The Apathetic Man’s Guide to ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’
Everything you will try and fail to understand about the latest dumb show your kid is suddenly crazy about.
Since debuting in stores more than three decades ago, My Little Pony has established itself as one of the most dominant toy and entertainment properties of all time. The characters have been merchandised in myriad ways, but are currently best known for their starring roles in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which is in the middle of its eighth season on Discovery Family. They are charming and colorful, sure, but for those who were never immersed in Pony culture, its success can be mystifying. Why exactly does each new generation of kids love these magical singing ponies so damn much?
Is There Anything I Need to Know Before Watching?
There is nothing essential in terms of understanding the plot, which we’ll get to later, as there is never much of an explanation of why the world of My Little Ponies exists or how these magical, talking ponies got their powers. Even tracing back to the original series, there’s never been any real explanation of this universe. No giant mythos or elaborate backstory that helps us understand why this world exists. That is pretty par for the course with kids’ entertainment, but it does beg the question: when are we going to get the gritty My Little Pony origin story we so desperately need?
Why Is My Little Pony a Thing?
My Little Pony‘s lack of fictional world-building only makes the real-world history of the now iconic franchise that much more interesting. Given the advantage of hindsight, the success of My Little Pony seems obvious, but when it was first released, it was far from a sure thing. In fact, it wasn’t even called My Little Pony at the time of its initial release. It began as “My Pretty Pony,” which was a toy line founded by Hasbro in 1981. My Pretty Pony featured larger, less colorful horses. The ponies were meant to be gender neutral instead of primarily for girls.
The toy line was widely considered a failure, as it struggled to make an impact culturally or financially, so Hasbro scrapped the line and launched My Little Pony, which featured smaller, brightly colored horses. My Little Pony was immediately a success and over the subsequent years, it continued to grow until it became one of the most popular toy lines in America. Overall, more than 600 ponies have been released by Hasbro over the last 36 years, as every 10-15 years, Hasbro will release a new “generation” of ponies to spark interest among kids.
The lasting dominance in the toy aisle allowed Hasbro to turn the ponies into a massively successful entertainment franchise, which has included several movies and TV shows. The original 1986 film was such a massive flop that it has almost entirely been forgotten by society at large (Hasbro seems to prefer it that way), but an animated series that was released the same year managed to be a relative hit.
Since then, there have been several TV and film reboots of the My Little Pony universe, mostly direct-to-video or on obscure cable networks like the Hub Network. But while none have had the soaring success of G.I. Joe or Transformers, they have maintained a dedicated fanbase that continues to enjoy My Little Pony adventures more than 30 years after the first film was released.
What’s My Little Pony About?
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a kid’s animated show that airs on Discovery Family. The show revolves around the daily life of Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn pony who lives in Ponyville with her five friends Rainbow Dash (the tomboy pony), Rarity (the glam pony), Fluttershy (the shy pony), Applejack (the country pony), and Pinkie Pie (the pony named Pinkie Pie).
Together, they form the Mane Six (which almost counts as wordplay) and each episode, they overcome low-stakes obstacles by learning a vague lesson about friendship — which, as we all know, is magic — and are happy again by episode’s end. In an episode from last season, Pinkie Pie is shocked to discover that Rainbow Dash actually doesn’t like the pies she has been making her for several years. She is shocked, but resolution arrives at speed. Pretty chill stuff.
Will I Like My Little Pony?
Not at all. And that’s no disrespect to the show. My Little Pony wasn’t and isn’t made for adults and it doesn’t make any real attempt to appeal to anyone over the age of seven. There are no secret adult jokes and no balls-to-the-wall absurdity. There is no commentary. The show is like an onion with one layer. It’s strictly for kids — and bronies — so adults are pretty much guaranteed to be bored any time their kid demands that they put it on.
Of course, none of this is going to matter to a kid, who will be too distracted by a pink pony literally flying over a rainbow to notice the lack of character development and cliché-stuffed dialogue. Hopefully, their pure-hearted delight will be reward enough for any parental suffering. Otherwise, a lot of dads are just going to have to suck it up and pray that somewhere around the 20-hour mark they develop the ability to tune out the entire show.
Am I Going to Have to Buy Something?
Is this even a question? My Little Pony is a toy franchise first and an entertainment franchise second, so most kids who love the My Little Pony universe fell in love with the TV show through their love for the toys. But even if a kid owns dozens of Pony toys, there is always more. After all, the entire existence of Friendship is Magic is not-so-secretly an elaborate way to sell shit to kids, so there is a nearly infinite amount of Pony gear that kids can force their parents to buy.
Beyond the iconic pony dolls (of which there are hundreds), there are My Little Pony headbands, sleeping bags, sweatshirts, t-shirts, board games, video games, nail polish, toothpaste, headphones, cake decorating kits, binoculars, backpacks, pajamas, cupcake toppers, walkie-talkies, bed sheets, bike helmets, stickers, and, of course, doormats.
Anything Else I Should Know?
- We should briefly talk about the name of the show, which, in case anyone forgot, is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s ultimately not a big deal, as stupid titles are hardly exclusive to kids’ TV shows (R.I.P. Cougar Town, Selfie, and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!). Still, Friendship is Magic is definitely a lazy choice, as the entire underlying message of the show is explicitly stated right in the show’s title. In the grand scheme of things, not something to think twice about. Just silly enough that parents can chuckle about it during the opening credits.
- Speaking of the opening credits, the theme song is just a remix of the My Little Pony song everyone knows. Not going to suddenly make it any less annoying, but it’s harmless and most kids will like it fine.
- For the record, Rarity is the stand-out of the Mane Six. While the rest are aggressively nice archetypes, Rarity is fun because she’s a bit of a diva who will freak out on a friend for bailing on a spa day.
- Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t briefly address Brony culture. They’ve been mentioned in this article a few times, but for those that don’t know, Bronies are adults who have a deep devotion to My Little Pony, to the point where they have conventions and dress up in very elaborate costumes (sometimes as Nazis, which is a whole different and deeply disturbing thing). While the existence of this group may seem weird, they insist they are nothing more than “friendly teenagers and young adults who simply aren’t afraid to admit they enjoy a show which is innocent, colorful, and funny.” Cool. Way to live your truth, guys.