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Here’s something you might not know (unless you, like me, have, uh, Wikipedia): the original My Little Pony was called My Pretty Pony. It was created for Romper Room in the same year I was born. A couple years later its creator wound up working for Hasbro and reinventing the toy into My Little Pony. This was also the time the Care Bears became a thing, Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake’s popularity, and slightly before the time of Wuzzles, Popples, My Pet Monster and Raccoons (cartoon CanCon!) But I digress.

You likely know that 30 years later, in 2003, Hasbro redesigned My Little Pony in its third and current incarnation. And I’m totally their market: I have a little girl who is the age I was when I played with My Little Pony toys. It’s the marketing of nostalgia at its most predictable. And while I prefer the original look to the current one, it works on me, and really—there’s much, much worse out there.

My Little Pony, most reading this will know, is a huge commercial success, again. This time, it’s not just tiny girls, or their sentimental moms, but a convention-having fan base across the world that includes fan fiction, musical projects, extreme collecting, model making and the like.

People of all ages meet online and in person to connect about…what exactly? It gets cred for being visually appealing, having adopted an anime style aesthetic; for its smart writing and for it’s messaging. And while I’m mostly on board, it’s messaging, really? The messaging is: friendship is magic. While I’m all for friends… and social skills… and positive programming… and limited-to-no-violence in kids shows… really? “Friends are good” was so culture-changing that it caused a phenomenon of this scale?

A huge part of the cult following of My Little Pony, and certainly the portion getting the most media are the boys and men who love the franchise, dubbed “bronies.” You can read a thousand long-form articles about them, or watch the movie. I did (I’m a sucker for extreme fandom docs in general) and it was, kind of boring. I’m huge on not gendering, or un-gendering kids’ toys, and never happy to see situations like these, and I even like the show enough.

My kid has My Little Pony activity books, a plush pony and a figurine (and a couple more knock-offs.) She’s seen at least one of the movies (I assume there are more.) But I was basing my interest on retro appeal and the show and toys being considerably less annoying than many other available options. (That and that a friend of mine convinced me that Rainbow Dash is probably a lesbian and I got all invested in my kid having a maybe-queer mascot.)

Maybe I haven’t watched the show closely enough. Or maybe I’m not that good at friendship. But for now, I just don’t entirely get it.

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor in Toronto who thinks bacon is magic. Maybe that’s her problem. 

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