Unicorn Ethics: A Fragment on My Little Pony

It is the job of fusty, addlebrained academic sorts to take things we all enjoy and take for granted, and then dissect it with the ponderous seriousness of a graying doyen of our particular art. Especially in the social sciences. Teasing out social messages, identifying wider imbricating discourses, and seeing patterns with relation to the media is usually a sombre affair filled with sad news. This is how this movie reinforces patriarchy, this is how this television show transmits transphobic messages, this is how our media is coarsening social attitudes, this is how this commercial is making us hate our bodies, and so on and so on. It is a rare, rare joy indeed when I get to turn my critical eye towards explaining how something in the media is positive in its influence on our society.

When a good friend of mine nudged me into watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic I internally scoffed. It sounded cute, and nothing was wrong with cute, but I’m a woman in her 20s, jet setting and on the go, kicking patriarchy’s ass and sipping skinny lattes while jogging between classes and speaking engagements. What use did I have for girl’s television anyway? What’s more, it was probably the usual problematic pap encouraging girls to be docile, quiet, restrained and feminine in a deeply unnerving way, another Cult of Pink devoid of all that can be good about growing up.

To say that I was dead wrong on all counts is an understatement.

The Sociologist as Children’s Hero?

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began to arrest me when I realised that the main character was a bookwormish unicorn named Twilight Sparkle who was a serious minded, organised, knowledgeable student with a profound magical talent, proud of her tutelage under Princess Celestia– the benevolent ruler of Equestria– who’s known far more for her wisdom than her beauty it seems. The pilot episode finds Twilight learning several lessons that I would not only feel comfortable with my future daughters learning, but I’d actually fall over myself to get them into this programme. Twilight had to learn the power of friendship, yes, a rather old and clichéd concept in children’s programming. But what sets MLP apart is both how this was done and with whom it was done.

Twilight Sparkle expressing pony values.

Twilight Sparkle is sent to Ponyville by Celestia to make friends as Celestia worries for her star pupil’s social skills. But the plot does not revolve around Twilight dulling her intellect to become a social butterfly; far from it she learns her to use her talents relationally, as a member of a diverse group of ponies who all have distinct skills. She learns a group ethic; teamwork, in other words. One of the show’s most heartwarming messages is that you cannot always do great things alone; this message is a beautiful, at times subtle, contradiction of the selfish ethic of heroic individualism that has become like a cancer on our society. It is not just a paean in one episode, but rather a theme underlying every single one. It is the language through which the programme is expressed.

In all of this, Twilight’s skills and intellectual acumen are not blunted but become essential to her friendships. Her friends love her for who she is and are proud to know the “smartest Pony in Ponyville.”

I rather love Twilight Sparkle—when having her first slumber party she used a reference book on the subject to help her organise it. She is portrayed as an intellectual, she always lives somewhere surrounded by books—I envy her library. She is readily portrayed as a capable leader, a (community?) organiser, and maven of the world’s lore always ready to teach the ponies some esoteric fact. But perhaps the bit that really melted my heart was that Princess Celestia told Twilight to deliver a report about friendship every week, relaying her “findings.”

That’s right, Twilight Sparkle is a budding sociologist. I was sold.

Meet the Ponies

“Sold” is, perhaps, a very apt term. The entire programme is a gigantic advertising vehicle for Hasbro’s line of toys. This made me uncomfortable with both watching it and writing this piece. I do not like shilling for corporations, to be quite sure. But this show, I felt, was so good in terms of its messages that it warranted comment from me. People are watching it, liking it, and given its communalist, empathetic, and even feminist messages, I think this is fundamentally a good thing, irrespective of Hasbro’s profits.

