Fan Service: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Fan service in this context, in case you are unaware, is when a TV show or movie pays some sort of tribute to their own fans. My Little Pony does this very frequently. For example, they have made references to bronies in the song “Equestria Girls”, given Derpy Hooves a speaking role, and actually called her Derpy (which we will come back to), and much more. In addition, the MLP staff has released rumors that some of the background ponies (that bronies love) are going to have bigger parts in the upcoming season.

However, I feel that sometimes the fan service can be too much. Derpy is a great example of this. When she was featured in an episode (see clip below), there was a public outcry from parents of children who watched the show, saying the name Derpy, combined with the voice, was offensive to those with mental issues. In response, her voice was changed to sound, well, less derpy in later recordings. This proceeded to upset all of the bronies who liked Derpy’s original voice and who didn’t believe the name Derpy carried negative connotations in this case. The bronies loved her; they didn’t love laughing at her.

I think MLP went a little too far with the original footage. While I enjoy fan service, it shouldn’t seem like it is coming off at someone else’s expense. The way the scene was originally done, it was easy to take offense at and it seemed insulting to those with mental illnesses. I know that no one meant any harm and MLP writers were only trying to pay homage to their fan base, but from a perspective outside that fan base, it just came off as rude.

The instance above was just going a little far. The Legend of Korra, on the other hand, beat the idea of fan service over the head with the voice of General Iroh. He has the same voice actor (Dante Basco) as Zuko, the main firebender from the original Avatar, and General Iroh’s grandfather. This was probably done to pay homage to the fans from the original series and pay tribute to the previous series. However, since I literally watched Avatar and then immediately picked up Korra, I knew instantly that General Iroh and Zuko had the exact same voice. Not a single difference. For me, having the two characters depicted by the same voice actor would have been enough, but giving them the same voice was overkill. It also made it very difficult to figure out how old General Iroh is (I actually have zero idea). If Basco had changed his voice slightly, I would have 99 problems and Iroh’s voice wouldn’t be one of them. But right now I just have 100 problems.

In short, fan service is awesome in small doses. In big ones, it just makes people upset and sometimes angry.

MLP’s Audience Involvement: Ur Doin It Rite, Hasbro.

Hello all! The ponies are not forgotten! In fact, I am here to bring you the penultimate entry in my pony blog series.

One of the greatest things about the current My Little Pony franchise is the stance Hasbro (who owns the MLP line) and the Hub (which airs the show) take towards its unexpected adult demographic. That is to say, they adore us.

They even mentioned bronies by name in this commercial, which, I must say, outside of being adorable blows Katy Perry’s version out of the water.

This is probably the awesomest. Some companies would recoil and try to retcon anything the older crowd found cool out of the show; others would shrug and ignore. But the clever people at Hasbro have rightly seen a goldmine in their grown-up fans. After all, who’s more likely to want complete collections of all the episodes and merchandise, and be able to afford it? Bronies.

This has led to, among other things, the release of a number of one-episode ponies/background ponies (Such as Vinyl Scratch/DJ PON-3, Princess Luna, etc) as toys, something I’m sure would never have happened if the show’s viewers were the intended demographic. (All of the background ponies who’ve been given names and personalities by fandom would never have been considered for merchandising if there wasn’t an adult fandom to create them.)

The most outstanding example of Hasbro taking inspiration from the fandom is, of course, that of Derpy Hooves.

This filly’s eyes were first crossed by animators accidentally in an early Season 1 episode. But, as obsessive fans are wont to do, the bronies picked up on this, christened her Derpy Hooves, and welcomed her into the herd of fanon ponies. Later in the season, the animation staff started crossing her eyes intentionally as a nod to the brony fandom.  Finally, in the internet-shattering, fandom-breaking Season 2 episode “The Last Roundup”, this happened:

Yes, that is the canon-ization of the character Derpy Hooves. Outside of her being a klutzy pegasus pony, we still don’t know much about her, but that one scene essentially caused bronydom to erupt. They had taken something we had made, and put it, heart and hoof, into the actual show. Imagine that happening in any other series you follow. The love for their fandom at the Hub is staggering.

(As a side note, I know there was some backlash to the episode within fandom where people criticized the show for mocking mentally challenged people with their portrayal of Derpy.  I can see the potential for problematic-ness in the way they started to flesh out Derpy.  However, at the risk of doing whatever the ableist version of mansplaining is, the canonization of Derpy was meant as a tremendous nod to the fans, and not as a hateful act in any way. And I think if they hadn’t paired her with Rainbow Dash in that clip, there wouldn’t have been so much trouble—Dash can be a bitch sometimes, even to her closest friends. End side note.)

Other examples abound, but this, of course, is my favorite. Doctor Whooves is another fan-named background pony who was jokingly designated a My Little Time Lord on account of his hourglass cutie-mark and follicular resemblance to the Tenth Doctor. This particular fanon-to-canon transition was not as publicized as that of Derpy’s, but the animators keep throwing enticing little things into the background, such as in the episode “Sweet and Elite”, where several different versions of a pony with the same hourglass cutie mark were seen.

Also (and this was intentional), in the episode “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” he controlled TIME ITSELF.

/dramatic

So the point of all this is: Hasbro and the Hub have revolutionized the way writers, producers, and merchandisers interact with their fandoms. It’s really awesome to see and be a part of, and is just another reason why being a brony is the way to be.