I started watching My Little Pony recently. It helps to chase away the emptiness in the morning at breakfast time.
Twilight Sparkle is like Bilbo Baggins, a reluctant traveler dispatched by a powerful mastermind to parts unknown. She is also like Hermione Granger, an overachiever with a condescending side, and like Dorothy, she is caught in a quarrel betwixt magical rivals. But for all these comparisons — and all the other knowing winks to Blazing Saddles, The Music Man, King Kong, Citizen Kane, The Big Lebowski, The Commitments, and the final scene from Star Wars: A New Hope — the show that My Little Pony really resembles is Friends. It is about a friendship among six very different characters, and the safe universe they create through their loyalty to one another, a kind of intimate paradise that transcends family ties, job responsibilities, and affiliation with other tribes. This is a vision of friendship that articulates a preteen’s deepest yearning and at the same time evokes a memory, perhaps rose-colored, among adults — preoccupied as they are with their relentlessly present-tense lives — of an age when minutes, hours, whole days, and weekends could be lost to imaginary play, joint projects, and the total abandonment of self to the clan that claimed you as its own.
Like all catchy aphorisms, “Friendship is magic” works on a couple levels. For one thing, it is actually kind of true. As Scott-Henning puts it: “When you have people around you who protect you and relate to you and are your close friends, that does appeal greatly.” Also, it’s aspirational. Nobody ever feels quite full of friendship, and everybody wants more of it, even if it’s embarrassing to admit. But talk to the Bronies and the Pegasisters and they’ll point to something else, too, an ideal so dangerously earnest that it risks universal derision, but visionaries throughout history — Jesus and Lenin, Mohammed and Joseph Smith — have staked their lives on it, the idea that a small, committed band of friends can change the world, can give hope to the hopeless and justice to the suffering.
I like My Little Pony, but to really love it I have to really believe in its message of friendship. What’s the problem? I have too many acquaintances rather than friends? Can I not be friends with people if I’m always like Twilight Sparkle, thanks but I’m going off studying now? I have to really enjoy friendship, and not just like friendship when it’s between cute ponies on the screen.