Have you ever seen a half-assed excuse used so much, it drives you crazy? Way too many drive me nuts, and one of them is "it's for kids" — specifically "it's for little girls" in and out of the fandom — as an excuse for shortcomings. As far as FIM (and this message board) is concerned, when making an in-depth analysis or review of something, the most common response I get and see is the "FIM is for kids/little girls" excuse. Friendship Is Magic's show and IDW comics are for all ages, enjoyable by anyone. But even if it was simply "for kids," it doesn't change the fact how that STUPID argument should forever be quelled.
Why should it never be used again? A few reasons:
It goes against the foundation of Friendship Is Magic. Back when Lauren Faust helped lead the show, she wanted to create a feminine-looking television product with brand new archetypical standards. Instead of school, the mane ponies are adults, some of them with full-time jobs. (The first part of the pilot — Twilight being transported to Ponyville from Canterlot — is a response to this cliché.) Rather than focusing on crushes all the time, every single mane character is independent and free-willing with more important things to do. Faust tells its audience there are many ways to be a girl in media besides the stereotypes. For the most part (outside of A Canterlot Wedding, Twilicorn, and EQG), it succeeds in subverting those archetypes and create new, feminist rules of intelligent, hardworking, independent females in media.
By using the "it's for little girls" excuse, you're spitting on those foundations. You're telling everyone these foundations have no merit; they're pointless. It talks down to Faust and any single person who actually comprehends the standards they — DHX and Faust — instilled on the product as well as the standards they (the people behind the scenes) are responsible for helping build and raise.
- It's very ageist. By throwing around the "it's for kids" excuse, you're saying kids are inherently stupid and will eat up any shit they see. This mindset is dangerous, because kids are like magnets. They observe their surroundings and respond accordingly, sometimes acting like their idols. Yes, including fictional characters. Quality family-friendly television is important because you want high-quality protagonists to be well-written and suitable for kids to love and idolize. Three-dimensional characters who stay in character, mature along the way, and properly learn their morals through the right context are vital in family-friendly entertainment. If adding to that, intelligent conflicts, intelligent humor with multi-layered referencing to appeal to a wide audience, intelligent graphic design, great music scoring, and so on. Writing that respects multi-demographical audiences regardless of age, sex, or culture. The excuse patronizes kids.
- By patronizing kids, you're embracing mediocrity. Even if you claim you don't, dishing out the "it's for kids" excuse shows otherwise. Do you know the basis of why this fandom grew and sustained it? Because the quality of the storytelling reaches out to people young and old. Objectively good writing doesn't segregate demographics. The embrace of mediocrity does.
Whenever you use "it's just a kids'/little girls' show/*whoever audience*," then you're passively calling Friendship Is Magic — and every single product with an audience in mind — inherently weak. Any product worth our time and money respects demographics across the board. Including periphery demographics! Products that do use this excuse are often to be complete garbage.
You want examples of the latter? Fine.
a. My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. You already know how much how I hate this overrated, idiotic, antifeminist piece of shit (along with its sexist toyline), so I'll move on.
(But some don't know this, and I'm not joking, either. I actually respect Tales, G3, and G3.5 more than Equestria Girls. While they're all garbage, EQG tries and fails to mask its bold-faced lie that it's FIM-related [when it genuinely isn't]; but the other three actually show it's MLP, minus the audiences they're pandering to.)
b. My Little Pony Tales, G3, G3.5. Just like Equestria Girls, obnoxious toyetic pandering to little girls at its worst. Tales also deserves the scorn for making the characters unlikeable, stupid, and overly cynical for the sake of "realism."
c. Modern Spongebob. Watch A Pal for Gary, One Coarse Meal, Are You Happy Now?, The Splinter, Pet Sitter Pat, any modern episode that tortures Squidward, and so on. The writers for Spongebob today don't know nor care what made classic Spongebob successful, and Nickelodeon itself doesn't care.
d. Nickelodeon's Breadwinners. There are reviews (both video and otherwise) bashing the show apart on sites like YouTube or TV.com. Or at the very least, you can read my rant. How the FUCK did this insulting piece of trash become the #1 cartoon on Nickelodeon for a bit? I don't get how anyone can enjoy it unless they want kids to enjoy quality equivalent to JERSEY SHORE! (And, yes, I compared that "reality" monstrosity to a Nick cartoon "for kids." I won't take it back.)
e. Series 8-16 of Thomas & Friends. The stories are far too generic. Several of the newer characters show up once and never again (something that's been rectified with the CGI era). A bunch of trains and other vehicles to pander to young kids and third-party companies that produce their toys. Massive flanderization and derailment of the characters with complete disregard for the Laws of the Railway. Fortunately, the new team from Series 17, KotR, and 18 are apparently pushing the series in the right direction; and I suggest you watch them.
