Street Knight Squad Chapter 1

On Sunday, February 26, 2012 0 comments

This is the first chapter to an ebook I am planning on publishing. If you like my writing, please download my first ebook: Peter Pays Tribute. You can get it free with the following coupon code: YP65T
Zelda could see it a few agonizing steps in front of her. Her new life was waiting for her. Of course, she had to crane her head to see around the fat fan-boy blocking her view, but it was worth it to catch a glimpse of that all powerful, all new hunk of metal.
“So, like, what if the police catch us?” Tiffany asked, standing behind her.
They would be standing side-by-side, but unfortunately the crowd moderators were total Nazis. You had to stand single-file in the line. You could not leave the line. There would be no pushing, shoving or jostling while waiting in the line.
“Look, we’re not the only teenagers out this late. That whole city-curfew thing is mostly a joke,” Zelda responded, refolding her bony arms.
The line moved up one. One more step towards victory. One more step towards Street Knight IV.
“All right, Tif, do you remember what I told you?”
“Umm…” Tiffany cocked her head to the side, like a collie hearing her master’s voice in the distance. She wore more mascara than a collie, and her hair was a more vibrant shade of red, but the resemblance was still striking. “The part about how to register. You’ll probably have to explain the classes again.”
Zelda let out a deep groan. Actually, it was more of a mild snarl.
“Fine. But please try to get through the registration as fast as possible. We only have until one.”
Only until one. Weeks of begging and bargaining, and one was the latest her parents would let her stay out. And then she still had to go to school the next day.
“We have all tomorrow afternoon, don’t we?” Tiffany asked, checking her cell phone. Even at the stroke of midnight, she was still getting texts.
“This is a launch party. You’re supposed to stay up all night, and the day after, and maybe the night after that if you’re really hardcore.”
Zelda was hardcore. As soon as Street Knight IV was announced, she’d started saving her money. Four hundred dollars (and a twelve dollar monthly subscription) was a lot to ask from a fifteen year old girl with no job. But she’d found ways. Recycling cans, mowing lawns, doing extra chores. All for this.
From up front came the blissful call.
Yes! Zelda was next! She was next! This was her turn, her chance to experience the game to end all games.
Breathe. You can’t waste time passing out.
She stepped up to the counter in the dingy little game store and surrendered her hard-earned money. After signing a few papers, rushing through the instructions and registering in the database, the clerk handed her the prize. It was like a medieval gauntlet and an alien remote control had formed a sweet love child together. The Harbor company logo glinted in the store lights. It was hard and cold to the touch, but still much lighter than she expected. Like its own awesomeness buoyed it up.
Zelda forced herself to exit the store calmly. Since this building was Marked, the Bounder would work in here. But booting up inside a building went against everything Street Knight was about. One does not play Street Knight indoors. Such is blasphemy.
So like the rest of the nerds before her, Zelda took her high-tech hunk to the blissful outdoors. She slipped the Bounder over her skin. Instantly, the glove tightened, matching itself to the shape of her hand. A tingle shot through her body. After it was done calibrating, the interface came up. That gorgeous blue screen, floating in midair and awaiting her caress.
“Okay, so what do I do now?” Tiffany asked behind her. She had her Bounder on, and she was staring at it like a Neanderthal would stare at a Christmas tree. So familiar, and yet so strange.
“You are such a noob,” Zelda teased, rolling her eyes.
“I’ve played video games before,” defended Tiffany, holding her head up high. She was still four inches shorter than Zelda.
“Okay, just follow me and do what I do,” Zelda ordered. With her gloved hand, she tapped on the blue interface. To anyone walking by, it would look like she was tapping the air. Only other players could see the interface. The Bounder was the key to a whole new, magical, fantastical world. Right on top of the old one. “You have to choose a username. Don’t pick anything too stupid, okay? Other people will be able to see it.”
