My Little Pony: Friendship is… Manly?

Post by: Katie Bernhardt

 

In the cold , unforgiving, and sometimes frightening bowls of the internet, sub-culture fans of anime, cartooning, and other uncommon things find themselves at one point or another faced with the 2011 phenomenon of My Little Pony. The original My Little Pony cartoon was a marketing ploy by Hasbro to create a counter toy line for girls so as not to leave them out after the extreme popularity and success of the Transformers franchise. Recently, with Michael Bay’s Transformer summer blockbusters, the retro cartoon movement has been in full speed, re-making such popular shows as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and of course My Little Pony.

This reboot of an old 80’s girl oriented show is known as My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (MLPFiM). It is about what you would expect from a show with that title, it focuses on the adventures of a Unicorn named Twilight Sparkle and her friends, ponies named Pinkie Pie and Apple Jack, Pegasi named Rainbow Dash and Flutter Shy, and a fellow Unicorn named Rarity. It’s a cute show full of bright colors and lessons on friendship to help its target audience, little girls, learn about dealing with others in everyday life.

However such a show is not, itself, a phenomenon, what sets it apart from other 80s era reboots is its fanbase. Fanbase or fandom is a term used to describe fans of a certain thing whether it be movie, book, TV show, or other. The MLP fan community for the reboot is actually primarily made of adult men ranging from late teens to midlife. This is not a small sector of fans either. It appears from fan media that over 30% of the My Little Pony fanbase is actually made up of adult males. There was a Jerry Springer episode making fun of the incredible amount of adults (male and female) who have gotten incredibly obsessed with the cartoon.  These men call themselves ‘Bronies’ a play on the colloquial term ‘bro’ and the word pony. (The female equivalent of this term is Pega-sister).  There are a plethora of full grown males wearing My Little Pony T-Shirts or other types of pony paraphernalia. There has even been a Pony Convention, at which only My Little Pony fans gather. The amount of adults attending was utterly astounding to look at; the last convention had more than 4000 people for a two day long pony extravaganza.

On line there are many fan-sites based on My Little Pony’s explosive popularity. Equestria Daily is one of the most popular and follows art, stories, games, and other fan created things that it then shares with an over eager populace. To make this utterly baffling, to join many of these My Little pony fan-sites you must be over the age of 13, which is over the age of the target audience. There has been a documentary done trying to explore the unexpectedly adult fanbase of the Pony reboot. Demographically speaking this is astounding.

However, why is it astounding? Is it astounding because adults like a children’s show? Well that has happened plenty of times. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Adventure Time, all of these are child oriented shows that have at one time or another had an adult fanbase. But there is something different this time around: This is a children’s show that was made for girls. Most of the old shows that had incredible popularity (with the exception of the afore mentioned Adventure Time which is gender neutral) were geared toward boys. This show is clearly a girl’s show with accents of pink and talk of love and fashion scattered throughout the dialog. This calls some gender stereotypes into question. Why is it more okay for a woman to like a boy’s show than for a man to like a girl’s show? Can girl’s shows- on general principal- not be as good as boy’s shows? Do we focus all our efforts on making boy’s shows better?

It is hard to say why exactly the community has decided that this is an incredible phenomenon and many are deeming it creepy for men to enjoy the show at all. There is a level of discomfort in something seen as unusual in gender roles to be so wide spread. There are T shirts boast the word ‘Brony’ in Wallmart and full grown men getting happy meal toys so as to make sure they get the My Little Pony Toys. This is not a small cultural event in a tiny sub culture, this is big and it is only growing with time.  Below I have a picture from a My Little Pony panel at a non-pony related convention. Please note the primarily male group.

Getting Sick? Demography and Disease

Post by: Katie Bernhardt

It’s that time of year again, sitting in a classroom coughing and sneezing trying to have enough tissues to get through the day. You look around and four people are out- the flu- and only about half of the remaining students look healthy in any sense. That is the trademark of cold and flu seasons on any college campus- in fact- any school ground. Why is it that every year schools are hit so hard by the flu season? In fact, just the other day I received a flu warning e-mail reporting cases having sprouted up all over campus, enough to cause alarm.

