Thursday, March 15, 2007

Say It Isn't So

It has been one hell of a week, friends! I am very excited to report that I am writing this post from my very own, brand new laptop computer. Hooray! This is soooo cool. :)

Another very cool event this week was finding the latest copy of Bitch magazine waiting for me in my teeny tiny mailbox. (Why do they insist on stuffing all the junk mail in there with my real mail? Gah!) There was an article in the "Love It/Shove It" section that really got me thinking. It's titled "My Little Calliponian" and was penned by Jesse Rutherford. In this article she compared the original My Pretty Pony released in 1981 by a Hasbro subsidiary, to the subsequent My Little Pony that most women now nearing their thirties probably remember.

These were the little plastic horses with long brushable hair that came in all kinds of different colors. Each one had a little symbol on it's rear end that sort of went with it's whimsical name. There were unicorn ponies, Pegasus ponies, sea horse ponies (for bath time!) and little baby ponies, to name a very few. Being a horse crazy little girl, I had a whole herd of these plastic equine facsimiles. I used to spend hours playing with them. One year I received the My Little Pony stable for my birthday and I don't think I came out of my room for a week. There were pony clothes, shoes, and every accessory under the sun. I hate to think about how much money my parents must have spent on them. I loved all of my ponies and I still have many of them packed away in a box with other childhood treasures.

So imagine my horror when I read Jesse Rutherford's article about my beloved pastel ponies. She had some very astute observations about the drastic change the ponies underwent at the hands of Hasbro executives. According to her the original My Pretty Pony was:

"Brown with flat set feet, straight legs and a lowered chin concealing a switch that made her wink, flick her tail, and twitch her ears."

She continues: "In 1982 the toy now called My Little Pony, was released in a rainbow of pastel colors with longer tail, more brushable manes, and names like Cotton Candy, Minty, Butterscotch and Blossom. Though their feet remained flat, the front legs had been shortened, pushing the callipygian pony's rump up higher than it's chest - a display of sexual availability known in studies of animal mating behaviour as mammalian lardosis, and more commonly called, "asking for it.' "

Oh god, say it isn't so. There's more though.

"This toy...was positively child like with it's small nose and large eyes, which are traits of infancy in humans and other animals. My Little Pony featured... bigger pupils than the original My Pretty Pony. Bedroom eyes are not just an armchair sociologist's observation: Barbara and Allan Pease explain in their book The Definitive Book of Body Language that bedroom eyes are another sign of sexual availability."

Here are some my own ponies from back in the day (ie. circa 1985).

After reading this, I went home and dug out that old box of treasures. Now, I also have to admit that I received a brand new My Little Pony for Christmas this year. I had seen them around and thought it was so cool that my old toys were out again. My mom spent yet more money on plastic ponies for me this year. Bless her.

Another of my old ponies
After I found (read: took out of the box and played with for half an hour) my old ponies I immediately saw other differences in the design. The ponies I have from my youth do indeed have the slightly raised back end and the large eyes and pupils described in the article. However, compared to the newest pony, they look downright chubby. The latest model is a little smaller, much slimmer and has longer legs in proportion to her body. At least my old pastel ponies had a bit of healthy pony chub. This pony has been on a diet!

I also noticed that her eyes are even bigger and the shape of her head has changed again. The old ponies had a sloping forehead and more horse-like nose and cheeks. The new ponies have a scooped forehead and an even more childlike face.

I thought it was sad that not only is this new pony more sexualized, she's downright slim and petite. There's a lot of talk these days about the pressures to be slim, celebrity diets and eating disorders. I'm not saying that toy ponies are responsible for any of it, but I do think it shows our culture's obsession with the impossible thin ideal when we even alter girl's toys to fit into the thin mold. I mean, have you ever seen a real live, skinny pony? I've seen one in my life, and that poor animal...well, that animal was very sick.


Lady Emma said...

Oh dear oh dear. Those poor pretty ponies really do have their...unmentionables up in the air, don't they?
Now, I didn't play with MLP (for Lady Emma was a grown woman when they were released) but i must say that rump is just...indecent!

Now now, Lady Emma is slim but not petite. Let's not make a stew of this weight thing. Thin can be beautiful, too, my dear. : ) But you're right; ponies must have a bit of flesh.
Lady E

meesh said...

Nice to see you here, Lady Emma!

Yes, I agree slim is beautiful. But so is curvy, and busty and "zaftig" (I <3 that word!) and... well, many other body shapes out there. I just think that there is too much pressure on girls to be thin too soon from too many nefarious sources. It jsut never occurred to me that Little Ponies of all things could be made thinner and sexier. (sigh)

Ms. S said...

I'd play with the ones from the 80's over todays any day of the week!

(Congrats on your new toy!)

Marz said...

OMG! I never looked at my toys that way and I will
never blithely take a toy at 'face' value again! I
mean, I grew up with an anatomically correct baby boy
doll for bathtime (yes, he peed if you feed him and
squeezed his tummy) and a couple Barbies but.. sheesh!
What they are selling kids these days. Neat post.
And I had MLP...I had one of the seahorses. They came
with a plastic 'shell' that you could suction cup to
the side of the tub. BTW, I see you have one of the
two original pegasus, I had the other one - the green
one. I may have to dig through my childhood boxes and
see if my pony can come over to play with yours.

Banana Split said...

Oh you lucky duck! (also crica: 1980's vocabulary)I wanted MLP sooo bad as a kid but couldn't afford them then but I was thrilled when they resurfaced and my 6yr old daughter now has a bunch. I noticed they had changed too but I see a pretty pony pracing not waiting for the neighourhood stud to come by. I'm sure that's what the kids see too. Now, if the ponies started comming with thong underware or pasties I would be concerned but why can't a toy be a toy. Good for you in getting a new pony too. My husband got me a Funshine Carebear one year for my birthday because I didn't have one as a kid. Now if the Smurfs would come back....

KleoPatra said...

WOW. Meesh, that is quite a study and read about My Little Pony(s). I missed the MLP era but you gave me a very good view and amazing insight into this. I'm sure a lot of other toys have gone through subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes like this over the years. Frightening. Something seemingly so innocent...

KleoPatra said...

P.S. Congrat's on the laptop! I've had one for years and really dig 'em!!

bazu said...

I was deprived and only had one MLP as a kid... now I'm realizing maybe it was a good thing?? Along with the fact that I never had a real Barbie. Well I lie- I was so frustrated at never having had a Barbie that I finally bought myself one at the age of 16! It wasn't long before she met the same fate as all my other fake Barbies though... the dreaded buzz cut. =)

Anonymous said...