". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Coaly-Bay, The Black Stallion vs. My Little Pony

There are so many pop culture obsessions and interests about not only am I entirely ignorant, but don't even know exist.  Here is another one, "My Little Pony."  Is my ignorance due to not having little kids of my own and / or not having grown up on television? Our rural community's households didn't get connected for television until I was about eleven. As well, during summers the television frequently quit on us, and my parents refused to get it repaired until after school resumed.

I spent part of this morning in bemused reading of this essay in New York Magazine, by Lisa Miller: "How My Little Pony Became a Cult for Grown Men and Preteen Girls Alike."  It's very long by NY Mag's standard. 

A pull from the essay:

If you’ve heard of My Little Pony, you’ve probably also heard about “Bronies,” the zealous (and somewhat suspect) brotherhood of adult male fans. But to focus too closely on the Brony phenomenon is to wade in shallow water and pretend to know the ocean. My Little Pony is a worldview, and a way of life, for millions of non-creepy people who find the show entertaining and amusing, yes, but who also say it provides them with the personal guidance, moral ­lessons, and comforting perspective that previous generations used to find in places like church. Fans refer to the show itself — 91 episodes in four seasons, with a fifth to come in 2015 — as “the canon,” and over at Equestria Daily, the largest fan site, they participate in something like midrash, avidly hashing over references, meanings, and inconsistencies. But there’s also a whole world of apocrypha — art, video games, music, T-shirts, and fiction — created by fans and based loosely on the canon but jumping off in unorthodox directions. It’s not unusual to find online Pony versions of other cults: Super Mario Pony, Minecraft Pony, Dr. Who Pony, and, my favorite, My Little Game of Thronies.

This is what in the essay really grabbed me, and kept me reading to the end:

. . . . In the final moments of the premiere, Twilight’s glittering anime eyes widen as she realizes that the Elements of Harmony are right by her side, the five flesh-and-blood friends she has made with her mentor Celestia’s help. Applejack represents honesty; Rarity, generosity; Flutteryshy, kindness; Rainbow Dash, loyalty; and Pinkie Pie, laughter. Twilight herself possesses the magic that binds them together. In Equestria, this friendship is a superpower; it safeguards the world. And it is a superpower wielded entirely by females.

My daughter noticed when she was approximately 3 that adventure stories were for boys. Magical powers are bestowed upon certain special, deserving boys — Peter Pan, Peter Parker, Harry Potter — while other boys (Luke Skywalker, King Arthur, the boy-esque Bagginses) inherit potent tools that aid them in their fight for right. Some boy-heroes work alone (Superman, Spider-Man), others in teams (X-Men, Avengers); the girls, if they’re there at all, feel obligatory, ancillary, like sidekicks. But Lauren Faust’s career tracks closely with a sea change in entertainment for girls, starting with the makeover of the movie princess, who no longer cools her heels, locked up or asleep, as she attends to her prince, but outfights and outshoots her brothers (Brave), defies convention (Maleficent), heals the sick (Tangled), and copes with the existential consequences of supernatural gifts (Frozen). At this very moment, dissertations are being written (“Hermione Granger and the ­Heritage of Gender”) about the magical Muggle-born who bravely claims a place for girls in worlds — of wizards, of English boarding schools — that were formerly hostile to them, and Pixar is putting the finishing touches on Inside Out, to be released this summer, which unfolds inside a girl’s brain. The YA shelves are filled with girl vampires, girl warriors, girls who can fly, and orphaned sisters destined for greatness. There’s Wicked, of course. And for my money, the most exquisite indicator of the ascendancy of the underage superheroine is Broadway’s Matilda, a musical adaptation of a Roald Dahl tale, featuring a cranky, sensitive, brainy girl with a finely tuned sense of justice, who, when pushed past her limit, resembles the Hulk more than any little girl in the history of myth.

As a child and girl and young woman I was possessed by horses.  I read everything I could find about horses, looked at horse art and illustration, gazed for hours at horses in the pastures, played with horses, played horses, write stories about horses.  I fantasized long, arch stories featuring horses; while trapped in the very many boring conditions of my mundane life in the backseat of the car, a church pew, hoeing weeds in the garden, hanging clothes on the line, waiting to fall asleep, etc.

"Coaly-Bay The Outlaw Horse", one of my childhood's favorite
stories, in Volume 7 of The Animal Book (1938), by Ernest
Thompson Seton
. The story, with Seton's own illustrations,
can be read here

By-and-large my horse fantasy world was without human beings entirely, even without me.  I wasn't my visually impaired, clumsy, homely self, I was The Black, I was Coaly-Bay.

So, it seems, despite My Little Pony's world being called Equestria, this universe has little to nothing to do with horses as horses.

But maybe it has a lot to do with having power and agency?  However, judging by some of the comments responding to Miller's essay, a lot of people think it means quite the opposite -- a desire to never mature, grow up and take on adult responsibilities and deal with the global messes that we've created.

One might think too, that in this day and age, this --

Once upon a time, in a mythical, magical, distant past, Equestria was ruled by two sister pony princesses, one black and one white, hybrids of a supernatural kind — “alicorns,” my daughter whispered authoritatively. Celestia, the white princess, was in charge of the sun, and Luna, the black one, ­controlled the moon. The sisters reigned harmoniously until Luna began to notice that the ponies of Equestria frolicked and played under her big sister's watch, but under her own, they did nothing but sleep. Jealousy turned Luna into the monster Nightmare Moon, a villainess who threatened to plunge all of Equestria into perpetual darkness. To save Equestria, Celestia was forced to take a stand against her sister. Calling upon her most potent magic, she invoked the mysterious “Elements of ­Harmony” and cast a spell that banished Nightmare Moon to the moon.

making the goodie white and the baddie black is, at best, uncreative, at worst, a bad choice of character stereotyping for a world that is supposed to inculcate friendship, tolerance and happiness.

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