My Little Ponies: Teaching My Kids How to be Good Little White American Girls (Ugh.)

Dear Bronies, before reading this, getting pissed, and commenting on it, see UPDATED ENTRIES in which I BACK OFF OF THE SHOW AND CONCEDE IMPORTANT POINTS MADE BY YOU, fair bronies, who I do not hate, nor do I hate the producer (and yeah, I KNOW SHE IS A FEMINIST), nor do I hate the show. I’m closing comments on this entry because I have said everything I have to say about this issue countless times, and weathered enough verbal abuse from defenders of the show who seem more interested in making me feel bad than in actually understanding it. The comments below make a lot of the points you probably intend to make, and you can read my responses there.

See original post below.

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As you know, Jen and I are always on the search for good shows for our daughters to watch. In an effort to justify what we agree is a borderline problematic element of our parenting, we do our best to pick shows that edify, or at least have kick ass narratives and messages that we can embrace as feminist mothers.

My girls recently got hooked on the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magical series, and I was hoping for a winner. Note: My family only watches TV through Netflix. That’s why I’m always two years behind any trendy outrage.

I love the animation style, and I’ve revised my stance on their strangely slender and un-ponylike bodies (in that, it doesn’t seem egregious so I’ll drop it). MLP:FIM focuses on the majority girl town Ponyville (because only girls are friends?), where the fairly smart and sassy Twilight Sparkle has adventures with a colorful cast of ponies and writes letters to Princess Celestia in a sort of “Jerry’s Corner” wrap-up at the end of the show. The show’s emphasis is friendship, which is magical, and magic, which is also magical.

Tragically, despite its potential, MLP:FIM has several problems that I’m simply not okay with. Namely, sexist, racist, colonialist problems.

1. Cutie Marks and Femininity

These marks appear on the ponies’ hides when they come of age and discover what makes them special. Not only is “cutie mark” a play on the term “beauty mark,” it’s sort of a weird spin on the act of branding livestock, which I find morally confusing, plus it’s basically on their ass.

An array of “cutie marks.” The one on the far right is Rainbow Dash, by far the coolest, least gendered pony.

Why, though — WHY?? Does this special symbol of identity and, in the case of several ponies, awesome strength and power, have to be turned into the diminutive “cutie”? Why do their talents have to be boiled down into a term that focuses on looks? Boo to you, cutie mark. My daughters are not “cuties” because they are brave, fast, smart, or enjoy eating apples. What makes a girl — or any person — special is not what makes them cute.

2. Undermining critical thinking and skepticism

In episode 15, we learn that Pinkie Pie is a psychic who can tell the future through embodied premonitions (e.g. her leg shakes, or her nose twitches, or whatever). Nevermind that this is the only episode in which Pinkie Pie demonstrates these talents, or the fact that in every other context, magic is a culturally accepted phenomenon. What makes this episode crappy is the fact that the show insists that Twilight, who shows a healthy skepticism and questioning of this phenomenon, has to be proven wrong. Twilight is the voice of reason in the show. She reminds me of Lana from Archer: smart and skeptical, her voice always has an edge of “… are you serious?!” to it.

Gratuitous Lana pic. Because Lana is awesome.

In this episode, Twilight observes, gathers evidence, and questions the veracity of PP’s psychic abilities, but everyone around her insists that she just relax and believe in something that is not at all credible. At the show’s climax, Twilight is encouraged to “take a leap of faith” over a gorge that she simply cannot cross. She plunges headlong into the abyss and thanks to a conveniently bursting bubble is her life spared. Faith doesn’t save her, dumb luck does (certainly not her MANY WINGED FRIENDS). This is used to prove that Pinkie Pie was right and Twilight needs to abandon her silly rationality in favor of, I don’t know, belief in magical ponies I guess.

Although I’m an agnostic/secular humanist and have general concerns about our culture’s weird insistence on the trueness of invisible things and powers, I am not totally opposed to magical thinking. I engage in it every day. But I am extremely in favor of critical thinking, deep questioning, and curiosity. This show teaches my girls that it’s not cool to question things when everyone around you insists that they are true. It’s groupthink and it’s bullshit.

(ETA: I’ve since discovered that this is a trope on many children’s television shows, including — sigh — our beloved Spongebob. In a season 3 episode, “Club Spongebob,” Squidward, Patrick, and Spongebob become stranded in a kelp forest. SB & P believe a “magic conch” will save them, while Squidward believes he needs to work to survive. Through a series of unlikely events, Squidward is proven wrong and begins to worship the magic conch, too.)

