» Love, Tolerance, and Other Myths

With documentary films about the pony fandom ramping up and more and more media outlets taking notice of the strange culture of adults who enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it’s almost inevitable that they all try to grab hold of some kind of comprehensible catchphrase or theme on which to base the pictures they paint for their audiences. Some journalists mistake “brony” as meaning an inebriated frat-boy who makes a show of liking ponies out of rebellious irony. Some focus on the raucous net-savvy 4chan roots of the fandom as a kind of self-mocking meme that got out of control.

But virtually all the exposés that attempt to understand the fandom as a sincere, self-supportive community of like-minded fans of a show about pink cartoon ponies latch on to a recurring mantra that survives today stronger than ever: Love and Tolerance. To hear fans tell it, that’s what FiM is all about, and that’s why everybody loves it so much.

I’ve just got to ask: Are these people watching the same show I am?

Hit the break to see what I’m on about this time.

The Piltdown Macro

Here’s what documentarians and pop-culture journalists almost invariably stumble upon when, through digital archaeology and earnest interviews, they try to understand how the pony fandom got started:

It’s perhaps the canonical image macro dating from the early days of the 4chan-based pony fandom, back when such macros were the primary way in which nascent fans communicated to each other that they were paying just a bit more attention to My Little Pony than one might think necessary to make a few visual Internet jokes from it. It was both a defensive mechanism and a rallying cry for fans reveling in the odd rebellious thrill of it all, and soon to “love and tolerate” naysayers became as synonymous with the show’s online fan base as the once-witty term “brony”.

The narrative that these artifacts imply is compelling: Early fans of the show congregated around its message of colorblind inclusiveness and drew strength from it, enough so as to ward off the mockery of their peers, both online and off. “Trolling” was met with indulgent smiles. Invective and insults earned only forgiveness. A new era of peace and understanding bloomed on the Internet, all thanks to the powerful, irresistible message of Love and Tolerance preached by Lauren Faust’s pony show.

There’s only one problem: The show is about no such thing.

You’d think, from all the play that “love and tolerance” gets among fans trying to explain the appeal, that it’s a catchphrase that shows up everywhere, in episode after episode, a message that’s drilled home repeatedly like safety admonishments at the end of G.I. Joe cartoons in the 80s. But it’s not. The ponies don’t love one another unconditionally. They don’t make a point of putting up with each other’s differences. The word tolerance never even occurs anywhere in any episode script.

Oh, sure, there’s plenty of friendship in the show. There are Elements of Harmony. There’s a “Smile” song. But a journalist who knows nothing about the show doesn’t know the difference between those things, which fans recognize as refreshingly innovative and endearing character-defining plot elements, and the sort of cynical, didactic moral message of tolerance that infested so many preachy “educational” cartoons of past decades that the very concept was played out by the mid-90s.

Fans who perpetuate the “love and tolerance” meme do so without acknowledging how profoundly unlike those older shows FiM is. In the process they give those who seek to understand the show’s appeal among animation-loving adults the impression that this is just the latest in a long line of aggressively wholesome “message” shows, hamfistedly teaching children the value of inclusiveness and open-mindedness through rampant tokenism and repetitive storylines about the perils of prejudice. To someone running an interview with fans to learn what’s so great about a show about ponies, finding out that it’s apparently about “love and tolerance” is like hearing that a modern clumsily disguised edu-tainment show in the vein of Captain Planet or The Magic School Bus has somehow, for no discernible reason that makes it unique, managed to transcend its genre and strike such a chord among nostalgia-loving children of the 80s that they now stage conventions across the country and attend them in the thousands.

I’d like to caution would-be brony-fandom journalists against making this assumption. If someone you interview tries to tell you that “love and tolerance” is some kind of central theme in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, ask him what that message has to do with the show. Ask for specific examples. I’ll bet the answer you get won’t be very convincing.

Don’t Judge a Show By its Fandom

I’m not here to argue that fans of the show don’t live by the “love and tolerate” mantra the way they say they do, or to commentate on whether it’s hypocritically applied only to the fandom’s interactions with some adjacent Internet subcultures and not to those with others. Some folks might find such a discussion rewarding. But what I’m doing instead is pointing out that the slogan, while it may be an admirable one, only has the barest of connections to the premise of FiM—no more so than to any of dozens of other cartoons that have been produced in the past thirty years or more.

