I’ve never really been very sports-motivated. I enjoy casually participating, but I can’t really see the attraction in spectating most sports, most of the time1.
My limited relationship with sports
There are several activities I enjoy doing that happen to overlap with sports: swimming, cycling, etc., but I’m not doing them as sports. By which I mean: I’m not doing them
competitively (and I don’t expect that to change).
I used to appreciate a game of badminton once in a while, and I’ve plenty of times enjoyed kicking a ball around with whoever’s there (party guests… the kids… the dog…2).
But again, I’ve not really done any competitive sports since I used to play rugby at school, way back in the day3.
I guess I don’t really see the point in spectating sports that I don’t have any personal investment in. Which for me means that it’d have to involve somebody I care
A couple of dozen strangers running about for 90 minutes does nothing for me, because I haven’t the patriotism to care who wins or loses. But put one of my friends or family on the
pitch and I might take an interest4!
What went wrong with football, for example
In some ways, the commercialisation of sport seems to me to be… just a bit sad?
Take soccer (association football), for example, whose explosive success in the United Kingdom helped bolster the worldwide appeal it enjoys today.
Up until the late 19th century soccer was exclusively an amateur sport: people played on teams on evenings and weekends and then went back to their day jobs the rest of the time. In
fact, early football leagues in the UK specifically forbade professional players!5
As leagues grew beyond local inter-village tournaments and reached the national stage, this approach gave an unfair advantage to teams in the South of England over those in the North
and in Scotland. You see, the South had a larger proportion of landed gentry (who did not need to go back to a “day job” and could devote more of their time to practice) and a
larger alumni of public schools (which had a long history with the sport in some variation or another)!6
Clamour from the Northern teams to be allowed to employ professional players eventually lead to changes in the rules to permit paid team members so long as they lived within a certain
distance of the home pitch7.
The “locality” rule for professional players required that the player had been born, or had lived for two years, within the vicinity of the club. People turned up to cheer on the local
paid their higher season ticket prices to help fund not only the upkeep of the ground and the team’s travel but now also their salaries. Still all fine.
Things went wrong when the locality rule stopped applying. Now teams were directly competing with one another for players, leading to bidding wars. The sums of money involved
in signing players began to escalate. Clubs merged (no surprise that so many of those “Somewheretown United” teams sprung up around this period) and grew larger and
begun marketing in new ways to raise capital: replica kits, televised matches, sponsorship deals… before long running a football team was more about money than
And that’s where we are today, and why the odds are good that your local professional football team doesn’t have any players that you or anybody you know will ever meet in person.
That’s a bit of a long a way to say “nah, I’m not terribly into sports”, isn’t it?
2 The dog loves trying to join in a game of football and will happily push the ball up and
down the pitch, but I don’t think she understands the rules and she’s indecisive about which team she’s on. Also, her passing game leaves a lot to be desired, and her dribbling
invariably leaves the ball covered in drool.
3 And even then, my primary role in the team was to be a chunky dirty-fighter of a player
who got in the way of the other team and wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around.
4 Unless it’s cricket. What the fuck is cricket supposed to be about? I have
spectated a cricket match featuring people I know and I still don’t see the attraction.
5 Soccer certainly wasn’t the first sport to “go professional” in the UK; cricket was way ahead of it, for example. But it enjoys such worldwide popularity today that I think it’s a good example to use in
a history lesson.
6 I’m not here to claim that everything that’s wrong with the commercialisation of
professional football can be traced to the North/South divide in England.. but we can agree it’s a contributing factor, right?
8 And girls! Even in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were women’s football
teams: Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C., also from Preston (turns out there’s a reason the National Football Museum was, until
2012, located there), became famous for beating local men’s teams and went on to represent England internationally. But in 1921 the FA said that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged”, and banned from the leagues any men’s team that shared
their pitch with a women’s team. The ban was only rescinded in 1971. Thanks, FA.
Some organizations are beginning to take steps to be more inclusive by outlining in their mission statement that they welcome both women and non-binary people. However, this
approach only scratches the surface of the needs for inclusion of diverse genders. While it’s certainly a good start, I’m here to discuss why the language of “Women and Non-Binary”
can be problematic and how we can do better.
