Sunday, January 15, 2012

Queerness is Magic: the Erotics of My Little Pony


"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" 
developed by Lauren Faust
airs at 10AM ET on the Hub

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Queerness is magic because it can get past censors relying on recognized norms.

The erotic tones of My Little Pony may seem surprising to some, but this may be because they are hidden in plain sight. Like Samurai Jack’s sidestep of the PG rating police by committing mass killings in every episode with robots that bleed oil, My Little Pony chooses not to speak down to their audience even though it is rated for children, particularly on the topic of love and sexuality. 

MLP does not simply put up a smoke-screen by re-scripting adult situations for adorable little equines, but ironically by going queer. By using non-normative erotic objects and relationships, the show is able to engage with many sensitive issues without being called out by censors that are trained recognize erotics primarily in its heteronormative formulations; just as Samurai Jack’s censors miss violence outside the trappings of blood-n-guts.

The show’s focus on friendship, or philial love, disguises for those who don’t see beyond the possibility for reproduction, lays the basis for many non-normative sensual relationships. The tight companionship between several partners, physically affectionate and somewhat exclusive pairings, might be more obvious if the show was put into the live-action with age-accurate human actors (e.g. how the scenes in which they joke about never wearing clothes would play in such an adaption or whether this “humor” would be included may be too apparent to need exploration). 

Likewise the regular gifts of flowers, sweets, and jewelry between certain characters might likewise press on the normative censors frame of reference for what sort of relationships exist between women of any color or shape (winged, horned or hooved).

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Spike

A survey of the main characters in the show will reveal that Ponyville and its associated capital city of Canterlot, sustain a population primarily consisting of women. 

With the exception of the baby-dragon, there are no speaking male characters until the end of the season 1 and when men do speak they are either children (most of the pony’s in the show are in fact revealed to be young adults well into their professional lives) or jerks who are introduced primarily to tempt a character away from the group (and into the inter-sex sphere) only to disappoint and send the pony back to their exclusively female community with renewed loyalties.  

Likewise, the baby-dragon’s overabundant and unreciprocated crush on Rarity is often the subject of farce (his attraction, despite being hetero-normative is seen as inappropriate)  and irony (as what unites “Spike” and Rarity mostly is their common, very passionate, physical and even ingestive appetite for gems).

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Rainbow Dash and Applejack

For those familiar with the My Little Pony franchise, Rainbow Dash in the reboot is familiar and yet strange. What was once a painfully sweet and na├»ve stand-in for normative womanhood in pony-form has become in the new version a show a poster-child for the show’s queer tendencies. 

Still a stand-in for a cultural stereotype, Rainbow Dash now sports a pixie-cut and portrays a female masculinity which has been a staple of popular depictions of the butch lesbian. Throughout the two seasons, this ultra-competitive rainbow woman has become a regular episode partner of Applejack, a farm-girl pony who keeps Dash on her toes (or hooves) by provoking her desire to be the top-pony. 

Scenes in which other characters are looking for one or both reveal that these two can be found already having their own private adventures. Homosocial relationship, perhaps, but the nod to Brokeback Mountain is hard to miss, despite, or especially, when the horses are the lovers themselves.

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Fluttershy

Homosocial and homoerotic relationships are just the tip of this show's ice-burg. While Twilight Sparkle often seems to have an special interest in Fluttershy, F. seems constantly preoccupied in showering her affections on the (semi)sentient animals which live with her. While the critters do now speak, they regularly communicate with her through signs as she sees to more than their needs but also their desires for affection and companionship. 

Is this not in many ways a nightmare of normative society: the “crazy cat woman” who chooses an inter-species, non-procreative set of partners over those of “her own kind” and often at the expense of their attempts to engage in relationships with her. The show often treats this love triangle with humor, but also a good degree of respect, for while Fluttershy is perhaps more alienated from the other ponies, she is also one of the groups moral compasses and also one of the happiest.

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Rarity

Taking on another arch-type of non-normative love-interest, is Rarity, the shows “material girl” for whom diamonds are her best friends. Clothing and jewels are not only Rarity’s professional (pre)occupation but also a very sensual joy which seems to exceed her affections for others in the group of ponies (much like Fluttershy). 

Rarity's song and dance numbers on and for jewels appears to give homage to Duck Tales’s character Scrooge McDuck whose love of swimming in gold often kept him away from pursuing relationships with other persons on the show. 

Furthermore, where the shows other unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, has a range of magic which is given to her by virtue of being a unicorn, Rarity’s powers are chiefly aimed at finding gems hidden in the ground and the working of them into clothes which would allow her to keep them in close physical contact. Many who study “thing” power, such as Jane Bennett’s work on Vibrant Matter and hoarders, may recognize this as a king of inter-kingdom erotic.

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Twilight Sparkle

The shows primary protagonist, Twilight-Sparkle who acts as the center of the group is in many ways the most clumsy with her inter-pony relationships. The driving concept for the series is that Twilight lives in Ponyville because she is there on assignment by Princess Celestia to learn about friendship, after a pilot episode revelation that she has up to this point alienated herself into her work at the expense of all other relationships (with the exception of her often mistreated baby-dragon-assistant). Twilight’s love is explicitly “magic” but tacitly is herself. 

She loves magic in a sense, but not for its own sake but her abilities in attaining and controlling it. In that sense, and more, she is a narcissist: she is her own love-object. Her queerness is not only the erotics of knowledge and power, but of self-knowledge and self-empowering. She exists as a (w)hole in the community into which resources enter and are not repeated or passed on in their normative patterns. 

The very demarcation as her being a practitioner of “magic” is also a reference to the “deviant” and marginal interests, as well as the shows later emphasis on female communes. Thus, we can see how the show’s after the colon subtitle “Friendship is Magic” is supposed to underline the shows premised goal is to introduce a replacement love object for Twilight and shake her from her queer narcissism; which is not outright abject but at very least situated as insufficient in its extreme expression.

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Pinky Pie

Chasing Twilight most is the party-obsessed land-pony PinkyPie. Whenever this party-girl is on screen she is in the midst of some sensational rapture. She loves the taste and smell of food. She loves song and dance. She loves bright colors and standing too close for the comfort of the other ladies. Where Twilight stands as the frozen and self-contained character, PinkyPie is explosive with jouissance. 

Her movements are erratic and even her temporality appears non-linear as she reveals the power to predict and act on events in the future before and as if they are happening.  While Twilight wants knowledge and is “the smart one” of the group, PinkyPie appears if not the unintelligent character, then at least the one to whom knowledge is relevant only as an experience of the moment. 

If Twilight is the psychoanalytic, alienated lover, Pinky is the Deleuzian schizophrenic who remains in constant flight, made up of a multitude of drives and explosive in her powers to make connections and become nearly anything (and she apparently has the costumes/prosthetics to facilitate what personalities she might explore).

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