Friday, May 10, 2013

Fridays Are Magic

The keen-eyed and observant among you may have guessed that I am a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

It's nice that I can say that without feeling the need to qualify the statement.  A year ago, coming out with my broniness was a slow process of shame and self-abasement.  I'd admit to my friends that I liked it, sure, but I also liked boobs and Gears of War and fixing monster trucks or whatever.  Today, though, I wear my love of the show on my sleeve.  (And, occasionally, on my chest.)  I say "eeyup" and "nope" when people ask me questions.  I've analyzed the show's themes and mythology, and have constructed an intelligent thesis as to why Rarity is best pony.  I've even made a ponified portrait of myself my default avatar across the interwebs.

I don't know if public perception of bronies has changed, really.  I think it has.  I mean, anyone who's cared to see the show has done so by now.  Even those that didn't fall in love with it generally seem to consider it harmless.  While even mentioning ponies on certain sites still lets slip the dogs of flamewar, the number of folks who hate it with a mouth-foaming passion seems to have decreased over time.  I think the show and its fandom are gradually settling into the groove they belong in: a geeky thing that some people are really passionate about, and others don't get at all.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to try and limit my pony-related output to just once a week.  Thus, here on Another Geeky Blog, Fridays Are Magic.

Now, then, let's enthuse about some ephemeral equines.

Awhile back, I got to sit in on an episode of The Brony Bookclub as one of a group of fanfic authors for a round-table discussion.  (Yeah, I write pony fanfic.)  One of the questions I got to field was what I loved about the show.  There are the obvious things: the characters, the art, the voice acting, the sheer love and craftsmanship that goes into every episode.  But one of the most interesting things, to me, is the setting.

Okay, close your eyes for a minute.  I mean, figuratively.  Closing them literally would make reading the following difficult.  Pretend you don't know anything about My Little Pony, you've never seen people spamming forums with stills from the show, and when you hear the words "Twilight Sparkle," you think creepy, obsessive vampires.

Now, picture a small, peaceful kingdom in a vast fantasy world.  This land is ruled over by two demigoddesses, one who raises the sun each morning, and one who raises the moon at night.  Within the borders of this realm, things are so ordered and calm that natural weather patterns never happen, and are instead carefully planned and orchestrated by members of each community.  It's a mostly quiet, mostly prosperous land, and everybody generally gets along and is free to live their lives however they want.

But this peace and tranquility is as fragile as the skin of a bubble.  Outside this land's borders, nature reasserts itself, and it's backed up by a healthy helping of magic.  A vast forest, called the Everfree, covers much of the outside world.  Within it dwell dragons, manticores, cockatrices... basically, anything you can find in the Monster Manual.  There are tribes of intelligent griffons, there are savage natives on the plains of the frontier, and somewhere out there, there are the wendigos, just waiting for an opportunity to destroy the fragile little kingdom and bury it in an eternal, howling blizzard.

And that's not all.  The kingdom has a history of its own.  Out there in the world are ancient ruins, even an entire empire that was ripped out of time and space itself to contain the threat that its mad ruler presented.  There's an opening into Tartarus itself, a prison for the realm's greatest enemies, guarded by the three-headed hellhound Cerberus.  There's an entire race of insectoid shapeshifters that feed on emotion.  And there's at least one demonic chaos god that can only be contained by a set of artifacts only a certain ragtag band of heroes can attune to.

(And the demonic chaos god is voiced by John DeLancie.)

Sounds kind of cool, right?  Well, replace "people" with "ponies," and you have the world of Friendship is Magic.

Okay, sure, most of the show's episodes deal with Twilight being OCD, or Fluttershy overcoming self-doubt, or Rarity being forced to navigate the morally complex waters between her personal dreams and ambitions of furthering her career and her inherent generosity and loyalty to her small-town friends and family, or Rainbow Dash being a jerk, but every now and then the writers pull back the curtain just a bit and let us see some of what's out there.  The show has a far richer mythology than a casual viewer might suspect, and I love every hint I get of it.

But enough about that.  Next week (coinciding with the new issue, I believe), I'll tell you about another part of the show I love: the spin-off comic series.  There will be gushing, and many pretty pictures.  Stay tuned.


  1. First off, yay fandom!
    Anyways; The setting does help give the show a tangible sense of bigness, but most of it is so vague and loose it doesn't really matter to the actual show.
    I'd argue that the biggest draw to the show was the characters. Just a large unabashful focus on characters.
    There's no really stand out episodes you could show to a non-brony, and win them over instantly.
    Instead the show was great at developing and investing time in the character stories it wanted to tell..

    Instead of a rich lore, but flat characters. Mlp has rich characters and hints of depth for its lore...

    1. Yeah, I definitely agree. Really, most of the depth I find in the setting's mythology comes from my own imagination (or those of others'), and I love it. There's a lot of stuff to be read between the lines, if you're willing to put a little imagination into it.