An examination of the culture behind the MLPFiM fandom

Posts tagged ‘Community’

Finding Fans – On Community

Luna flying by the light of the moon

Yes, there's plenty of fan art, too.

Most importantly for our purposes, the community is influenced by the passion which the fans put into various fanworks related to the show. For just about any medium, some fan has tried to create a pony-related work in it.

One example is the lengths to which fans are willing to go to customize their pony figures to better fit the image they have of the characters or to have figures of characters for which Hasbro does not yet create toys. Torres (2011) has created the most triumphant example of the former: she has produced a tutorial for taking a Princess Celestia figure (which, is for some reason, pink, despite the character being much closer to white in the show) and replacing the hair, adding accessories, and completely repainting the figure. There is a great deal of effort and skill involved, but to her—and, apparently, to other fans as well—it was worth it.

Another media absolutely full of MLPFiM fanworks is video. There is a nearly endless stream of fan videos, most of which take video from the show and set it to other audio, usually either music or audio from trailers for games or movies. One of the largest single examples of this type of video is “PONIES the Anthology” (ZephyrStar, Macchinainterna, Dr. Dinosaur, SilkAMV, ReggieSmalls, MeleeChampion, . . . Inthesto, 2011). It is an episode-length set of short scenes done in the above style, and due to its quality (good synchronization, custom animation, and generally excellent humor), is likely one of the most-viewed videos within the fanbase. (Movie trailer videos generally have many more views due to non-fans.)

However, as important as these fanworks are, without Hasbro’s condoning them, the community would still collapse. While Ponies the Anthology is an excellent example of a high-quality fan video, it’s also an excellent example of a fan video to which the actual target demographic of young girls shouldn’t be exposed due to explicit lyrics. Sabrina Dent (2011) addresses this idea in her presentation given at Dot Conf; she explicitly points out “The internet hates lawyers,” then points out the major reason for Hasbro’s noninterference. Hasbro is not making money off the airing of the episodes, but rather the sale of the toys. Therefore, anything that attracts additional people to the fandom and may cause them to buy merchandise is all to the good. Unfortunately, Torres (2011) and her custom Celestia figure point out the potential problem here: adult fans are much more likely to criticize the available toys. It remains to be seen whether Hasbro’s actions will pay off in the long run. In what may be viewed as an effort to placate older fans while figuring out what to do with their toy preferences, the Hub (2011) has actually taken to producing advertisements targeting these fans, such as the “Equestria Girls” video currently airing as a promotional spot on their network. It contains references only these fans are likely to understand, despite airing on a children’s network, and at least demonstrates they are aware of their expanded fanbase.

ZephyrStar et al. – PONIES the Anthology

ZephyrStar, Macchinainterna, Dr. Dinosaur, SilkAMV, ReggieSmalls, MeleeChampion, . . . Inthesto. (2011, May 5). Ponies the anthology [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Tjb14VoWjg

Warning: explicit content.

Summary:

This fanwork consists mostly of video from MLPFiM being played with audio from other sources, as many fan videos do. Each scene lasts for a few seconds to a couple minutes, and rarely does a given scene have anything to do with any other scene, making use of a rapid-fire style of comedy.

Analysis:

This video is one of the best examples of a quality fanwork: the audio and video are well-synched, there is custom animation involved (for instance, the entire first scene, a parody of the music video for Kanye West’s “Power”), and the humor generally works. However, it is also one of the best examples of a fan video which everyone involved would rather the younger fans not see, as there are a handful of songs used with explicit lyrics, ranging from Reggie Watts’ “Fuck Shit Stack” to Gilda Radner’s “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals.” (The latter is used well; the former frankly just seems gratuitous to me, even if the original song is itself a satire.) Hasbro’s decision to let media such as this continue to exist must have been a difficult one.

