Aug. 15th, 2012

doodlesthegreat: (Djinni)
Just this morning, someone online asked "Why My Little Pony? Why now?" and I was inspired to write the following in response:
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A lot of people have been talking about the quality of the show and the people committed to making it that way, and that's certainly the biggest factor. People wouldn't have stayed if the show was junk. But we've all seen quality programs wither and die on the vine because they never found an audience. In every success, there's things taking place that gives a show a chance to reach people and find an audience who will appreciate it and support it in numbers large enough to keep it going. So, external factors that effected the show:

1. When the TV shows and toy lines of the G3.5 series of MLP tanked so hard that you could hear the splat from across the planet, Hasbro was in desperate straits to revive a moribund brand that they had done so well with up to that point. This was why they were willing to take a chance on offering Lauren Faust rebooting the franchise. They had nowhere to go but up. This turned out to be fortuitous, since Faust had grown up on the original show and based her new series on those stories and fantasies she had as a child while playing with them. It was a case of the right person in the right place at the right time.

2. The Hub was a brand new network, recently recreated from the remnants of Discovery Kids. As is the case in all new media outlets, there is a struggle to find an identity that sets them apart and brings in viewers looking for unique new experiences. Such times are when risks are taken, gambles made, and ideas that would never get past the usual rigamarole of executive management have a chance to shine. In this case, a redesign of something most people had a firm image of in their mind's eye, and who might react even more negatively than they did when the 3.5 series were released. (There's a consensus that the G3.5 stuff wasn't really released. It escaped.)

3a. Sometimes some event takes place that focuses attention on your work without you doing anything. Some outside influence goes "LOOK AT DIS!!!!" for positive or negative reasons and you suddenly have far more attention that you had expected from people nobody ever planned on. In MLP's case, it started with this: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/the-end-of-the-creator-driven-era.html Amid's a decent enough fellow, but he can sometimes forget the forest for the trees. Read through the comments and you'll discover two types of responses (1) Pros bemoaning the fate of their art form [despite there now being more excellent indie work available then has ever existed previously] and (2) people just curious about what's going to happen.

3b. Among those in group (2) were the lovely folks over at 4chan's /b/ forum. You know 4chan. The place started by people so reprehensible that they got thrown out of Something Awful's forums. Source of or archivist for every fucked-up part of the Internet. For all your evil needs, it's one-stop shopping! And /b/ is the home of the most egregious of their clan, where trolling hasn't just become an art, it's a science. Well, they read the article above and started sharpening their knives, looking for a juicy target. But something very very very strange happened. I watched /b/ during this period, curious to see their reactions. At first, the threads were all "OMG WTF MLP" and the like. As is their wont, screen caps and image macros abounded, some insulting, some playful. The usual. But after the show's premiere, you started seeing comments like "Well, that wasn't that bad." and "I've seen a lot worse" and "I guess it's okay." By around the third week, there were comments like "That was funny!" and "Well, I guess I'll keep watching to see the collapse." By around week six, a lot of the posts were saying the same thing: "WHY CAN'T I STOP WATCHING THIS SHOW?" To see these world-weary, uber-ironic, ultra-antagonistic b-tards run head first into a show of such quality, with a message that was a) female positive and b) 100% sincere, and watch them become adoring fans was not unlike finding out that Osama Bin-Laden had a secret love of Rainbow Brite. You'd see other 4chan members sucked in as their fellows would ask them to just give it a look and if they don't like it that's fine. Only they'd love it and join the growing base. The herd, as it became called. 4chan is where the term 'brony' came from, and it was 4chan that took an animator's error and created one of the most beloved characters of the series, Ditzy "Derpy Hooves" Doo.

4. The Hub and Hasbro get mad props for reacting to this new fandom positively and actually reaching out to this unexpected groundswell instead of trying to crush it under the weight of lawyers. When people posted episodes online, they didn't try to quash it. As far as they were concerned, it was free advertising for the show, The Hub, and most important to a company like Hasbro, the toys. The response to the new stuff from the fans was as meteoric as the G3.5 was a crater. The stuff flew off the shelves, both into the intended audience of young girls and into this now burgeoning fanbase made up of young college-age males. It's safe to say that Hasbro has made enough just off their share of T-shirts to pay for the show a dozen times over. And the refrain from the Bronies was always "We love this and we want to support it, and we'll give you lots and lots of money if you just keep making new episodes! We'll even GIVE you new designs and ideas with no attempt at royalties!" The Hub, which was staffed with a hipper, younger crowd as new networks tend to do, took advantage of this by creating new promotional material that engaged adults as well as kids, such as the famous "BRIDLESMAIDS" billboard. It was a perfect storm of show, producers, and fans.

5. Last, but certainly not least, the show's staff has also embraced the fandom, overjoyed that their work is being appreciated by all ages and how their vision to produce a show that challenged the usual ideas of males and females look at themselves and each other. Thanks to the Internet, it's now possible to go to IMDB and find out everyone involved with a production, and the fans made sure to let them know they were appreciated. In turn, the cast and crew, led by voice actress Tara Strong, took to the Internet to graciously thank and engage Bronies intelligently and appreciatively. Faust herself declared her love for the Bronies when a commenter on her Deviant Art account derided them as a bunch of "man-children." It was more than they could have hoped for, and it still amazes them how things have turned out.

And that's how we got to this point, a world where Stephen Colbert "gives a shout out to his Bronies" and former President Bill Clinton gets asked a trivia question about it on an NPR show. Where a mythical royal wedding on a "kid's network" can draw better ratings across-the-board than most TV shows ever do.

And I wouldn't change it for the world. =};-3
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This codifies how I've felt about the phenomenon since it all started. As a long-time animation fan, I'm thrilled at seeing everyone on the show garnering long-overdue praise. As a human being, I'm overjoyed at how the show has sparked the long-needed debate over gender roles in society.

And as a furry and a brony, all I can say is 'yay!"

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November 2012

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