3. The ponies are White, Colonialist ‘mericans

You’d think a stable full of ponies in all colors of the rainbow, in a made-up, mystical universe would have opened the door for some creative thinking on part of the writers. But no, it becomes clear right away that despite looking like a flock of paint chips, these ponies are White girls. White American girls.

In episode 9, Twilight and her pony friends learn an Important Lesson about Not Judging Freaky Weirdos who dress in African garb, speak with a vaguely African accent, and do voodoo shit like cure people with plants when they meet Zecora, the new zebra on the block.

My Little Stereotype

The ponies are convinced that Zecora is a witch who has cursed them. I love Zecora: she’s a storyteller, she’s a healer, and she has a kickass ‘do. But nothing about this BS morality tale sits comfortably with me. This episode sets up the underlying racial dynamics of the show, and reinforces the notion that good girls are not powerful in any meaningful way. Sure, Rainbow Dash is fast, but can she heal the wounded? The witch hunt is pure Puritanical crapola. There’s even a paranoid fear that Pinkie Pie, the only pony to approach Zecora with an ounce of tolerance, is going native and turning into a witch herself. The horror, the horror.

Ponies: cute, sweet, active but not powerful, normal, White

Zebras: strange, accented, different, powerful, Other, Black

Later, the ponies get their manifest destiny on when the ponies travel to Appleoosa to visit her cousin and deliver an apple tree. Sidenote: We could even get into the hierarchy of whiteness in the show: Applejack is the redneck pony with a southern drawl and the rustic honesty of country folk; contrast her with the alabaster Pegasus pony, Rarity, who is the prettiest and most glamorous pony, with her “cutie mark” of sparkling diamonds. But the Appleoosans are on the brink of war with the Buffalo, who are rightfully cheesed because the Appleoosans planted a fuckton of apple trees in their plains without asking.

Feather head-dresses, war dances, and face paint: this episode is an American Studies lecturer’s dream in terms of its ignorant stereotypes about Native Americans. But hey, it all works out fine in the end. The Appleoosans agree to share some of the apples with the Buffalo! Everyone wins! Except for OH NO WAIT, THAT IS WRONG ON EVERY LEVEL. The Buffalo are won over by delicious apple pie: how easily they are bribed into being fine with the fact that stealing is not just acceptable but justifiable as long as you throw the exploited a some Mrs. Smith’s. The show ends with — you guessed it — a thanksgiving feast.

The more I write about this, the angrier I get! I am using these shows to talk to my kids about respect and stuff, but mostly, I just want to go back to Spongebob. But for now, since my kids miraculously went to bed by 7:30, I’m going to eat Flamin’ Hots and watch this Fleetwood Mac documentary with my husband.

Read more about our little racist ponies:

Ms. Blog points out that Rainbow Dash can be interpreted as a cranky lesbian, and also notes that zebras are also Princess Celestia’s servants (ugh).

TavalyaRa makes many of the same points several years before I got around to it.

Lady Geek Girl also rants about the racist crap.

m4s0n501

46 Responses to My Little Ponies: Teaching My Kids How to be Good Little White American Girls (Ugh.)

  1. Atlantic~mama

    Oh my god. My cynical soul will not be able to handle all this girl crap once my daughter hits that age. We ditched tv too and are Netflix/Hulu only. Also, I approve of ‘fuckton’. Nice.

  2. Have you read the chapter in NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman where they talk about television – particularly social violence in children’s television? It completely changed the way I thought of what I let my kids watch.

  3. Yeeah, so this is why we stick with PBS nature documentaries. At least they are straight up about how mean old Shamus hunt in packs and drown and eat southern right whale calves. No morality tales there, just the Herzogian reality that (read this with that awesome Teutonic accent) “the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder.” Or, I totally mess with my kids’ idea of what constitutes “video entertainment” by giving in when they ask for a video of how a virus works. Yes, they are so deprived in this realm that they watched 20 min. worth of clunky animations about viral replication, positive and negative sense codons, reverse transcriptase, and making capsid and envelope proteins and wanted more when I said we were done. E.V.I.L. mother. They will find out once they start public school…

  4. Hahaha. Unfortunately, I actually don’t think this is any less offensive than all the other kids’ shows on TV. (We also just recently watched it on Netflix.) I have yet to find a kids’ show that doesn’t drive me crazy on one or all three of these levels (sexist, racist, classist). It’s hard being somehow who has deconstructed such things for a living: it’s such a tricky balance to help kids become media savvy without exposing them to any media, almost all of which is really offensive to me (NO TV EVER AT ALL! is always my gut instinct, but my brain tells me it’s wrong so I grit my teeth and let them watch minimal amounts instead).

