My Little Pony and the representation of agriculture in media
I want to discuss something very important today, something that connects to society and perception and cultural differences.
Eh, who am I kidding? I'm writing about children's cartoons.
I have two daughters, which means I end up watching a lot of cartoons. A lot of cartoons. So many cartoons that it makes me miss the days when cartoons were a right-after-school or Saturday-morning thing.
But I digress.
Something that has annoyed me ever since my first daughter discovered children's channels is how poorly cartoons portray agriculture. Farmers on most cartoons wear blue bib overalls and big, floppy straw hats. Cows are always Holsteins. Every farmer has a barnyard of pet-like livestock. And on one particularly annoying Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode, a windmill is deployed as a fan to push a storm away.
And then there is "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." As far as cartoons go, it's probably my favorite. The voices aren't overly grating. The storylines are exciting and empowering. And there's plenty of sneaky humor in there for the adults who end up snuggling with their little ones on a lazy Saturday morning.
On a recent watch, it struck me how much better My Little Pony does agriculture than most cartoons. One of the "mane" characters (Applejack) lives on a farm (Sweet Apple Acres). She wears a cowboy hat and participates in rodeos. Her family members all play roles on the farm. She's dedicated to her work, and multiple episodes that I've seen focus on her discomfort in asking for help around the farm. She's resourceful and intelligent, and others on and off the farm rely on her for her abilities. For the most part, it rings pretty true.
My older daughter told me Applejack was her favorite of the ponies. "She lives on a farm, and I live on a farm," she said, excited to see even a bit of her life reflected back on the screen.
Representation in media is kind of a buzzy thing right now. People are coming to the realization that women, people of color and other minority groups have been underrepresented or underutilized in television and movies.
I know what some of you are thinking — why does this matter?
Here's what I know: My favorite movie is "A League of Their Own," the fictionalized story of the real women who played professional baseball during World War II. I love it, as do most other women and girls I know who play or played baseball and softball. I played fastpitch softball from early elementary school through my junior year of college. I have always loved that there was a movie that showed women playing my sport — women who weren't stereotypes or cliches but good representations of my teammates and myself. Scenes in the field, in the dugout and on buses felt like reflections of our experiences.
My Little Pony is pretty good on representation. The "mane" ponies also include ponies who love reading and learning, sports, animals, fashion and fun. Almost any kid could find a character to remind them of themselves.
That's why I like Applejack. No, a cartoon about ponies is never going to be a perfectly realistic representation of real farming and ranching. But it's nice to see a farmer be portrayed as intelligent, hard working and vital to society. That rings true to me and my 6-year-old daughter, both raised or being raised on farms.
Those of us who live and work in agriculture make up such a tiny percentage of our society that it's important to have representations of us that aren't caricatures so that the rest of the world sees us as what we really are — real people doing real jobs that matter.
Schlecht lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.