Friday, November 29, 2019

Green Phoenix - Remembering My Little Pony

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic logo - 2017.svgOn the 12th of October, 2019, the series finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic aired, ending a nine year run of the show. While this will most certainly not be the last we see of My Little Ponies on television, especially given the cultural presence and impact of the bronies, Generation 4 has come to an end.

With ten seasons, multiple television movies and spin-offs, online video shorts, two feature length films (one in production now), and millions upon millions of hours of fan-created content, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is leaving behind a magnificent cultural legacy, one that will likely go down on the level of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings on its cultural and fan impact.

With that in mind, and with my own membership within the Brony fandom, I felt that a wonderful tribute I could give to the show which has done so much for me would be to reminisce about the show, the fandom that was born from it, and the impact that My Little Pony had upon my life in general.

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What was My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

Assuming that anyone reading this has been living under a literal rock for the last decade or so and completely missed the massive cultural impact that My Little Pony has had on the wider world, I will explain the concept behind the show and its general impact.


Premiering on October 10, 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was the start of the fourth iteration (or Generation) of the famous Hasbro property, which was started back in the 1980s. The 4th Generation follows the adventures and life of Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn who has been instructed by her mentor, Princess Celestia, to write lessons on various aspects of friendship. She writes these lessons with the help of her friends throughout the town of Ponyville, whether they be personal relationship issues or dangerous monsters and adventures.

The first three seasons of the show explored this initial show concept by remaining largely slice of life, with the Season 3 finale concluding this era of the show by ascending Twilight Sparkle to the rank of Princess, turning her into a being on equal level of her mentor.

The following seasons each began to introduce concepts and characters that slightly modified the overall concept of the show, including the addition of additional protagonists, a school to teach a new generation of characters, and even season-spanning narratives; though the show (in my opinion) was never able to fully capitalize on this format due to its slice of life format.

Finally, after nine seasons and 222 episodes (not including shorts and films), the series came to an end; almost nine years to the day from its premiere.

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The Rise of Bronies

When My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic first premiered, I figure most tuned in with the memories of Generation 3.5 on the mind and wanted to laugh at another terrible iteration of the My Little Pony brand. After all, My Little Pony had been on television off-and-on for nearly thirty years by that point and never achieved the level of cultural ubiquity as something like Transformers or He-Man.

What they got was something altogether different.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was a smartly written, well-characterized and good-looking show that truly tried to break ground and treated its audience with a degree of maturity rarely seen in a show historically aimed at young children and girls. And that effort shown by the creators was recognized by the viewers, especially the older viewers who didn't fit into the "traditional" demographic for such a show.


These people were the first Bronies. At first, these Bronies were relatively quiet, sharing it with like-minded friends but avoiding the larger spectrum of cultural attention.

Then Season 2 started. In the season premiere of Season 2, My Little Pony introduced viewers to the character of Discord, voiced by John DeLancie to play a character who was essentially a child-friendly version of Q, DeLancie's role from Star Trek. Discord was a game-changer for the show and represented the beginning of a season that improved upon the first season in every way, and the world began to take notice.

One of the first big elements of the show came with the fan-created song "Discord" by The Living Tombstone. This song became a storm across YouTube and people really began to take notice of the Bronies. Conventions which had started off quietly grew in popularity, with BronyCon in Baltimore and TrotCon in Columbus (alongside Everfree Northwest and others) growing to become monumental conventions, rivaling some of the more mainstream conventions.

The Golden Age of Bronies had begun, and the wider world was taking notice. Many news outlets began to point their fingers at the Brony fandom, many to laugh, some to criticize, and very few to idolize and support. While attitudes would temper or flare depending upon the ascendant culture of the age, the Bronies had been borne and were here to stay.

Which is where I come into the story.


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My Experiences

My first experiences with the My Little Pony brand was, like most people my age, with Generation 3.5. Otherwise known as the baby-like nightmare fuel. As one can imagine, I didn't have a really high opinion of My Little Pony branded content, which was also tied to a phase in my life where I was still attached to traditional "masculine" roles; before I grew up.

My first experience with the new show came in October of 2012 when I happened across a video by one of my favorite countdown YouTubers. The Fiery Joker, also known as Joshscorcher, released a review of the episode "Dragonshy". I decided to watch the video because I thought it might be a funny take-down of a terrible show. As the video played, I realized that Josh was earnest in his compliments of the show and, even more shocking, I really liked what I saw as well.


I wasn't going to watch it though. I didn't want my family knowing I was looking into the show. Then a few days later, I am meeting up with a friend and notice that he has a Fluttershy sticker on his laptop and, now thoroughly confused, asked him about the show. He went into the basic premise, why he enjoyed it, and told me that I could watch episodes online.

Image result for the brony critic
The Brony Critic
I decided to watch the first three episodes, to give the show a chance to impress me. Two days later, having binge watched the first two seasons, discovered dozens of amazing fan created content, and anxiously awaiting the release of Season 3 in November 2012; I had become a fully converted Brony.

I grew obsessed with the show and especially the fan content. I soon joined my college's Brony club, attended my first Brony convention when I went to TrotCon 2013. It was at TrotCon 2013 that the idea of The Brony Critic was born and from that moment, my world has never been the same. I have become  a routine panelist and guest at TrotCon, filled rooms at BronyCon, and just recently reached over 300 subscribers on my The Brony Critic YouTube page.

And even as the show comes to an end, The Brony Critic will live on. Because every fandom needs a critic.

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Conclusion

The story isn't over, there will be more My Little Pony. Generation 5 was announced even before Generation 4. And of course we have My Little Pony: Pony Life, which is...something at least.

But with this era completed and the Mane 6's story told, its time to reflect on the incredible moments that the Brony community has shared with each other. The stories we've told and made together. The friendships we've made along the way and the help we've given as a community to others proves to me that this fandom will have the lasting power of any of the greats
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While BronyCon finished this year, conventions will still be in existence (be sure to visit TrotCon in Columbus next year, I will be there!) and the fans will continue to create new content.

And when Generation 5 hits television, I have no doubt that the process will begin all over again. A whole new timeline and pony universe for us to explore and experience. I can already see the fanfiction of alternate universes sprouting up.

This chapter may be over, but the story it belongs to shall never truly end.

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NOTE: I would like to thank you all for reading my articles. I will be taking the rest of December off, alongside many of the other Emerald Rangers contributors.

I will have a Christmas-oriented review released on the 27th of December for your enjoyment pleasure. I will be back to the regular schedule on the first Friday of January.

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