    Luckily Wren doesn’t seem any the worse for wear and seems more “clueless” about “girliness” than any of her friends. (As in, it doesn’t even really seem to register although everyone called her Princess or bought her princess coloring books etc in Phoenix so that is now part of her lexicon, ugh. But she still doesn’t seem to “get” gender in any kind of real way though she knows basic anatomical differences). All of her friends are much more aware of that stuff already.

    • Oh, or HETEROSEXIST. That is actually one of my least favorite things about kids movies’ in particular: the obligation they seem to need to feel to have there be some kind of heterosexual romantic arc. It drives me fucking insane. In this case, I don’t understand why Spike has to have a crush on Rarity.

      • Agreed x 1000. Also don’t understand why they have to live in an all-girl enclave to experience the magic of friendship. Why does gender segregation for kids have to be reinforced with these messages?

    • Yes, when all is said and done, MLP:FIM isn’t groundbreaking children’s television. I agree that being critical-minded makes it really hard to let stuff like this go.

      • I do think MLP:FIM does have some things going for it though even with its limitations (which again I see in most kids’ programing) and I think that Ms. magazine article what with the grouchy lesbian implications was a bit over the top even for me (saying A LOT). Also I resent any critique of anything that doesn’t actually do research on it (again, the Ms. magazine writer clearly didn’t even watch the episode or its sequel, which resolves some of the shit she brings up).

        I actually am not bothered by the all-girl enclave. I find it refreshing that it’s a show where the assumed subject position is female (as opposed to the rest of TV which STILL is skewed towards males holding the dominant roles).

        FWIW Wren loves Zecora, but it might be because her mama is a brown witch. :P I do kind of like that shows up later as a sort of “wise woman.” I do think unfortunately sometimes you have to cut some of this shit a break and look at intent because we’re basically never going to see the kind of kids’ programming I WANT to see. Not to be defeatist or anything, and I totally grok the underlying feeling in this post.

        • All good points. I also think Zecora is really cool. She’s styled so fantastically. I want a punk ‘do like that.

  5. My daughter loves the show and I think it has a lot of good messages for young girls. It teaches her things that I can’t do as well as a man, like about about feelings and shit.

    • My kids enjoy the show, too, but I still have problems with the lessons they might take away from it. I don’t think it does emotional work for our family, and hey, Dads can be great teachers when it comes to emotion.

  6. Re: Cutie Marks. This may be coming through incorrectly through the haze of memory, but I seem to recall a Big To-Do over the MLPs (Generation 1) having “tattoos,” and how that was a bad influence etc etc, but at least a tattoo carries with it some element of choice. I know all the pony names but not the mythology from the show (we don’t get Hub or have Netflix), and this “revealing” business is a little weird/creepy/powerless, particularly since they aren’t abstract patterns and seem to affect destiny.

    Now I will snoop around online and see if what I remember about tattoos is correct, but I will post this first and probably not edit out any mistakes. Such is life. :(

    • I’d be interested to hear about that. Tattoos = cool. I’m not totally opposed to a mark that signifies a pony coming into her identity, but I object to the language used to describe it because I think it’s unnecessarily limiting.

  7. This was a great read.. I don’t have any kidlets so I’ve missed out on this my little pony phenomenon thusfar..

    It does make me wonder, who writes this crap??

  8. What am I reading

    “These marks appear on the ponies’ hides when they come of age and discover what makes them special. Not only is “cutie mark” a play on the term “beauty mark,” it’s sort of a weird spin on the act of branding livestock…plus it’s basically on their ass….Why do their talents have to be boiled down into a term that focuses on looks? Boo to you, cutie mark. My daughters are not “cuties” because they are brave, fast, smart, or enjoy eating apples. What makes a girl — or any person — special is not what makes them cute.”

    …?