Plenty of ink has been spilled, here and elsewhere, over what it is that draws fans so irresistibly to the show—whether it’s the animation, the characterizations, or more generally the idea of a firmly girl-oriented show with such genuine quality and broad appeal that the novelty of watching it gives it a thrill rather than a deal-breaking stigma. One thing it surely isn’t, though, is that the message of the show is all about such a facile and ultimately unconvincing concept as tolerance.

Be honest: does this image inspire you, or does it make your lip curl in an involuntary sneer?

In fact, nowadays using the word tolerance is a surefire way to get your audience’s eyes rolling. It’s a punchline, not a philosophy. It’s the stuff of parody and mockery, and nobody takes it seriously.

Worse, embracing tolerance as an unironic byword isn’t a great way for a fan to convince others that he’s a discriminating fan of quality content, or that FiM is by extension unusually good or worth watching. Rather, it suggests to the disinterested third party that it can’t be the show itself that’s so appealing—that it’s more likely something about the online community or all the meta-material that the community has produced that is behind the real draw. Saying it’s about “love and tolerance” just makes a non-fan question one’s judgment and taste.

It’s particularly a shame because the show’s real premise can indeed stand on its own, if it’s described with more appropriate vocabulary. I believe most fans understand implicitly that it isn’t the cast’s determination to welcome ponies of all shapes, colors, sizes, and backgrounds in their tea parties that makes them into compelling vessels for storytelling. Far from it. It’s actually their very human conflicts that lie at the heart of their appeal, the interpersonal incompatibilities that they learn to work around rather than accept unquestioningly.

It would be simple, too easy in fact, for the show to put forth a message that the kids watching the show should learn to just “get along” with their classmates, that anyone can be a friend no matter what they look like. This is hardly untrodden ground in kids’ programming. Generations have been inundated with this message, and other similarly vacuous ones, with dubious results. What kids haven’t been exposed to until now, however, is a show that challenges them to learn how to interact with others in their peer group who might not deserve love and tolerance. Because we, as adults, can surely agree that such people do exist.

Some people just aren’t worth tolerating. Really.

Considering that FiM is at its heart a “self-help” show in many ways, seeking to teach kids viable real-life lessons to put into play on the schoolyard, it’s hardly surprising that the “don’t judge a book by its cover” lessons—like the one centered, perhaps predictably, on Zecora—are the exception rather than the rule, taking up a small proportion of the show’s attention commensurate with how often such lessons actually prove useful in the real world. The show instead chooses to spend its time on much subtler, more interesting lessons such as how to distinguish a true friend from someone who’s only trying to butter you up to get something out of you, or how to learn where your limits are and how to let your friends rescue you when you find yourself beyond them. This is tricky subject matter, often more applicable to the lives of adults than of kids—and a far cry from the superficial message about “tolerance” that a casual observer, knowing the show more from image macros than from spending time actually watching any episodes, might assume pervades its storytelling.

This is in fact one of the things that’s innovative, even “postmodern”, about FiM. A traditionally “tolerance at all costs” show would preach that message by telling the audience that if there’s something about a weird-looking newcomer that rubs you the wrong way, then that’s your problem, it’s your failing—it’s never the newcomer’s. This is part of what has made us as a society so cynical about that kind of message these days: it criticizes us, preaches at us, puts us on the defensive. But FiM takes a different tack altogether. It gives kids in the audience an entirely different message, telling them that they’re the ones who deserve love and friendship and shouldn’t have to change for someone else’s sake, and yet that they should still work to eliminate their own inevitable flaws as they discover them. It’s self-affirming, and at the same time prescriptive, holding up a high standard of behavior to which to aspire. The self-improvement nature of the show gives kids the measuring sticks against which to judge themselves and the tools by which they can improve, and it casts those newcomers—like Gilda and Trixie—who don’t measure up, or who don’t agree to even try, as the forces of villainy, not poor misunderstood souls who just need to be given a chance. You have to deserve to have such good friends as Twilight and the gang.