Twilight’s friends present young girls with a range of character archetypes, none of them evoking what sociologist Raewyn Connell called ‘emphasised femininity.’ Emphasised femininity is particularly that dominant form of femininity oriented particularly to the interests of men, a femininity that reproduces women’s subordination to them. While some of the ponies are “girly” none are in any sense subordinate.  Pinky Pie is perhaps the most girly of the lot, with her giggles and pink, bouncy, almost maddeningly ebullient character. But she is more complex than she first appears, her quirkiness and oft-remarked-upon randomness actually seem to hint at the fact that she thinks differently. Indeed, she saves the day more than once.

Rarity is another pony, a unicorn, who seems at first blush to be a stereotype. She is the beauty queen of the lot, preening her appearance and so forth. But she owns her own business, a boutique where she plies her passionately pursued trade of clothesmaking. What’s more she is not purely vain, but rather someone who—in my view—appreciates beauty and elegance. She presents an image of glamour without the objectifying restraint that normally accrues to that image. When her love of beauty gets in the way, it’s the other women who talk her out of it and teach her to be less self-absorbed.

The other ponies are all, in various ways, athletic, rough and tumble, hardheaded and practical. Rainbow Dash’s strengths lie in her physical abilities as a flying pony, and her job—clearing the sky and helping to change the weather—is avowedly physical. Her distaste for and outright contempt for femininity is a marked part of her character. The same can be said for Applejack, who speaks with a Southern twang and runs a farm. She does a roaring trade selling apples and apple products, and is also unafraid of getting her hands…er… hooves dirty.

Fluttershy is the final pony. Her quietude and motherliness is also a feminine stereotype but she is, in my view, handled very well. She is given opportunities to overcome her meekness, find strength to raise her voice and her fists… er… hooves, and to learn more about herself over the course of the programme.

The point of the foregoing is to suggest that we are presented with various modes of gendered expression here, with Applejack and Rainbow in particular drifting far away from the various tropes of femininity. Far from being snapped out of it, they remain powerful characters in their own right.

Community, Diversity, and Pony Equality

Throughout the programme there are numerous little things that one notices which are of interest. All authority figures are women, ponies (the vast majority of whom are female) are shown as being capable of all manner of jobs—whether typed masculine or feminine. An entire episode revolves around the virtues and pitfalls of scientific empiricism. Unicorns can, apparently, specialise their magic in subjects like math.  All of the characters themselves, what’s more, are both flawed and funny. This is crucial; patriarchal media usually denies women the personhood that would enable us to be represented as flawed human beings and/or comical characters.

Some male characters in the programme, like Spike, Twilight’s baby dragon assistant and secretary, are shown to actually enjoy things that are typed as feminine. Rarity saves the day by using her skills to help a male river serpent who was rather proud of his hair, for example.

These are by no means indications that the show is perfect. It can certainly be picked apart with a finer toothcomb than I freely admit I’m using at the moment. However, it is my feeling that in general this programme presents a rather positive series of images for young women. This is a world that is made up almost exclusively of women characters who are in no way defined relationally to men, motivated by them, or otherwise orbiting them. Their goals are often noble and relating to hard, important, and often physical labour. Each pony uses her various skills to help the group, or help the wider community. Major events are shown as communal affairs where everypony (yes I used that word) does her part. The whole of Ponyville comes together for events like changing the seasons, which is something done manually in this intriguing fantasy world.

Understanding the feelings of others is part of the show’s empathetic marrow; but so is not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the needs of others. One of the historic problems we as women have faced is that, unlike men, we are called on to care for others but always at our expense if necessary. We are not, as sociologist Carol Gilligan pointed out, often empowered to include ourselves in the universe of needs we must tend to. In MLP, by contrast, navigating the balance between one’s own needs (self-care) and the needs of others is important. It is learning to achieve this balance that Gilligan identifies as the road to maturity for those women who think in relational ways.[1] Presenting it to young girls can only be good for their self definition.

One interesting example of this balance is how Twilight Sparkle, as a powerful mage and otherwise brilliant pony, learns how to show off her talents and take pride in them without being unkind to others in the process. Rather than teaching girls to be silent and bashful about their skills, the programme shows that there is a middle path—complicated but navigable—to showing the world what they can do with pride and dignity.