  9. I’d be interested to learn what kind of entertainment would be acceptable to your standards. Is it unacceptable to show that stereotypes exist, even to show that they are unfounded? Is it unacceptable to portray heterosexual relationships at all because not all relationships are heterosexual? Should we pretend that gender differences and cultural differences don’t exist because discrimination based on those differences is unjust?

    A parent does their children no favors by failing to prepare them for the facts that the real world can be ugly and cruel, and that it is full of racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and injustice. To be prepared, they must be aware, and to be aware, they must be allowed to see.

  10. I think I can safely make a inference that all you people are butt-hurt. How can you not like a show about friendship and magic? For one, Zecora (The zebra) helps teach the lesson to not judge a book by it’s cover, not to make the Mane 6 look like racist jerks. Secondly, Cutie marks show what the pony is really good at. Haven’t any of you had something that you’re really good at? It gives the ponies a sense of pride that they’ve found their one true talent. Third, and this is directed at Kathleen, What kind of animations have you been watching that makes MLP look clunky? Also just wanna say Robina looks like the only sane one here. High five. Finally, I’m a 14 year old boy and this is my favorite show. COME AT ME.

    • I love the phrase butt-hurt and you’re not entirely wrong here. This entry was definitely written from a butt-hurt place. I have since softened my stance on Ponies, although I still wish their episodes about “different” ponies and species weren’t based on really lousy stereotypes.

      Please read my more recent post (http://mamanervosa.com/2012/06/25/cut-pony-slack/) and other comments here. In general, I think I wish Ponies fulfilled its potential and the creator’s vision of it. My more recent Ponies policy is to skip the episodes that bug me and enjoy the rest (of which there are many).

      I don’t want to COME AT YOU, certainly not because you’re 14 and a boy and watch this show. I appreciate all of the comments you guys left — at least, the comments that don’t call me a cunt or an idiot. I hope you can see that I don’t believe I am ALWAYS RIGHT FOREVAR just because I express a strong opinion in one entry.

  11. I want to make a couple points right now.
    First cutiemarks, I fail to see how this term is sexist or limiting at all, anyone who has seen the show would know that regardless of the gender of the pony, a cutie mark is called a cutie mark.
    On the subject of zecora I think you missed the point
    1 she lives and acts like most other ponies, surrounded by what she loves, kinda how twilight lives in a library, pinkie in a bakery, AJ on a farm, fluttershy with her animals, and RD in the clouds. The message was quite obvious the generic she’s the same as everyone else, she just looks different
    and 2 She doesn’t have any fancy or special powers, the cure she offered was from a book twilight ignored based on the title, fitting the episodes theme of judging a book by it’s cover.
    I’d also like to mention how you missed to entire point of the appaloosa episode being about talking out your conflicts and being willing to compromise
    To be honest this article you’ve written just appears to you nitpicking on something and twisting the reality to fit your cynicism

    • Joseph,
      Thanks for a thoughtful comment. I am still not sure I agree with you on Zecora, but I haven’t seen more recent shows that depict her. I wish the show hadn’t gone to such stereotypes to depict their different ponies/different species. Stereotypes ARE racist. I think they missed an opportunity, and I’m not comfortable with the episodes that focus so heavily on accepting the strangeness of others but are grounded in these stereotypes. That said, now my policy on Ponies is to skip the eps I’m not crazy about but watch the others, because I agree that the central core of ponies have some good models and lessons for kids and I no longer find it to be a flaming pile of crap.

      Nitpicking is awesome. I enjoy it, and therefore occasionally engage in it. I agree that this ranty post was mostly about what’s wrong with Ponies, rather than what is right. It was my feeling at the time. It does not represent my end-all opinion on the show, and in general I think it’s better — especially when dealing with racism and gender — to trend critical because media has such a powerful impact on our children and their perceptions of the world. That being said, I NO LONGER HATE PONIES so please spread the news among the Bronies and tell them to stop being misogynist and rude by calling me a cunt. I will not approve those comments.

  12. Point 1 is flawed, males have cutie marks too.
    Point 2 is challenged every single goddamn time. For fuck’s sake, Twilight put Pinkie to experiment and her hypotheses were repeatedly proven invalid. Twilight was the religious one by flying in the face of data and trying to prove her own conclusion despite overwhelming evidence. This episode is the strongest supporter of skepticism of them all.
    Point three is invalid. Ponies do not have races. Zecora is a foreigner and and outsider, not a representative of african americans. Buffalo obviously represent native americans, but there’s nothing negative portrayed other than the cliches (feathers, headdresses).