Many of the most compelling stories in the FiM canon are the ones where the ponies have to work the hardest to overcome their personal failings, often because they fear being ostracized or losing their friends’ valued trust and confidence otherwise. Fluttershy’s character arc, for example, throughout the first two seasons centers on her slowly gaining self-confidence and assertiveness, often under the exasperated glare of her long-time friend Rainbow Dash. What makes this piece of ongoing narrative entertaining on so many relatable levels isn’t that Rainbow tolerates her; that much we expect at the very least. It’s that there’s the very real threat of Rainbow getting entirely fed up with Fluttershy and leaving her to find her own way. We see what kind of high-stakes pressure Rainbow Dash faces as the go-to pony for feats of heroism and bravery, and she can’t always afford to make concessions for Fluttershy if she can’t pull her own weight. It’s an entirely plausible possibility that Fluttershy might simply not measure up to Rainbow’s standards, which is what makes her long struggle to meet those standards so poignant and her successes so rewarding.

This isn’t tolerance. It’s the opposite. It’s human nature.

We’re not wired to be tolerant; we’re wired to appreciate those around us who can give a good accounting of themselves and be worth our while to know them, especially in the demanding, unforgiving grown-up world. Any attempts that modern popular media makes to cajole us into tolerating those who don’t meet our standards are not appealing to any innate impulses in us, but rather are imposing an artificial constraint on the nature of our minds.

My Little Pony knows this. And it’s succeeded in earning such a sizable adult audience because of that deep understanding of how the human mind works and its ability to exploit it—not because it’s following the same tired script whereby we’re supposed to learn to ignore our instincts and give people the benefit of the doubt.

Every time we see Twilight Sparkle force herself to become a more sociable creature for the sake of her newfound friendships, or Rarity and Sweetie Belle each making concessions in order to meet each other halfway, we’re reminded of what is of value in Pony world: the highly realistic standards of a grown-up social environment. And when a new face shows up in Ponyville, such as Cranky Doodle Donkey, we’re given refreshingly original angles on how introductions ought to be made. Pinkie Pie, tolerant to a fault (as we saw in her attempts to justify Gilda’s behavior), all but becomes the villain of the episode in which she harasses the poor donkey to within inches of his sanity, all to keep her perfect record of friendship unbroken. By the time the episode concludes, we’re on the brink of writing Pinkie off as having burst the limits of our—and Cranky’s—tolerance of her.

Surely you know that to “tolerate” something is to approve of it unconditionally.

“Tolerance”, then, is a shallow, overused, almost meaningless term nowadays, one that people simply assume is a good thing because of its pervasiveness in our society and pop culture. Don’t get me wrong—being inclusive and open-hearted is a wonderful thing, and I’m by no means arguing that people should be prejudiced toward newcomers from unfamiliar backgrounds. But we ought to be careful with our definitions. There’s a reason why South Park devoted an episode toward the “Death Camp of Tolerance”, a bitingly satiric way to drive home the point that tolerance does not and should not automatically imply approval—and that being successful in a social world involves far more involved skills than simply learning not to mistrust others reflexively because they’re different. Sometimes you have to change, and sometimes you have to insist that others change, because—as FiM illustrates so vividly with the examples of Gilda, Trixie, Diamond Tiara, and others—some behaviors are just not OK. Tolerating them just makes matters worse.

The Unreliable Narrator

When you know the show well, hearing fans speak of it as though its grand revolutionary premise is its message of love and tolerance toward your fellow man becomes downright bizarre. That’s why, as researchers and journalists from all over the land begin to converge on the Pony fandom to find out what makes it tick, and now that Hasbro itself is beginning to incorporate fan-created memes into its own merchandising, I’d like to remind seekers of understanding to watch the show themselves before interviewing fans for their insights. I’d like to see them decide independently, from first-hand observations, whether the answers they hear for why the show is so appealing make sense to them. Whether fans are prone to reciting a misleading catchphrase as the distilled essence of the show, suggesting that they appreciate it on some semi-ironic meta level (i.e. that a presumed “love and tolerance” message helps them cope with mockery from others on the Internet or on campus), or whether they have a more coherent answer that’s more firmly grounded in the show’s reality, is a fairly important distinction to make in understanding the show and its place in the entertainment landscape. Ultimately, whether fans can articulate why they love the show in a convincing manner might make for a salient point in one’s thesis—perhaps the show still, to this day, after two complete seasons, has managed to remain an inexplicable enigma even to its most devoted followers.

But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to reiterate more than anything else is simply that if My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic were truly about “love and tolerance”, it would be nowhere near as special as it is. What makes it so special, indeed, is how firmly it rejects such a philosophy and strikes out in a direction we’ve seen so seldom, not just in kids’ entertainment, but in anything on television in recent memory.