The fluffy messages of peace, love and understanding are sappy and cheesy… and yet I love them to bits. It actually made me feel quite good to realise that I’d not become so jaded that I couldn’t dance along to the show’s jaunty theme song. This is not a perfect show by any means, but it constitutes what I feel is a very good start to producing less problematic television. Perhaps the worst moment for me was when Rarity fantasised about marrying one of the few male ponies we see in the show. This was more than a little eyeroll inducing, and a none too subtle reminder that the only permissible sexuality is heterosexuality. But the show remains largely free of men inhibiting the mass of women ponies, and their goals and desires have much more to do with their individual talents than with achieving something for or otherwise in relation to a male character.

The range of archetypes presented to young girls is very important here. The fact that I found myself in Twilight Sparkle, even as a radical feminist, is perhaps very telling. I would certainly not go so far as to say that there is a pony for every personality here, but it should not be difficult for a range of girls to see bits of themselves in each. There’s ample room for the girl who won’t be quiet and is more comfortable climbing trees than playing with Barbie dolls. But crucially, the spread of characters accommodates the many girls who are comfortable doing both. It shows that there need not be a tension between what is socially typed as masculine and feminine, that you can pick and choose what you want to do and who you want to be based on your own desires and feelings, and not just on whether something is correctly gender-typed.

Is friendship magic? I… am going to have to say, in my professional opinion, that… yes, it is.


Hasbro’s marketing strategy with regards to My Little Pony, as well as the unexpected surprise that came in the form of young het men enjoying the show, are discussed beautifully and engagingly by web designer and marketer Sabrina Dent on her blog here. The lecture is worth watching and is quite funny.

I also very much encourage my readers to see what Lauren Faust herself, the creator of this reboot of MLP, had to say about her show on the Ms. Magazine Blog. It is indeed very heartening to learn she’s a feminist and that I read her intent so well (I’d not seen this piece until after I published today’s blog post).

[1] It is very much worth emphasising here that Gilligan is not, as some have wrongly accused her of being, an essentialist feminist. This implies that she believed women were born with a certain innate ‘essence’ that predisposed us to certain behaviours or ideals; to put it very briefly, that is not what she said. Her argument was that in broad terms due to a confluence of socialization and women’s negotiation with the reality in which most of us live, we develop a certain ethic that is less common among men. It is this social fact to which I refer when I speak of “women who think in relational ways.” As a trans woman I myself have found myself absorbed in that ethic, even when I was very young. It was never easy for me to put myself first, it was never easy to prevent my empathy from getting the best of me, it was always a struggle to accept that I also had needs. I will not speculate here on the vicissitudes of this for trans girls in particular, but for now it is enough to say that it is real, it is largely a product of socialization and culture, and that maturing under these conditions requires one to learn how to accept one’s own needs as equally worthy of consideration and validity.

21 thoughts on “Unicorn Ethics: A Fragment on My Little Pony

  1. Kaarel Jakobson June 27, 2011 / 5:58 pm

    There is a point on which I disagree with you: I don’t think it’s necessary to exclude male characters to portray a society where women are self-determining. In fact, I think it would perhaps be ultimately healthier to show a natural, equal society than a world where women can do anything only because men aren’t there to do it. The show’s creator has in fact remarked that she would have preferred to have more male background ponies if she had been allowed to. The buffalo chief and the wild west sheriff in one episode were men, for instance, so it’s not like ALL authority figures in the series are female.

    Rarity’s crush on that prince is a very minor thing and not something that defines her; that’s the only real danger of giving her a love interest (if you want to call him that). I don’t think it diminishes her in the least. The situation’s not much different from Spike’s puppy love towards Rarity herself. While it’s probably true that the show couldn’t get away with showing a similar non-heterosexual attraction, it seems rather extreme to me to call it some kind of absolute determiner of permissible sexuality. Considering the show’s focus on exploring interpersonal relationships, I don’t see anything wrong with including some minor romantic elements.

