So in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across a couple of different comments along very similar lines that express a view about Friendship is Magic that bothers me a little. Now, I’m not sure whether this was just a weird coincidence or if these comments are indicative of a larger train of thought, but if it’s the latter, I want to see if I can get ahead of this. So at the risk of attacking a straw man, let me lay this out.
In both cases, what happened was that someone referred to Friendship is Magic as children’s entertainment or as a show for little girls (and not in a negative sense, it must be pointed out; let me make it very clear that there’s no way it could have been misunderstood as attacking the show), then received a rebuttal from someone stating that Friendship is Magic wasn’t a show for little girls or a show for kids, but “family entertainment” or “a show for everyone.”
Now, at first I just chalked this up as a slightly annoying semantic argument. My response, had I written one, would have been something along the lines of, “Yeah yeah, it’s a show that appeals to a broad demographic, right right right, but you know what I mean. It’s targeted at little girls. But whatever.”
And I would have forgotten about it, had I not read this claim in the second instance of this argument:
Indeed, Laurin (sic) explicitly stated that MLP FIM was NOT for little girls, but rather was intended for all ages.
"I've always looked at my work feeling like I was trying to make stuff for girls," says animator Lauren Faust, "and then accidentally getting guys interested as well."
To look at the quality of most girls’ cartoons, it would seem that not one artist really cared about them. Not one designer, not one background painter, not one animator. […] In short, animated shows for little girls come across as boring. Stupid. Lame.
This perception, more than anything, is what I am trying to change with My Little Pony.
Not to make Lauren Faust the be-all, end-all of arguments related to the show, but my impression – which was reinforced by re-reading these articles – has always been that Lauren Faust set out to create a cartoon geared for girls, but that would hopefully appeal to a broader demographic as well. And in that, I think she obviously succeeded.
In my mind (and this is purely personal opinion), just because children’s entertainment appeals to a broader age range doesn’t mean it stops being children’s entertainment. It’s just a better example of children’s entertainment.
Now, if the argument being presented in these “it’s a show for everyone” comments was something along the lines of, “Entertainment is entertainment; let’s just like what we like and stop trying to classify everything,” then I wouldn’t have any problem with it. That sounds awesome! Instead of constantly trying to stick this thing in that box and that thing in this box, we could stop having these semantic arguments trying to draw a line between “boys” and “girls” entertainment or “children’s” and “general” entertainment and just agree to enjoy what we enjoy. But that’s not what these commenters are suggesting; in both instances, what they were suggesting is that there’s some clear delineation between “children’s/girl’s entertainment” and whatever Friendship is Magic is.
And this is why it bothers me, and why I’m bothering to write this post. Because it feels like a backhanded, roundabout way of saying, “A show for little girls? Ha, I don’t watch those! That’d be crazy, because those are lame!” I doubt that’s what these commenters intended, but it doesn’t look great if a brony is so quick to say, “Oh no no no, you misunderstand. I don’t watch a show for little girls.” Which, in spirit, seems to be kind of the opposite of what Lauren Faust was hoping for.
Call the show what you will, but what I fear is that this sort of semantic sparring, this line drawn between “little girl” things and “everyone” things, does no good for bronies or girls’ entertainment in the long run. Maybe I’m overreacting (scratch that; I know I’m overreacting), but that’s my feeling on it. Friendship is Magic is indeed a show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but can we avoid going into a defensive stance whenever someone says we watch a show for little girls? To claim otherwise just makes it look like we’re in denial, while also subtly putting down a whole host of other "little girl" things that might have entertainment and artistic merit that we haven't discovered yet.