It took each of us several episodes to gradually come to understand what kind of a show this was that we had coaxed, cajoled, tricked ourselves into watching. It was certainly like nothing we’d ever encountered before, and to this day it remains a tantalizing mystery exactly what strokes of unprecedented inspiration lay behind its unique conception. It’s still a surreal experience to many fans. It’s small wonder that we’ll grasp for something, anything, recognizable that helps to explain the show or that allows us to present it to inquisitive friends and colleagues in a way that they’ll understand.

But be that as it may, it would be a terrible mistake for those who seek to understand the phenomenon of Pony fandom to conclude that the reason why it’s so great is that it’s just doing what every other show from the past thirty years has tried to do.

Please be sure to check out the followup article, Stacking of Tolerances, for more on this subject and a response to the many commenters.


Share your thoughts

  1. Something always irked me about the phrase “love and tolerance”. I always felt like people used it without thinking of what it really meant. It’s something people say with the best of intentions, but the phrase just doesn’t deliver a message significant to the show this fandom is based on. Tolerance is a good way to make no progress at all, but at least everyone’s smiling, right? Yeah right.

    The bottom line is that people should be encouraged to improve their ability to engage with society in what ways they have control over. This can be done nicely and without hate, but requires that people stop blindly accepting every conceivable fault that someone has. Don’t be afraid to identify destructive or counterproductive behavior.

    Tolerance doesn’t hurt anyone, but it doesn’t do anything else either.

      • Let me rephrase that a bit. That’s the thinking of either a bigot or an extreme cynic. Tolerance doesn’t mean blissfully ignoring everything negative or accepting everything. It isn’t intolerant to get angry about injustice, no matter what some people try to say.

  2. This is a very well thought out article which touches upon elements within this fandom/L&T that I think most are afraid to admit. L&T is never mentioned in the show, and as you have put very well, using such a blind faith philosophy is not the way to go about said social situations. There are people out there who you just can’t tolerate. If we tolerated the American South, do you think the Civil War would have occurred as it did? If we tolerated Nazi Germany (which we almost did through appeasement)this world would be a much different and probably darker place.

    L&T if anything, is a light ideology that I think fans are misquoting/misusing. It’s more or less a rephrase of the “golden rule”: treat others the way you wish to be treated. But even that should not be taken at face value. As this article and FIM point out, some people need to deserve this, from others and even themselves.

    We’re only human after all.

    • It doesn’t make a difference if it’s mentioned or not, actions are just as valid–sometimes more. The slave-owners were and white supremacists are now the intolerant ones. Not challenging them would be stupidity and cowardice, not tolerance.
      There’s nothing “light” about it, except in the sense it means good. It’s easy to accept people that you know, it’s a lot harder to forgive or tolerate someone who frustrates you. It doesn’t mean accepting everything, but you can generally tell the difference.

      • I’m glad somepony was already speaking up as you have even before I could, myself.

        You’re absolutely right. It strikes me as pernicious and treacherous to see someone tearing down the encouragement of better behavior in others just because it’s not part of a cartoon.

        It hardly matters at all that the characters in the show don’t say it. Our fandom’s implacable embracing of these virtues is what allowed it to succeed. I highly doubt these neighsayers would even be here to waste their breath hacking away at our central support if it had not enabled us to exist thus far in the first place.

        Especially disappointing is the insinuation that these people have that tolerance is a weakness. Dispensing with the unpleasant emotional reactions it gives me (for they’re inappropriate for a fair and logical consideration), I take great solace in understanding that the definition of tolerance quite succinctly, in itself, defies these suppositions:

        Tolerance is, and I quote, “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”

        Fair and Objective. Cruelty is inherently unfair, and therefore is INCAPABLE of being tolerated. Much the same as injustice, dishonesty, and other traits. Objective consideration of deleterious concepts plainly reveal them to be such, and thereby not relevant to the discussion of tolerance.

        Tolerance is something you have toward someone who holds their harmless opinions unassailable. I write this, in fact, not to change the opinion of the original author of this text, but to reach out to those who feel disheartened in reading it. I tolerate the author’s harmless opinion and hold him/her blameless WHILST actively encouraging others to endure it patiently until it passes like so much hot air, so that they may resume devoting their efforts toward productive means.

        That is how one tolerates. Not this charge of apathy, this docility in the face of malice!

