The Cultural Evolution of My Little Ponies

So I’ve been on the lookout for more artifacts that might say interesting things about how we represent bodies, and then this weekend at the Festival of Faith and Writing, the lovely Amy L. Peterson introduced herself and said “Check out My Little Ponies! They’ve changed!”

And I did.

So here we go, three separate incarnations of My Little Pony–

Moondancer toy, 1980s

My Little Pony TV show, 1980s

And then the Moondancer toy from the mid-90s, a bit taller, a bit thinner, eyes larger and ‘sexier’ (is that possible on a plastic toy pony?)

Mid-90s TV show poster

And a contemporary pony, much taller and thinner, with even huger, sexier eyes:

and the television show poster, where the eyes are frighteningly large:

Is the slimming of toy horses reflective of the growing fear of fat in our culture? Does sexiness in a toy animal relate in any way to the expectation of sexiness in or of a young girl? I don’t know. But the old ponies seem childlike and sweet, and the new ones don’t.

What say you, dear readers?

{You may also enjoy reading The Cultural Evolutions of Candy Land, Morton Salt & Coca-Cola, and G.I. Joe}

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25 thoughts on “The Cultural Evolution of My Little Ponies

  1. Did you also notice that the newest pony looks more like a deer than a horse? It’s like a Bambi/unicorn cross. Add in the odd looking eyes and you get My Little Freakazoid.

    Oh well, never been a MLP family anyway.

    Tim

  2. Gah, I’ve been watching this trend… it’s terrible. I talk about it with my daughters, and thankfully now when they see unnaturally large eyes on any illustrated or animated character, they say to one another how weird and creepy it is… Rachel, I think there’s an entire book in this cultural evolution stuff you’ve been writing… :)

  3. Cripes! I had Moondancer and many other My Little Ponies during my childhood and I cannot believe that what you’ve just posted is real. I completely agree with you though–the old ponies were childlike and sweet and the new ones are wrongfully thin and sexualized; maybe it’s me but the one in the picture also seems to be overly knowing for a child’s toy. As for the creepy oversized eyes in the last poster, I’d say that’s more of a reach towards the anime crowd (but it’s still strange and unnecessary, in my view).

  4. I am so creeped out by the new My Little Ponies! There are actually a bunch of weird videos on YouTube featuring the new cartoons set to dub-step music. From what I’ve heard, there’s a whole subculture of college-age guys making & watching them. Very odd.

  5. Somebody just gave my daughter a my little pony and my first thought was I can’t really remember what they looked like but that looks thinner! Can’t believe that even ponies have to look thin real Shetland ponies which I assume the originals were modeled after aren’t thin they are stocky and cute.

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  9. I am one of those college-aged guys (19) who watch the My Little Pony TV show. I can honestly say that I can hardly believe that this amazing series started off from something so… ugly, to put it honestly. The new ponies, although they do look sexier, look a lot more fun. I, myself, have considered purchasing a set of these dolls simply out of fandom, but I would never purchase one of the old ones. As the world grows, things do change, but this change is nothing more than a change in audience, and I would say that it is in no way a bad change.

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  12. I can’t stand looking at these new ponies, they are hideous. Why did they change them? I will miss seeing those sweet ponies they had before.

  13. If you ask me, everyone here who said “G1 was adorable, G4 is ugly” is looking at it through nostalgia goggles. Yeah, I said it. G1 or G3/G3.5 was in your childhood, and therefore, you treasure it and see it in a great light, no matter what it is, simply because it’s from your childhood.

    They didn’t make G4 “skinny” to perpetuate a stereotype that girls need to be skinny and sexy. It was never intended to be that way. The fact is, G1 started out trying to be anatomically correct, and after that, they decided ponies needed to be cuter, so… change the anatomy, make the eyes bigger, the heads differently-shaped in a way that gives us that “adorable baby” response, etc.

    In fact, the person who was brought on by Hasbro to start G4 had already been drawing My Little Ponies in her own style for fun and posting them on DeviantArt. She wasn’t drawing them like that to say “Girls should be skinny and sexy”. It was simply her own style. Quite frankly, bronies consider the new style to be a nice change of pace, especially when looking back on G3/G3.5.

  14. The last pony picture you have is mistaken. It’s not a pony at all, it’s Princess Celestia*, who is taller and more majestic than the rest of the ponies, whose legs are nowhere near as thin or tall.

    *It is really interesting: she was meant to be Queen but the network changed it because “girls like princesses” or something. And, in the show she is white while the toy is pink. I guess it’s because girls like pink. *headdesk*

    As for the large eyes, it’s a matter of taste. The animation is not exactly anime, I’d say it’s more like the Powerpuff Girls.
    And yes, there is a subculture of collegue guys who like it and defend the fact that they like a tv show aimed for little girls with sexism and attacking the older female fanbase. It’s terrible. I’m sorry they showed up here, they’re disgusting.
    I grew up with the g1 toys and tv show and I love this last one version. It is a good show where the girls learn to be independent, think for themselves and, more importantly, being good people.

  15. Absolutely interesting reads here – thank you for sharing!

    I had about a hundred My Little Ponies in the 80’s… Great times and great memories! I remember the first time I saw these “fashionable” updated versions in the store. I was aghast – What did they do to those poor, cute, innocent (healthy-looking) ponies? Why are their eyes ridiculously large (making them look drugged out and crazy), and why are they too skinny to survive?

    Another toy I absolutely loved and collected religiously were the “My Littlest Pet Shop” figures. Search for them online – they look absolutely ridiculous and alien now compared to the cute pet representations of before. They’ve been completely revamped with comically large, cartoon heads and bulbous eyes. I understand the anime craze that started oh – about 15 years ago – and was captivated by it was well, but that is no reason to remake every toy anime-style – especially not innocent animals that are supposed to be round and cute.

    From this: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2254/1869377672_56db2b33f1_o.jpg
    to this: http://www.use.com/images/s_3/LITTLEST_PET_SHOP_TT_77c4ce53c99e9a057180_38.jpg?2//

    …Just… Creepy.

  16. The newer generation of My Little Pony reaches out as much to nostalgic twenty-and-thirty-somethings as it does to little kids. As for allowing young children to watch / play with the toys, I agree it has lost a measure of innocence, along with much of the sardonic cartoon programming these days. I learned about it from my MLP aficionado 25 year old sister. As for the big eyes, it’s just charicaturing, and stylistically resembling Japanese anime. I don’t read too much into it.

  17. I absolutely loved My Little Pony’s as a kid. There’s an 18 year gap between my baby sister & I….& when she was younger I started buying her the My little pony collection. I got fright one day, when all of a sudden I went to by her another one and they had been replace by impostors. They’re just Ugly…not cute at all…just UGLY! I stopped buying them after that because they didn’t match the rest of her collection…and they’re STUPID! Bring back the old pony’s man.

    • Pretty much the only reason Hasbro made Equestria Girls was to compete with Mattel’s Monster High. Hasbro thinks that dress-up dolls are the new big thing that all little girls want, and they want to compete with Mattel, so they decided they’d make their own line of dress-up dolls. The easiest thing they could think of to match Monster High’s dolls with weird skin colors was to make a movie off-shoot of MLP with girls who have weird colorful skin.

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