put it, “Man, being an adult is so much better when you forget you’re suppose to be boring.”

I have been thinking about this. Why is this version of My Little Pony so fascinating to people. I certainly think part of it has to do with the fact that it is now easier for us all to get in touch with each other. Certainly back when Jenn first started with MLP, and I wanted to play with them…well, there wasn’t an internet.

I think part of it is actually about the shift in gender perceptions. There is something not-stereotypically-girly about Friendship is Magic. The series may be about the power of friendship, and to a certain amount sisterhood, but it is not about pink and fluff. Growing up with civilization stuffing me into a male role (I’m intersexual and transsexual), I was exposed to this societal belief that men and boys were suppose to be hands off and distant. Girls were suppose to be touchy-feely. Girls were suppose to hug and be about emotions while men were suppose to be rough and tumble.

Friendship is Magic tosses a lot of those stereotypes out the door. While Rarity and Fluttershy are the most feminine of the Mane Six, Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash are both pretty boy-ish. The Mane Six run across the entire spectrum of what it means to be a woman or a girl. Not all girls are into fashion the way Rarity is, and not all are shy the way Fluttershy is. Heck, there are times when one expects Fluttershy to end up morphing into an early Disney Princess. Twilight is kind of midline, as is Pinkie Pie.

The thing is, there are a lot of boys and men who don’t fit into the stereotypes of what it means to be a MAN, and for them, this is a series that gives them an outlet. Out there, be it Transformers or GI Joe, the pickings are pretty slim for men and boys who want something that isn’t going to push them into being Manly Men.

This is certainly my thoughts on this, but I wonder what others have to say about it. Why do you, our readers, be you male or female or something in between, why do you think that this incarnation of My Little Pony is so popular?



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8 Responses to Gender And The Popularity Of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

  1. Applebloom

    November 3, 2012 at 12:32 am

    MLP: FIM is the most manly show ever.

  2. Amber

    September 21, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I think part of what makes this show so awesome is that it isn’t a mind- numbing kid show. It is really funny and not the typical stupid funny I have come to expect of many kids shows. I make my kids wait to watch it so I can watch it with them and we can share it together! The whole family bonds over a wholesome show that demonstrates good values.

  3. Pingback: Not My Pony, the Update from Nowhere! | Jessica

  4. Jsmitty

    September 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Nissl brings up a great point. Gender roles aside, MLP is just a fantastic, positive-outlook show made with a lot of talent.

    Personally, I’m a completely hetero guy, and I follow most societal gender rules (because that is me, not because society says so), but I still love MLP. I’m not quite as vocal as the people who go to Bronycon and the like. I’m just comfortable with who I am, and I’m comfortable watching a show that I like, regardless of the culture that supports it or hates it.

    I suspect a large base of the fandom is just like me.

  5. Bridgette P. LaVictoire

    September 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I wanted to thank our commenters so far. :)

    I may not write a lot about MLP:FiM, but I am a dedicated fan. I ran across the term ‘lesbronies’…I guess I’m one of them :D

  6. miike

    September 15, 2012 at 8:08 am

    because thee show is awesome and has great animation and now all the fans can connect via the internet witch also helps others find out about the show

  7. lomp

    September 15, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Because, meme. Or because they’re cute, easy to work with, and fun to edit.

  8. Nissl

    September 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I think the gender role issues are a significant part of it. This is a very rare example of great girl-targeted media, which is an ideal place to put down a marker. However, I’ve stayed hooked after working through the various gender issues the show raised for me.

    At its core, the show is made with a lot of love, and always puts me in a good mood after watching. However, the biggest social factor I’ve been able to identify is that it presents a positive, pro-community take on life while remaining emotionally honest enough to separate itself from a typical kids’ show or 80′s sitcom. That positivity is something that is sadly lacking in today’s gritty adult dramas and cynical, emotionally hollow comedies. It’s sorely needed in these challenging times. The show has also developed a very active community around it that tends to support those values, which is a fun thing to be a part of and has developed its own gravitational pull.