The other day, my brother handed me his phone with only the preface of, “you should write an article about this.” He knows me too well.
The last time I talked about My Little Pony, I touched on some of the good messages that the show brought to younger girls—confidence, hard work, and perseverance—and how moves within the show can serve two basic purposes: one of teaching the younger female audience the virtues that will help them when they’re older and the other providing business investors with revenue. Today I’ll be discussing this latter point in concerns to the negative implications to MLP’s audience. However, I won’t be doing this through the Friendship is Magic brand. Instead, I’m going to be looking at the newest member to the franchise, Equestria Girls.
According to Hasbro itself, this new show, focusing on the ‘mane six’ but as anthropomorphic teenage girls, is set to come out sometime during the spring quarter. This leaves me with only the recently exposed character designs to comment on, but there’s a lot to comment on. Well, actually there’s not and that’s because the designs are so damned boring. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the amazing tumblr artists (such as the folks at Ponies as People) that treat the characters with such a respect that the designers for this show just don’t seem to have. In fact, it doesn’t even seem like these designers know some of the characters at all.
Before I go into what really should be improved on, let me go over what I like about the designs on an individual level (because I sure don’t like them as a whole). First and foremost, I like Pinkie Pie’s design. It’s simple enough that it doesn’t vie with her hair for attention of your eyes, but the design is still relatively fun. I also think Fluttershy’s design suits her rather well, and Rarity’s to an extent. It seems with those three the designers had a lot of fun deciding what to make them look like in their anthropomorphized incarnations, but all character designs are not made equal.
I mean seriously, look at Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Their choices are terrible, just terrible. Considering their interests, wearing a skirt wouldn’t be practical and I don’t think they particularly like skirts/dresses either. In fact, my brother, an actual fan of MLP, recalled an episode to me where Applejack expressly stated that she felt weird in dresses. So why then put her in a skirt? And assuming Rainbow Dash would take on an activity like track in this series, why wear a skirt?
It doesn’t make sense no matter what color bike shorts you put under it. Actually, why not just give her the bike shorts to wear? Girls wear capris and jeans all the time. It’s not outlandish to design them onto a female character.
Individual character designs aside, the thing I hate about this line-up the most is that they all look the same. For all their differences in the main series, they seem to have dissolved completely here. All of their body shapes are the same, all of their outfit choices are roughly the same, even all of their eye shapes—save Fluttershy—are the same. This is a horrific message to girls. With all the lovely fanart out there, would it really have been so hard to give them different body types? Give them different facial structures? Hell, even give them different heights?! The ponies look the same because they’re ponies and they have to look like horses which are limited to one form. Humans have such a variety of appearances that it’s irresponsible when it’s not taken advantage of. The reason why it wasn’t taken advantage of is easy to decipher, I believe. That reason is, like I brought up earlier, marketing.
In the market spectrum for dolls at the moment, Equestria Girls would be competing directly with franchises like Bratz and Monster High, all of which host a cast that look roughly the same in body shape and size. Same-y-ness in dolls is not only used to set them apart from other same-y brands, but also to force customers into a brand loyalty of sorts—the clothes from the Bratz series sure as hell aren’t going to fit on Barbie dolls. Thus, to compete with the other brands, this new sector of the MLP brand must adapt to its new environment. However, what’s good for them marketing-wise isn’t good for their audience.
Since the airing date for Equestria Girls is approaching quickly, it would be foolish for me to hope that the designs would change to something better. I can hope, however, that at least the message in the show will be the same: to work hard and achieve your goals while enjoying your friends. On that front, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see when it debuts.