The reason for this rampant infection can be broken down into the basic construction of the school, not just my college but all schools elementary, middle, high, all schools have the same problems when it comes to the spreading of infection- just not to the same extent. The main trouble that schools face, especially public schools, is overcrowding. My mother happens to be an elementary school teacher at a public school in Georgia where classes have a minimum of twenty five students per teacher. The classrooms, small as it is, force these children into close proximity with one another. As one gets sick the spread it easily to everyone nearby. Kids in these conditions often are young and have not developed the same level of antibodies that adults have had the time to develop so it is easy for them to catch an infection when they have never been exposed to it. This is why infections such as Chickenpox as quick to spread and quick to vanish. The children gain immunity and the disease loses all momentum. Once possible hosts are in low enough supply the disease often tapers out as quickly as it exploded onto the scene.

In colleges we see the same effect but for different reasons, while crowding is an issue, students find themselves living in much closer proximity with many more people than they are accustomed to living beside. This becomes combined with the stress and novelty of the college life creating a perfect environment for the spread of contagions. College kids, normally, are highly stressed, many lacking proper amounts of sleep, most not getting the proper nutrition, instead opting for quick, cheap, and easy food. This combination of college social culture and the close quarters living often makes the campuses breeding grounds for infection.

This is not particularly concerting until you consider the possibility of a highly virulent infection striking one of these areas. Virulence is a term used to describe infectious diseases that often are so violent they incapacity or kill the host. Such diseases as Ebola, Sleeping Sickness, and Malaria are considered to be extremely virulent. In most situations the disease is not able to transfer from one host to another easily as once the host is incapacitated they become unable to infect a new host. So such infections often suffer one big boom then disappear shortly after. However in locations like schools, collages, and even military areas, where people are constantly close together, the infection can incapacitate or kill a host quickly and still have access to a new host. These conditions make it easy for a violent infection to ravage a close quarter’s population. Lower income areas are at even greater risk. They lack the monetary ability to pay for inoculation- if available- or transport away from the hot zone. A good example of this sort of infection spread can be found in many disease related apocalypse films such as Stephen King’s : The Stand.

Wolves in Sub-Culture

Post by: Katie Bernhardt

 

We are all familiar with fairytales and the negative outlook they provide on wolves. From Three Little Pigs to Little Red Riding Hood, from the Boy who Cried Wolf, to the simple Wolf in Sheep’s clothing metaphor we use to describe a traitor hidden among us the reputation of wolves in major culture is negative at best. However main culture is not the only culture in existence. There are sub-cultures, smaller than the mainstream, but with influence nonetheless. These smaller cultures have a generally different outlook of wolves; primarily positive.

Of course this is not said of all subcultures, but a majority of the larger subcultures that have influence on the mainstream do, in fact, have a positive outlook on wolves. One of these cultures that we discussed in class is the ‘Save the Wolves’ culture that promotes such events as the re-instatement of wolves into Yellow Stone and strongly advocate protection of wolves against famers that wish for their ratification from grazing areas.

However this is a very small culture and has yet to penetrate the fear instilled in the mainstream populace; a fear that wolves will harm them in one way or another. However, it is known that only a species of the crocodile actively hunts humans, wolves have somehow gained this reputation. This does; however, seem to be a strongly European idea. As a Japanese major, I have had a look into quite a different perspective of the culture of wolves.

In Japan, as seen in Japanese cultural phenomena such as anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese books) wolves have an incredibly positive outlook. Looking at such popular things as Wolf’s Rain, a Japanese TV show focused on wolves as heroes, and- of course- world famous Japanese film maker Hayo Miazaki made a film wherein wolf spirits were one of the main protagonist creatures. The film, Princess Mononoke, used wolves as a sympathetic creature whose plight was used to show the devastation humans had on the environment. The only times wolves were aggressive it was out of protection or due to an infection caused by man.  Wolves and wolf spirits are sseen as good and natural in Japan and in many of the Eastern nations have Buddhist ideals that promote the environment and the creatures that thrive within it. The wolf, as one such creature, has a special spiritual connection in Japanese Shinto, a native Japanese religion that has, over time, been heavily influenced by Buddhism (while simultaneously Japanese Buddhism has been influenced by Shinto) the views of wolves as a protective and strong spirit is a very Shinto idea, and you can see in influence of both Shinto a Buddhist ideology in such wolf-friendly media.

The Demography of the Zombie Invasion

Post by: Katie Bernhardt

The Demography of the Zombie Invasion

In the technology age the Zombie invasion has become one of the most explored apocalyptic theories in modern cinematography. Ever since the Romero film: Night of the Living Dead, which is in the literary files of the Congress for its social commentary, the idea of the ‘zombie’ as a figure of social commentary has been spreading throughout cinema.

