Friday, June 14, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Equestria Girls (sigh)

Not really, but pretty much.
I haven't had much of a chance to blog this week; I started my summer classes, and I'm still getting into the rhythm and trying to figure out what my workload is going to be like.  Fortunately, I don't have class on Fridays, so I can still do my weekly post about ponies!  And let's see, what did I plan to write about today?


Well, hell.

Okay, then.  I guess it's time to talk about Equestria Girls (sigh).

For those of you who aren't aware, Equestria Girls (sigh) is an animated movie starring--sort of--the characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as "humans."  The basic plot seems to be that Twilight Sparkle's new crown--she's a princess now, y'see--is stolen, and the thief flees through a portal to another world.  Since the crown is also the ancient arcane artifact that ties Twi to the Elements of Harmony and allows her to protect Equestria, she sort of needs it back.  And so she goes through the portal after the thief, ending up in...

Hold on.  I can't even describe this next part without having to facepalm for a couple of minutes first.

If it actually were a crossover, I'd
be way more optimistic..
Twilight ends up in what seems to be the same world as Doug, as a teenage girl.  She discovers that the thief has somehow arranged for the Tiara of Magic to be the prom queen's crown at the nearby highschool.  And so Twilight Sparkle, with the help of a new group of friends who seem suspiciously similar to are basically exact copies of her Equestria friends, has to learn how to navigate high school, become popular, and become prom queen.

Agh.  I'm pretty sure part of my brain dies every time I think through that.

Do I need to explain what's wrong with this?  I mean, I'm going to, that's sort of the point of writing a blog post complaining about something, but I'm pretty sure the wrongness comes across pretty thoroughly already.  First off: why in Celestia's name would you take a show whose primary strength is its interesting, stereotype-defying female protagonists and turn it into a generic high school movie?!

Actually, I know why: money.  Y'know the Bratz dolls?  They have, sadly, made boatloads of money over the decade or so they've existed.  They even spawned a (reputedly terrible) movie.  They've also influenced various other "girl toy" staples with their designs.  Did you know Strawberry Shortcake got Bratz'd?  She did, and it was wrong.

Pictured: the fall of Western civilization.
A couple of years ago, Mattel came out with a new Bratz ripoff line called "Monster High."  As far as I can tell at a cursory glance, the lines are completely identical.  Monster High seemed to be "darker," as in, "appealing to fans of sparkling vampires," but then Bratz countered with their own version, and now the only visible difference between the toy lines is the logo.

Well, while this has been going on, Hasbro's been sitting off to the side, twiddling their thumbs and watching as their competition makes tons of easy money by targeting self-conscious, bludgeoned-by-society-into-accepting-insane-standards-of-femininity tweenage girls.  "Hey," someone who wears a suit and tie to work said, "our My Little Pony show's really popular right now.  Let's turn the characters from that into Bratz dolls!"

Okay, let me be fair.  I don't think the "humanized" designs for Equestria Girls are anywhere near as bad as the Bratz or Monster High ones.  They're not all puffy lips, bedroom eyes, and hoochie club wear.  (At least... not yet.)  Things could certainly be worse.

That said, the designs are still awful.  Let's look at the Mane Six, and break this down.

Let's start with Pinkie Pie.  And... yeah, she's by far the best design.  She's bright and colorful, she's got her big, poofy hair, she's got a couple of little details that give her a bit of flair.  She looks like a fun, enthusiastic person.  She looks like one might expect a humanized Pinkie Pie to look.  The base design of her actual human body is still weird as hell, but she looks recognizably Pinkie-y.  There's also the weird shape of her skirt--did Pinkie get knocked up?--but overall, it's not bad.  Congratulations, Pinkamena; you are the Best Not-Pony.

And then we get to Rainbow Dash, and we start to notice the beginnings of a problem.  Dash, as seems to be her human equivalent, is an athlete.  She's all about competition and physical skill, and she has such a crippling fear of "girly-girl" stuff that she's terrified to even enter a spa for fear of ruining her reputation.  And here, she's wearing a skirt and knee-high boots.  Does... does that make any sense?  I mean, okay, she's wearing shorts under the skirt.  Maybe in this world, skirts aren't considered super girly, and maybe it somehow doesn't restrict her movement.  But I'm pretty sure there's a reason that most sports don't require their players to wear huge, heavy, cumbersome boots.  Is Dash trying to build up her leg strength or something?  Is she planning to become a kickboxer?  Because, actually, that would be awesome.  Might change my opinion about this thing.