“I already did that. I’m not brain dead. I’m just a little confused about the whole classes thing.”
“Noob,” Zelda taunted. Her fingers itched to get registration done with so she could start playing. “Each of the classes has a different fighting style. Warriors are the tanks. They can deal a lot of damage, and they usually have high health, but they also suffer from low magic defense and –”
“I thought you said you wanted to get through this quick,” Tiffany interrupted. There was a smirk stuck to the edges of her lips. No one knew better than Tiffany how much Zelda loved to rant about her favorite video game.
“Just pick the thief. They’re small and pesky, just like you.”
“I am not small,” Tiffany sniffed. However, she took Zelda’s advice. After all, when it came to Street Knight, Zelda was the leading authority.
“I’ll be a warrior. We won’t have a mage, but maybe we can pick up someone to join our party.”
“Maybe I can ask Bruno!” Tiffany squealed, like she’d just had an epiphany. Her hands stopped fluttering across the interface in order to clap together.
“No. And don’t stop. We only have forty-five minutes left.”
“I don’t know why you hate him so much,” Tiffany muttered, returning to her button-pressing. “He’s absolutely adorable. If I didn’t know better, I’d say – oh holy crap, that is awesome!”
Zelda was thinking the same thing. Her own registration complete, the Bounder was creating her avatar. Except avatar wasn’t the right word. She’d be directly playing the game, but she’d be doing it in costume. A costume made from the most amazing holographic technology ever. Light blossomed from her Bounder, spreading over her body and coating it in her game identity. She’d played Street Knight III (and I and II), but they were nothing compared to this. From her feet up, her body was morphing into another person entirely. Layer upon layer of sparks congealed around her, making her transform.
Well, there was no real transformation involved. It was just light and dust and a bunch of other technical stuff. But it looked so real.
“My life is officially complete,” Zelda breathed. Her pale skin was replaced with a dark tan. Over her own scrawny limbs were the limbs of someone who worked out quite a bit. Then there was her face, now completely changed. Since she had picked all the features, she didn’t have to look in a mirror to know what she looked like. Broad nose, fierce eyes, the face of someone who could pummel you. No more too-small nose and dimples.
“Me next!” Tiffany squealed, typing on her interface. In a few moments, her registration was complete, and the transformation took hold of her body, too.
“Why did you make yourself taller?” Zelda asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“I’ve always wanted to be tall,” Tiffany sniffed, putting her now perfect nose in the air.
“You do realize no one is going to be able to make eye contact with you. It’ll always look like they’re staring above your head.”
“A small price to pay.”
Zelda would have pressed the point, but they didn’t have time to waste.
“Come on. I want to level up at least once before I have to go home.”
“And how do we do that?”
“The same way you do it in every game. We go kill something.”
With a mental urging, she pulled up her radar. This wouldn’t help Tiffany, since players couldn’t see each others HUBs. She’d tell her friend how to do it later when they had the time. For now, her eyes absorbed the layout of the city. It was still the city she knew, more or less. The big green block down the street was the marketplace. In real life, it was a Walmart, but they hosted the area’s marketplace in return for a monthly fee. That meant allowing strange people into their store at all hours of the day and night. So pretty much the same thing they did on a day-to-day basis.
Around the large green dot, there was a swarm of tiny blue ones. Other players, all flooding the store to try and stock up on decent items. Waste of time. You couldn’t afford anything good until you’d completed a few quests.
On the other side of the radar, there were scattered red dots. The enemies.
“Looks like we’re in business. Follow me,” Zelda commanded, sprinting off.
With a yelp, her friend ran after. Lucky for Tiffany, she was in good enough shape that she could run and blab at the same time.