  3. The big disconnect for me with this article is that I don’t think “tolerance” means “accepting something unconditionally” at all. Tolerating someone does not automatically entail accepting all their flaws, or having to agree with them, but rather accepting them as people, accepting that they may have different viewpoints, and giving them the same respect that you would want from them. If someone does something bad, of course you should stand up for yourself; tolerating a person is not the same as tolerating an act, and one does not necessarily include the other.

    • I think the same way.

      This isn’t a bad article and I can see that you thought about the topic, but it is completely based on a misapprehension, because tolerance has nothing to do with accepting everything anypony would do. You mentioned South Park before, so don’t forget that even there they talked about the difference between tolerance and acceptance (I don’t remember the episode though)

      Of course you’re right when you say that FiM isn’t about love and tolerance, I don’t argue that. I also can understand if it disturbs you that some fans claim “FiM” was about love and tolerance, which really isn’t true. But it isn’t any more true that the show teaches the opposite. They aren’t completely wrong either, since there really is a notable amount of tolerance in the show.
      Let’s just look at “Griffon the Brush Off”: Pinkie Pie tried, quite literally, to love and tolerate the shitty attitude out of Gilda. Did the show tell us that this was a bad decision? I don’t see that. Gilda turned out to be “one who doesn’t deserve such treatment” like you would probably call it, but it wasn’t Pinkie’s fault to give her the chance to integrate, it was Gilda’s fault to not use this chance. This did not tell me that tolerance is wrong, not at all. It turned out as not successful in this case, but you only know that if you have tried it on a person. There also was no negative consequence of Pinkie’s behavior, only the truth coming to the light.
      h2g2guy already pointed out the scene in Boast Busters.

      To the Captain Planet image: Your question is biassing. It is one thing to ask “What do you think about this image” and another to say “be honest, this image does make your lip curl, doesn’t it?”
      I don’t see where the problem in this image is.

      @Adam: You couldn’t have chosen a worse example to state how dangerous tolerance is than “Nazi Germany”.
      One part of the “love and tolerate” phrase is “we can’t tolerate intolerance”
      So love and tolerance does not mean to tolerate something like that but the opposite.
      Besides, you asked what had happened if we hat tolerated “Nazi Germany”, the same way I could ask you what would have been if the “Nazis” had tolerated? Then there wouldn’t have been this problem.

      Love and tolerance all the way, IF you know what it really means and don’t ignore and smile regardlessly.

      • “Tolerating” Gilda’s behavior was fruitless and a bad decision, because left unchecked she did things like steal and make Fluttershy cry. HH does say that Pinkie was tolerant of Gilda to a fault later on when talking about Cranky. The “maybe the problem is with you” cliche is brought up by Twilight when she tells Pinkie to be more tolerant, but the lesson from that episode wasn’t to tolerate people’s bad behavior. Sometimes you gotta call people out.

        They are willing to forgive (as in the case with Trixie, if she did change her ways), but being willing to forgive does not equal willing to give a pass.

        A better phrase instead of “Love and Tolerate” would probably be “Peace and love,” in the words of Mr. Starr. Being accepting of others isn’t what’s on trial here, more that people are willing to use a shiny memetic platitude instead of actually thinking about the show. I think most people will agree that being loving and accepting is a Good Thing™, but that often doesn’t come unconditionally (see Sisterhooves) and the show often takes the opposite tack to prove points.

        Thanks for stopping by, even if you might not agree completely we’re always willing to hear different points of view.

        • While I don’t entirely agree in general with your opinion, there’s one issue you bring up that I think is really valid, and that each and every one of us should think about: “using a shiny memetic platitude instead of actually thinking about the show.”

          This is entirely true. Too many of us (myself sometimes included) use the phrase without really considering what it means. Although my definition of tolerance is different from yours and different from the meaning used in the article, reading this article and the comments made me justify to myself exactly what I was saying when I was repeating this phrase, which is a really good thing, and something that anyone who takes a moral stance on ANYTHING should do.

