Friday, 31 October 2014

Why do Bronies and Pegasisters exist?

I believe I speak for a large majority of the world who also don't have a clue as to why this question needs to be asked. There are people who make money off of Youtube trying to answer this question and personally, while I see their opinions as valid takes on the question, I don't think it's the whole answer. Seeing as I've just finished my review of this generation of the series's first film, I might as well throw my opinion into the mix as well. Is this opinion the final answer to the question? Probably not, though I do believe its a step in the right direction. This is a wall of text FYI.

As a forward for those who aren't aware of the term: a "Brony" is a male fan of the My Little Pony franchise in some way. It is a self endowed term that the community gave to itself. Due to a large, and loud, portion of the community being male, the fan base refers to itself as "Bronies". However there is a female equivalent (which I found during the research for this topic, I generally don't like to look to deeply into fandoms due to... distasteful products fan communities have produced) called "Pegasisters" (I swear to Arceus I'm not making this up).

One of the closest takes on the question is this (as a short hand version): the current MLP generation is written as a sitcom and men tend to prefer sitcoms and comedy in general over other genres. There are, however some flaws with that view. Generally speaking, a sitcom generally follows every member of its main group (take for example, The Big Bang Theory, every episode gives each member of its main group a decent amount of air time). One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when putting MLP in with these types of shows is that, while you may see the main cast in each episode, any given episode tends to revolve around a select few of them and the others would only appear if they needed to be. So while it might be a comedy, it isn't a sitcom. The other issue with this view is that it negates the other portion of the fanbase, the intended market.

So why do I think its fanbase is the way it is, a part of it will be explained if you read these:

"Animation is different from other parts. Its language is the language of caricature. Our most difficult job was to develop the cartoon's unnatural but seemingly natural anatomy for humans and animals."

"Animation offers a medium of story telling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world."

"You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

Who was the person who originally spoke these words? Walt Disney. The man spoken of as one of the geniuses of animation, the man behind the most well known animated character in history. This style of thinking is still used in the Disney animation studios (at least, to my knowledge... theory) to this day. There's a reason why people still watch Disney films, regardless of their age: because their films are targeted towards everyone and I believe the same can be said for MLP. When I finally caved into my curiosity, I said to myself "if its anything like what my sister watches, then I'll look into the first 5 episodes at the most (to give the series a fair chance), and move on if it doesn't pursued me to keep looking into it". At the end of the first two episodes I was asking myself "Did they seriously just do that in a show for that audience?". Normally a pilot episode/ episodes are used to shown as concepts as to what the rest of the show is going to be like and while the pilot for MLP is misleading to a degree, it did accomplish its goal of deviating itself from the other children's TV shows (both for boys and girls). As I looked into it more for this review, I started seeing several resemblances to animated Disney films.

Before I go into this point, I want to talk a little bit about Marketing (yes I know its boring, I had to learn it in High School). When your marketing a product for kids, your not only targeting kids, your also targeting their parents. The reason for this is that, more often then not, the parents are going to be the ones to fuel their children's love for the series. For example, I didn't get into Transformers from watching the show, what first got me into is is a birthday present from my parents, which was Transformers Armada Jetfire. From there I discovered the show and the rest is history. The other aspect to targeting parents is this: If a child is watching the show, then the parents will either ignore the show (loosing a possible viewer), the child will either want the parents to watch the show with them (which may make them phase out, loosing quality time with the child) or watch the show with them because they have nothing better to do with their time. If the parent likes the show, then the parent will most likely be inclined to buy the toys based on that show for their child, earning more money for the company. It was probably this trail of thought (in some form) that convinced Hasbro to green light the changes.

This doesn't describe why the team behind the show would decide to make these changes in the first place. And for that, I want to divert your attention to these:

1. "cartoons for girls don't have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness" Lauren Faust

(Yes, I know the videos mostly relates to games, but the concepts still apply for TV shows and film)

So what do these have to do with anything? The first video talks about designing for children and the later points are what I want to bring attention to. "Kids are adults with a lot less experience", contrary to popular belief, children can handle complicated ideas if it is being presented in a way that makes sense for them. I mentioned in my last opinion piece, on how the Transformers have survived for so long, that the stories that have succeed, that will survive the test of time explore complicated ideas while keeping that simplistic theme, one of the reasons for that is because of how younger generations can interpret these concepts. Children can understand more then most would like to admit, the only issue is that they need to be taught these concepts in different ways to others. I want to divert your attention to Avatar: The Last Airbender (and maybe Korra, I haven't watched enough episodes to base the following on Korra though), the series is mature and well constructed, yet all ages can understand its messages because it is written in a way that teaches all ages. I intend to review Avatar later so I'm not going to go into much more detail, stay tuned.

 As for the second video and the quote, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that more and more stories are getting darker re-imaginings and, contrary to popular belief, MLP:FiM is a darker re-imagining when compared to its predecessors (from what I've herd). The quote is by Lauren Faust, the concept designer for this current generation, spoke that as a inspiration behind the changes.

"My Little Pony was one of her favorite childhood toys, but she was disappointed that her imagination at the time was nothing like the animated shows, in which the characters, according to Faust, "just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying". With the chance to work on My Little Pony, she hoped to prove that "cartoons for girls don't have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness"." Wikipedia:

Darker doesn't have to mean "grey", for darker can come in all forms, in this case, darker themes. The world that has been crafted for FiM appears to be like nothing seen in the series before (I can't say for certain I haven't seen previous generations and I don't know anyone who has). I mentioned before that marketing likely played a key part in Hasbro greenlighting project, but there is another reason, and ironically it's Michael Bay. With the financial success (sadly I can't argue with that) of the Transformers movies at the time (so the First film, and Revenge of the Fallen) Hasbro was looking to redesign and re-imagine their other brands. Lisa Licht suggested to Lauren Faust that her animation style fitted the MLP series and from there, the rest is history.

Finally, during my investigations in the series, I found a common insult being thrown around, saying that all bronies (in particular) are autistic in some form. As a man who is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome myself, I find this offensive... but possibly with a shred of truth to it. Now before I have insults and attacks thrown at me, let me explain. A common connection between people who have Asperger Syndrome and Autism is the kinds of shows, film, visual stimulus in a nutshell. People with Aspergers and Autism tend to enjoy "simplistic" shows, simplistic as in facial and tone. A common issue Aspie's and Autistic people have are issues with facial expressions, body language and tones, its why a common issue is sarcasm. While I was analyzing the show and Equestria Girls, I noticed the way the characters behave is simplistic when compared to people of the real world. You know what the characters are feeling as they have simplistic facial expressions and tone. You know when someone's annoyed, scared, happy, bored ect because the simplistic actions, however not so simplistic that its insulting. Again, the way the show is written means that it teaches without forcing the lesson, something that is very hard to do. I released a questionnaire a while ago, but I didn't get enough replies to conclusively prove this theory. Thank you to those who did participate though. I should stress, this does not mean that I think all bronies are Aspie's/ Autistic, this is just to shed some light as to why Aspies and Autistic people might like the show.

So at the end of the day, why do Bronies and Pegasisters exist? There are many reasons, several I haven't addressed in this. However I don't believe it was a accident, I think it was going to happen, but that should say how well its been written. Next Wednesday: Transformers Age of Extinction... but I have something else for today, come back later for a festive post.

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