    • Austin, again, thanks for your food for thought. I appreciate your comment and your tone. I have deleted many comments on this post because they attack me and call me a cunt and an idiot. I hope maybe other bronies might see that if you come with some actual arguments and a reasonable tone, I am open to the possibility that I am wrong or need more information.

  13. Austin Buchanan

    Ok, I am a brony, (If you do not know of this group look it up.) I am fifteen years old and I watch this, (in my opinion) a magnificent show(I am a male.), filled with great morals. I do not feel as though I need to correct you, but from what I gather you have not watched the second season of this show. None of the “tropes” exist, and in this review I feel as though you have not watched every episode of the first season, and if you watched on (to the second season), you would see the depth of the characters, all of the “nerdy references”, and it may make you embrace the idea with feministic arms. They deviate from the original format of the show of just being a basic kids show with slight racist, sexist undertones, (most shows follow this format). So yes I understand your problem with this show being a Feminist and all,(yes there are male characters, again second season), but please understand this show is much better than most cartoons or even live action shows you may have seen, in my opinion of course. So please if you may, try again with the second season.

    With respect,
    Austin Buchanan, (a Fluttershy fan.)

  14. I don’t agree with you in the slightest I’m here on behalf of bronies everywhere to point out the flaws in your points.

    1. The term cutie is just coined because it’s catchy “talent mark” or “brave mark” for example doesn’t sound as good. Also all the males in the show have a cutie mark as well, it’s just called cutie mark there is no underlining double meaning. Also it’s not on there ass it’s on their flank, there is a difference.

    2. I’ve seen this complaint all over the internet from agnostics/atheists, It’s not saying have blind faith in a invisible being, it’s saying have faith in your friends, And also she did many scientific experiments on Pinkie Pie’s twitching so if anything it was proven by science.

    3. Again you miss the point here, The thing is Twilight Sparkle (besides Celestia and Luna) is the most powerful unicorn in all of Equestria in episode six of season 1 she banishes one of the most terrifying creatures in Equestria, same goes for Fluttershy who literally stared down a Dragon and Rarity who kicked a Manticore in the face. So the whole good girls aren’t powerful thing is not that true, hell Applejack and Rainbow Dash even have a competition to show who is the most powerful/strongest.

    4. To the Racism (this is where it gets good) Why yes it does seem a little Xenophobic at the begging of the episode with Zecora, that’s the point it’s supposed to be like that so that kids can see why racism is wrong and everyone should be treated equally, because Zecora shows up more in the series and is quite useful. Now the Native Americans/Buffalo (This is where it gets really good) You pointed out all the feathered head dresses, war dances, and face paint, and I can tell you this is in fact what Native Americans did I trace I heavy amount of Native American from my moms side and her and my grandmother tell me stories about native americans all the time. Hell some native Americans still wear the face paint while on the reservations. Also they aren’t bribed with pies they reach a consensus and learn to live together in peace and harmony which is pretty much the moral of the show as a whole.

    5. This is the miscellaneous stuff I picked up on while reading this article, You say there aren’t a lot of males, well this is wrong. Everyone of Celestia’s guards is a male and on top of that there is a good amount of male background ponies in the show and a few secondary characters that are male such as Cranky Doodle Donkey, Shining Armor, Big Macintosh, Braeburn, Mr. Cake, Prince Blueblood and Dr. Whooves. Also Lana is kind of a bitch, Archer is a better character in my opinion.

    I hope you consider the points I have shown to you and will not bash this show any longer. Thank you and have a pleasant day/afternoon/night.

    • Seth, I appreciate your points and (as I remark on an earlier comment you make), have scaled back my stance on Ponies and generally wish my kids would watch them instead of crappy Jem. I’m still not comfortable with the easy racism of the show, but I also know that it’s not just Ponies with this fault. This post was written based only on the first season of the show, because at that time, it was all that was available on Netflix. I’ve since watched season 2 which definitely expanded the world of Ponyville a bit.

      I appreciate your comments. Please note that I am willing to listen and open my mind and even CHANGE my mind. I’m not a hard ass, knee-jerk, reactionary and I don’t think I’m right all the time, every time, forever and ever. Promise.

