Wednesday, 25 January 2012

For my less political readers

I'm not all about the political LULZ. As a favour to those of you more interested in the cultural sphere, I have a special treat for you.

I was reading today about the history of newspaper corrections and readers' editors (this constitutes excitement in my life), and found myself reading about one of the most famous corrections in the New York Times, a great newspaper, but also one of the most boring, visually unattractive and pompous publications since Pharaohs dictated their own obituary hieroglyphs.

The correction in question was on the subject of My Little Pony, not a cultural scene to which the NYT has hitherto paid much attention:
An article on Monday about Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, two college students with Asperger syndrome who are navigating the perils of an intimate relationship, misidentified the character from the animated children’s TV show “My Little Pony” that Ms. Lindsmith said she visualized to cheer herself up. It is Twilight Sparkle, the nerdy intellectual, not Fluttershy, the kind animal lover.
This lead to the author's discussion of Ponygate (as I'm calling it), which contained the revelation that there's a massive underground My Little Pony scene, presumably amongst the kind of hipster who when I'm in charge, will be reassigned to night soil collection duties. There's even a music scene based on My Little Pony remixes, known as Dubtrot. Here's a sample, though if you're wise, you won't play it.

Is this just hipster foolishness? Only if you habitually use the word 'just' in reference to cultural phenomena. Deserving of painful deaths though they are, hipsters are a feature of late modern capitalism and as such deserve cultural deconstruction. I think they're part of the Western capitalist extension of childhood, alongside adults and BMXs and skateboards, computer gaming and a range of other leisure activities which require adults to maintain their consumption and collection habits from their childhoods. Assigning emotional value to lowest-common-denominator artefacts like My Little Pony is a natural extension of the market. You no longer need to 'grow out' of forms of play: the economy demands that toys become 'collectibles', that you find supposedly subversive, ironic or countercultural meanings in items and activities which once you would have discarded. Once, growing up meant getting a job and earning money to spend on adult leisure activities. But in the US, getting a job is a) hard, b) badly-paid (American working and middle class salaries are no higher than they were in the mid-1970s and c) leaves little leisure time: Yanks work long hours and have on average 2 weeks' holiday per year.

This means of course that leisure must be intellectually unchallenging - these people are tired - cheap, and provide an instant emotional hit at a low cost. Hence the appeal of remixing ripped cartoons and watching The A-Team film. Adult life isn't profitable for the corporations, but childhood is because parents indulge their children. If you extend childhood beyond the traditional limits (the way parents interfere with their children's progress at university implies that we're now well into the 20s), you open up new opportunities for profit.

In this sense, My Little Pony is no different from Hollywood's obsession with remakes: the people running the studios are the fat kids who spent their lives in front of the TV, and have no concept of quality. Instead, they have a keen marketer's understanding of the value of nostalgia.

Don't buy it. Send My Little Pony to the knacker's yard.


Benjamin Judge said...

You. Are. Victorian. Dad.

Anonymous said...

Might not be quite as sinister as you make out. Aspies quite often have 'strange' obsessions and interests (quotations used because it's kind of depends on your perspective & definition of strange).

These can often be childlike, and I have no problem with being five at times :) I agree with your point about the lack of intellectual stimulation though, and personally find Postgate or Miyazaki ticks the boxes a little better than some mattel rubbish.

However it's a spectrum disorder, so 'horses for courses' ;)

That said, there is an increasing amount of absolute junk being regurgitated into our lives that was worthless the first time around. If you think my little pony is bad, stop to take a look at the strides towards global dominance of hello kitty!