    Anyway, I’ve been waiting for someone to examine the show from this angle, and found your article very interesting and agreeable.

    By the way, have you read this essay by the (now former) showrunner?
    It lays out MLP:FiM’s feminist intent rather clearly. I think it works very well in that regard.

    • Quinnae Moongazer June 27, 2011 / 6:34 pm

      First of all, thank you so very much for that link. It was very pleasing to see that I’d read Ms. Faust’s intent correctly.

      Secondly, I was not suggesting that it is necessary to exclude male characters to portray self determining women, but I can see how my argument might have muddled up a bit there so I apologise for a lapse in clarity. Books like Amanda Downum’s The Drowning City and The Bone Palace are good examples of worlds where men and women are portrayed as equally human while being equally numerous (for lack of a better way of phrasing that :P), and I’m quite an advocate of such portrayals.

      The buffalo chief and the wild west sheriff in one episode were men, for instance, so it’s not like ALL authority figures in the series are female.

      I’d not gotten to those episodes yet (I’m halfway through the first season). So, thanks.

      Rarity’s crush on that prince is a very minor thing and not something that defines her; that’s the only real danger of giving her a love interest (if you want to call him that). I don’t think it diminishes her in the least. The situation’s not much different from Spike’s puppy love towards Rarity herself.

      It’s not an especially big thing in the programme, no, but I felt obliged to mention it. When I do media crit I do need to point out what I perceive to be flaws, however minor. Especially considering that MLP is, fundamentally, an advert I feel particularly obligated to ensure that I mention even the tiniest bothersome thing and give it some space. I don’t see it as extreme to suggest that the show is participating in a winnowing of sexuality (this is not Lauren Faust’s fault; as a feminist I’m sure she’s also very much on board with LGBTQ rights) as I do clearly remember as a child that I did not know being a woman was possible or that being queer was possible. Nothing on TV helped much with that. So, if it sounds extreme that’s because even little omissions like that can sometimes have profound effects on a child who will grow up trans and/or queer. It’s not so extreme to us, just how things looked to us. Those absences, from the perspective of someone who isn’t in a position to know better, are indeed foreclosures of possibility.

      You can certainly tell from the rest of my piece that I’ve little but love for those ponies. I enjoy the show immensely and, as I say, I think it’s very much a good thing. =) So it is not my intent for those two criticisms to cast a pall over all of MLP. I am trying to keep the critiques relevant to wider social issues, just as my *praise* for the programme is. But do I still manage to curl up at night and just lose myself in Equestria? Yes. 😉

      Also, once more, cheers for that link, it was very useful! And “former” show-runner? Oh dear… I really hope MLP stays steady. I really like Lauren Faust’s philosophy on programming.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Bryan June 28, 2011 / 1:50 am

        Oh, if you’re only halfway through you might be pleased to hear that Rarity’s stereotypical crush on the nameless prince is revisited and thoroughly deconstructed in the final episode of the first season. I won’t spoil the details. 🙂

        Also, although Lauren Faust is reducing her direct involvement in the show, she still participated in the scriptwriting process for season 2 and the rest of the creative staff is staying on. She’s made it clear that the show is a group effort so I’m not too concerned about the show’s future just yet. Some of the other members of the show’s staff have done interviews and interacted with the fan community and it certainly appears that everyone over there is really dedicated to producing the best show they can.

        • Quinnae Moongazer June 28, 2011 / 7:28 am

          I’ve had a lot of people tell me about this, so I’m awaiting the season finale with baited breath!

          Cheers for commenting. 🙂

  2. Adrian Forest June 27, 2011 / 9:26 pm

    I’m thrilled to see this show get more critical attention. I’ve been finding the periphery demographic’s fandom fascinating (and attempting to document some of it on my Tumblr blog), primarily because of their complex relationship to the gender roles implied by the MLP brand, as well as their taking for granted that the show is something they’re entitled to remix and otherwise participate in a two-way relationship with. I’m a big fan of the show, but I’m also a big fan of the fandom.

