Recently this article appeared on Ms. Blog, which is a blog for Ms. Magazine, a feminist blog that critiqued the popular kids show My Little Ponys: Friendship is Magic. Not long after Lauren Faust the creator of My Little Pony wrote a rebuttal to the above mentioned article defending her work.
The first article is written by Kathleen Richter who laid these charges at the hooves of My Little Ponys:
So overall, these are the lessons My Little Pony teaches girls:
- Magical white ponies are suited for leadership; black ponies are suited to be servants.
- Stop learning! You will overcome any obstacle by resorting to strength in numbers (of friends).
- Girls that wear rainbows are butch.
- You need the government (ideally a monarch invested with supreme ultimate power and a phallic symbol strapped to her forehead) to tell you what to do with your life.
Many people came to the defense of the show and soon Faust responded on behalf of her little ponies.
A surprising amount of commenters rose in defense of the show, and for that I am extremely grateful. Without repeating their retorts too extensively, here is my defense against the accusations.
- Color has never, ever been depicted as a race indicator for the ponies. When your characters are purple, blue, orange, yellow, black, white, red, green and pink, who’s to say which is supposed to signify a white person, a black person, an Asian person? The only races in My Little Pony are Earth Pony, Pegasus and Unicorn, and they are all treated equally, ruled by a leader who embodies the traits of all three This leader is white only to signify day, and she co-rules with her sister, who is purple to signify night. Additionally, I’d just like to assure anyone who might still question the guards at the foot of the Princess’s throne that their colors were picked arbitrarily–and they are paid for their service.
- In the first episode, the lead character, Twilight, is depicted as a pony so wrapped up in her studies that she has no interest in socializing. But since socializing and making friends is an important, healthy aspect of anyone’s life, her mentor encouraged her to, essentially, go out and play. In the end, the character goes on to lead a more balanced life, maintaining both relationships and her studies. In subsequent episodes she is frequently seen reading, referencing books to help solve problems and even living in a library.
- Rainbow Dash has rainbow-striped hair because of her name and because she is very interested in sports, specifically flying. She is a tomboy, but nowhere in the show is her sexual orientation ever referenced. As we all know, there are plenty of straight tomboys in the world, and assuming they are lesbians is extremely unfair to both straight and lesbian tomboys.
- The Princess is depicted as the main character’s mentor, her teacher. She’s an authority figure and even a bit of a surrogate parent. The Princess gave Twilight her instructions as someone who knows her and is personally involved in her upbringing. And though there is historical speculation that unicorn horns were indeed phallic symbols, I doubt that is making its way into anyone’s subconscious.
It surprised me that she responded at all considering that similar charges have been raised against the show. Even here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends (though we doubt Faust even knows we exist) we have discussed some episodes that come off as potentially racist (see: the episode with the Buffalo and the episode with Zecora the zebra).
But despite some of its problems, I think it’s fairly obvious that many of us love My Little Pony. It’s not without its flaws, but I never thought the problems as bad as Richter makes them out to be. Despite my own criticisms of the show, I realized that many children might not pick up on the problems I’m seeing. That’s not to say that those problems don’t matter or that kids might not be learning something from them subconsciously, but I personally don’t think that the current problems in My Little Pony isn’t anything that good parenting can’t fix.
I find many of the charges Richter raises ridiculous. Faust defends her work much better than I ever will so I won’t try to counter Richter’s argument. Though I would like to say one thing about her criticisms.
Rainbow Dash being thought of as a lesbian simply because she is a tomboy with a rainbow mane is just as ridiculous to me as hating her because people think she is a lesbian. Just because someone is a tomboy–which by the way I hate that term because it immediately says that any girl that doesn’t like stereotypical girly things is somehow “mannish” or less of a woman–doesn’t mean they are a lesbian. Furthermore, someone liking rainbows doesn’t mean that they are a lesbian (Rainbow Dash has, I assume, a natural rainbow mane. She didn’t dye it to show her gay pride. And just to be perfectly clear none of these things mean she isn’t a lesbian either). Putting girls and members of the LGBTQ community–hell, putting anyone in a box, defining specific things that make someone a girl or a lesbian is far more damaging than anything My Little Pony has done.
What do you think?