Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Brief Reflection on Why I Watch Little Girls' Cartoons

By now, I think I can say I'm an old hand at this.  I was watching and enjoying cartoons for little girls, including My Little Pony, and saying so in public, years before there was any such thing as a brony.  So to my fellow bronies who like to complain when people make fun of them, I say, suck it up, dude.  If you can't take a little razzing for watching girly cartoon shows, you're not man enough for this.

Fellow brony Nate Winchester has an interesting post on ponies over at his own blog.  I was pouting because Winchester wouldn't join me in trolling John C. Wright's blog by derailing the discussion of space princesses with a discussion of whether or not the pony princesses qualify as space princesses even though they are anatomically lacking in midriffs, but I'm over it now.  I've decided to love and tolerate him.  Both.  At the same time.  Though I'm still not sure how that works.

Anyhoo, Nate Winchester has an interesting post on his blog in which he responds to an article at Cracked.com, which makes fun of the original My Little Pony TV special from way back in the day, "Rescue at Midnight Castle."  I'd like to discuss the comments at Cracked and Winchester's response, and offer my own comments.

Here's the money quote:

While boys were taught that evil giant transforming robots could only be defeated with other giant transforming robots, girls were taught that evil could be defeated with the power of rainbows and flamboyant song and dance. Which one better prepared their audience for the real world? If you'd like to find out, go perform a choreographed song and dance number in the middle of the highway while a semi bares down on you. In your final moments of consciousness, imagine how much more terrifying this would all be if that semi was sentient.  [more . . .]

Winchester destroys this with one sentence:  "There is a rather persistent belief that girls shows can be… less than realistic (whereas boy shows have giant robots in them) when it comes to conflict resolution."  Got that?  Girls' shows are unrealistic, whereas boys' shows have giant robots.

After that, Winchester basically dismisses old Pony as "lame," and then I don't care what he says because nopony insults my G1 and gets away with it, and I mean nopony.  Now I'm pouting at him again.  I watched G1 as a seven-year-old boy because I was already in the habit of watching girls' cartoons even back then.  Also, I had a crush on Megan.  I mean, seriously, that girl's freaking awesome:  she gets kidnapped by a talking pony and taken away to fairyland, but then she's just like, "Yo, why don't I slay an evil centaur while I'm here?"

And that, by the way, is something Cracked misses in its discussion of "badass cartoon villains" defeated by "retarded heroes."  Tirek may have been bad-awesome, but Megan was more bad-awesome.  Also, she was armed with the Rainbow of Light, and as soon as she opened a can of that, Tirek was destined to taste the rainbow.

What I really want to say, though, is this:  There is a good reason why cartoons depict girls defeating evil by putting on pretty dresses and singing or ponies defeating evil with rainbows.  The author of Cracked says this isn't like the "real world," and he's right, but that's because there is something wrong with the real world, not because there is something wrong with the cartoon.  It is not to our credit that our evil is so deep and pervasive that it cannot be so easily vanquished as it can be in cartoon land.  Cartoons about ponies and rainbows and pretty dresses speak of something better than the world in which we currently live.  Stories of cutesy cartoon characters who can defeat fearsome villains may not match what we observe around us, but they match what we yearn for in our hearts.  To say it in a misleading fashion, they are more true than reality.  Ultimately, they breathe, however slightly, of Heaven, where all fears are ended and all tears wiped away.

Incidentally, it is my humble opinion that, however poor its writing and other production values may have been, this is one thing ye olde G1 ponies got right that the G4 ponies haven't really managed:  really nasty, scary villains for the goodness and light of the ponies to vanquish.  The G4 villains, what few there have been, are halfhearted pushovers compared to the creepy evildoers from the original.  G1 offered a stark contrast between good and evil with colorful ponies on one side and devil-like monstrosities on the other, but also threw in evildoers who could be redeemed.  It did a fine job of running the gamut on villains.

The attitude of Cracked is the same attitude that gives us "deconstructive" fiction, the juvenile brand of storytelling that pretends to be mature, which takes fantasy tropes, especially wholesome or innocent ones, and depicts them as they would be in the "real world," the unspoken assumption always being that the real world is a crapsack, and that all real people are, to a man, ignoble and base.  Deconstruction is an easy to trick to pull, requiring no talent in itself, and I suspect that's why it's popular.

In his "On Fairy-Stories," J. R. R. Tolkien talks about the claim that fairy-stories are "escapist."  He answers that they are:  but, usually, escape is viewed as something noble.  When people find themselves in a prison, they try to escape, but if they can't escape, they can't be expected to talk of nothing but their prison.  The article at Cracked would have us talk of nothing but the prison.
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