Topic: The Friendship is Magic cartoon and fandom. View angle: Negative and unhopeful.
This is a topic I usually don’t blog about, since I usually discuss it on Twitter to such an extent that it’d get tiresome to focus on over a long timespan. But during such a discussion yesterday, I felt that I realised so many new ideas that they needed to be written down in a more permanent fashion, combined with some older views of mine.
The Equestria Daily Mail have for more than a year tried to make up propaganda reasons for how the Friendship is Magic fandom is still enormous and pulsating. People who inhibit a bit more critical sense about their articles, can dissect that the US episode ratings are plummeting, the toys have vanished from shelves, and the plot have more inconsistencies than the service you get at a Burger King. So let’s dive into the possible reasons!
The bronies were pretty worried about Hub Network’s renaming to Discovery Family, but they were mostly worried about that Hasbro wasn’t bothering with their channel anymore. While that specific aspect has yet to be proven right or wrong, it’s currently a much bigger problem that Discovery Family is almost non-existent in people’s eyes. Discovery appears to treat it just like their other narrow premium channels, or possibly with even less attention than them, since Discovery Family at night only airs re-runs from Discovery other channels.
Subsequently, it no longer receives any attention in the field of pure kids’/tweens’ channels, since from what I do admittedly have very little knowledge of, it’s now treated more like a low-key documentary channel.
For a short look at the past, there were a small group of bronies in 2012 who were seriously worried that playful bronies with zero social antennae, could kill off the fandom in people’s eyes, and set out on a quest to prevent that from happening. That group was /mlp/, on 4chan.
But in a twist of irony worthy of Wild West epics, they may have killed it themselves 2 or 3 years later. Instead of playful extreme ignorance, the fandom had now acquired an equally bad reputation of rudely behaving fetish creeps who organize in violent mobs against random causes. Depending on your view, they may either have delayed the fandom’s death by several years, or fallen hoist to their own petard.
As much as many bronies like to dream, a vast majority of current teenagers are more interested in looking through 9gag and YouTube. And on those places, both of these death angles are exploited for detrimental humour pictures as much as possible, and not completely unfoundedly so.
Other brony communities also began to build up serious problems of their own. After the move from Ponibooru to Derpibooru, the imagebooru community decided to completely throw artistic merit off of the train, and instead focus on the cutest facial expressions (no matter how lazily made), porn and fanon. YouTube saw the rise of the brony analysis community, who consisted of 90’s kids who compared every single detail about FiM to Animaniacs, Lion King and Darkwing Duck. And the commenters swallowed it wholepiece, to the point that several of the analyzers themselves went completely insane over how the commenters treated positive and negative opinions.
All of this began to backfire after a while. FiM and to some extent Adventure Time were considered revolutionary when they premiered in 2010, seeing as the only big cartoons among adults at the time were action-themed and often involved superheroes. But other cartoons entered the scene some years later and built further upon these foundations. In rough order of how much attention these cartoons got, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, Ladybug, Wander over Yonder, Star vs. the Forces of Evil and Uncle Grandpa.
In the timespan of 2010-13, FiM held a huge market share on dedicated cartoon forums online, since their forums were the first ones to ever successfully display themselves as being open to newcomers, instead of being nerd pubs. But almost all these new cartoons realized that they could begin to create forums and conversational places too. And since the barriers had broken down now, there were bound to be some socially oriented newcomers who would check out these new forums too.
So FiM, who had been seen as the social fandom for four years, no longer had that upper hand, which may very well have sharply reduced the outside teenagers’ interest in the fandom. It also didn’t help them in any way that the FiM forums had themselves become enclosed nerd pubs.
Bronies have also been a bit enclosed in how they perceive various qualities of the show. They boast that it has very deep and accurate writing, and yet they need to apply fanon patches to such a wide extent that entire 3D Steam games are being made about them.
The downturn in the show’s popularity can also be seen in the toy shelves. In most stores up here in Norway, the My Little Pony shelves are one-quarter the size of what they were in 2012, and reports (not rumours) from Italy say that they have almost vanished from general-topic nerd conventions.
Not even brony conventions are doing all that well, according to last year’s reports from newssites who actually know how to apply a critical look on things (see: Horse News). There were reports of theft, cruise scammers, empty hallways, and commenters claiming that 3-day passes were counted as 3 different visitors in the statistics.
As for the normal toy shelves, a large number of girls’ toys have been released since 2010, many of which have duelled directly against My Little Pony to get spots on the toy shelves. Frozen is clearly the biggest one, but now there is also Monster High, Doc McStuffins, Littlest Pet Shop, Lalaloopsy, and several other brands. My Little Pony just doesn’t have the momentum now. Having stuck to a Core 6 for 5½ years may also have been difficult in the long run.
And then of course, this being the American TV market, the low TV ratings that has resulted from some of this, would normally have made an American television producer more than a little worried about whether it’d be worth it to continue the show for much longer…
So the odds are now stacked against Friendship is Magic, and no one are really realizing it. Like a Maldivian island, everything is fun and laughter until the island has suddenly vanished.