Sunday, August 4, 2013

Haters gonna hate. (My Little Po-Mo)

Christ, what an asshole.
August is Derivative Works Month, where I take a break from episode reviews. Instead, each Sunday I cover a different fanwork or licensed work from outside the show. This week's derivative work is the analysis blog My Little Po-Mo.

This is another one of those things that runs for months, so once again please forgive me for not listing movies, music, and headlines.

My Little Po-Mo is a fairly obscure and extremely pretentious analysis blog by a fan who goes by the screen name Froborr. It describes itself as being postmodern, but for better or worse displays little of the linguotextual carnivalization that characterizes most post- (and post-post-) modern literary analysis.

As its author points out in the very first entry, My Little Po-Mo is almost entirely an imitation/intimation of the postmodern Doctor Who fan/analysis blog/book series TARDIS Eruditorum, but where that work is a tour-de-force that recontextualizes the fifty-year history of Doctor Who and uses it as a window into and emboitment of meditations on British history, politics, philosophy, and art, My Little Po-Mo lists top songs, movies, and headlines from the air date in the opening paragraph of each article. TARDIS Eruditorum does that as well, of course, but while TARDIS Eruditorum frequently uses the songs and headlines to set up themes for the article and locate the episode in a particular and peculiar temporal locus, My Little Po-Mo usually just states them and moves on; given that the most historically distant episode it addresses (not including guest posts) aired in late 2010, there appears to be little historical context to give.

The majority of posts (on Sundays, at least; the blog posts pointless little "Pony Thoughts of the Day" the other six days of the week, but they are largely disposable and frequently inane) are cases of severe overreach, such as an attempt to align an apparently randomly chosen sequence of four first-season episodes into the traditional four stages of making a philosopher's stone, as reinterpreted by Jung into a grand narrative of spiritual awakening. Remember, this is still My Little Pony we're talking about!

This "alchemy" series ignores a significant fact and thus becomes a telling example of the overreach that characterizes the blog. Specifically, the alchemy posts discuss episodes that aired very early in the show's broadcast, at a time at which the brony fandom barely existed; further, due to the long lead time required for most animated works, the episodes' scripts must have been in a finished (insofar as any unviewed work can be considered "finished") or near-finished state significantly prior to the airing of the first episode of the show, and therefore before the brony fandom could exist. The central argument that the episodes represent a struggle (and ultimately alchemical wedding) between appealing to geeks and remaining true to the show's roots requires viewing the show as an independent gestalt from its creators, a viewpoint that is not only never articulated, but actively undercut at points.

At other times, the blog takes a turn for the distressingly aggressive/righteous. Repeated tirades against show writer Amy Keating Rogers have little basis other than the microanalysis of social justice issues read into (as opposed to out of) the space of the text, and perhaps a modicum of tokenism surrounding (but hardly absorbed by) Zecora, a character Rogers didn't even create. In particular, accusations of sexism regarding "The Ticket Master" and "A Dog and Pony Show" require extensive de- and reconstruction to support, and the articles in question leave much of that process in the realm of the assumed, never actualizing it; the article on "Bridle Gossip," meanwhile, never initiates the process at all, and amounts to little more than an extended rant.

Meanwhile, simple propositions, such as the argument that pony society resembles a community of geeks, are given elaborate arguments that meander through largely unrelated spaces before arriving at a conclusion that could likely have been argued in a much smaller space. More damningly, episodes such as "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well," which valorizes bullying techniques that have been used for decades, primarily against young women, are given a vigorous (but ultimately inadequate) defense. The author also seems hypercritical of the character Spike, and is determined to read the worst possible motivations into everything Spike does. Loathe as I am to try to read author motivations into a work, a certain degree of iconoclasticism and a kneejerk contrarian streak seem likely to be at work here, along with almost certainty an element of projection.

Occasional posts are, in the author's words, "experimental," which appears to here mean "deliberately obtuse." These include a two-column post on two episodes that heavily overemphasizes their thematic similarities, and a post on "The Return of Harmony" that appears to have been written normally and then had the paragraphs rearranged semi-randomly, because that's just less than entirely unlike Discord's actions in the episode. These little microcarnivalizations do little or nothing to enhance the posts, but serve as an excellent vector for the substitution of inaccessibility for depth.

Ultimately, one has to ask whether this blog is serious or a joke. It seems like it cannot possibly be serious, but that rests on the assumption that My Little Pony is inherently unworthy of this kind of attention. That, in turn, requires that something have inherent (un)worth, which necessarily requires some authoritative measure of worth which can be used to gauge said unworth. Such an authority would completely invalidate human freedom, which requires the assignment of worth to be an idiosyncratic, highly personal subjectivity, and therefore said authority cannot be permitted to exist.

On the "this is actually serious" side falls the months-long effort and Kickstarter campaign to launch a book, which is not being marketed as humor. But that then returns us to the problem of the author's qualifications and skills, which he himself noted in the very first post are inadequate to the task. So is this simply a serious attempt executed poorly?

But how can anyone take seriously such passages as "The conflict between Rarity and Applejack is one of class roles and expectations; it is about conflict in the ways the two ponies construct their worlds, and thus can be resolved by a process of deconstruction and reconstruction. The conflict between Applejack and Rainbow Dash is not as simple, because it is a conflict of personalities and essential natures. A world which contains both of them is necessarily a world which contains conflict. It seems as if they cannot coexist." Somewhere beyond overreach and overreading lies the space in which claiming that "The Elements of Harmony" prefigures Arab Spring and the Occupy movement can possibly be considered as a serious argument. Frankly, anyone involved in either group of protests would be fully justified in taking significant offense.

Of course, as previously stated (un)worth cannot be considered inherent, but is necessarily always a product of the socially constructed value-schema of the observer. Nonetheless, My Little Po-Mo makes a solid attempt at invalidating that worldview, and stands out as a strong candidate for the (empty) set of works useable as a zero-line for value as analysis/entertainment.


  1. To be honest, you badly overstate how often I manage to make the music/news paragraph connect to anything. Though it's better since I went back to actually writing the damn things first instead of last.

    1. I dunno. First, there's often a sort of thematic connection running there even if you don't explicitly tie them in. Second, over time they build up into a sense of historical space within which the episode rests, which just isn't possible with ponies because they're so very recent.

  2. I'm having trouble seeing the image

  3. Me either. If I click it it says "Your current account (my_account_name) does not have access to view this page. " Except using my actual account name of course.

    As for the article, all I can say is: Self-indulgent much? At least you were over-the-top critical rather than the other way around.

    1. Self-indulgent much?

      Yes, yes it is. What else is new?

      At least you were over-the-top critical rather than the other way around.

      Well, yeah. This is much funnier. At least for me.

  4. I'm surprised you didn't save this one for the first week next April.

    Image not showing up for me, either... or was that intentional?

    1. Sadly, there isn't a Sunday April 1 within the lifetime of this project, or I would totally have saved this post until then.

    2. A lack of exact date availability rarely stops other web authors with weekly installments of projects.

      Also... were you parodying your own style and opinions in applying them to this work, or were you parodying some opposed critic with the opposite artistic philosophy? It seems to slip back and forth in spots.

    3. I dunno, for me it just feels wrong to post an April Fool's prank on April 3 or whatever. And since the next time April 1 falls on a Sunday is in 2018, I believe, it's pretty unlikely this blog will last that long.

      As for what I was doing here, it was in part a self-parody, and in part a way of attempting to definitively answer a question I get asked a lot, namely "Is this blog serious or a joke?" (That answer, of course, is "Yes.")


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