Pony Express Escape

The pace of this bizarro weekend was established by going to see My Little Pony: The Movie, out in theaters for about four weeks now.
I had fallen off the friendship wagon about a quarter way through season 5.  The movie, while essentially just a better-animated movie-length episode, succeeded in getting me back on board.  I have 2 1/2 seasons of pony to catch up on, and I couldn't be happier.  I hope I get pony Tetris effect.

My man card was pick pocketed by the newest cartoon series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.  Like many, this rather surprised me, as the previous series were for little girls, catering to their intended audiences' love of horsies while talking down to them like only an 80s cartoon series could.  The next few generations of pony cartoons that followed were largely commercial cash ins that garnered little acclaim and were, at times, quite horrifying.  I would not in my wildest dreams have imagined I would ever be a fan of My Little Pony, of all things, this is on the scale of some kind of grand cosmic joke.

The previous series had set the bar rather low, but then along came Lauren Faust, Rob Renzetti, a host of other talent at Studio B (now integrated into DHX Media) and a whole lot of Hasbro-allowed creative license.  This surfeit of talent blew away all expectations.  They created My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic with an intent to appeal to kids and their parents, and inadvertently ended up fishing in a whole lot of post-adolescent males.  The brony fandom was born.
And why not?  The show is delightful; Friendship Is Magic is just a straight up feelgood experience.

Your average adult entertainment TV series these days is usually pushing the boundaries of violence, sex, (usually both) insincerity, or emotionally manipulative gimmickry.  I really do not like it, it is very abrasive to my sensibilities to be constantly assaulted by this kind of desperate stimulation.  Children's entertainment generally has other problems.  While not as pablum as they were back in the 80s, I find myself quick to sort them into negative categories such as still too pablum, puerile, or glibly disingenuous.  It seemed as though nearly everything on TV was rubbing me the wrong way.

Friendship Is Magic was an exception to the norm, finding a sweet spot lacking the deliberate edginess of modern adult shows, while still possessing credibility a cut above most kid shows.  I was immediately enraptured by its sincerity, cleverness, endearing main cast, and unusually high production values.  I am not saying the show was perfect, but look at my alternatives!

More importantly, it soothes our nerves.  In a 21st century where globalization is universally entrenched, and wealth inequity has reached levels that would seem completely infeasible on paper, there is a prevailing sense of helplessness and dehumanization coming to an increasingly broad demographic of first world people.  The adventures of Twilight Sparkle and her friends is pure escapism, a portal to a happier land of good feelings and friendship.

In this way, perhaps Friendship Is Magic is to the Great Recession what The Wizard Of Oz was during the aftermath of The Great Depression.  Are pastel ponies with glowing rump stamps really that much more silly than cowardly lions and the lollipop guild?  Is "There is no place like home" all that much different of a moral message than "Friendship is magical?"  These may be different times with different problems, but parallels are rarely more evident than these.
Thus, though the Friendship is Magic is attractive to the depressed, to the rest of us it is a balm to our over-taxed compassion fatigue which is aggravated by both the state of the world and contemporary broadcasters' idea of what we should be watching.  It is good to be able to escape to something that's just lighthearted and fun, possessing good feelings, and a cast of likable (if pastel) characters.  I finish nearly each episode with a genuine smile.

Looking forward, though Faust and Renzetti moved on to other things towards the end of the second season, the show has still remained fairly consistently good.  I really enjoyed season 5, and season 6 seemed like a fairly strong showing to me.  Season 7 just ended and season 8 has been confirmed.  It speaks well for the future of pony.
Starlight Glimmer is a pony of some rather interesting dynamics, progressing from a villain of season 5 to something quite close to main cast in season 6.
I think I will avoid as much involvement with the fandom this time around.  Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have a group of people that you share a common enjoyment of something, but I want to avoid the fanworks that deviate from the original, more innocent ideals of the show because it creates a mental association that is hard to shake.  Even over-analysis of the episodes hurts my enjoyment of the show a bit; some suspension of disbelief helps with most forms of entertainment, and certainly when considering a realm of whimsy and magic.   Of course, not all fans are looking to over-interpret the show or make it more edgy, but it's hard to avoid those influences when you hang out with the fandom.


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