As you probably read a couple days ago, I received my contest prize of one overly glitterized and accessorized My Little Pony figure (aka Sparklepony) from Alice on Friday. I truly was eagerly awaiting its arrival, and from the contest’s get-go I was actively trying and hoping to actually win the thing. It was just too cheesily cute! A month prior to my mailbox watch for the Sparklepony, I was just as eagerly awaiting the arrival of another item in the cute overload files, the handmade crocheted masterpiece from Jennifer Olivarez in the form of my Rainbow Donkey character.
“So what?”, you’re probably saying. You’ve been listening to me go on and on about them both for a while now and probably wish I’d just stick to posting more good old retro memories. Well, here’s the deal…. it’s one thing for me to brag about my love for these adorable little treasures on this blog, because you all know me and have probably gotten used to my strange quirks by now.
But what would people in the outside world think of a 38 year old straight male who was proudly displaying a brightly colored unicorn and a sparkle-bedazzled little pony among his collection of favorite things?
Let’s face it… guys are not supposed to like things that are cute. We are supposed to be tough, rugged, manly men and the only horses we’re supposed to covet are those that can be found under the hood of a car. Yet it’s my fascination with things that are cute that made me want to win the Sparklepony. It’s my fascination with things that are cute that led me to create my Rainbow Donkey character. It’s my fascination with cute that caused me to be smitten by squirrels and the other underappreciated wild critters out there. It was my fascination with cute that first attracted me to the world of anthropomorphic art in the first place, which was the cornerstone that supports all of the above.
I think it’s a shame boys are conditioned from an early age to reject things that are cute. Boys toys are all macho and heroic and kickass. There’s nothing cute about a Transformer robot or a G.I. Joe doll….. oops, wait! Boys are not allowed to play with dolls, so we call dolls for boys “action figures”, and action figures look like something that was pulled out of a barroom brawl rather than an enchanted forest.
Girls toys however are all about cute. In fact, I think it’s some kind of toy factory law that anything marketed at young girls must register some minimum value on the cuteness scale. Just take a stroll down the girls toy aisle at any store, and you will be blinded by the bright pink and purple colors beaming against your retinas from the shelves. It’s like you have just entered the Hall of Cute, with human, animal, and hybrid figures that were all specifically designed to generate an “awwwwww” from unsuspecting customers who wandered down the wrong aisle looking for the Depends.
Growing up with four younger sisters, I was obviously subjected to way more of these cute toys than the more manly toys I was supposed to be learning how to be a proper American male with. Obviously, it had a profound effect on what would end up pushing my happy buttons later in life, and had I spent more time playing with Superman action figures and Stretch Armstrong back in the 80’s, I probably never would have even considered drawing squirrels and unicorns later in life. And wouldn’t that have been a shame…
The trend towards cuteness in girls toys, however, has actually increased exponentially since my days as a child three decades ago. Perhaps in no example is this more evident than the extreme makeover the popular series My Little Pony got. The Ponies of the 80’s looked like this:
When MLP was relaunched in the previous decade, the characters now looked like this…
Big, bright, sparkly eyes… long flowing hair… small, simplistically drawn bodies. It’s no comparison, the modern My Little Pony design blows their ancestors away on the cute-o-meter. In fact, the new Ponies are so cute, that it’s led to a bizarre phenomenon that has caused people to question traditional gender norms, and might eventually be cited as the turning point should the old boy toy/girl toy stereotypes that have been around since the Founding Fathers disappear in the future….
The current generation of My Little Pony cartoons has pulled in a surprisingly large number of male fans who call themselves “bronies”. Not only are there a number of young boys out there who go gaga for the colorful little fillies, but the underground adult world of bronies is even larger. The series has a small, but quite vocal (at least in the relative anonymity of cyberspace) legion of grown men who like to wear their favorite Rainbow Dash T-shirt around the house and probably have a poster of Twilight Sparkle over their bed. While definitely a small group, the number of men obsessed with My Little Pony would no doubt surprise you… and for the sake of this blog’s rating, I will not go into the details over why MLP appeals to a significant sector of those in the Brony Army. Just trust me on this, you don’t want to see the things that I have seen on online art sites…
But while I adore cute, do admit the Ponies are very cute, and have picked up enough secondhand knowledge of MLP that I could probably apply for the Brony membership card… I am definitely not one of them. My obsession lies with the cute little gang of characters I have created, and I am quite proud to admit that here and smile at my Rainbow Donkey that sits behind me as I type… even if I might be a bit hesitant to brag about ES and the gang to my co-workers.
This post is already over 1,000 words long, and I haven’t even gone into the other elements of “cute” I had planned on, so look for Part II of my look into the world of cuteness next Sunday!