  15. Thank you for reading my comment, I like to watch the show with my little sister. I find it to be an enjoyable program, the main reason I started watching with my sister is because Lauren Faust is my favorite cartoonist/writer. (Wish she still worked on the show) Also Tara Strong voices Twilight so that’s a plus. Anyway I’m glad you watched the rest of the series the third season starts in September I believe, Have a nice day/afternoon/night.

  16. Louis (Rockybalboa211)

    1. “Why do their talents have to be boiled down into a term that focuses on looks? Boo to you, cutie mark. My daughters are not “cuties” because they are brave, fast, smart, or enjoy eating apples. What makes a girl — or any person — special is not what makes them cute.”
    I’m probably the 10th person who has pointed this out so far, yet the male ponies also have/show a cutie mark. Actually, I wish more of the male characters were looked into, yet, according to the creator of the show, they (Hasbro) wanted more female ponies to dominate the town to appeal to girls. Personally, one could believe, that since there are no female ponies in the armed forces of Princess Celestia, that the armed forces are solely made up of male ponies. Now that is something to get in arms about! :D
    While the term “Cutie Mark” could be seen as basically boiling down to a term that focuses on looks, I would have to state that specific physical attribute/ look is very important in this society. The Cutie Mark shows others what you are good at in life or what your purpose in life is. This is very important to their society.
    2. Actually, Pinkie’s premonition power, if I can recall, has been seen in other episodes of the show. In general, I would believe that there is higher payoff in terms of comedic effect if Twilight were seen to be wrong. You mention the classic episode of Spongebob titled “Club Spongebob” and I would think this to be a perfect example. I mean, it wouldn’t be funny if Squidward were right. The whole point of Squidward’s character is to be perpetually misfortunate in comparison to Spongebob. Fate doesn’t throw him a kind hand ever, yet it always gives Spongebob rainbows and lollipops. Also, this could be seen as fate “punishing” Squidward for just being a real jerk to Spongebob on a daily basis, even though Spongebob never extends any malice towards him. I always saw that episode as a “Don’t be mean to your friends or bad things will happen to you” type of episode. I mean, nothing bad ever happens to Spongebob’s friend Sandy! Now, back to that episode of MLP. That is probably the weakest episode of the first season. Even though I see the episode as a “You shouldn’t question your friends, yet accept them even when they don’t make sense” type of episode, it still is pretty weak. Overall, Twilight did her best trying to figure out Pinkie’s premonition power, yet she did need to develop “faith” in her friends. I mean, maybe all acts of “Dumb Luck” are part of Pinkie’s premonition power.
    3. Zecora’s a foreigner from another land outside of Equestria. The ponies don’t know that much about the land outside of Equestria, so of course they are going to be wary of strangers, especially strangers who look different from the usual Unicorn, Pegasus, and Earth Pony. The episode shows children, in my opinion, that one should not judge a book by it’s cover. Also, ponies don’t have races.
    About the Appleoosan episode: I really don’t know what happened there. I mean, I can see what they were going for, yet the episode derails if looked upon closely. The creators issued an apology for this episode. I’m sort of confused how the development team of the episode with the help of several Native American Consultants didn’t see the problems with this episode.

    • Louis,
      I appreciate your comments. Real quick:
      1. I don’t have a problem with the concept of cutie marks, but with the name. It sounds just like “beauty mark.” Why couldn’t they have called it “awesome tattoo” or something? There’s so much emphasis on little girls being cute, I would have liked different language here. The marks themselves are fine and, as you say, everyone has them.
      2. I like all the points you make here and I have been thinking a lot about what makes a good narrative and how, at times, the desire to have a show that teaches the right lessons in terms of gender/race/etc might conflict with the need to write a great story for children.
      3. Ponies don’t have races but clearly Zecora’s difference was based on African culture. You can’t get around that. It still bothers me that she is coded as different in ways that are raced in people culture. It reinforces racial categories instead of questioning them, in my opinion. This still bugs me, but now I skip these eps. I didn’t know that about the Native American episode and I’m glad to hear it.