However it seems that the zombie invasion has a very different demographical outcome than the age and social class most affected by the rampant consumerism for which Zombie-ism is most commonly a metaphor. In fact, in Diary of the Dead, Romero’s attempt at a commentary on the popularity of the youtube generation, it seems the class most affected by the zombie virus are those least likely to be victims of the crazy for which the infection is a metaphor.  In the modern day and age the zombies are meant to represent teenagers and young adults who are most likely to be swept in by the technology crazy. Youtube, Tumblr, Reddit, iPhones, iPods, Macs, PCs, iPads, Kendles, facebook, and twitter are all symbols of modern day ‘zombieism’.

The movie Diary of the Dead follows a group of college students making a horror film with their teacher, these are some of the few humans we see escaping the infection. However looking at the youtube using demographic it seems that these protagonists are far more likely to be “zombies” in the sense of media junkies infected with the addiction to the information super highway. The least likely demographic to be ‘zombies’ by this definition- young children and elderly- are seen as being zombies. When analyzing the demography of the outbreak it seems that the message gets completely convoluted.

With zombies acting as the idea of the rampant consumer it seems that the ideal image of the zombie should be a young teen or a young adult. However it seems this archetype is far more likely to play the role of the hero.

Should we Consider Looking at a New Form of Sex Education?

Post by: Cristin Anthony
In “The Population Bomb”, Ehrlich does give his opinion on sex education, and goes quite in-depth with the way he believes that it should be taught in school to children. Ehrlich argues that sex is about so much more than reproduction and that we should teach that sex for the purpose of reproduction is to be restricted heavily.
Without going into religion, I would argue that we should think about what he is asking us to do. Would it not be better to teach children that they make choices, and that those choices can result in reactions far bigger than themselves? That their decisions on birth control or abstinence should be swayed by what they think is right and what will not have a negative impact on the surrounding world?
The way that I was raised has caused me to believe that being open and honest about situations is the best way to form rational people who are capable of thinking for themselves. When you present the facts in a classroom, it is up to the children to challenge themselves by deciding what they want to do. I’m not saying that each person will necessarily choose wisely, but those that do will have facts to back up their choices and I would argue that they will be more content with their decisions in the long run. Constant education on the potential reality of overpopulation is the only way to create a sustainable environment where each citizen makes a responsible decision regarding how many children they will have, because they understand the potential repercussions of their actions. I think that, in general, education on these topics is the only way to overcome these issues and keep them from ever being a problem again.

China

Post By: Emily Sherman

According to an article that I recently read in The Guardian, China faces a timebomb of aging population. Due to a lack of space, China instigated a one-child policy in the late 1970s. This resulted in a desire to only have male children, in order for the family’s name to be carried on. So many Chinese terminated female fetuses that now there is a serious lack of marriageable women in comparison to the number of marriage-aged males. In addition to this skewing of the population, the life expectancy of the Chinese population has also soared, creating an older population as a whole. In 2009, there were 167 million people over the age of 60, but by 2050, there are supposed to be 480 million above the age of 60. Adding to the skewed population is a reduced fertility rate. The fertility rate has dropped to between 1.5 and 1.8, whereas the rate needs to be 2.1 to keep the population stable.

This article focuses greatly on the skewed population of the Chinese, and the results of this skewed population affect the nationwide demography of China. Once the older Chinese generation dies, it will even further affect the demography of China and until the population evens out, it will continue. The one child policy of China also affects the future demography of China. Most Chinese prefer a male child, which results in a higher number of males, and not enough females. This article really fascinated me because it emphasized that a lack of females results in even less children, causing China to sink even further into a skewed population. The lessened population that will result from these factors can also hurt the economy. With less working age people, the economy will also begin to suffer because the Chinese will not have enough people to fill their job needs.

The article made me wonder, would China ever get rid of the one-child laws in order to even out their population? It also made me curious about what will happen to China’s population in 50 to 100 years from now. Will the Chinese population eventually die out because of a lack of females?

