Loooong rambling post a-comin'... didn't want to reply to anything until I watched that documentary that was posted. I also wanted to watch a few more episodes, but alas, couldn't find time for them. Best case scenario, everything I'm about to say will be rendered mute when I reach the end of the season and become a brony... (oh lord).
I wrote this post at different points of the day, and being a mild insomniac, have not slept in about two days, so forgive any places where I feel a bit schizophrenic. Just one person posting, I promise.
Who knows, though, maybe it will "click" at some point, and I'll become a brony. In case of such an event, I have a friend who has promised to shoot me.
The most thought provoking point he had, in my opinion, was the accusation that many associate "show for girls" with "bad". I'm going to extend that a bit, and just say "children's show". I was having a conversation with a friend about crunkcore not too long ago; he insisted that it is possible to make crunkcore, and that no genre is inherently bad. I jokingly responded that, if a crunkcore song became good, it would cease to be crunkcore, and instead be something else. I'm not entirely sure how serious I was, but I think it applies, because there often are stigma's associated with different genres of entertainment. So, are all children's cartoon shows aimed directly at little girls automatically bad? I'm not entirely sure, though I think that very label suggests a great deal about the content, without even viewing the content itself. You know, for example, that it will almost surely be highly cutesy and highly direct. So, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that these ingredients will make a great children's show, and I can't really say that My Little Pony isn't a great children's show. I can only say that it's going to be quite difficult to overcome the stigma's that already come with the genre.
Another part of the documentary that I found interesting was the segment on "adult references" contained in My Little Pony. Was surprised to see David Bowie and Big Lebowsky, to be sure. However, I personally find the idea that the references that are contained within a show can be used as any sort of indication or, as the narrator puts it, "proof" about the show itself totally ludicrous. It's like insinuating that Family Guy is a brilliant piece of art because it features a fairly wide variety of references, from Dickens and Thomas Paine to innumerable film and TV references. Now, don't get the wrong idea, My Little Pony seems to insert the references in a much more tasteful and skillful manner (if you think I'm being uncharitable to My Little Pony, you don't want to hear me complain about Family Guy... sheesh).
My first instinct is, I hate to admit, to compare the bronies to the juggalos, as they're both trends that follow something that I truly cannot understand. However, I think that would be a huge disservice to bronies. I dislike My Little Pony, but I hate Insane Clown Posse and all that they stand for. I can at least see some merit in the former, where I believe the latter should be repeatedly struck with lightning and have their names purged from history. And as far as I'm aware, no one has been given a Brony funeral... yet.
You use Harry Potter as an example in one of your posts. That's a very good one, I think, but I'd argue it's much more than "not getting it" for some. For me, it's not that I "don't get" Harry Potter, as I was fully on board with it when I was a kid, read the books in one sitting, multiple times, you know how it goes. However, now I despise the books. It's not because I just don't get some magical quality about it, but because I have reasons why I believe it is, overall, a very hackneyed work. So I do think those qualities always exist, for everyone, even if they aren't always readily apparent.
I'm really not eligible to comment on the characters and their development so far, as I'm only three episodes into the series (meant to watch another one today, but got sidetracked). The only thing I can really say on first impression... is that I find Apple Jack a thoroughly nauseating character (do ponies ever get killed off?), but that may be from watching that documentary. Who knows, all this complaining may be completely premature, though I'd naturally assume this wouldn't be a show that takes awhile to "take off".
On the references: see above for my take/whining about that.
Finally, on the subtlety/tone. You're right, it does accomplish what it sets out to do, which is what makes me thing that I'm per-destined to hate this show, and no other execution could make me see otherwise. I remember awhile ago, we had a conversation on the plot of the Uncharted video games. In case you don't remember, I love the Uncharted games, but hate the story and most of the characters. Why? Because it's a shameless ode to action movies, particularly Indiana Jones (which I am also not a fan of, even having grown up with them, though I do still enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark to an extent), seems to relish in it's annoying dialogue, actively seeks out cliche's, and so on. The thing is, it's actually done very well, assuming it is going for that testosterone-fueled action movie feel. I just don't like that feel. It takes a very, very special kind of action movie to entertain me, and Uncharted went for that very un-special one. Still love the games, but they have gameplay to fall back on.
For My Little Pony, it's not the fact that it preaches love and acceptance that repulses me, but rather, the manner it preaches it. Obviously, I'm not against love and acceptance, but it doesn't just simply boil down to the morals it is trying to impart. Troll 2 is a film that preaches love and the power of family, but that's all irrelevant in the face of everything else about that movie (though I genuinely enjoy Troll 2). MLP is a kids show, and a kids show ultimate objective should be to teach the kids a lesson... love and acceptance isn't a bad lesson at all, and in which case, it probably should be heavy-handed. You can't get much more heavy-handed and blunt than My Little Pony, at least from what I have seen. The very sub-title says it all. The documentary featured three or four instances, at least, of characters spouting the sacred one-liners about how "friendship conquers all", or whatever. All good lessons, but it is not the lessons I despise. Hell, "despise" is an overly strong word that really does not apply to me. It all brings me back to my point that My Little Pony is a great show for its target audience, but not a show that I really can understand other audiences enjoying. There's obviously something I'm missing here. That capacity to love, maybe? I kinda lack that...
Dunno. My favorite work of fiction is George Orwell's 1984, so maybe I'm not on board with the whole "happiness" thing? :(