If your goal is to uplift marginalized genders, stating that your opportunity is open to “Women and Non-Binary people” has two important pitfalls:
Including non-binary people in feminine coded spaces perpetuates the misconception that all non-binary people identify with aspects of femininity.
Focusing only on non-binary people and women leaves out trans men, who are often overlooked and need just as much support.
Quinn Crossley acknowledges how good it is to have spaces for specific marginalised genders and how it’s even better to ensure that non-binary genders are considered too, but then they
go even further by making four further recommendations, as follows:
Remove gendered terms from your group’s name.
Avoid language that lumps non-binary people in with a binary gender.
Be specific about who is included in your mission statement.
Use inclusive language when communicating with group members.
These are really great, and I’d recommend that you go read the original article (even if you have to put up with Medium’s annoying popups) if you’re looking for a fuller explanation of
the arguments. What’s especially valuable about them, to me, is that they provide a framework for thinking differently about non-binary inclusion, as well as examples from
which you can derive action points for your own groups. They’re all relatively-easy ideas to implement, too: if you’ve already got a moderately-inclusive group, you can make just a few
minor tweaks to your stated values and your organisational language and reach a whole other level.
(Quick confession: I still don’t get the appeal of “folxs”, though; “folks” already felt to me personally to be completely free of gender. This might just be another one of those
things I haven’t gotten my head around yet, though, like how – and I say this speaking as a bisexual person – there’s somehow necessarily always a difference between
bisexuality and pansexuality.)
A guy walks into a bar. It’s a low one, so he gets a raise within his first six months on the job.
Did you hear the one about the woman who reported sexual harassment? Of course you didn’t; she was forced to sign an NDA.
Louise Bernikow once wrote: Humour tells you where the trouble is.
It’s okay to laugh at these jokes. But only so long as you do so with an awareness that their comedy comes from the nuggets of truth within each and every one of them. Our society’s
come a long way this last century, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
Anticipatory note: based on the traffic I already get to my blog and the keywords people search for, I imagine that some people will end up here looking to
learn “how to become a hacker”. If that’s your goal, you’re probably already asking the wrong question, but I direct you to Eric S. Raymond’s Guide/FAQ on the subject. Good luck.
Few words have seen such mutation of meaning over their lifetimes as the word “silly”. The earliest references, found in Old English, Proto-Germanic, and Old Norse and presumably having
an original root even earlier, meant “happy”. By the end of the 12th century it meant “pious”; by the end of the 13th, “pitiable” or “weak”; only by the late 16th coming to mean
“foolish”; its evolution continues in the present day.
But there’s little so silly as the media-driven evolution of the word “hacker” into something that’s at least a little offensive those of us who probably would be
described as hackers. Let’s take a look.
What people think it means
Computer criminal with access to either knowledge or tools which are (or should be) illegal.
What it originally meant
Expert, creative computer programmer; often politically inclined towards information transparency, egalitarianism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchy, and/or decentralisation of
The earliest recorded uses of the word “hack” had a meaning that is unchanged to this day: to chop or cut, as you might describe hacking down an unruly bramble. There are clear links
between this and the contemporary definition, “to plod away at a repetitive task”. However, it’s less certain how the word came to be associated with the meaning it would come to take
on in the computer labs of 1960s university campuses (the earliest references seem to come from
around April 1955).
There, the word hacker came to describe computer experts who were developing a culture of:
sharing computer resources and code (even to the extent, in extreme
cases, breaking into systems to establish more equal opportunity of access),
learning everything possible about humankind’s new digital frontiers (hacking to learn, not learning to hack)
discovering and advancing the limits of computers: it’s been said that the difference between a non-hacker and a hacker is that a non-hacker asks of a new gadget “what does it do?”,
while a hacker asks “what can I make it do?”