  3. Chris June 27, 2011 / 11:57 pm

    I’ve been casually reading this blog for awhile now (linked in from Borderhouse), although this is the first time I’ve actually commented.

    When I first heard about the My Little Pony reboot getting a ton of attention, I honestly couldn’t figure out if it was some sort of ironic thing or if it was actually good. Now though, I’m starting to see just -why- it is so popular. While I haven’t started watching yet, it’s on my list. If nothing else, the animation looks damn good… and I have a total soft spot for cute things, so there’s that.

    Also, the article itself was fantastic. Keep it up!

  4. DeftFunk June 28, 2011 / 7:25 am

    OHOHOHOHOHOHO! Just wait until you see episode 26 where Rarity actually meets this love interest of hers.

    That’s not a spoiler by the way, the first line of the episode is “The Grand Galloping Gala is tonight!”

  5. aqouli June 28, 2011 / 7:43 am

    The subplot about Rarity’s “prince” is eventually addressed – and it’s honestly one of Rarity’s better moments, and one of the most feminist moments of the entire show. I won’t spoil it.

    I’ve been waiting for someone to write up something like this – it’s half the reason why the show cheers me up so much, and it’s an angle that isn’t approached often by the male adult demographic the show seems to attract. Very nicely done.

  6. Church June 28, 2011 / 10:20 am

    I’d like to see your perspective after you finish the season. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie are all fleshed out a bit more towards the end.

  7. Nissl June 28, 2011 / 3:17 pm

    Very nice writeup! You said so many things I was thinking about this show but did not have the ability to write out in depth. I actually emailed a few other feminist blogs to see if they would investigate and comment on the radical departure marked by this show but did not receive a response. This is the first show in a long time that I actively want my nieces and nephews to watch due to the intelligence and depth of the characters and story. I am not quite sure how to go about persuading their parents because the previous versions (especially the recent reboots) were so painfully dumb and run through such a heavy gender filter.

    Of course the other interesting gender issue raised by the show is the emerging debate over teen and adult hetero men liking it for non-ironic, non-sexual reasons. Perhaps the most depressing forum posts I have seen while studying this phenomenon are from men who suspect they would probably like the show based on the animation quality and the creative team behind it, but refuse to let themselves watch it because of the perceived social penalties for doing so. I have started to advocate fairly passionately for this show because I am hopeful that in the long run it will prove quite corrosive to ossified, constricting male gender roles.

  8. nemryn June 29, 2011 / 3:32 pm

    There aren’t any noticeable homosexual relationships in the canon, true, but the fans have decided that Lyra and Bon-Bon, a pair of background ponies, are a lesbian couple. There are a looooot of lesbian couples in fanfics and such.

  9. Mitch June 30, 2011 / 10:28 am

    You absolutely must write a follow up when you finish watching the first season.

    This show demonstrates beyond doubt that there is indeed a market for shows that are positive and feminist.

  10. Frenchi June 30, 2011 / 3:23 pm

    Although I know it would probably never happen, I would actually really like to see this show address issues of sexuality. It’s a show about friendship, so it wouldn’t be COMPLETELY off the wall to approach issues such as acceptance, questioning and understanding. I realize that, because it’s a show mainly for kids, such a thing will never actually be addressed, but still… I wish it would. That would make for a good episode, as long as it’s handled delicately, I think, and would probably leave Twilight with a very enlightening friendship report.

  11. Kueh July 5, 2011 / 8:44 am

    I’ve now watched all of MLP 🙂 ITS GREAT! Thanks for the introduction.

  12. boxfish July 11, 2011 / 11:29 am

    Great post. I’ve seen all of the first season and although in general I like it for the reasons you describe, there is some stuff to do with race I found pretty problematic – specifically the episode with Zecora, and the Wild West episode. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on this when you’ve watched more.