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/20/china-next-generation-ageing-population

 

TCE Pollution in the United States

Post By; Nathan Pettican

The book A Civil Action is about a small town in Massachusetts called Woburn. Between 1964 and 1986, 28 children were diagnosed with leukemia. There were three large companies that had plants in Woburn: W.R. Grace & Co., Unifirst, and Beatrice Foods Inc. After her child was diagnosed with leukemia, Anne Anderson hired lawyer Jan Schlichtmann to represent the town of Woburn against these companies. After extensive testing, they found out that a cleaning agent called trichloroethylene or TCE was in two of the town’s water wells. This happened because the plants were illegally dumping this chemical. This illegal dumping then polluted the ground water. The ground water flowed into and contaminated the municipal wells, which was used for the town’s drinking water. After about 11 years the trial had finally ended. Initially the court had only found W.R. Grace & Co. responsible for the pollution, but then the EPA held their own investigations and said all of the companies were responsible. The cleanup activities at these polluted sites are still being conducted today. The three companies involved with this trial had to pay about $64 million, which is the most expensive chemical cleanup project in the history of the Northeastern United States.

In September a very small portion of Wake County in North Carolina had also been contaminated with TCE. The people were eventually notified that their water was contaminated. They were told that they should not use their water at all, not even to bathe. One resident said the TCE level in his water was below the legal limit, but he did not want to use it.

The plaintiffs in A Civil Action ended up winning their case, but in the end I do not think they won anything. They were paid for their pain and suffering, but does money really make up for what happened to all of those children? I say no, it does not make up for what these companies did at all. They knowingly introduced TCE into the environment and claimed it was not their fault. The EPA eventually made them pay, but I do not think that the sanctions they put on the companies really affected the industry as a whole. Many years after this case companies are still dumping toxic materials into the environment without any remorse. Something needs to be done because innocent people should not have to pay the price for a company’s illegal actions.

Internet Addiction- Mental Health Disorder?

Post By: Juju Kim

Throughout class this semester, I really enjoyed coming across medical articles that pertained to the topics we discuss. Most of the ones I posted dealt with misinformation from public health services that could endanger how we as a society are continuing to engage in acts that could be detrimental. The most recent article that I came across looked into how our perceptions of what an “illness” is, could affect the way we are treated for it and how this affects our population.

In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), “Internet use disorder” will be recommended as an area that needs further study. Although you cannot be diagnosed with Internet use disorder just yet, recommending it for further study puts it on the psychiatric radar, which means it’s likely to have a chance of becoming an actual mental health disorder soon.

As defined by the APA (American Psychiatric Association), Internet use disorder includes many characteristics of any addiction: such as “experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the object of addiction is taken away, an inability to control its use, developing a tolerance to it, deceiving family members about its use, and losing interests in other hobbies. In this case, of course, the object of abuse is the Internet”. It’s possible to become addicted to almost anything if it is used to the point where it “interferes with other aspects of your life and puts your health, financial stability or relationships at risk”.

By making Internet addiction a certifiable mental illness, it then becomes treatable by drugs and billable through insurance companies. This then turns into a “disorder” that is likely something that will affect your health records for the rest of your life. Also, over-treatment is a very high risk that has occurred many times with many cases of depression, ADHD, insomnia, and other conditions. Many people with only “mild” cases may be diagnosed, and given drugs, when they are not at all necessary.

The newest mental health disorders are also those that create the largest new drug markets. Millions of Americans, especially students like us, use the Internet on a daily basis for multiple hours, so the potential treatment market for “Internet use disorder” is huge.

Coming across this article seemed to not only spark my interest, but also my concern. If we are diagnosing things such as “Internet use” as disorders, what else could we deem as a “disorder”? To me, this idea seemed a bit far-fetched and it seems like we could stretch almost anything into becoming a sickness. There is no doubt that there are many illnesses that we cannot argue require drugs or medication to alleviate. However, Internet use is not one of them. This is only one of many possible “disorders” that could be legitimized. If we continue to allow almost every sickness to be treated with pharmaceuticals, then what will we not be taking drugs for? If we make medication so accessible to anything, people will resort to taking them rather than figuring out what it is that is wrong, and furthermore preventing themselves from dependencies on medication. Also, if one suffers from a mild case of “Internet addiction” and resorts to drugs, how can this affect the health of the individual? This could greatly affect the health of our populations and our understanding of actually being “healthy”.