It is absolutely possible for hacking, then, to involve no lawbreaking whatsoever. Plenty of hacking involves writing (and sharing) code, reverse-engineering technology and systems you
own or to which you have legitimate access, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of software, art, and human-computer interaction. Even among hackers with a specific
interest in computer security, there’s plenty of scope for the legal pursuit of their interests: penetration testing, security research, defensive security, auditing, vulnerability
assessment, developer education… (I didn’t say cyberwarfare because 90% of its
application is of questionable legality, but it is of course a big growth area.)
So what changed? Hackers got famous, and not for the best reasons. A big tipping point came in the early 1980s when hacking group The
414s broke into a number of high-profile computer systems, mostly by using the default password which had never been changed. The six teenagers responsible were arrested by the
FBI but few were charged, and those that were were charged only with minor offences. This was at least in part because
there weren’t yet solid laws under which to prosecute them but also because they were cooperative, apologetic, and for the most part hadn’t caused any real harm. Mostly they’d just been
curious about what they could get access to, and were interested in exploring the systems to which they’d logged-in, and seeing how long they could remain there undetected. These remain
common motivations for many hackers to this day.
News media though – after being excited by “hacker” ideas introduced by WarGames – rightly realised that a hacker with the
same elementary resources as these teens but with malicious intent could cause significant real-world damage. Bruce
Schneier argued last year that the danger of this may be higher today than ever before. The press ran news stories strongly associating the word “hacker” specifically with the focus
on the illegal activities in which some hackers engage. The release of Neuromancer the following year, coupled
with an increasing awareness of and organisation by hacker groups and a number of arrests on both sides of the Atlantic only fuelled things further. By the end of the decade it was
essentially impossible for a layperson to see the word “hacker” in anything other than a negative light. Counter-arguments like The
Conscience of a Hacker (Hacker’s Manifesto) didn’t reach remotely the same audiences: and even if they had, the points they made remain hard to sympathise with for those outside of
A lack of understanding about what hackers did and what motivated them made them seem mysterious and otherworldly. People came to make the same assumptions about hackers that
they do about magicians – that their abilities are the result of being privy to tightly-guarded knowledge rather than years of practice – and this
elevated them to a mythical level of threat. By the time that Kevin Mitnick was jailed in the mid-1990s, prosecutors were able to successfully persuade a judge that this “most dangerous
hacker in the world” must be kept in solitary confinement and with no access
to telephones to ensure that he couldn’t, for example, “start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone”. Yes, really.
Every decade’s hackers have debated whether or not the next decade’s have correctly interpreted their idea of “hacker ethics”. For me, Steven Levy’s tenets encompass them best:
Access to computers – and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works – should be unlimited and total.
All information should be free.
Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.
Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.
You can create art and beauty on a computer.
Computers can change your life for the better.
Given these concepts as representative of hacker ethics, I’m convinced that hacking remains alive and well today. Hackers continue to be responsible for many of the coolest and
most-important innovations in computing, and are likely to continue to do so. Unlike many other sciences, where progress over the ages has gradually pushed innovators away from
backrooms and garages and into labs to take advantage of increasingly-precise generations of equipment, the tools of computer science are increasingly available to individuals.
More than ever before, bedroom-based hackers are able to get started on their journey with nothing more than a basic laptop or desktop computer and a stack of freely-available
open-source software and documentation. That progress may be threatened by the growth in popularity of easy-to-use (but highly locked-down) tablets and smartphones, but the barrier to
entry is still low enough that most people can pass it, and the new generation of ultra-lightweight computers like the Raspberry Pi are doing
their part to inspire the next generation of hackers, too.
That said, and as much as I personally love and identify with the term “hacker”, the hacker community has never been less in-need of this overarching label. The diverse variety
of types of technologist nowadays coupled with the infiltration of pop culture by geek culture has inevitably diluted only to be replaced with a multitude of others each describing a
narrow but understandable part of the hacker mindset. You can describe yourself today as a coder, gamer, maker, biohacker, upcycler,cracker, blogger, reverse-engineer, social engineer, unconferencer, or one of dozens of other terms that more-specifically ties you to your
community. You’ll be understood and you’ll be elegantly sidestepping the implications of criminality associated with the word “hacker”.
