My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has done really well for a kid’s TV show established just to sell more plastic toys. So well, in fact, that Hasbro decided to expand the franchise even further with a movie—My Little Pony: Equestria Girls opens Friday in theaters. It’s common for toy-based movies to either completely remake all the characters or introduce a whole new slate of characters so that the viewers now have a bunch more toys they need to buy to complete their collections—the 1980s Transformers movie being the most famous example for killing off huge numbers of characters so they could create a whole bunch of new ones. My Little Pony is no different. However, as New York Daily News reports, some mothers are up in arms because the new characters/toys-to-be are sexified teenage girls, all miniskirts and knee-high boots, adding the once-innocent horses to the growing pile of toys that parents fear will give their girls body issues as they grow up:
“They’re not ponies anymore! So what’s the appeal?” says 29-year-old Washington Heights mom Eynat Amir, who stables 30 of her original 1980s Ponies at her mom’s house. “These look more like Bratz dolls.”
Turning the ponies into human girls does seem like a baffling choice on its surface. There are plenty of teenage girl dolls for little girls to buy, from the aforementioned Bratz to the ever-popular Barbie, but the Ponies were really holding down the market by appealing to the apparently genetic affinity little girls have for all things equestrian that dates back at least to National Velvet. But what if the change wasn’t about little girls at all? What if there was another audience—an older, male, and kind of off-putting audience—that also loves the Ponies and wants nothing more than imagery of them as humans to appeal to their less-than-innocent fantasies about really getting personal with their favorite toys? If there was such an audience, they have a little bit more disposable income than little girls, and selling to them, even if you alienate parents of little girls, might end up being quite profitable indeed.
And lookie here, there is such an audience. They’re called Bronies, and they’re grown men who love all things My Little Pony and they don’t have moms around to tell them no if they want to rush out and buy all the Ponies, even the very expensive, oversized, and collector’s item ones, as well as all their accessories. My Little Pony didn’t set out to capture that cherished 18-45 male demographic when they started making cute little TV programs about pony friendship, but now that they have that demo, I suspect they’re going to do everything in their power to keep it.
Bronies have expressed a strong interest in seeing the Ponies in sexy, humanized forms—if you doubt this, I dare you to search for “my little pony porn” on Google—and it seems Hasbro has given them exactly what they want. If there was any danger of the Brony trend dying off any time soon, turning the Ponies into imitation sexy anime characters delayed that potential decline. A few mad moms is an easy price to pay when you consider the huge profits Hasbro will rake in with this move.