Be Who You Are

Be Who You Are

Sometimes while browsing the Internets, I come upon posts that make me sigh or roll my eyes, usually where people have over-examined a concept, movie or kid’s show to the point where I can’t take their conclusion seriously.

And I preface this post in such a way because I fear I may be treading that same territory.

But I can’t help myself. I feel the need to voice these thoughts.

I’ve never been ashamed to be a full-grown adult (approaching her thirties) that loves the new My Little Pony show. I know it’s for kids. But I grew up on the original My Little Pony, and the new one is ten times better. When people ask me how I can like something obviously meant for little kids I shrug and tell them I just do, because my personal habits shouldn’t need any more explanation than that. I like what I like, end of story. But the truth is there’s another reason I like the show, aside from thinking it’s cute and funny and entertaining. The truth is, it’s a great show for little girls because it offers them good role-models. I’m no expert on the criteria that make up the perfect role-model for young girls, and I know horses sound a bit far-fetched, but I think society agreed long ago that Barbie ain’t it either.

I love that all the main characters in My Little Pony (Spike aside) are girls. That they’re all different and unique. That there’s the bookish, studious girl. The girly-girl who likes to dress up and do her hair and wear make-up. That there are the tom-boy girls who like to get their hands (or hooves) dirty, like to roughhouse, like to be athletic and don’t like to dress up or be otherwise girly. Hell, there’s even the crazy one, who fits in just as well as the others. And of course the running theme is that they take turns learning important life lessons about friendship; how you shouldn’t ever put too much on yourself, that it’s okay to ask for help and so on and so forth.

But it’s the unspoken, less obvious lessons I find alluring. Because while each pony has her strengths and her vices, none is less capable of taking care of herself than any of the others. There’s even an episode in the first season devoted to the fact that Rarity (the aforementioned girly-girl) can get herself out of a bad situation even though she usually hates the thought of getting dirty. You know what that says to me?

It doesn’t matter what type of girl you are. It doesn’t matter if you like to read or if you like to play sports or if you’re crafty or wild or even a little shy. It doesn’t matter. Because you’re perfect the way you are. You can do what you want to do. You can become what you want to become. All you have to do is stay true to yourself, no matter who you are.

In a world that constantly assails young girls with images of what they’re supposed to live up to, twig-thin models as avatars of beauty they’re expected to match, that’s a pretty powerful message. With all the things society expects women to be, it’s hard for young women to sort it all out. They need – hell we all need – that message. Be who you are. Be what you are. Be proud of it. Whatever it is.

Which is why the third season ending disappointed me. While everyone gushed on Twitter and DeviantArt about how sweet and tear-inducing it was that Twilight Sparkle (spoiler alert) became an alicorn, and by proxy a princess, my reaction was very different.

You see, Twilight Sparkle didn’t want to change. She never gave any indication she was unhappy with who she was. Quite the contrary, she’s a strong, intelligent young woman, growing into her own as a leader and a scholar. She isn’t always confident, but she always overcomes her doubts in the end. That seems to be the whole point of the character.

Yet by some twist of fate or destiny, she becomes an alicorn and becomes part of the royal family. Why’d she have to become an alicorn to become a princess? Her brother didn’t undergo any such transformation when he married into the royal family, thus becoming a prince. If he’s allowed to be a prince without having to transform, why does his sister need to grow wings in order to be a princess? If Celestia wanted her to be a princess so badly, why didn’t she just make her one by some form of decree?

Yeah, I know, I’m debating the inner workings of a kid’s show. I get that the thought which went into the episode probably wasn’t that deep. But that’s part of what bothers me. A Disney princess picture made the rounds awhile back complaining about the fate of each princess – how Ariel had to change her body in order to be accepted by the man she loved, how Jasmine was only valued as a wife rather than for the person she was, ect – and I remember thinking people had it wrong.

Jasmine fought against being an asset. She wanted to be allowed to be who she was and marry for love.

Ariel wanted to change. She was unhappy in the body she was born with. She wanted to identify as something else and she wanted her body to match that – actually that sounds pretty familiar to me.

Twilight Sparkle was happy in her own skin. What reason was there for her to change? And what message does that send to young girls? Not that if you work hard and study you can eventually become whatever you want to be, but that you have to change in order to make the final leap. No matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you try, you have to become what you’re expected to become in order to fulfill your ‘destiny.’

I’m sorry, but we can send a better message. We should send a better message.

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