What does it mean to “grow up”?
Today’s culture is youth obsessed. Be young. Be beautiful. Consume miscellaneous products that will make you seem even younger and more beautiful.
From fancy cars to unnecessary medical procedures, people are blowing ludicrous sums of money just for the illusion – the feeling of youth. (Have you seen the beauty aisle at your local pharmacy, and the prices that they charge for products that supposedly “rejuvenate” the skin? It’s insane!)
People go to ridiculous lengths to feel young because the television tells them that they are old, and ugly, and that their problems can be solved with a swipe of a credit card. “40 is the new 30,” they all say, as it becomes the norm for people to dawdle and delay getting their lives in order. They glorify this as a virtue and call it freedom. All the while, Grandma is all alone in some facility – barely even thought about by the people she devoted her life to.
Now obviously I’m painting a picture here. Every person is different of course, and everybody’s situation is unique; no one model can be said to represent “the norm” anymore. However, this scenario, and this way of life is not only real, but very prevalent in television and movies.
In a recent interview, Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) criticized the current trend of “drunken manchild comedies” like Old School and the Hangover, which depict middle aged men chasing their “glory days” by pursuing a lifestyle of binge drinking. The answer, according to these films, is an escape to an imaginary world that looks just like our own, but is actually devoid of any real consequences for selfish actions.
Where am I going with this? What has any of this got to do with piquant equines of bright and colorful hues?
Pony is the antidote.
Not for all, of course, but certainly for me, (which is more than a little ironic, considering the fact that it is a television program designed to sell toys).
The show may be youthfully exuberant, but it does not glorify the irresponsibility of youth. In fact, it is one of the only pieces of mainstream media these days that honors and pays respect to the wisdom of age, (which was the central theme of four out of the eight micro-series comics, and several Granny Smith-centered episodes).
My Little Pony may make my inner child smile, but at its core, it’s really all about growing up.
These horses face problems that challenge them to act for the greater good, and overcome selfish desires – to conquer the monkeys on their backs that tell them to behave according to their weaker natures. Arrogance, fear, distrust, greed – all defeated by the love they hold in their hearts for their dearest friends. Overcoming that gray feeling – that “Discord-ed” feeling of loneliness and distrust, and zapping it with all the rainbows you have – that’s a battle that goes on inside all of us each and every day.
The tales that the show’s creators weave – the themes they explore – they’re about growing up. Real growing up. Not the bells and whistles of appearing mature, but rather, the process of becoming the kind of person upon whom others can depend, or as we say here in Manehattan, “being a mensch*.”
Adulthood doesn’t mean liking what we are told to like or consuming what we are told to consume. It isn’t about success. It isn’t the car you drive, or the job you nailed (especially in this economy).
Being a grown up is about loving what you love, freely and openly. It’s about living a life where you are in control of your temptations to act selfishly, rather than letting such whims control you. It’s about making sacrifices for others, be they family or friends.
Those are exactly the sort of values that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magiccelebrates.
Does liking the show automatically make you a mensch? No, of course not. (By that standard, every fanboy and fangirl on the Internet could be counted as a regular Atticus Finch). My Little Pony can, however, be a great tool for inspiration, for joy – for courage. In this rough world, we need all the tools that we can get, even if it just means the source of a daily smile, and a feeling of warmth to help get you through your double-shift.
Adulthood isn’t some prison where you adhere to arbitrary standards to please others. Buckling down doesn’t mean selling out. Being responsible, quite frankly, is great, because then others can trust and rely on you, and you can even learn to trust yourself.
Growing up is wonderful. It means taking that which resonates most deeply with you, regardless of whether that interest be sports, or medieval poetry, or My Little Pony, and using it effectively to give you the strength to be the kind of person you want to be – the strength to be a true friend to those you love.
To pony up.
Let’s face it: life is hard. Everybody needs at least one friend who’s got their back. Adulthood is just learning to be good at that. It’s being the kind of person who, as Rainbow Dash put it , “would never leave Ponyville hanging.”
You can also follow Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! at: http://heartfullofpony.tumblr.com
Note: *In many Germanic languages, “Mensch” translates literally as “man.” However, the Manehattan slang derives from Yiddish, and its meaning is more culturally specific. It generally means somebody you can depend on, who will come through without complaining. It’s technically a masculine term, but it lacks the macho connotations of the English “Be a Man,” and it’s used here as a unisex term.