          • Yes, that is some true point. That people use the phrase and don’t consider what it means is the only problem I see there.
            That’s what I was talking about, I don’t think that tolerance means to “give somepony a pass” or to “tolerate bad behavior”. Also, Pinkie didn’t do that, she just observed Gilda to find out if she was right and then tried to change her her own way, not tolerating her behavior but her, if she decided to “change her attitude”.
            Sure, it was a slow way to take care of the problem and could not prevent what Gilda did in that time, but we all know the reason why a criminal gets a trial. Besides, it isn’t likely that anypony would have believed Pinkie if she haven’t made Gilda to show her real face in public. It has some similarities to the royal wedding episode, remember the “because she’s evil”?
            That Pinkie was “tolerant to a fault” is only HH’s and probably your point of view, but nothing the show tells us directly.
            With “Sometimes you gotta call people out” you are right, no doubt at that, but that doesn’t contradict tolerance. It is like h2g2guy says: “We can love and tolerate people without encouraging or allowing ‘bad’ behavior. I think this is really what love and tolerate means.”
            I also have to admit that “Peace and Love” probably might be a better phrase, at least since it is easier to understand, but as long as you get “love and tolerate” right, it isn’t any bad either.
            And again, you used “accepting” in your example, which isn’t the same as “tolerating”. Tolerance does not mean to accept something unconditionally.

            There is one thing in the article that still bothers me:
            “perhaps the show still, to this day, after two complete seasons, has managed to remain an inexplicable enigma even to its most devoted followers”
            It sounds a bit like you think you were the only one to really understand it and everypony who thinks different just wouldn’t get it. Of course, if a million people say something stupid, it’s still stupid, but it’s dangerous to claim that you are smarter than a million people. If somepony sonsiders himself the only sane pony on earth, he should think about if it might not be him who is wrong.
            I really hope that isn’t what HH wanted to say there, this words just leave a bad taste in my mouth.

            Thank you for taking your time reading this, that’s another point of “L&T” I value: Not just saying “You have another opinion, fine, I don’t care.” but actually listening to others, trying to understand them, finding agreements, pointing out differences and thinking about if they may be right in some points.

            • To me (and a lot of people, probably), the word tolerate has a negative connotation. I tolerate a coworker’s sometimes boorish behavior because he is very good at his job, or I tolerate a bug in Photoshop because I need it to get a job done. Tolerating something is not in and of itself a virtue, which is HH’s point that some of the concepts aren’t much of an issue, but more how people talk about them and how they phrase them.

              It sounds a bit like you think you were the only one to really understand it and everypony who thinks different just wouldn’t get it. Of course, if a million people say something stupid, it’s still stupid, but it’s dangerous to claim that you are smarter than a million people. If somepony sonsiders himself the only sane pony on earth, he should think about if it might not be him who is wrong.

              His point is that the show still has this kind of magnetic attraction that is still quite hard to explain, even by people who are in deep. It’s got a certain something (You could say magic) that’s hard to pin down. HH isn’t speaking for anyone here but himself, and like we’re doing here we can either agree or disagree.

              • I guess that means it’s only our different definitions of the word “tolerate”.
                Your example with the Photoshop doesn’t make much sense to me, a program has no feelings and doesn’t need to be tolerated. I would probably call this “take a loss”, but not “tolerate”. In case of the coworker I probably would use this words too, but that’s something different. Though, I don’t see what’s the problem with tolerance there. It doesn’t say that you can’t tell him “You are a good worker, but you should work on your behavior” or something like this. “tolerate” does not mean “take a loss” in my eyes.

                I agree with the show having something you can’t explain, what confused me was the “an inexplicable enigma even to its most devoted followers”. I didn’t get that he was speaking for himself only, I thought he was referring to everyone else. I take it back then, my mistake.
                I hope you at least understand me, I know my English is anything but perfect.

                • Totally understood and it’s no problem at all. The show means a lot of things to a lot of people, and we’re in search of understanding it for ourselves. The show still has an attraction to many people that, even when familiar with, is hard to explain. We have difficulty too. Whether people pay attention to us or not is something else. :V

      • You’re right until the last part. It would have made no difference, because most Nazis were monsters.

    • I share your opinion as well. The author is simply being a bit captious. If one only allows another to be defined as tolerant if and only if they tolerate everything, than no one can be tolerant. However, the definition is not based on continuity; rather, it is based on an instance. To be more precise, I can be tolerant one second, and be a bigot the next. The characters in the show obviously show tolerance, given this definition.

      A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

      Seeing that the ponies show more tolerance than bigotry throughout the show, I am heavily inclined to state that tolerance is a defined theme in the show.

      To add on love, love is a commonly occurring theme in the show that is quite obvious. Seeing that friendship is a form of love, love can be cited as a theme for the show, given consideration that every episode involves friendship of some kind.

