In August 1983, the design patent (D269,986) was issued for an "ornamental design for a toy animal," and assigned by its creators to Hasbro. This was the inauspicious beginning of My Little Pony, a toy line that for many years has been the centerpiece of Hasbro's Girls line.

It never quite occurred to them, safe in their command center in Pawtucket, that the fourth reboot of the MLP line, begun in 2010, might sell briskly to boys. Lauren Faust might have been able to warn them: her concept for the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic had all the requisite Girl Stuff, but was designed to encourage parental units to watch along with the little ladies, rather than flee to the far corners of the house as they'd done with the three previous generations. Not even Faust, however, anticipated that the series might appeal to actual non-parental-type guys, responding to both the heartwarming and the hilarious.

It was all a gag, of course. At first. Pony memes, spawned by the likes of 4chan, began appearing alongside lolcats and, shortly thereafter Rebecca Black parodies and such. But viral transmission, as always, found unexpected pathways. The first MLP:FiM news blog, Derpy Hooves News, opened in December 2010, two months after the series premiere. (DHN's history of the early fandom is instructive.)

I wasn't aware of any of this until late in the summer of 2011, after the first season had run its course. By then, I was catching an occasional pony reference from knitblogger Fillyjonk, and since I have a long history of following up on things she says — I refuse on general principle to let my comparative lack of formal education keep me from participating — I sat down one weekend and watched the two-episode premiere. After the first, I sat in stunned silence; after the second, I immediately went looking for the third. Weekends were like that for several months, until I got caught up.

Hasbro had no idea what to make of all this. Clearly they were delighted that they were Getting Numbers, though just as clearly they didn't know what to do with them, or with this unexpected audience demographic. And being a typical corporate giant, they flailed about a bit in this new world; pre-K girls, after all, had never sent them letters of complaint.

And now with three seasons complete and a fourth in production — I have always suspected that they never intended to do but three in the first place, since they had 26 + 26 + 13 = 65 episodes, just enough for routine television syndication — the fandom is wondering just how long this can go on. But they're not worried: if they have to, they'll make their own episodes.

"Snowdrop" appeared two weeks ago. It's set just a little over a thousand years in the past, and it definitely fits on the heartwarming side of the aisle.

Nine days later came this:

"Double Rainboom," which got some small amount of corporate encouragement, is played a bit more for laughs, though the heart does not go ignored.

Surely there are more of these in the works. And there are at least 100,000 fan-written stories out there. (I wrote five of them myself, with a sixth underway.) If at any point I was worried about running out of pony, I'm pretty sure that worry has evaporated into the Equestrian sky.

The Vent

#815
  1 April 2013

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