There’s a storm on the horizon. In fact, many would argue that it’s already here and it as such, has already been given a name: Hurricane Alicorn, starring one Twilight Sparkle.
Yes, apparently there’s a big fuss in the more vocal part of the fandom over the purple pony reaching the mythical level of the Alicorn—some sort of pegasus/unicorn hybrid. And as you can probably tell from that last statement, I’m not in this fandom. I have seen a grand total of three My Little Pony episodes, counting this finale, but I think that even as an outsider I can talk about some of the trends happening in terms of the sociology of the program (perhaps even especially as an outsider). Specifically in terms of this season finale, it’s clear that there’s an interesting disparity happening between the two very distinct parts of the fandom. Interesting in some respects, rather disgusting in others.
What appears to be the main issue here—a summary for people that aren’t really in the fandom, such as myself—is that for some reason the creators of the show decided to make the main character transform into the most powerful species in the show’s universe, a species that had previously been thought to be reserved only for royalty, by doing essentially what she always does, magic and believing in friendship. From this bare-bones perspective, it really does seem like a jumping-the-shark kind of moment not made any better by the show’s twenty-ish minute time frame. However, some are taking this as a personal affront to the integrity of the show, even threatening to start petitions to get Hasbro to retcon the event. Yet, this is incredibly selfish on the part of those viewers.
I read an article the other day (which I am now kicking myself about not putting in my bookmarks) where a mother discussed her own daughter’s reaction to the change in the pony. In it, she described how happy her daughter was to see Twilight Sparkle become a princess and that she really felt as though Twilight deserved it for her efforts. Though this won’t be true for all young girls, I feel as though this mindset is in the majority. Even if it isn’t, I believe Twilight’s transformation brings an excellent message to the younger children watching the show: if you work hard you will be rewarded in life, but you also shouldn’t expect to be rewarded. Twilight had no idea she was going to become an alicorn; she was completely focused on saving her friends, but even before that she was focused on doing her job, which was learning magic and keeping her friends together. After excelling at both, being rewarded for it is a tangible, visceral way to show the younger audience that there can be very worthwhile rewards in life, but only if you make the effort to reach them.
In addition to this, I think Twilight’s evolution also brings an excellent point in concerns to equality. By Twilight, a pony who started this series as a stranger, being able to reach the a level that is equated with royalty merely by trying hard, it sends the audience the message that being really important and powerful (although power isn’t exactly brought up directly) is open to “everypony”, no matter the socioeconomic standards the child may be living in. If one puts forth the effort, then anything can be achieved no matter how impossible it may seem. I don’t know about you, but these seem like excellent messages to be sending out to the children of this generation.
The main point of contention that I’ve seen while browsing the MLP discussion sites is that by doing this, Hasbro is just making another thing to make people shell out money for. Although, I highly doubt that the people complaining won’t still go out and buy these new toys (while grumbling under their breath, as it may be) my thoughts on this remain the same: no shit. That’s what every little kid’s show is, because that’s what kids are seen as: targets for marketing. It’s at this age—the target demographic—where children are their most susceptible towards marketing, so any company with any interest with staying competitive would have to be foolish to not take advantage of it. Yeah, it’s terrible, but that’s what you get for being on a syndicated channel with lots of backing from other companies. If MLP happened to be an independent show made independently, I might have a different feeling on the matter, but it’s not, so I don’t. No matter how much you may like the show, it still doesn’t change the fact that the producers and distributors still need money.
However, for all their love and tolerance, the bronies really seem bent out of shape about this. Like, really bent out of shape and I do feel like a large part of the reason is sexism. My experiences with bronies in this fandom range from “cool, they’re a fanperson just like me” to “oh my god, what the hell is wrong with you?” But I do not carry a good feeling when I hear the term ‘brony’. We’ll get to the sexism in a bit, but a simpler problem I have with a lot of them is their sense of entitlement. It’s great that they, or anyone, can find entertainment in this show, a deeper meaning, or even achieve some personal improvement by watching MLP. It’s not so great when they start thinking that the show needs to be some way because it would be really cool for them. Bronies, you are not the target demographic for this show. Let this sink in. The show will never fixate on your needs (except ‘Derpy’, but that was honestly getting lucky), nor should you expect it to, because at the end of the day, it’s a show for little girls. That’s like watching Bob the Builder and saying, “I really like the characters and premise of this show, but they should really make Bob a private detective on the side.” Yes, more character depth and development would be great, but the constraints of the demographic wouldn’t allow for that. It would, in fact, probably end up alienating the little girls it was meant for.