(I’m aware that I linked at the top of this blog post to the venerable but also-problematic Eric S. Raymond; if anybody can suggest an equivalent resource by another
author I’d love to swap out the link.)
Verdict: The word “hacker” has become so broad in scope that we’ll never be able to rein it back in. It’s tainted by its associations with both criminality, on one
side, and unpleasant individuals on the other, and it’s time to accept that the popular contemporary meaning has won. Let’s find new words to define ourselves, instead.
Let’s face the truth. We are in an abusive relationship with our phones.
Ask yourself the first three questions that UK non-profit Women’s Aid
suggests to determine if you’re in an abusive relationship:
Has your partner tried to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Has your partner prevented you or made it hard for you to continue or start studying, or from going to work?
Does your partner constantly check up on you or follow you?
If you substitute ‘phone’ for ‘partner’, you could answer yes to each question. And then you’ll probably blame yourself.
A fresh take by an excellent article. Bringing a feminist viewpoint to our connection to our smartphones helps to expose the fact that our relationship with the devices would easily be
classified as abusive were they human. The article goes on to attempt to diffuse the inevitable self-blame that comes from this realisation and move forward to propose a more-utopian
future in which our devices might work for us, rather than for the companies that provide the services for which we use them.
How can we increase gender representation in software engineering?
Our Developer Hiring Experience team analyzed this topic in a recent user-research study. The issue resonated with women engineers and a strong response enabled the team to gain
deeper insight than is currently available from online research projects.
Seventy-one engineers who identified as women or non-binary responded to our request for feedback. Out of that pool, 24 answered a follow-up survey, and we carried out in-depth
interviews with 14 people. This was a highly skilled group, with the majority having worked in software development for over 10 years.
While some findings aligned with our expectations, we still uncovered a few surprises.
Excellent research courtesy of my soon-to-be new employer about the driving factors affecting women who are experienced software
engineers. Interesting (and exciting) to see that changes are already in effect, as I observed while writing about my experience of their
As a child, I wanted to be a botanical researcher. I loved being outdoors and used to visit the botanical gardens near my house all the time. My grandma inspired me to change my
mind and helped me get interested in science. She lived in the country and we would look at the stars together,…
As a child, I wanted to be a botanical researcher. I loved being outdoors and used to visit the botanical gardens near my house all the time. My grandma inspired me to change
my mind and helped me get interested in science. She lived in the country and we would look at the stars together, which led to an early fascination in astronomy.
Unusually for the era, both my grandmothers had worked in science: one as a lab technician and one as a researcher in speech therapy. I have two brothers, but neither went
into technology as a career. My mum was a vicar and my dad looked after us kids, although he had been a maths teacher.
My aptitude for science and maths led me to study physics at university, but I didn’t enjoy it, and switched to software engineering after the first year. As soon as I did my
first bit of programming, I knew this was what I had been looking for. I like solving problems and building stuff that works, and programming gave me the opportunity to do
both. It was my little eureka moment.
Wise words from my partner on her workplace’s blog as part of a series of pieces they’re doing on women in technology. Plus, a nice plug for
Three Rings there (thanks, love!).
Hello and thank you for attempting to engage in an unsolicited conversation with me! In order to ensure our interaction is productive and enriching for both parties, I invite you to
join my Matreon. For just a few dollars a month, you can continue to approach me with whatever the hell is on your mind regardless of context or appropriateness, and I will continue
to do the emotional labor required to respond without calling you a privileged, myopic dipshit.
Since you’re obviously the most important person in the universe and everything should cater to your needs, I’ve created a number of exciting options that you can take advantage of.
You know, like you take advantage of the way that women are culturally trained to be sweet and helpful when you fart words in their direction.
You know what: there are probably guys who’d pay for this and would then use their doing so as an illustration that women “need men to (financially) support them”.
