When I was little, boys were not supposed to like “girly” stuff. No girl toys, no girl TV shows, nothing pink or purple. And I never questioned it. That was just the order of things, so thought my early childhood mind. As I grew up and stopped playing with toys (I would say cartoons but I never stopped watching those) thoughts about this order didn’t arise at all. I still saw advertisements for “boys” and “girls” toys and just readily accepted that that’s what they were.
I’m a parent now with a 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son. My daughter, of course, likes “girly” things and I acquiesce to play with “girly” toys with her. My son joins in. Cool with me. What exactly makes a toy strictly for girls anyway? He likes Barbie. I liked playing Barbie with my cousins growing up.
But here’s the big thing that may shock even the most easy-going individual. Around the time my daughter was 4 or 5 she started watching a cartoon show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Some readers are ahead of me but for those that aren’t, here’s why this particular show matters. At first, I dismissed the show as a cutesy rehashing of the older My Little Pony shows that existed when I was a child. My boyhood self hated those “girly” shows. So why would this show be any different?
Oh, but it was. It was by a long shot. To be fair, and let’s all please be honest, we all love our 80’s and 90’s Saturday morning cartoons. But go back and watch a few of them. They weren’t the best written shows on earth nor was the voice-activated up to snuff. The logic back then was “who cares? It’s for kids.” Most of us were just entranced by the colors and the action. I recently rewatched the first Ninja Turtles cartoon show. I cringed. “I liked this?”
I could get fancy and make a chart showing the quality of cartoon shows over time but I will simplify that by simply saying in terms of plot and voice-acting, cartoons have improved a lot over time. (Barring excellent cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Hanna Barbera, etc.) And I think this is the very reason why one morning it took me three episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to realise my daughter had long since left the room to go play elsewhere in the house.
Since that day I have absorbed the lore of MLP:FIM. I know the names of the major characters, or the Mane Six and The Cutie Mark Crusaders, minor characters such as the great and powerful Trixie, Derpy Hooves, and even characters from the spin-off Equestria Girls series. I get my daughter stuffed MLP:FIM ponies and we both show a similar enthusiasm when first see them. I watch fan made videos on YouTube videos synced up with my favorite music. I have fallen in love with this “girls” show and its associated toys even though I am a 31 year old man. And I am not remotely ashamed.
I now realize that though a show may be targeted for young boys or girls, that doesn’t mean those are the only people allowed to watch it. I watched a documentary on a fan base for MLP:FIM which consists of young to middle-aged adults. I thought “why not?” This age group already likes shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Adventure Time, and Phineas and Ferb. We live in an age now where labels “for boys,” “for girls” and, heck, “for kids” does not need to apply to toys or TV shows. I for one think that is a welcome change.