“So just for the record, this is pretty much the same as any other game, right?” she asked, bouncing gracefully alongside Zelda. At least, the hologram looked graceful. She couldn’t tell what was going on under the surface.
Street Knight is not like other games,” Zelda sniffed, indignant. “There’s no sitting on your butt here. You actually have to do stuff.”
“Okay, chill girl, it wasn’t a personal attack,” Tiffany replied. “All I want to know is if they play more or less the same.”
“Well, a little bit,” Zelda conceded. On her radar, she could see the red blips drawing closer, so she made her explanation brief. “At this point in the game, you won’t have a lot of special skills. Just go up to a monster and stab it with your knife.”
“Wait, you mean I have to actually touch the thing?” Tiffany whined. Even in the dinky streetlights, Zelda could see the disgust on her face. Or at least, the disgust she showed on her face that was reflected through the hologram. But man, it was hard to tell the difference. The avatar graphics had taken a serious upgrade.
“You won’t feel anything. It’s just a hologram.”
“I know. I have seen people play this game before,” Tiffany said, ever quick to prove herself not a dunce. “I’ve seen plenty of people attack empty air. I just didn’t think you actually had to aim.”
 Zelda rolled her eyes. The more her friend tried to sound experienced, the more she revealed her own ineptitude. Even though Tiffany swore up and down that she was a gamer, her definition of hardcore was Pokemon.
“There won’t be blood, will there?”
“No. If you want blood, you have to unlock your account and prove that you’re over eighteen. Then you can have blood.”
Ahead, through the flickering light of the lamps, they saw their first monster. There was something so blissful about running through these mundane streets and coming across something so fantastical. Especially with the upgraded graphics. This one was a troll, low-level and ugly. But it was such a realistic ugly that it took Zelda’s breath away. The way its pebbly skin matched the lighting in the area perfectly, its primal movements, the soft thud as it took a step. To anyone without a Bounder, it would look like nothing was there at all. But to Zelda and Tiffany, this thing was as real as a hobo.
“Oh wow,” Tiffany breathed. She had stopped a block away, amazement gluing her in her place.
“Pretty cool, huh?”
“What happens if that thing hits me?”
“Then you take damage,” Zelda explained. She wanted to punctuate her sentence with a duh, but resisted the urge. She remembered her first time playing this game. How it had all been so believable it was unbelievable.
“But it won’t…hurt me, will it?”
“Do you think people would play this game if it was excruciatingly painful?” Zelda shot back, unsheathing her sword. Her hologram of a sword. The only thing this baby could hurt was other players in the game. Still, she felt undeniably cool holding it.
“Go time,” she breathed, rushing forward.
Her feet pounding on the asphalt, she cleared the distance between her and the troll. The troll let out a cry of its own and dodged.
It heard me coming. Cool! They didn’t react like that in III.
Fortunately, she’d been playing this game long enough to have razor-sharp reflexes. With a completely unnecessary battle-cry, she lunged forward with her sword. The monster screamed, damage calculation flashed in her vision. She parried a swipe of the monster’s claw with her blade.
“What do I do?” called Tiffany, standing a safe distance away.
“Help!” she shouted back, darting under the monster’s flailing arms.
Back attack, sucker.
A few more swipes and the beast was down, fading out of existence with a showy flash of light. It was the closest you were going to get to a monster in the suburbs.
“Way to lend a hand,” Zelda told Tiffany, sheathing her sword.
“Sorry! I kind of spaced. I had no idea what to do,” Tiffany wheedled, clutching her hands to her chest in a manner that was supposed to be endearing, but came across as wimpy.
Sighing, Zelda checked her watch.
“Well, we still have fifteen minutes. That’s enough time to find a couple of enemies. You can redeem yourself then.”
Taking the lead, Zelda led her friend towards the next red dot on her radar. While the rest of the city slept, they slaughtered forest troll. It was the best night of Zelda’s life.
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Tim Schafer, please take my money

