Saturday, 24 September 2011

Character Showcase: "Rarity"

Growing up as a young lad, there were "boy shows" and "girl shows". There was a certain code among the boys that girl shows were, and I quote: "icky". They were not tolerated. We were only to watch Manly shows, with Men doing Manly things without any pesky women getting in the way. Because otherwise it would be "gay".

I think if that was the point, we may have had our priorities backwards. Far be it for me to question the wisdom and time-honoured traditions of insecure 1st-graders.

But then, I was mostly raised by my mom and sister. And since life was and continues to be an emotionally crushing hellhole which leaves me "too scared to die and too damned to scream", I was in need of some distractions when the boy shows weren't cutting it. I wasn't above watching the occasional programming for whom I was never the intended audience. And I didn't have friends until the 5th grade anyway, so it's not like I had any reputation to lose by giving Sailor Moon or Hello Kitty a chance.

I think the major thing keeping me away from these Girl Shows and franchises wasn't the fact that they were for a different audience. It's that the majority of them that I tried watching were, quite frankly terrible. Even by 80's/90's kid show standards. It was as if they were made mostly by clueless men who greatly underestimated little girls or something, but LOL THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN, SEXISM AIN'T NOT THANG RITE

I'm glad to see those days may be behind us.

This is "Rarity". She's from the newest incarnation of "My Little Pony". She's a fashionista who owns a boutique, who is prone to giving her friends(and herself) makeovers. She is self-conscious, but not narcissistic. She is pretty dainty about the adventures she pursues with her friends, but she's always there when they need her.

Whenever I tried watching a "girl show" in my youth, all of the characters were usually giggling shitheads obsessed with fashion and sweets and finding a man. They never had differing opinions. They had no other dimensions. They never had any secondary goals to being, as George Carlin put it, "a brood mare for the state". Even to a kid, there seemed to be a sinister undertone to the whole thing. Almost as if they were trying to keep little girls stupid and aiming toward superficial 1950's housewife standards, so that they could be better servants to man in later life.

What does that remind you of?

I'm not putting a picture of Sex and the City on this blog, so here's a picture of Pinkie Pie wielding a rubber chicken.

And yet this character is my favourite on her show, for the same reasons. It is curious about her life, but not demanding or judgmental. Here is a character with quaint sensibilities compared to her tomboy and bookworm friends. They're all fairly progressive compared to the feminine portrayals we usually get of women in popular fiction:

  1.  A woman who is perfect in every way, but OOPS SHE FELL DOWN LOLOLOLLOLLOLOLOL,

  2. A carpet-munching, man-hating ogre/thinly-veiled symbol of any woman who turned down the head-writer's drunken advances. THAT'LL SHOW YOU, VANESSA

One of the main characters is a ranch-hand who isn't afraid to get her hands(hooves?) dirty. More than one of them aren't afraid to eat what they like, without fussing over diets like it's a life-or-death tightrope walk. One of them is a competitive spirit who will only wear a dress if it absolutely cannot be avoided. One of them has her sights set on academic excellence, although at the cost of her personal life.

And then here is "Rarity", whose name is a perfect summary. She is a dying breed. She has a love for fashion and aesthetic quality, is somewhat dainty and delicate when circumstance requires being outside of a polished comfort zone. She dreams of finding Mr. Ed Right. She believes she must act like a "lady".

And the reason I don't gag is because this show celebrates all of its characters. It cares too much for its cast to criticize something that needn't be. Her ambitions are treated just as validly as any others(besides the one or two characters who are needlessly mean-spirited). She's charitable and supportive of her friends, even if it means risking her pedicure. Instead of coming off as pretty-in-pink drivel, it all actually works together to make her endearing. It helps that Tabitha St. Germain helps make sure she's more of a loveably pompous character(think: Frasier) than something deceptive and self-absorbed.


In a worse show, every character would be like this, but without the context. And the overarching message would be something like: "Girls, this is what you must be. This is all you can ever want when you grow up. Leave the dreams of an education or sports and stuff to the boys.". But 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic''s writers believe little girls can like whatever they want, and BE whatever they want. Even a girly-girl with rich tastes.

Forcing all young girls to be home-makers for as long as our species has was, in my mind, a crime. It's inexcusable. A petty attempt to control others by men who felt their power was threatened. It is only in the last century or so that society is getting around to the idea that maybe, just maybe we're all in this together. That's not to say it's perfect. Republicans are still filibustering to keep women from getting equal wages in the workplace. There is still needless discrimination and harassment born out of insecurities. I'm willing to bet that the world's suffering has mostly been caused not by men in general, but by men with small dicks.

Does anyone else hear "Dancing Mad"?

When it is a choice, however, when it is something you want, and when not everyone agrees with you on it? THAT'S when I think it is something to be encouraged. It helps that this particular character works really hard toward the goals she's set for herself. We mustn't forget the kind of backbreaking perseverance it takes to be something society has -expected- women to be. Home-makers, nurses, whatever the previous generations were brought up to assume little girls were SUPPOSED to grow up to be.

The important thing being that we don't shun the women who have more antiquated life aspirations. Not every woman needs to be an astronaut. This show encourages all of its characters' aspirations, be they progressive or not. I get that being a fashionista isn't the same as being a home-maker, but it is nonetheless what could be considered that passive-aggressive descriptor: "women's work". Even though there are certainly no shortage of men in the fashion industry.

When I watch this show and see Rarity, I think of Shamus Young's article on the character "Aoi Sakuraba":

"...women who take pride in their cooking and cleaning do exist and shouldn’t be treated like freaks because they have traditionalist views... This is one woman who chooses this life for herself, and who derives great joy from the result. She’s believable and loveable, and makes this series better than it should be. "

Rarity is a great character.



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