      Thank you again for the comments!
      Lauren

  17. The King of Limbs

    I really think it far too easy to just pick apart details of any show and twist the meanings of aspects of it, to mean things that are completely different to what they originally did.
    For example I am a very big fan of Spongebob, although I do think it has gone downhill somewhat. I never picked up of the whole ‘faith vs critical thinking’ theme you picked up on in the kelp forest. I simply enjoyed it as a funny episode of a good programme. The creator of MLP:FIM was asked about this very issue and replied, saying that thats is an ‘awful message and I would never dream of suggesting it’ in regards to ‘Feeling Pinkie Keen’. If Pinkie was proven wrong, then theoretically it would not be hard for me to take that as bashing religion, although I’m certain that wouldn’t be the intent just as I am with your point on the episode. And I’m sorry to nitpick but ‘Pinkie-sense’ was referenced in another episode called ‘The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well’. Plus the two-part pilot shows how Twilight’s study and hard work saves the day, so isn’t that setting a good president? Showing that studious commitment can save everyone?
    In regards to the whole racism thing, don’t you think it’s good that they learn a lesson about not judging people, or ponies in this case? Despite the fact that the episode starts off with prejudice, it ends on a high note. The main characters would have to start off like this to learn the error of their ways, just like Twilight had to start off friendless to learn about friendship. The show has attracted a massive fanbase called ‘Bronies’ and ‘Pegasisters’ as I’m sure you’re aware. We (me being in the former camp) are made up of many different races and nationalities, we don’t think this is a racist show. I don’t get why all the other ponies aside from Zecora are ‘white’, personally I believe that labelling characters in a show wherein there are no concepts of ‘black or white’ as such just hints that we’re all fundamentally different. I don’t think everyone is fundamentally different, the episode of South Park wherein the flag fiasco happens comes to mind here. I wouldn’t think that just from picking up on how the ponies are “cute, sweet, active but not powerful, normal” means they’re white. Mannerisms, personality, occupation and importance are not, or at least shouldn’t be linked to race. Another interesting point was hierarchy, you hinted that sparkling alabaster Rarity was above Applejack with her whiteness. Again this is a world full of technicolour ponies so I don’t think the colour of Rarity’s coat indicates ‘whiteness’. Also Applejack runs Sweet Apple Acres which has the best apples in Equestria and is a hero to Ponyville, so no, if anything she would be higher up on this ‘hierarchy’ than Rarity, regardless of coat colour.
    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but after studying History I learned that the Native Americans did use face paint, as well as body paint for themselves and their horses. They did have headresses and they did perform various dances, the sun dance, the buffalo dance and the slighly darker ghost dance being three examples. Plus Native American’s didn’t believe in the ownership of land so the plains couldn’t have been rightfully the property of the buffalo. Therefore talking in it’s most logic-based way, the definition of theft being the unlawful taking of another’s property, no theft took place. This is a childrens show so having the conflict being resolved as favourable for both parties with the sharing of delicious treats is easily better than a gritty pony-reanactment of the sand creek massacre.
    Finally the cuite mark thing, it isn’t about looks, the cuite-mark crusaders (being the element of the show wherein cutie marks are mentioned the most) are constantly on a ‘crusade’ if you will, to find their special talent, and not what makes them cute. So it teaches that what we are good at makes us who we are, and not what makes us cute. Is it not good to teach that we all have a talent that makes us special?
    This is a children’s programme at the end of the day, and you haven’t mentioned it’s good morals. Such as sticking by your friends and family, to not boast and to be humble. That what and who you are, are very different things. About not biting off more than you can chew and to be truthful to the one’s you care about. That just because someone doesn’t seem so, they can be tough and cunning. That just because someone seems scary, it doesn’t mean they are. These are just a few of the lessons this fantastic programme has taught children.
    On a final note, you said you are very much in favour in critical thinking, so have you considered that maybe that is why you are critisising the show too much? I am not trying to have a go at you but to me it seems like you are being far too analytical of some points here.
    This being the internet I feel it would be safer to say that these are my personal thoughts on the matter and are not meant as an attack to anyone.
    All the best.

    • King,
      Aces to you for your Radiohead-based name. I’m always happen to read comments from informed and polite readers. I have changed my perspective on MLP somewhat since writing this: if you read the below comments, as well as follow some of the links, you’ll see that I’ve come around on SOME of these issues (the racist stuff still bugs me). Overall, I now think MLP is a pretty good quality kid’s show. “Critical” thinking doesn’t mean critiquing (as in, always looking for what’s wrong), it means looking at things from all perspectives and asking a lot of questions. It means being open to being wrong, too. And I have changed my stance on the show.