On Saturday, February 25, 2012 2 comments

Tim Schafer is a cool guy. He’s created a handful of absolutely wonderful video games, every one of them reeking of non-conventional fun. Yet for some reason, publishers don’t want to fund his games. Psychonauts almost didn’t get made because Microsoft pulled their financial support.

This game was amazing. No one will fund a sequel.
Why? Because publishers are in the industry to make money. The same goes for film producers, record companies and publishing houses. They aren’t gonna pony-up money if they don’t think a product will sell. As I discussed in a previous post, this is only logical. They want to make money, so they only invest in projects they think will sell.

What happens when publishers are wrong, though? Tim Schafer is best known for his witty adventure games. You know, the kind where you point-and-click? Unfortunately, pointing and clicking has fallen out of favor with mainstream gamers. The majority of people would rather waggle with a stick than click with a mouse.

Ironically, most Wii games amount to pointing the remote and  clicking  a button.
So where does this leave Tim Schafer and adventure fans? Up the creek without a paddle. Without any publishers willing to invest in a low-return genre, there is no way to get the required funding. At least, that’s what most people thought. Fortunately, Mr. Schafer’s brain does not operate like the average Joe’s. He decided he wasn’t going to let “the man” get him down. He decided he wasn’t going to give up on a genre he loved. He decided he was going to get funding from fans.

It’s called crowd-sourcing, and it could revolutionize the media industry. Using a website called Kickstarter, Tim Schafer’s company, Double Fine, set up a project where fans could donate money to fund the production of a new adventure game. If you donate as little as $15, you receive the game once it is finished. That means you can essentially preorder the game, and your money goes directly to funding its production.

What’s more impressive than the idea is how highly successful it’s been. Within eight hours, Double Fine reached their funding goal of $400,000. As of this writing, they have amassed over $2 million. While that’s a widdle-biddle budget for a game like Halo or Final Fantasy, it’s enough for an adventure game. Also, by cutting out the middle-man, Double Fine doesn’t have to share their profits with a production company, so they get a higher return on their product.

Every time you donate to Double Fine, the game becomes 20% cooler

Why is this so absolutely amazing? Because it means that money-grubbing corporations no longer control what gets made. People can decide for themselves what they feel is worth investing in. Crazy, oddball ideas that don’t appeal to the masses might still appeal to, say, 100,000 people. And those people can help fund the project.

Of course, big budget games aren’t going anywhere. The average person is too timid to invest in something until they’ve heard a review from critic. However, for people who are sick of mainstream media and willing to try something new, crowd-sourcing is the ultimate boon. It means YOU get to decide what you want, instead of critics and publishing houses deciding for you. So what are you waiting for? Go to Kickstarter, find something interesting, and invest!

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Friendship is Heroic

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012 0 comments

There is a plague on the internet, haunting forums and message boards like an old woman haunting a bingo hall. It is called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The over-night internet sensation has bred a fandom that calls itself “bronies,” and they are by and large grown men who should be too old for cartoon unicorns.

Despite the overwhelming reception of MLP, it isn’t all love and tolerance for the ponies. In February 2011, 4chan temporarily banned anyone who posted MLP related material. This is the same site that is infamous for its “no rules” in posting images. This prompted the brony fan base to start their own image board, ponychan. However, apparently that still didn’t put enough cyber-distance between them and 4chan, as members of 4chan later raided the separate imageboard, temporarily causing the servers to crash.

Rebellion never looked so cuddly

What caused such a vehement reaction? The main line of protest is that MLP is a show for little girls, and therefore should not be appealing to guys. If a grown man likes MLP,they are accused of being feminine or a disgrace. However, you can’t judge the worth of a series by its candy-colored wrapping. Just because there are magical talking ponies, and just because a series is aimed at kids, doesn’t mean that a work is immature. In fact, MLP demonstrates protagonists taking on real-life problems in non-hypocritical, meaningful ways. The realistic, relatable heroes of the series are what make the show more than just a “girl cartoon,” and give it such a strong adult following.