And then we get to Fluttershy, and never mind.  I... I don't even.  Look, I don't want to say that I've sat around imagining humanized ponies a bunch, but I have seen a bit of (non-weird) artwork, and yeah, I made them as characters in Rock Band 3.  But I can't imagine a humanized Fluttershy wearing anything less than cargo pants and a turtleneck at all times.  'Shy's got crippling insecurities out the wazoo as a pony; mix in social pressures and the sexualization of modern culture, and the girl would probably wear a burka to school if they'd let her.  But the folks who designed these characters seem committed to the "skirts and huge boots" aesthetic, and so we have this.  And it only gets worse.

This here is Applejack.  She's apparently been transported to the school from a 19th century hoedown.  Hasbro, for the love of... what the hell were you thinking with this one?  Why... why the hell would Applejack dress like that?  Ever?  For any reason?  Like Dash, she's something of a tomboy, but more than that, she's practical.  You don't do farm work in a white blouse and a denim skirt, man.  If any character needed to ignore the "skirt and big boots" rule, it was AJ.  And even if she couldn't, why the white blouse?  Why not flannel?  That'd look more interesting and make more sense.  I just... this is a world with some equivalent of Rarity, right?  Why is she letting her friends walk around like this?

Oh.  Because Rarity wears a 1950's-style poodle skirt.

Look at that.  Look how freaking boring it is.  This is Rarity!  This is a character for whom fashion isn't just a passion, but an artform!  And her human version is living in a world where everybody wears clothes, all the time!  And she's wearing a white blouse and a skirt that matches her hair?  And some little blue things?  Come on!  Where's the creative use of color and texture?  Where's the flair and movement?  Where, I ask you, is the giant hat?

This is not Rarity.  This is an anorexic albino with a bad dye job.

Ahem.  Sorry.  Wow, I should not have written this post.  My inner fashion critic is boiling to the surface.  I think I'm going to start calling people gauche for wearing white after Labor Day.

Anyway, there's one more character left to talk about.  The star of the show, Twilight Sparkle.  And... sigh.  Twi, why are you Sailor Moon?  Seriously, what's with the weird school girl uniform and the considerably-shorter-than-everybody-else's skirt?  No.  Just no.  Twilight Sparkle is a nerd.  She is one of us.  Nerds, generally speaking, wear simple, practical clothing.  We have more important things to worry about than lookin' good.  The only time you'd see a geek girl dress like that was if she was going to a convention to cosplay, and...

Well, wait.  Twi is cosplaying.  She's the only character here who isn't actually human.  Hrm.  Well played, Hasbro.

But the design is still stupid.  All of them, save Pinkie's and maybe Dash's, are.  Even from a toy-selling perspective, I'm not really sure what they were thinking.  They all have these insanely long legs but these tiny, squashed torsos.  If you're going to try to market the Equestria Girls stuff as a fashion toy line, isn't that... not helpful?  I mean, you can't cram a lot of detail onto a blouse that's only an inch long, and by the same token, a pair of pants that make up 2/3 the total length of a doll are going to look kind of boring.

Moreover, Hasbro, do you really think you're going to be able to bust into the oversaturated "weird skanky abstracted teenage girl doll" market with humanized ponies?  Do you think the little girls who grow up watching positive messages about self-confidence and feminism are going to jump at the chance to dress Pinkie Pie in a halter top for a night at the club?

Apparently you do.  And I'm sad to say that you may even be right.  It's not like one show, however good, can change the face of our entire screwed-up society.

Sigh.  Everything about Equestria Girls is depressing as hell.  And I haven't even seen the actual movie yet.  But guess what?  I will.  It releases this Sunday, June 16th.  With any luck, I'll have a review of it for you on Monday.  You can share in my misery.  Or... maybe, just maybe... my surprised delight.

Nah, who are we kidding?  This is gonna suck.

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