      Lauren

  18. The King of Limbs

    That’s good then, thank-you for replying.
    Just in case this wasn’t clear I really don’t want that to come across as me having a massive go at you, if I seemed unfriendly or irate then I apologise.
    All the best.

  19. Okay, so I wasn’t going to comment on this but you forced me with your overly puffy idiocy. Do you just have to find something to be mad about 24/7?

    Point A:
    First of all, Cutie Marks have been a part of ponies since Gen1. They’re just there to make quick and easy distinction between ponies for small children, and to help you remember their names. It’s not some “misogynistic stab at a lady’s ability to be strong/independent/whatever.” If you had watched more than one episode without getting salty, you would have noticed that ALL of the ponied have Cutie Marks. Male or female, the distinction remains the same.

    Big Mac has a Cutie Mark, Featherweight has a Cutie Mark, Snips and Snails have Cutie Marks. They are ALWAYS referred to as Cutie Marks. Because they are marks that are cute. They also serve as an easily recognizable allegory for puberty.

    Point B:
    Pinkie Pie’s ability’s are used many times after that episode, mostly in S2. The point of the episode wasn’t to make Twilight out as a fool; it was to illustrate that sometimes, there are things in the world we just don’t understand (be it personally or socially) and that just because you don’t understand it, that doesn’t make it any less true. It teaches you to keep on open mind and not to reject everything new on a whim.

    Point C:
    But why do you assume ponies are white? You’re implementing your own version of the “default human” (white) where there is no indication of race, only species.

    That in itself is inherently racist on your part, not ponies.

    The episode was about xenophobia, not racism. Zecora wasn’t frightening because she was some stand-in for black people, it was because she behaved differently. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live in Africa. Many of their everyday practices would seem strange and unnerving to me. The same would go for them in my situation.

    Also, what do you mean the ponies are weak? Twilight Sparkle is powerful, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Queen Chrysalis are all incredibly powerful in a brute force kind of way. All of the other ponies have strengths that shouldn’t be tossed aside because they can’t be used to beat someone’s face in.

    Point D:
    The point of the episode wasn’t to say that what happened amongst Native Americans and settlers was okay. You seem to forget that ponies live in a magic world devoid of sorrow, death, and heart break. In THEIR world, they didn’t kill one another and spend the next few centuries in turmoil. They learned a lesson about sharing and went on with their lives. All it was is a lesson in compromise and an easily digestible introduction to the bare-bones basics of that situation in our world, which the target audience hasn’t even covered in school yet.

    So basically pull your head out of your ass and think deeper into things than “oh man, what can I get mad about today?” You’re just another small-minded mama bear trying to make her ignorance seem justified. Take a few steps once in a while and stop trying to find the negativity and hate in everything. Especially a cartoon about talking ponies.

    • OK, so I wasn’t going to reply to your comment, because I’ve said exactly what I’m about to say to every other commenter on this post, but you were just SUCH a dick that I had to respond.

      You are 100% WRONG about my interpretation of the ponies being white as MY racism and not the racism of the show. Others have written persuasively on this.

      IF you had read EVERY. OTHER. COMMENT. on this post, you would see that not only have (1) I listened to others’ similar arguments with respect and open mind but that (2) I posted several updated posts in which I change my mind about aspects of Ponies that I figured out. Remember I wrote this quickly after watching only season 1, which I make clear in the entry. Links to these posts are included in every comment on this entry, as well as in an updated header on the entry above. I hope you will see that I have LISTENED TO and HONORED the comments of Bronies, and that I’m not the complete and utter asshole you believe me to be. That may be a projection on your part.

      • At what point did the show explicitly say the ponies were to be thought of as Caucasian human beings? You were the one who said that they were “white.” You were the one who looked upon a group of anthro horses and decided that, because they didn’t have any stereotypically racial traits, that they were white.

        You were basically implying that because there were no ponies with black fur and curly manes that there were no “black” ponies in a human sense. Because there were no ponies with thin eyes, and no ponies who speak Spanish that all of them MUST be white.

        I cannot understand why you insist on attributing human racial attributes to cartoon horses. I simply cannot understand why race would matter to you so much that ponies of all colors of the spectrum need to adhere to them.

        Also, I covered a couple points others did not, namely the “default human” portion. Look it up, it’s a real thing.

        Basically, know what you’re talking about before you make a long, asinine post about it and you wont get dicks on the internet calling you out on your ignorance.

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