Most toddler-friendly cartoons are so saturated with saccharine happiness that too much exposure to them can cause diabetes. Shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer are devoid of conflicts that transfer to the real world. Problems are watered-down and often solved through illogical or unrealistic means. For example, all Dora has to do to deter Swiper the Fox from thievery is shout “Swiper, no swiping!” three times. There is no relation to real-life conflict. Any adult (or anyone over the age of two) who tried to solve a conflict this way would be laughed at and then promptly robbed beyond all reason.

On the other end of the spectrum, some kid shows like Care Bears have protagonists that spout ideologies of endless love and acceptance, but still use violent means to solve their problems. The “Care Bear Stare” is really just a rainbow-hued death ray. The bears literally zap their opponents into submission. Within the mythology of the series, the “Care Bear Stare” is supposed to represent concentrated care and joy. So why do the Care Bears have to use this ultimate weapon? Why can’t they just use love and kindness to solve their problems?
Remember, kids, brainwashing is an acceptable solution to problems

The answer is that most kid shows are caught between trying to show realistic conflict and keeping themselves kid friendly. Supposedly, many shows aimed at toddlers want to instill good values in their audience. They want to show them how to be peaceful and friendly and a good member of society, etc. However, real life isn’t kind to those ideals. Being nice to other people doesn’t mean they’ll be nice back, and telling someone they are hurting your feelings isn’t going to guarantee a pouring out of forgiveness and kindness. So the writers have to settle for making protagonists who are unrealistically idealistic or unbearably hypocritical. The characters can be like Dora, and solve problems in over-simplified, or they can be like the Care Bears, and preach love while practicing hate.

Except MLP is different. The protagonists may be a bunch of talking ponies, but they respond and react like real people. They aren’t some distorted, unreachable ideal. Instead, they are heroes that an audience can both relate to and emulate. They encounter real-life problems, and they solve them in real-life ways.

 Go ahead, watch an episode. You know you want to.

The characters have distinct personalities, which makes them more interesting and complex enough for an adult audience to enjoy. In the episode “Dragonshy,” timid little Fluttershy has to help her friends calm down a dangerous dragon. Fluttershy was always presented as the sweet, gentle, timid pony of the group. She is good with animals, but has trouble asserting herself. However, when the dragon threatens her friends, Fluttershy becomes a force to be reckoned with. She faces the dragon and commands him to behave. She isn’t just a wilting flower. She has multiple facets to her personality, just like a real person. In many children’s cartoon, even the first series of My Little Pony, the characters were often only distinguishable from one another by one-dimensional traits, like being grumpy or funny. However, Fluttershy is more than just the shy one. She is gentle, but she is also compassionate enough to become protective when her friends are in danger.

Another character who shows unexpected depth is Pinkie Pie in the episode “Party of One.” Pinkie Pie comes across as an extremely eccentric cloud cuckoo lander. She routinely breaks the laws of physics, has non-sequitur moments about oatmeal, and throws parties on a regular basis. However, when the other ponies start avoiding her, she quickly becomes paranoid about people not liking her. Instead of laughing it off (a very standard Pinkie reaction), she broods in her house. She is no longer the bouncy, joy-filled pony of sun shines and smiles, but is instead self-conscious and hurt. She acts completely different than normal. This makes her that much more of a realistic character, because people often act differently under different circumstances. When Pinkie experiences exclusion, she is quick to loose her sense of joy and bounciness. Her hurt helps the audience relate to her, no matter what their age is.

Another example of complex characters comes in the episode “Look Before you Sleep.” Applejack, the resident tomboy, and Rarity, the fashion diva, are forced into spending the night at Twilight’s house. At first, their archetypical details mesh about as well as one would expect. Applejack is laid back, and in Rarity’s eyes very sloppy. On the other hand, Applejack sees Rarity’s eye for detail as obnoxious perfectionism. The two are able to come to terms and learn to enjoy each other. However, it isn’t because Applejack learns to be more girly or Rarity learns to be more of a tomboy. Instead, Rarity admires Applejack’s resolve and work ethic despite her tendency to be a slob. In turn, Applejack appreciates Rarity’s sensitivity towards the feelings of others and her attention to detail. Unlike most children’s shows, the characters are given traits beyond being “girly” or “tomboyish.” They have distinct traits that they can admire in each other that are independent of their placement on the sliding scale femininity. Because there is more to them than how deep their wardrobe is, people besides little girls can relate to them.