But back to that ‘sexism’ thing. It should come as no surprise to anyone by this point that yes, the ponies are sexualized online. There are pictures of ponies in underwear (why?) posing provocatively, sex toys made after the ponies’ likeness, the list goes on. The type of exploitation occurs when the power differential shifts; that’s what we’re looking at in particular. When the ponies are younger (see: the mane six), the images are more innocent and playful, and overall the response to such images have a more ‘gentle’ and ‘positive’ tone to them. However, when the topic of “lust” turns to Princess Celestia, a woman in power, there is a wider outburst of rape jokes and malicious sexual harassment. In this, it seems as though the brony community as a whole likes for their heroines to remain younger, more innocent, and more helpless. In becoming an alicorn, Twilight begins to shed that, she begins to grow up (as she’s supposed to), and that can really screw with someone’s fap material.
How does that song go? “It’s okay to not like things. It’s okay, but don’t be a dick about it.” I really think this is something the more outspoken dissenters of Twilight’s growth need to take to heart. It may not have happened the way you wanted it to; in fact, you may not have wanted it to happen at all, but many people need to step back and look at it from the perspective of the target demographic. It really would be the biggest disservice and insult to the show if little girls began to feel terrible because they connected with this, but the rest of everyone is just out there saying that it’s stupid and shouldn’t have happened. Young girls and much of the female audience is, in fact, already really uncomfortable with the idea of bronies having such an intimidating investment in and power over a show that isn’t for them, but that’s an issue for another time. In the end, it comes down to this: Twilight’s friends still love and respect her, and frankly, so should you.
Yes, Princess Twilight’s existence raises a lot of questions, and I can only expect that they will be answered in season four. This new level of story continuity, along with Twilight’s obviously-foreshadowing quip at the end of the finale, leads me to hope/believe that season four will have a more serious, possibly darker theme. I guess that the flaw in your reasoning here is that Twilight is not just anypony. In fact, almost from day one they have been slowly laying out Twilight’s fate as a sort of chosen one/Avatar sort of figure. I can’t really blame you for this though, since as you say you’ve only seen three episodes. Although I will agree that profit factored at least significantly in Hasbro’s decision to have Twilight ‘level-up’, I think you underestimate what portion of their profits come from adults. While obviously the majority of the profits come from the young-girl-market (it disgusts me that there is such a thing), I think that the margin between this audience and the adult audience is not so huge (If anybody has some statistics than they should definitely correct me, I’m not completely certain I’m right here).
I do not think I underestimate how much of their profits come from adults: when one goes to Toys-R-Us and sees merch in the MLP aisle specifically geared towards bronies, it’s not exactly hidden that Hasbro knows where another audience lies. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the show is –not- for the older audience, and they really shouldn’t be staking any claims in it. To do so, and further more by having the company embrace it to the extent that their opinion overrides that of younger girls, I think is forcing the show to go in an opposite direction than Lauren Faust wanted. The marketing disparity between the two groups may not be large, but that’s not the point. The point is that they shouldn’t be trying to appropriate a show that’s supposed to be for young girls.
In remark to your first point (apologies for getting sidetracked), I suppose with a name like ‘Friendship is Magic’ I should have figured that Twilight—the magical friendship pony—had more importance than the others, but I don’t necessarily think it’s about screentime. It’s more about how relatable the character is. To the audience, Twilight –is- the anypony because she doesn’t really know how things work at first and is learning along with the audience. Her skills are gained as she and the audience both learn lessons. Thus, in her becoming an alicorn it leads to a perfectly reasonable correlation that the audience too can go on to do great things (since they can’t be alicorns, obviously)