Friday, February 1, 2013

Magical flying sparkly princess ponies

Elli is addicted to My Little Pony.  She watches episodes any time she can and seems completely satisfied, after viewing every show ever made, to start again at the beginning and watch them through again.  There is a lot to like in these videos; they are about a group of friends that have disagreements and difficulties that they work through in realistic ways.  Well, realistic ways emotionally... they are a bunch of flying magical talking ponies so strict realism is not always observed.  I generally like the messages they send about tolerance, being a good sport, helping people, etc. but there are a few things about the show that I find really disquieting.

First off, there is a huge emphasis placed on the wonders of hereditary monarchy and the inherent superiority of those in power.  The big boss is Princess Celestia and she is shockingly wise, unflappably self controlled, and universally loved.  Normal ponies get to have wings, a magic horn, or nothing at all but Princess Celestia has both wings and a magic horn (more powerful than anyone else in the world, naturally) and is also twice as big as anybody else and incomparably beautiful.  Of course everybody in the world bows and scrapes around her and gasps in awe that she would deign to grace them with her presence.  It is all very icky, especially when you consider that obeisance to authority figures seems to be given a higher priority than any other behaviour.  I just don't like the idea that we should teach kids that the folks in charge are inherently better than they are and that the masses of humanity exist only to obey.

Secondly but on a related note is the emphasis on faith.  I have no respect for faith being placed on a pedestal and would rather see it as a vice than a virtue.  Optimism and hope are fine and necessary things and they should not be confused with a certain belief in that which is obviously false, which is indeed what faith is.  A recent episode saw a life lesson imparted that can be summarized as "When people say things that are obviously wrong you should just believe them anyway because science doesn't tell you the truth, faith does."  Because, of course, believing what anybody says is what a nice person should do!  Unfortunately they utterly failed to deliver the correct lesson which is that we should let people think whatever damn fool thing they want but that does not extend to letting them harm others on the basis of their damn fool beliefs.

In practical terms I can't imagine that watching this stuff has any serious impact on children long term.  I watched endless reruns of He Man and Thundercats and other garbage when I was young and I though I could tear them apart now I doubt they did any real harm.  Still, I am going to continue to cringe when I see another animated pony say "Oh no, we better not let Princess Celestia see the mess us normal ponies made of things.  She is obviously perfect and not sullied and debased like all of us who were stupid enough to be born commoners."

Picture from:,55168/


  1. Maybe. The online definition is someone who is a fan of or a viewer of My Little Pony. I don't like it but since it is on constantly while I am around I do view it. Technically I guess I am a brony, but that does seem like a real stretch of the definition.

  2. I think watching it only because your daughter is watching it disqualifies you. I'm sure there are message boards that would clear that up in a heartbeat.

    But more to the point of the post, I think that teaching children about authority is challenging from all angles. When you are six, you actually are ruled by authority figures who are twice your size and who, in most cases, are considerably more ethical and wise than you. The message, "Your parents and teachers are just people, but because you are a kid you are actually really stupid - I mean there is nothing wrong with that, you are supposed to be stupid," is a difficult one to deliver. As is, "You should give some amount of credence to the suggestions of adults because you are almost certainly worse at problem solving than a parrot. That's not to say they are always right, but you certainly are in no position to tell the times when they are right from the times when they are wrong because lacking the skills to solve problems means you also lack the skills to identify who has proposed a better solution to a problem."

    It's not that I'm a fan of the message that the leadership is always right, but you could wager heavily that Elli will decide the leadership is always wrong when she's a teenager regardless of what you try to convince her now.