 The best thing about adult fans is they can do awesome stuff like remixes

Once again Rarity shows that she is more multi-faceted than a diamond in the episode “A Dog and Pony Show.” When Rarity is taken captive by a group of jewel-grubbing dogs, the other ponies fear that she won’t be able to protect herself. When they do finally come to her rescue, though, they see that Rarity was never in need of assistance. She was able to fend for herself against the dogs with some clever verbal parrying. Even though she is girly, Rarity didn’t panic in the face of conflict. She was able to hold her own, proving that there is more to her than an insatiable need for clothes.

The characters also have faults and make mistakes, which makes them more realistic. Like in the episode “Boast Busters,” when Trixie the enormous brag comes to town and starts showing the other ponies up. Twilight is afraid to stand up for her friends because she doesn’t want to be seen as a show-off, either. The conflict doesn’t merely arrive from some character doing bad and the other characters trying to show them the right way. Instead, it comes from the moral dilemma when a character is presented with a conflict where they aren’t sure what the right choice would be. Twilight expresses genuine fear over loosing friends. She is not some moral titan who automatically knows what is right.

The cast may be cute and cuddly, but don't mistake them for shallow

Then, in the episode “Suited for Success,” Rarity, the resident fashion designer, decides to make dresses for all her friends. Unfortunately, her friends’ fashion taste is lacking, and they don’t like the clothes Rarity poured so much effort into. It’s rude; it’s ungrateful; it’s mean. However, Rarity swallows her pride and changes the dresses according to her friend’s suggestions. They turn out hideous looking, but Rarity wants to make her friends happy. Unfortunately, when people see the ugly designs, Rarity’s reputation as a fashion designer is ruined. Her friends realize their mistake, and decide to put on a fashion show with Rarity’s original designs so people can see how talented she really is. This isn’t a glorified depiction of friendship. Sometimes, friends make stupid mistakes and hurt each other. The cast of MLP isn’t perfect. They are occasionally ungrateful or insensitive. However, they learn from their mistakes. Rarity was willing to give her friends the dresses they wanted, even if they hurt her feelings. She does express hurt, but she is willing to put it aside for the sake of her friends. In turn, when her friends realize that they selfishly hurt their friend, they are willing to make amends.

Sweet little Fluttershy also has her faults. In the episode “A Bird in the Hoof,” she abducts Princess Celestia’s pet bird because she feared the bird was not being well taken care of. When Twilight finds out, she panics, and persuades Fluttershy to bring the bird back without letting the princess know what they did. Both characters are guilty of dishonesty, because they do not want to admit their mistake to the Princess, so they sneak around and try to bring the bird back covertly. Fluttershy also thinks that she knows what is best for the bird even though it is out of her jurisdiction. She is prideful and that pride eventually leads to them getting caught. However, after realizing that her actions were selfish and hurtful, she expresses regret and a desire to make amends. Unlike some children’s shows MLP isn’t afraid to show the characters doing misdeeds if the characters are going to grow as a result.

Being a brony. It feels like this.

Another example of the characters not being perfect is in “Bridle Gossip,” when a zebra named Zecora comes to town. The other ponies have never seen anything like her, so they react with fear. Initially, Twilight acts as the moral light. However, after a few misunderstandings, she too misjudges Zecora and gives in to gossip. When she finds out she was wrong, and Zecora really is nice, she feels guilty. All the ponies do, because they were all in the wrong. Because the characters were mean, they were able to learn from their mistakes. If a character is perfect, they can never progress. However, Twilight was fearful enough to make the mistake of labeling and excluding someone. This makes the lesson more powerful, because it gives the show the chance to show the characters correcting their mistakes. After all, if a character never makes mistakes, then there is nothing to learn from.