Lifewell America

Post By: Trent McCann
Last week the Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced a $4.5 million grant for the USDA first ever “Farm to School” grant. This grant will help facilitate a closer relationship between food growers and local public schools in 37 states, under the umbrella of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The act will serve 1.75 million students in both urban and rural areas. The initiative hopes to encourage kids to make healthier choices on their own by informing them what they are eating and where it came from. Part of the money also comes from the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which works to create local food systems that are sustainable, healthy, and profitable. Some of this money will be used to re-model school cafeteria kitchens so they will be able to adequately handle, store, and prepare these meals. The USDA hopes to provide dietary guidelines that are science-based and focus on well-rounded nutrition.
            This initiative is very similar to the Livewell Greenville program that is in the local elementary schools in the Greenville area. The article did not mention anything about South Carolina, so I don’t know if Greenville County will be receiving any additional funding for these types of programs. The Farm to School and Livewell Greenville programs both share similar goals of not just getting healthy food into kids’ school lunches, but making the healthy choice the easy and regular choice.
            Through Furman’s work-study program I got a job as an after school tutor at Monaview Elementary School in Berea and in the cafeteria there they have posters for the Livewell Greenville program all over the walls. The posters outline proper nutrition and balanced diet through very clear pictures and diagrams. They have moved away from the food pyramid to a circular graph that looks like a plate. The kids who are in the after school program are given a healthy snack and milk every day when the school day ends. I’ve talked to the kids about the healthy foods program and they all say that at first they didn’t like it at all but now they are starting to like it more because there are more options. It’s good to hear that they are starting to enjoy it more, and hopefully once this model has been the norm for a few years kids will not have the natural reaction to resist healthy foods. If we see a national shift towards healthier eating habits it will save our country a lot of money in the long run because national obesity and disease rates will be much lower.

Everywhere Wolves

Post By: Joy Owens

Although it’s been a week and a holiday break since we discussed Aldo Leopold’s Thinking Like A Mountain, I find I am still thinking about the piece and more specifically wolves. This shouldn’t be surprising since the topic of wolves has come up in three of my four classes this semester (the exception being photography). In our last video chat there were a few questions raised about why we view wolves the way we do (overwhelmingly negatively), how this is changing, etc. I make no claims of expertise but it is interesting to look at the many perspectives I have heard throughout the semester to address these questions.

Wolves first came up in my class titled Social Systems (a core class in my Sustainability Science major) when we had “Wolf Week.” We quite literally spent a week discussing the historical significance of wolves, their ecosystem roles, their reintroduction into Yellowstone and more. We had an English professor visit our class and talk about the language historically used to discuss the wolf. We found themes of ferocity, intensity, insatiability both in hunger and sexuality, and an idea of the wolf being outside the norm. I think this language clearly connects to our discussions of the human fearing the wolf and the tension between the two populations. However, like many students I had to ask myself, why? Where did this negative language, this idea of fear and hate of the wolf come from? Perhaps it is because we recognize the intelligence of the wolf; it’s an almost human like intelligence, a reflection of ourselves. The pack is a stunning example of this intelligence: they raise the pups in groups, they recognize a hierarchy, and they have roles in the pack. This recognition of intelligence can be unsettling, especially if we take the view that humans are supposed to dominate these animals (an anthropocentric view). At the same time wolves engage in activities that we do not condone because they lack the human sense of “being civilized.” They hunt in packs, prey on the weak, and are “wasteful” in that they leave a portion of their kill behind. These actions have roles in their natural ecosystem, i.e. the “waste” supports a community of scavengers, but these activities do not fit in our human system. This is all my own hypothesizing and I am curious to hear what others think.

Briefly, there was also discussion of how this negative view of wolves might be changing in pop culture. Katie B from our class talked about how we are perhaps seeing a shift to a more positive view of wolves referencing Jacob from Twilight, Oz from Buffy and I would add Lupin from Harry Potter to the list. All of these characters were portrayed as “good guys,” even heroes. However, I would argue that the “wolf” aspect of these characters was still very ferocious, beastly and perhaps even the part of their character that they couldn’t control. In this sense, the wolf is still a very negative aspect of their character and it is their humanness that redeems them.

Brining it back to the mountain, I think the topic of wolves is relevant to our class study of environmental demography. Wolves inhabited the west long before humans did and it was human population change and expansion that drove to their extermination. At least for me, it calls into question this anthropocentric, human dominated view of the environment and what future affects it will have on other species and ecosystems. Even in mitigating “the wolf problem” we take a very anthropocentric view of the environment. In my environmental law class we talked about wolves and their relation to the Endangered Species Act. There is a lot of back and forth between the state and federal governments, but I would argue the real problem is that we are trying to fix an ecosystem concern that involves any number of species including humans through solely human terms of litigation and law.  We definitely aren’t thinking like a mountain. Do we even know what that looks like for wolves or any species or environmental concern? I think that is the crux of Leopold’s piece and my still lingering question.