When we see consent as the sole constraint on OK sex, we are pushed towards a naturalisation of sexual preference in which the rape fantasy becomes a primordial rather than a
On 23 May 2014, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old college dropout, became the world’s most famous ‘incel’ – involuntary celibate. The term can, in
theory, be applied to both men and women, but in practice it picks out not sexless men in general, but a certain kind of sexless man: the kind who is convinced he is owed sex, and is
enraged by the women who deprive him of it. Rodger stabbed to death his two housemates, Weihan Wang and Cheng Hong, and a friend, George Chen, as they entered his apartment on Seville
Road in Isla Vista, California. Three hours later he drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. He shot three women on the lawn, killing two of them,
Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss. Rodger then went on a drive-by shooting spree through Isla Vista, killing Christopher Michaels-Martinez, also a student at UCSB, with a single
bullet to the chest inside a Deli Mart, and wounding 14 others. He eventually crashed his BMW coupé at an intersection. He was found dead by the police, having shot himself in the
In the hours between murdering three men in his apartment and driving to Alpha Phi, Rodger went to Starbucks, ordered coffee, and uploaded a video, ‘Elliot Rodger’s Retribution’, to
his YouTube channel. He also emailed a 107,000-word memoir-manifesto, ‘My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger’, to a group of people including his parents, his therapist,
former schoolteachers and childhood friends. Together these two documents detail the massacre to come and Rodger’s motivation. ‘All I ever wanted was to fit in and live a happy
life,’ he explains at the beginning of ‘My Twisted World’, ‘but I was cast out and rejected, forced to endure an existence of loneliness and insignificance, all because the females
of the human species were incapable of seeing the value in me.’
Julianne Aguilar | Longreads | February 2018 | 14 minutes (2,894 words)
Once upon a time, in 1999, when the internet was small, when it came through your phone and not just on your phone, when the first browser war had not yet been won, when you had to
teach yourself a few lines of code if you want…
Once upon a time, in 1999, when the internet was small, when it came through your phone and not just on your phone, when the first browser war had not yet been won,
when you had to teach yourself a few lines of code if you wanted to exist online, when the idea of broadcasting your real name for anyone to see was unthinkable — in those early days,
before Twitter revolutions, before Facebook Live homicides, when the internet was small and most people didn’t understand it, and only the nerds hung out there — even
then, it was already happening.
Although there’s a lot of heated discussion around diversity, I feel many of us ignore the elephant in the web development diversity room. We tend to forget about users of older or
non-standard devices and browsers, instead focusing on people with modern browsers, which nowadays means the latest versions of Chrome and Safari.
This is nothing new — see “works only in IE” ten years ago, or “works only in Chrome” right now — but as long as we’re addressing other diversity issues in web development we should
address this one as well.
Ignoring users of older browsers springs from the same causes as ignoring women, or non-whites, or any other disadvantaged group. Average web developer does not know any non-whites,
so he ignores them. Average web developer doesn’t know any people with older devices, so he ignores them. Not ignoring them would be more work, and we’re on a tight deadline with a
tight budget, the boss didn’t say we have to pay attention to them, etc. etc. The usual excuses.
Official site of The Week Magazine, offering commentary and analysis of the day's breaking news and current events as well as arts, entertainment, people and gossip, and political
The world is disturbingly comfortable with the fact that women sometimes leave a sexual encounter in tears.
When Babe.net published a pseudonymous woman’s account of a difficult encounter with Aziz Ansari that made her cry, the internet exploded with “takes” arguing that the #MeToo
movement had finally gone too far. “Grace,” the 23-year-old woman, was not an employee of Ansari’s, meaning there were no workplace dynamics. Her repeated objections and pleas that
they “slow down” were all well and good, but they did not square with the fact that she eventually gave Ansari oral sex. Finally, crucially, she was free to leave.
Why didn’t she just get out of there as soon as she felt uncomfortable? many people explicitly or implicitly asked.
It’s a rich question, and there are plenty of possible answers. But if you’re asking in good faith, if you really want to think through why someone might have acted as she
did, the most important one is this: Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.
This is so baked into our society I feel like we forget it’s there. To steal from David Foster Wallace, this is the water we swim in.