Watercutter, A. – My Little Pony corrals unlikely fanboys known as ‘bronies’

Watercutter, A. (2011, June 9). My Little Pony corrals unlikely fanboys known as ‘bronies’ [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/06/bronies-my-little-ponys/

Summary:

Wattercutter summarizes the various forms the fanbase of MLPFiM has taken, including its origin at 4chan, the various video mash-ups fans have created, and the creative communities that have formed (centering somewhat around the fan blog Equestria Daily). She then goes on to attempt to explain how Faust’s influence helped attract these older fans.

Analysis:

This is the seminal work describing the fanbase itself: every article published after this one by various media attempting to understand ‘bronies’ cites this article, and for good reason. Watercutter did her research, and links to a wide variety of resources and fanworks. While obviously I feel there’s a great deal more that could be written on any individual aspect of the topic, she has done a perfect job in creating an overview of the fanbase for non-fans to understand.

Torres, D. – Brushable Celestia – Tutorial

Torres, D. (2011, June 29). Brushable Celestia – Tutorial [Photographs with captions]. Retrieved from http://deekary.deviantart.com/art/Brushable-Celestia-Tutorial-215685607

Summary:

Torres details the process involved in converting the Hasbro-produced Princess Celestia toy into one that matches the show’s portrayal of the princess. This is a reasonably complicated process, involving removing the old, plastic-molded hair and supports, sculpting new accessories, completely repainting the figure, and replacing the hair.

Analysis:

This article demonstrates three things about the fanbase. First, it demonstrates the lengths to which some fans are willing to go to get the toys they want. Second, it does a fair job of showing why the fanbase is dissatisfied with some of the toys: Celestia is the extreme example, to be sure, but the toys in general have little to do with the show besides names and general appearance. Third, it shows one reason Hasbro may not choose to cater to these fans: despite being linked to by a major fansite, the top image from this artist on this subject has fewer than 6,000 hits as of this writing. The numbers simply don’t appear to be there for Hasbro to justify the expense of producing specifically for these fans.

Hub – Equestria Girls

Hub Television Networks. (2011). Equestria Girls . Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTPqjKk_xCo

 

Summary:

The Hub put together this video, a parody of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”, to serve as a promotional spot for MLPFiM. It is sung by Pinkie Pie’s singing voice actress, Shannon Chan Kent, and all video clips came directly from the show, much like a fan video. It makes direct references to elements of the fandom, such as the fans calling themselves “bronies” and the love for DJ-P0N3.

Analysis:

The song feels like a love letter from the network to the show’s older fans. It is, effectively, an official fan video, and one that makes jokes only these fans will understand. Admittedly, it has actually caused some fans to worry that the show will change too much in season two to cater to the older fans—as many of my other sources suggest, a large portion of the show’s success is due to the focus on being a positive influence on young girls—but hopefully these worries will prove unfounded.

Dent, S. – Presenting My Little Pony at the Dot Conf

Dent, S. (Speaker). (2011, June 27). Presenting My Little Pony at the Dot Conf [Video file and slideshow]. Retrieved from http://www.sabrinadent.com/2011/06/27/presenting-my-little-pony-at-the-dot-conf/

 Summary:

Ms. Dent opens her presentation by examining the effects that other corporations’ efforts to control their brand image through lawsuits had on the internet’s opinion of those corporations. This leads into her lesson one: “The internet hates lawyers.” She then goes on to describe what happened to create the older fanbase for MLPFiM, from 4chan to all the fanworks (lesson two: “You do not control your brand.”) before discussing Hasbro’s reaction to that fanbase. Hasbro seems to have decided to not just ignore but actively embrace the extended fanbase and their creations even to the point of creating their own parodies, such as the “Equestria Girls” video Ms. Dent played at the end of the presentation.

Analysis:

The marketing standpoint is an interesting one; however, it is difficult to know how well Hasbro’s apparent strategy is working from their perspective without seeing more specific sales numbers than Hasbro is willing to publicly distribute. Still, Ms. Dent does a very good job of explaining how the explosion from minor meme to major phenomenon was allowed to happen.