      In conclusion, I have given proof that love and tolerance are a common theme in the show. Whether or not you consider the theme a primary one is a matter of opinion, but the fact remains that love and tolerance can be found heavily throughout the span of the last two seasons.

      Good day, fellow human. I leave you with imperfect, human knowledge.

    • I absolutely have to agree with Ezmj and Hikargh are saying here. My definition of tolerance doesn’t seem to fit in at ALL with the authors, and because of that I nearly gave up on this article after the first few paragraphs. It’s a good idea to very clearly define any concepts that are key to the article.

        • No, it’s written correctly. The author wasn’t very clear on ANYTHING at all, other than what was defined incorrectly.

    • That would be exactly my definition, too.

      Can’t we all simply agree to never use that word again?

  4. Well thought out article. A great, fresh perspective on the ‘love and tolerate’ phrase, and it definitely makes me reconsider my usage of it.

    However, it is clear that even in the cases of those two characters that you mentioned, tolerance is still present.

    In Boast Busters, as Rainbow is about to give Trixie a piece of her mind at the end of the episode, Twilight says “Just let her go. Maybe someday she’ll learn her lesson.” To me, this implies that she would be welcome to come back to Ponyville if she were to eliminate her bad behavior.

    Griffon the Brush Off had similar connotation in Rainbow’s ‘telling off’ of Gilda. Let’s not forget that Pinkie Pie would have probably all but forgotten about Gilda’s transgressions had she revised her attitude after the party; after all, wasn’t that the point of it in the first place?

    When I say ‘Love and Tolerate’, I mean that I love and tolerate people, because I know they’re living, breathing, and most importantly, FEELING human beings. I don’t tolerate ‘destructive or counterproductive BEHAVIOR’, and I’d be happy to guide anyone, including bronies, who engage in such behavior towards more productive uses of their time.

    A good example from outside the fandom is the fundamentalist Catholic who engages in hate speech against homosexuals. The person may have his heart in the right place, he is simply engaging in behaviors unproductive to society. This person, too, should be corrected. (Full disclosure: I’m a Catholic who has absolutely no problem with LGBT people, and I doubt God has a problem with them, either.)

    We can love and tolerate people without encouraging or allowing ‘bad’ behavior. I think this is really what love and tolerate means.

    • I agree with that perspective of “every life should be loved”. We’re all human beings

      However, I think it’s alright for someone to hate something like cloppING (the behavior not the person), so long as they don’t hurt the other person. Take me for instance, I can’t stand the thought of such a concept. When confronted with a situation, I will say “yea not my thing”, and leave. I will keep my strong opinions to myself

      I will never “love or tolerate” that behavior, no way no how. But idc if people do it behind closed doors. Just like in that Death Camp of Tolerance South Park episode, there is some behavior (Mr. Garrison’s escapades with Mr. Slave made public) that is so obscenely distasteful that it has no purpose to be shared in public. We shouldn’t be expected to tolerate it, because it doesn’t deserve to be tolerated at least in public.
      That’s what this article says to me

      • Admin Alert: The article isn’t about that, so much as general interpersonal reactions. Let’s not go down that road, thanks.

        • oops, yea sorry about that. To me such a discussion often times leads to discussions of “haters” within the brony community, stemming from said topic where L&T is often discussed. At the time it seemed relevant in my head.

          But this is not the time or place for that, you’re right.
          My bad.

  5. Thank you! I was considering for awhile to write up a rant of sorts on this very subject *, but you managed to convey my thoughts on the subject much better than I could myself! What would we do without you and walls of text, Headless?

    *Probably on Reddit *shudder* or someplace else- Something like that.

  6. An absolutely brilliant read in all respects. I’ve often wondered about the love and tolerance label myself, and this brings up all the right points.

  7. This is a fantastic piece of writing, and I’m very glad you took the time to write it.

    “Love and Tolerance” has become a go-to for most of the fandom when it comes to a message, however, with so many different messages throughout the show — as well as many instances of rejected characters — I could not understand how these messages could have been compacted into something as vague as “Love and Tolerance”.

    I know that this show would not have clicked for me within 2 episodes, if I was only hearing that message. There had to have been something more real, something that displayed scenarios that were both real, and precise, but done in a new interesting way. With the fantasy setting of MLP and the unfamiliar — and interesting cast of characters in these scenarios, Studio B created something that worked for the cartoon oriented adult audience of our time.

    The show offers a far deeper understanding of reality, and gives children and adults alike, something to learn from. That’s what makes this show so great. I really hope many people see this, and I will do my best to share this everywhere I can!