The last six months have been remarkable. At this point, I can simply text the name of a powerful man to a friend, and they know—another has been accused, outed, exposed. The
context is so present …
The last six months have been remarkable. At this point, I can simply text the name of a powerful man to a friend, and they know—another has been accused, outed, exposed.
The context is so present in our minds, partly because it always has been, but largely because the public conversation that’s erupted has been so thorough and—for the most part—
wonderfully persistent in both condemning predatory behaviour and upholding the testimony of victims. New precedents are being established. Where we would once discuss these crimes
with beleaguered resignation about the consequences, we can now be quietly confident that we’re entering a new era. Finally, retribution is being inflicted on the perpetrator and not
It feels different even from a year ago. Would Casey Affleck have won the Oscar in this climate, we ask? Probably not, we think. I bet he’s relieved, we say. Public opinion has swung:
the Weinstein Company didn’t fire Harvey Weinstein because they found out he was a sexual predator, they fired him because we found out. It’s good to see that the
house is finally burning down around him and men of his ilk, but we need to talk about that house— who built it, who lived there, and why it was allowed to stand for so long.
In the brutal, self-centered bash-fest that social media often becomes, a moment of simple kindness and connection stands out.
American comedian Sarah Silverman is unapologetically blunt in her fight
against misogyny. But Silverman has also made a point of exploring the depths of her own empathy.
“I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things?” she said, after her dear friend and fellow
comedian, Louis CK, was accused of sexual harassment. “I can
mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims.”
Last week, Silverman demonstrated similar level-headed compassion when subjected to sexism and harassment herself. After tweeting about an article describing her honest attempts to understand Trump
supporters, Silverman received a crude response from a Twitter follower:
To pre-empt any gatekeeping bronies in their generally-quite-nice society who want to tell me that I’m no “true” fan: save your breath, I already know. I’m not
actually claiming any kinship with the brony community. But what’s certainly true is that I’ve gained a level of appreciation for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that certainly goes beyond that of most people who aren’t fans of
the show (or else have children who are), and I thought I’d share it with you. (I can’t promise that it’s not just Stockholm syndrome, though…)
Ignoring the fact that I owned, at some point in the early 1980s, a “G1” pony toy (possibly Seashell) from the original, old-school My Little Pony, my first introduction to the modern series came in around 2010
when, hearing about the surprise pop culture appeal of the rebooted franchise, I watched the first two episodes, Friendship is Magic parts one and two: I’m aware that after I mentioned it to
Claire, she went on to watch most of the first season (a pegasister in
the making, perhaps?). Cool, I thought: this is way better than most of the crap cartoons that were on when I was a kid.
And then… I paid no mind whatsoever to the franchise until our little preschooler came home from the library, early in 2017, with a copy of an early reader/board book called Fluttershy and the Perfect Pet. This turns out to be a re-telling of the season 2 episode May The Best Pet Win!, although of course I only know that with hindsight. I casually mentioned to her that there was a TV
series with these characters, too, and she seemed interested in giving it a go. Up until that point her favourite TV shows were probably PAW Patrol and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, but
these quickly gave way to a new-found fandom of all things MLP.
The bobbin’s now watched all seven seasons of Friendship is Magic plus the movie and so, by proxy – with a few exceptions where for example JTA was watching an episode with her – have I. And it’s these exceptions where I’d “missed” a few
episodes that first lead to the discovery that I am, perhaps, a “closet Brony”. It came to me one night at the local pub that JTA and I
favour that when we ended up, over our beers, “swapping notes” about the episodes that we’d each seen in order to try to make sense of it all. We’re each routinely roped into playing
games for which we’re expected to adopt the role of particular ponies (and dragons, and changelings, and at least one centaur…), but we’d both ended up getting confused as to
what we were supposed to be doing at some point or another on account of the episodes of the TV show we’d each “missed”. I’m not sure how we looked to the regulars – two 30-something
men sitting by the dartboard discussing the internal politics and friendship dramas of a group of fictional ponies and working out how the plots were interconnected – but if anybody
thought anything of it, they didn’t say so.
