In my years since childhood I haven’t joined “fandom” of any series or game, even including this one – which is to say, I don’t identify with the “brony” subculture. I do, however, really enjoy the show – at least most of the episodes – and I have a sense for the qualities that make what I would consider an enjoyable episode. Yesterday I read a comment on this site praising the writers’ efforts to meet the collective will of the fan base and expressing optimism for the future of the series because of it. The user behind the post has been a long time member of the wiki and contributes reasonable content regularly across the site.
As one working in an industry where pushing the envelope is prized over current popular appeal, I try to study significant trends and follow – both backwards and forwards – their trajectory of success, as a way of learning to be hyper-‘fashion-forward’. Generally speaking, as a community grows, the needs of the group will by definition become more generic, more safe. A small group of people are much more likely to have more things in common than a large group of people, so a large group trying to act as one will almost certainly be on the “same page” with only the most fundamental needs.
The main reason why I don’t consider myself part of this show’s subculture is because I think my reasons for enjoying the show differ significantly enough from the reasons of most others in the community. When I began watching MLP:FiM a few months ago I immediately found that the writing and visual aesthetic mirrored the sort of facetiousness and clever absurdity that I’ve enjoyed since my youth, and which has been all but absent in the social circles I have access to. There is also a charm I find in the characteristics that underpin the series as a whole – behaviors that improve coordination with others, reigning in common vices, owning up to one’s mistakes, considering the feelings of others, recognizing your assumptions may be wrong – indeed the qualities that promote friendship. It is interesting to me that teaching such qualities is considered appropriate for a children’s show and embarrassingly quaint in any other situation. To me these are behaviors of one intellectually capable enough to acknowledge and unlearn self-destructive behaviors that tend to arise during one’s formative years. As far as I can tell from my social interactions in real life and on the internet, this intellectual capacity, beyond a fairly basic level, is not very common.
I credit the writers of the show for producing a TV series that demonstrates the qualities I’ve mentioned portrayed through a coherent and sometimes compelling story arc. I also credit the composer, Daniel Ingram, for reflecting the cleverness and innovation of the show in the music. I feel the vision of the original producers, like Lauren Faust, is what put me and this series on the same level initially; indeed I find that I enjoy more episodes in the first three seasons than the fourth and fifth, though some of my favorite episodes are in the later seasons.
The point of my monologue is this: I’m worried about the future of the show. As original inspiration runs dry, the gravitational force of the black hole that is social media may pull the writers off their gilded tracks into the safe, generic, dull territory I mentioned. One dread symptom that has reared its ugly head particularly in this last season is the presence of ‘memes’ – you know, the rotting pustules that crop up around intellectually stagnant forums, the things that by definition subvert no expectations but serve only to reference some cheap popular icon? With the push of companies to make the internet readily available to more, generally younger people, the social outlets of the internet are increasingly drowned out by people who simply haven’t had enough time in their life to experience quality productions. And when they speak out, they call for Uncrustables over the homemade rye.