Last night I had a dream that Neil Gaiman told me that he believed in me and that I will achieve my dreams if I try.
Of course in this dream my “dreams” involved defeating horrible monsters and completing ten different magical tasks to banish evil evermore from a fantastic bus that doubled as a labyrinthine library…but what dream-Neil Gaiman told me applies to my waking aspirations to be successful at comics too, right????
Friendship is tragic.
I would have never expected a College Humor video, of all things, to succinctly communicate everything I’ve found so profoundly disappointing about Bronies and the dialogue around My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
When I first became aware of and started watching the show I was really excited, both as a feminist and a female creator. Here was a show, headed by a woman creatrix, made explicitly for girls that did not fall into to the horrible pretty pink passive princess cliché nor the “girls are bitches who are obsessed with cliques” cliché. There were well-rounded characters from different “cliques”/levels of femininity (tomboys, nerds, girly-girls, etc) that were able to find common ground and be friends. The characters cared more about self-actualization—finding their special talents and furthering their careers and helping the members of their community—than romantic relationships or social status or appearance. Even the Pretty Pink Princess bits are done aesthetically tastefully and even the show’s residence princess actually has to take charge and rule her country!
In short, it was the type of show I wished had existed when I was a little girl who felt awkward because I never fit in any of the few narrow boxes of femaleness that were presented to me in cartoons and other popular media. Shit, as someone with an anxiety disorder it’s still really heartwarming to see a shy, timid character (Fluttershy) treated with respect and her shyness considered part of her personality that has its benefits (soothing animals) than a terrible flaw that needs to be fixed.
At the time I started watching MLP:FiM it’s popularity hadn’t taken off yet, but it had started gathering male fans in their teens and twenties that we now call “Bronies”. I thought this was pretty great actually, both showing that media “for girls” could have wider appeal beyond the “pink ghetto” and hinting that these young men were becoming more open to the feminine. Unfortunately even many guys my age—even the “good” ones you wouldn’t expect—are hostile to the idea of feminism and hold misogynist attitudes they probably aren’t even aware of because they’ve been absorbing sexist media from our sexist culture all their lives. And if a show about magic ponies could help erode those attitudes in them and eventually lead to them being better to the women in their lives, that’s awesome.
Of course, the male My Little Pony fanbase grew and grew, and became the Bronies…and you know what their favorite thing to do with My Little Pony characters is?
To make them into sex objects. To turn them into humans with idealized porn-star bodies or anthromorphic bombshells or even twist their cartoon pony bodies into sexy poses ranging from pin-ups to hardcore pornography. They draw sexually charged fanart and write porn fanfiction and endlessly speculate about the ponies’ sexual proclivities and fantasize about joining in. It’s not just a fringe group either, all of the large MLP:FiM fan communities I’ve encountered include it without shame nor irony.
And now, if MLP:FiM comes up, it’s all anyone can talk about. Not about the quality of the writing or art, or how some female creators made something positive out of a stereotypical pretty pink toy franchise, or it’s appeal to little girls, or anything like that—it’s that MLP:FiM has attracted a large male fanbase that sexually obsessed with cartoon ponies.
And it’s frustrating. I’m an extremely sex-positive person, but not everything needs to be about sex. Especially not a feminist cartoon about magic ponies aimed at young children. And it especially doesn’t need to be about your sexual fantasies. It feels like once again straight men have silenced women, taken over their work, and instead made it about their dicks. Is that all women are to you straight male Bronies, sex objects? You can’t appreciate a female character without turning her into an object of your lust, even if she’s a cartoon pony? There’s more to life than trying to stick your dick into everything, you know!
On a personal note, it breaks my heart because one day I want to make comics for young women and girls that feature female protagonists and feminist messages. In “mainstream” comics (especially superhero) there’s a lot of misogyny, and a female character’s appearance and sex appeal is a more likely to be a topic of discussion than her personality or actions. I used to naïvely think that maybe if I made my characters really young, or animals, or fantasy creatures without human secondary sex characteristics, they wouldn’t be objectified and my work would be judged on other merits besides it’s suitability as a masturbatory aide.
Well, now I know I was wrong. It doesn’t matter what I create as a female artist, it doesn’t matter what my female characters do, we’ll always be secondary to men. And if enough men decide to twist my characters into their personal sexual fantasy and are vocal enough about it, I’ll be silenced and marginalized from my own work. My female voice is less important in this world than whatever makes a straight man’s dick hard. Thanks, Bronies!
Pages from the Cervera Bible aka Lisbon’s Hebrew Bible, a medieval illuminated manuscript created in Spain c. 1300
Scribe: Samuel ben Abraham ibn Nathan
Illuminator: Joseph Hazarfati aka Joseph the Frenchman
I had the pleasure of seeing this absolutely beautiful manuscript today at the Met and, wow, I am just in awe of it. If you are in NYC you should really go see it in person—the calligraphy and illuminations are so wonderfully delicate and the inks and gold leaf shine like jewels. The illuminations are a delicate mix between the reverent and the fanciful, and I especially enjoy the little hidden gems like the dragons made out of Hebrew calligraphy and the illustration of the ram playing a shofar!
I’m really happy that the Met brought this over for a special exhibition. I’m really interested in European medieval art, especially illuminated manuscripts, as I see them as a distant relation of comics. There are many more secular pieces of artwork from this time period that I have found extremely appealing, but researching the period or visiting medieval European galleries can be an alienating, uncomfortable experience for me as a non-Christian because there’s just too much Jesus! Seeing this book was really affirming and inspiring to me, especially because I’m currently working on a comic seeped in medieval Jewish mysticism which hasn’t been easy to visually research.
- JOE MCCULLOCH: Is there a message you would like to give to artists making comics today?
- ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY: Kill Superheroes !!! Tell your own dreams.
First you get an assignment and it’s all “what the fuck is going on here”
Then…ideas! So many! This assignment is going to turn out SO GOOD
Then you work your little pony butt off on what is surely to be YOUR GREATEST ARTWORK TO DATE
And then things start going wrong
And then EVERYTHING goes wrong
And then you have a freak out and question every artistic decision you have made up to this point
Then you realise OH FUCK SHIT’S DUE TOMORROW so you pick yourself back up and get back to work