By the time the movie was due to come out, I was actually a little excited about it, and not even just in a vicarious way (I would soon be disappointed, mind: the movie’s mediocre at best, but at the three-year-old I took to the cinema was impressed, at least, and the “proper”
bronies – who brought cupcakes and costumes and sat at the back of the cinema – seemed to enjoy themselves, so maybe I just set my expectations too high). Clearly something in the TV
show had sunk its hooks into me, at least in a minor way. It’s not that I’d ever watch an episode without the excuse of looking after a child who wanted to do so… but I also
won’t deny that by the end of The Cutie Remark, Part One I wanted to make sure that I was the one to be
around when the little ‘un watched the second part! How wouldStarlight Glimmer be defeated?
At least part of the appeal is probably that the show is better than most other contemporary kids’ entertainment, and as anybody with young children knows, you end up exposed to plenty
of it. Compare to PAW Patrol (the previous obsession in our household), for example. Here we have two shows that each use six animated animals to promote an ever-expanding toy
line. But in Friendship is Magic the ponies are all distinct and (mostly) internally-consistent characters with their own individual identity, history, ambitions, likes and
dislikes that build a coherent whole (and that uniquely contributes to the overall identity of the group). In PAW Patrol, the pups are almost-interchangeable in identity
(and sometimes purpose), each with personality quirks that conveniently disappear when the plot demands it
(Marshall suddenly and without announcement stops being afraid of heights when episodes are released to promote the new “air pup” toys, and Chase’s allergy to cats somehow only
manifests itself some of the time and with some cats) and other characteristics that feel decidedly… forced. MLP‘s writing isn’t
great by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the other things I could be watching with the kids it’s spectacular!
And compare the morality of the two shows. Friendship is Magic teaches us the values of friendship (duh), loyalty, trust, kindness, and respect, as well as carrying a strong
feminist message that young women can grow up to be whatever the hell they want to be. Conversely, the most-lasting lesson I’ve taken from watching PAW Patrol (and I’ve
seen a lot of that, too) is that police and spy agencies are functionally-interchangeable which very-much
isn’t the message I want our children to take away from their screen time.
It’s not perfect, of course. The season one episode A Dog And Pony Show‘s enduring moral, in which unicorn pony
Rarity is kidnapped by subterranean dogs and made to mine gemstones (she has a magical talent for divining for seams of them), seems to be that the best way for a woman to get her way
over men is to make a show of whining incessantly until they submit, and to win arguments by deliberately misunderstanding their statements as something that she can take offence to.
That’s not just a bad ethical message, it also reinforces a terrible stereotype and thoroughly undermines Rarity’s character! Thankfully, such issues are few and far between and on the
whole the overwhelming message of My Little Pony is one of empowerment, equality, and fairness.
For the most part, Equestria is painted as a place where gender doesn’t and shouldn’t matter, which is fantastic! Compare to the Peppa
Pig episode (and accompanying book) called Funfair in which Mummy Pig
is goaded into participating in an archery competition by being told that “women are useless” at it, because it’s a “game of skill”. And while Mummy Pig does surprise the
stallholder by winning, that’s the only rebuff: it’s still presented as absolutely acceptable to make skill judgements based on gender – all that is taught is that Mummy Pig is
an outlier (which is stressed again when she wins at a hammer swing competition, later); no effort is made to show that it’s wrong to express prejudice over stereotypes. Peppa Pig is
full of terrible lessons for children even if you choose to ignore the time the show told Australian kids to pick up and play with spiders.
I probably know the words to most of the songs that’ve had album releases (we listen to them in the car a lot; unfortunately a voice from the backseat seems to request the detestable Christmas album more than any of the far-better ones). I’m probably the second-best person in my house at
being able to identify characters, episodes, and plotlines from the series. I have… opinions on the portrayal of Twilight Sparkle’s character in the script of the movie.
I don’t describe myself as a Brony (not that there’d be anything wrong if I did!), but I can see how others might. I think I get an exemption for not having been to a convention or read
any fanfiction or, y’know, watched any of it without a child present. I think that’s the key.