f. Approximately every single anime 4Kids dubbed and mangled. One Piece, I'm looking at you!
g. Many of the Disney animated movies in the late-1990s through mid-2000s like Chicken Little, Pocahontas II, Belle's Magical World, Home on the Range, Hunchback of Notre Dame II, and Cinderella II.
h. Star Wars's prequels, especially The Phantom Menace and Battle of the Clones. Jar Jar Binks, a character with the purpose of pandering to children, was slammed for this along with being a racial stereotype. (There's a reason why he's basically nonexistent nowadays.)
i. As a big Gargoyles fan, The Goliath Chronicles is full of flanderization, lapses of logic, poor animation, and also out of characterization. This product spits on those who watched the first two seasons along with the newcomers.
And this is only the shit marketed "to kids." I can go out and bash horrific entertainment aimed at adults, too.
It's an outrageous double standard that demeans the fandom, its growth, and its sustainment. Since points go through one ear and out the other, I'll repeat it: Do you know or remember why the fandom sustained in its size? Because the show has a quality that bridges demographics together. The characters are relatable. Several high-quality episodes emotionally connect with people on a very deep level, like Suited for Success; Hurricane Fluttershy; Testing Testing 1, 2, 3; Pinkie Pride; Winter Wrap Up; and Sleepless in Ponyville.
You can't say plenty of the content bridges beyond the base demographic, yet simultaneously claim this is a product "for five-year-olds" and that the older voices don't matter one bit. Like what Tommy Oliver lambasted in his Equestria Girls review, these statements are incongruent, and "it's for kids" is inherently hypocritical. It's either for all ages (which it is, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying) or "for little girls" (who, by the excuse, you imply that they deserve the pandering schlock that nearly killed the franchise in the first place).
The people you're talking to doesn't determine the quality of the product. The execution of the content determines the overall quality of your product. The audiences you're trying to attract only determines the content rating — what is allowed or not by law. Friendship Is Magic, for example, is rated TV-Y in the US, by far the strictest rating. Hasbro and DHX can't afford to put in more graphic content in hopes of not having the FCC or standard-and-practices lawyers being sicced on.
A few decades ago (notably the 1990s), several cartoons weren't afraid to step across the boundaries and deliver quality entertainment. Sure, some of them were misses (Powerpuff Girls's Mime for a Change for its out-of-character ending; Collect Her for its mean-spirited commentary towards older fans), but plenty were hits. Hey Arnold! (not one of my favorites) is a great cartoon that took its audience seriously and portrayed many city and child problems tactfully, thus expanding the characters' dimensions. Courage the Cowardly Dog is unbelievably creepy with plenty of great slapstick, but it wasn't afraid to tackle real problems and portray them seriously; check out The Mask for its commentary on domestic abuse, sexism, and homosexuality. Or another Hasbro product: Beast Wars's "Code of Hero." Heck, even pre-movie Spongebob is still remembered because most of the time, it didn't fall into the traps that factually bad animations make.
Then again, if Nickelodeon can get away with close-up shots of ripped toenails, portraying suicide realistically to mock it (twice), blatant animal cruelty, racist stereotypes, and rape jokes in cartoons rated TV-Y7, then— I don't wanna think about that idea anymore! NEXT!
- Kids are never a target audience. A target audience is the idea of selling a product to someone. Do you think kids are going to be buying those products? No. So how do they get? By their guardian's approval. The guardians (particularly ones with common sense) decide if the product is suitable in both content and quality for his or her kid(s), not the kids themselves. And what "children's" television works best? Ones where kids and adults are treated with equal respect.
MLP:FIM, in terms of the comics and animation, is suitable for all ages. Young kids, teens, parents, and any adult who enjoys quality animation. It's the same audience as the Disney classics, Pixar, several classic children's books, and other current products of today that know what they're doing. If people love and enjoy factually bad shows as kids, there's a chance they'll enjoy factually bad shows as adults, too; that's intolerable. Kids should be directed to quality family entertainment so they can create sets of standards.
Because kids are easily influenced by the voices and sights surrounding them, family entertainment should be enforced with STRICTER and HIGHER standards, not lower. If the quality is good, it should be recommended. On the other hand, if it's bad, it should be called out and criticized sternly — if it's abominable, very harshly. "It's for kids" is no excuse for bad concepts, bad executions, bad animation, bad writing, and bad products in general. The more various sections of the brony fandom and people in general use it to bypass quality flaws that make or break the story; episode; comic; or movie, the more they'll accept any kind of quality, including the really bad kind that Spongebob's going through now and Thomas until last year. The less the lazy "it's for kids" handwave is used and the more the excuse is called out, the better.