The third sign of maturity in MLP is the stakes. The conflicts are real, and the characters are at risk of losing. For example, in the episode “The Ticket Master,” Twilight Sparkle is given two tickets to a very high profile party. Unfortunately, she has five friends, and she has to choose which one to take. As each pony-friend tries to bribe and curry favor, Twilight realizes that there is no way to avoid hurting somepony’s feelings. Instead of candy-coating the dilemma in eternal friendship, the show provides a real problem. Twilight is genuinely concerned about loosing a friend, and no magic way out appears. In the end, Twilight decides she wants to give up her tickets, because if she can’t enjoy it with all her friends, then she isn’t going to enjoy it at all. Of course, in the end Princess Celestia gives her enough tickets for all her friends, but Twilight was willing to make a sacrifice for her friends. MLP doesn’t hide the fact that sometimes there is no perfect solution to a problem. Instead of a solution appearing out of thin air, Twilight has to face her problem head on. Her solution is realistic, meaning that the audience can relate to her problem. The viewers don’t feel cheated by the resolution. Instead, they feel like they learned a valuable lesson about friendship that they could use in their own lives.

There are dozens of fan communities dedicated to creating and sharing fanart like this

Then, in the episode “Winter Wrap Up,” the ponies must clean up winter in order to make way for spring. While the concept is clearly fantastical, in pony world Winter Wrap Up is serious business. If the ponies don’t learn how to work together, then they risk being trapped in winter. The show establishes that the actions of the ponies will have an effect on the environment, for either the positive or the negative. What they are doing matters within the context of their world, so the audience is invested in the outcome. A good ending is not assured, because the ponies are doing something where failure will mean extended cold and an inability to grow food. Because there is a real risk of negative consequences, it highlights the struggle against it and makes the lessons learned more meaningful.

Animation, and cartoons especially, are often accused of being inherently childish. While it is true that most cartoons are marketed at children, that does not mean that they have to be childish. It is the result of lazy writers, not the medium, when a show presents flat characters and minimizes content. However, as studios like Disney and Pixar have shown, kid’s entertainment does not have to be equated with dumb entertainment. It is a matter of the writing staff to choose whether or not they are going to weave a story that is complex or one that is laughably simplistic. In the case of MLP, the producer Lauren Faust decided that she wanted to create a series where the life lessons actually were applicable. Since humanity is the same whether you are age four or forty, a show that realistically relates themes of friendship and dealing with other people can still be a valuable experience.

Ponies can be every bit as heroic as any other American hero

People might still argue that men should not be watching something girly like MLP, but should instead seek hero symbols in more masculine series. This argument is inherently sexist and flawed. First, it assumes that a show that tries to relate to females will somehow be of lesser quality or will not be applicable to men. This is false. Unless the authors reduce femininity to stereotypes like materialism and fashion, the characters should still think and feel. And according to the observations of leading authorities, females are still human. Therefore, their thoughts and feelings should relate to the human experience as a whole. This means that if a series does its job well, by portraying realistic characters and conflict, then people can still find heroes to look up to regardless of gender.

The conflicts in MLP aren’t sanitized versions of reality. Yes, the world is Technicolor, but it isn’t filtered with rose-colored glasses. It presents real problems that aren’t clear-cut and easily solved. This makes room for the heroes to be realistic. They react like actual people would. This is the secret behind MLP’s wild success. The audience can actually relate to the characters. The ponies have attributes that are admirable, but at the same time they are realistic. There’s no guardian who always has the right answers. The characters can’t solve their problems by spouting the word “friendship” three times fast. MLP gives the audience a colorful cast can show them how ideals like friendship and caring can be applied in real-life. That’s something an audience can appreciate, no matter what gender or age they are.
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