    • evie September 16, 2011 / 7:53 am

      Yeh, that’s an excellent white feminist analysis, but I would change the statement ‘in general this programme presents a rather positive series of images for young women’ to ‘in general this programme presents a rather positive series of images for white young women.’

      Also, teaching co-operation, empathy etc to girls is great, but where’s the self-reliance, individual genius etc? Society already teaches girls those feminised traits of co-operation etc, and when its paired as it is here with very girly characters it seems to be adding to the ‘this is how to be a woman’ script.

      (I call them very girly because that’s how they seem to me. Yes Rainbow’s a bit butch, but they all have mannerisms, voices, gaits, bodies etc that I would put under the emphasised femininity umbrella. But maybe that’s a UK/US thing, I dunno.)

      • Quinnae Moongazer September 16, 2011 / 10:28 am

        Evie, thank you for replying.

        It is certainly true that regardless of one’s actual race one may still speak from a perspective that is much more friendly to hegemony than not, the white lens that some activists speak of; this is very important to keep in mind as a reminder of why and how people of colour can be racist.

        All of this said, I think that the fact that I’m Latina has some bearing on the matter. As a young trans girl growing up I’d have loved very much to see a programme like this. I still have much writing to do on the self-hate I’m still trying to free myself from, growing up surrounded by images of white people as “the norm”– it is an indescribable pain. There can be no doubt that a penetrating and critical analysis of MLP will demonstrate that the main cast of ponies are intended to be European-cultured and, if they were to have a human race, white. This is underscored by the creation of cultural others in the form of Zecora (white-lens Africana) and the buffalo in the Wild West episode (white-lens Native American/First Nations people).

        But as a young trans girl of colour, I had to navigate things all the same; even things that were imperfect with regards to their portrayals of anything or anyone still had the ability to lend me some strength and inspiration (Star Trek: Voyager, for example). Even if something is problematic, there are almost always parts of it that are salvageable and useful. There would’ve been much that is useful in this show for me. I do think that Zecora and the Buffalo, as the product of well-intentioned white liberalism gone awry (as always), are certainly problematic and may well give pause, perhaps, to an African, West Indian, or Native American child who suddenly feels “Oh, that’s what they think of *me*”- I did not write about this at first because I didn’t get to that point in the series when I penned this article.

        I still feel, however, that it is inaccurate and erasing to say that this show only works or is only positive for white girls. All my life I’ve had to walk a tightrope between acculturated whiteness and my Puerto Rican heritage, history, and identity- while I’ve longed for brown sisters to star as prominently as my white ones, I still managed to find more comfort than I expected in that same biased media. That’s a complicated story, perhaps a complicated story only a woman of colour who’s lived in this world, rather than a white woman speaking for her, can tell. It isn’t easy. It’s that tension of walking down several roads at once, that sense of two-mindedness every time I see yet another poster for a new TV show staring a (white) woman. Yay, a woman! But still no trans sister… no brown sister.

        Do I have a perfect answer for how to deal with this? How to navigate this and confront this? No. I don’t. Not even up to saying ‘boycott this show’ because I’m not about to be the one to say to a trans/Latina sister “you shouldn’t get anything out of this, this is only for white ladies.” Who the hell am I? Even if that’s the intent of the authors, subconscious as it so often is, subversion necessarily takes paths that are unworn, new, and unexpected. And when you’re outside of the norm, as I am in some fundamental ways, subversion has to become a treasured skill.

        Is it possible for me to wish Captain Janeway or someone like her, might’ve been brown, while still finding tremendous value in Janeway having existed as she was? Yes, actually, those thoughts exist simultaneously, and despite the white-normativity this Latina still took a lot away from that show.

        Finally, I have seen some of the copious fan art for this programme and I’ve been grinning like a loon to find that a lot of people have rendered Twilight Sparkle with brown skin. I think this says something quite significant.

        I hope I’ve given you some insight into my thought process here.

        To address your other point, that of emphasised femininity, I would say this:

        The programme, in my view, hits a perfect balance between individual genius and collective action. By the way, as a feminist and as, ostensibly, an anti-racist activist you should be well versed in the deep, deep misuse of the politics of individualism and self-uber-alles. It was one of the reasons I found this show fascinating, because frankly this *isn’t* something I see emphasised very often. Instead we are surrounded by masculinist super-individual narratives: the grand hero saving the day, depending on no one but themselves. That isn’t how reality works for anyone of any gender. That said, each pony has her distinct talents that are quite clear, each is able to do something the others can’t, and do it quite well. Twilight Sparkle *is* a genius, I think it’s quite clear. And it is distinctly her own, none of the other ponies seem to match her intellect.

        As to the issues of femininity, in my view- if you define emphasised femininity as femininity acculturated to put one in the service of men- each pony breaks that stereotype in some way. Rarity is a fashionista, yet she owns her own shop and all of her labour and doesn’t wait for anyone to save her, for instance. Their femininities do not exist in relation to men, nor ease their service to men. They do not serve men, period.

        Thank you for being so thought-provoking and take care.

        • evie September 22, 2011 / 6:45 am

          Thanks for such a long and considered response! Thank you for starting to tell that ‘complicated story’ that we really need to tell. I’m sorry that I assumed that you were white (internalised racism, please bugger off) – it hurts me when people do it to me, so really sorry.

          Similarly, as a non-white girl growing up in a racist country, I took things where I could, identifying with white characters etc and it was (is!) a pain. I learned to hide, negate and be ashamed of my non-whiteness, for lots of reasons, but not having any role models on TV etc doubtlessly contributed.

          I remember vividly the huge affection I had for Jasmine from Aladdin, being the only non-white character I’d seen who was a goody and got the guy in the end. And ok, so she’s still pretty pale, so she didn’t help with the whole ‘in order to be beautiful I must be paler” thing, but hell, just her having black hair and brown eyes was powerful for me. (Watching it again recently I realise that the film is as racist as fuck in lots of ways that I totally didn’t spot at the time, but which I’m sure impacted me.)

          So I can really understand your affection for this series, and how you take a lot from it, in spite of its racefails. I guess what I’m trying to say is that although the ponies can be taken as positive role models by kids of all races, this is only completely unalloyed for the white ones. For everyone else, while we can gain lots, there’s always going to be that slight dissonance of, ‘but I’m not *really* like them’, even if that’s only a fully conscious thought years later.

          Is that more fair?

          As for the co-operation/individual genius thing, I think maybe that’s just a difference – I think I *was* surrounded my messages about empathy and co-operation as a kid, but that could either be about where we grew up, or because my parents were ageing hippies who encouraged co-operative (rather than competitive) games, and so probably similarly filtered media a bit. So when the girls I saw weren’t being rescued by the heroes, they were being taught to play nicely with their friends and get along, love and tolerance etc.

  13. Hypatia August 15, 2011 / 12:13 pm

    “I rather love Twilight Sparkle—when having her first slumber party she used a reference book on the subject to help her organise it. She is portrayed as an intellectual, she always lives somewhere surrounded by books—I envy her library.”

    Interesting contrast with the Big Bang Theory. The character Amy Farrah Fowler is a hyperintellectual, asexual, asocial woman who wants to become one of the girls. So she looks up instructions on how to throw a pajama party for girls and how to make girl-talk. She annoys the women she invites by going about it so clumsily and non-instinctually, having missed girl-socialization when she was growing up and trying to learn it all from written instructions. This is totally satire played for laughs.

  14. Adriana September 21, 2014 / 12:00 am

    Well, firts: I know you wrote this in 2011, but I felt compelled to leave a comment.
    I rarely read a random post on a semi-random topic, that I liked as much as this one that you wrote here. I strongly agree on how you look at the show… and by the way: I am also just about to become a sociologist, so… Hoof-bump!

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