  8. Good synopsis. Part of what I have seen from the show is that everyone/pony has their weaknesses, faults and problems. A good portion of the challenge is that the characters (eventually) recognize a fault in themselves (sometimes through trial and many errors) and try to improve themselves (with a little or a lot of help from their friends). On the other hand/hoof, each person/pony should be supportive of their friends in the same way. To put it in a loosely religious context, recognizing the log in your own eye and doing something about it will make you a much better person/pony than criticizing the speck in someone/pony else’s eye. However, that does not mean that we should ignore the faults we may see in others.

    It’s OK to let someone know they are being a jerk if they are being one. It’s not OK to be a jerk yourself and go around telling others that they are jerks. And, like some people in this world, the message may (Mane 6 quite often), or may not (Gilda, Trixie, Prince Blueblood, etc.) get through.

    Another important lesson from the show? Things work out a lot better when you actually work together, be willing to compromise/negotiate, etc. rather than being divisive and exclusionary. “My way or the highway” is not in the vocabulary of the show.

  9. a well thought article which does a good job of explaining why L&T may not be the best way to describe the show. now the inevitable “but”, tolerance does not mean whole hearted acceptance or approval, but more accurately “freedom from bigotry” as defined at dictionary.reference .com. now given the context with which the word has been (mis)used in other shows i can understand the apprehension associated with it.

    your article does explain also that the show is indeed NOT about tolerance as a whole. however the subject (even if never named directly) does come up, and zecora is a good example of this. several episodes teach a message of tolerance, though most don’t. the end of boast busters is kind of grey, they don’t accept trixie as she is, yet hope for her to improve herself. with zecora, twilight is perfectly ok with her being a zebra, yet the rest are unsure and scared of her. at the end of the episode the main cast all learn tolerance towards outward appearances, TS with books and the rest with race. look before you sleep teaches tolerance of interpersonal differences. but there are then episodes that do show the importance assertiveness/intolerance, most obvious being “putting your hoof down,” which in the same breath shows the importance of self control and not being a jerk.

    i think “tolerance” as a word has been avoided for reasons like the captain planet pic you posted, it reminds people of a bad flavor. similar to why “uranus” is generally avoided as a word in school classes to prevent all the kids from giggling at the rediculous sound of it and disrupting the class, which would detract from the lesson being taught. not that it isn’t a part of the lesson, but it must be discussed with care in order to avoid the point being lost.

  10. Slavoj Zizek makes a lot about tolerance and how “tolerance” paralyzes us from making actual critiques and progress. We package up other people as different cultures immediately as if somehow culture and people are immutable and just “tolerate” them. As Sedaheht said: Tolerance is a great way for us to make no progress whatsoever.

    Think of how ridiculous it would be for Martin Luther King to ask for more “tolerance” from whites or women to ask for more “tolerance” from men. You can’t ask for respect from those without respect for you. In that case tolerance weakens your position and tacitly allows them to continue on.

    Like Pinkie Pie trapped in her anxiety after Twilight points out that she might just be jealous. Our language has gotten us stuck. Pinkie’s party doesn’t do anything to change Gilda. In the end she blows up anyway and attacks other people. Finally Rainbow Dash sees who Gilda really is and tells her off.

    With Trixie the more Twilight tolerates her antics out of anxiety of looking like she’s a blowhard the more Trixie hurts and humiliates her friends. Eventually, albeit indirectly, it nearly gets the town destroyed until Twilight does the right thing. I didn’t see the end as “tolerance” but more of a cognitive finisher that allows you to brush off those you won’t likely see again.

    Look Before You Sleep though seems to tie in with something else of Zizek’s in that there is a common positive goal that we should be working to regardless of culture. Applejack is right in that case to tell Rarity to stop being so prissy and help prune the tree branch. And Rarity was right in staring down Applejack to remind her that her rash action is what got them into this mess. They’re not tolerating, they’re critiquing each other and becoming better ponies as a result.

    In other shows that party would have melted Gilda’s heart and the lesson would be beaten into you by He-man or something at the end babbling it to screen. Or Trixie would apologize. It’s great to have a show that spurns this shallow “love and tolerate” catchphrase for a more nuanced position.

    apologies for the http://i.imgur.com/Kn6pP.gif

    • Pffft. If anything I’d treat it as a complement. My stance is that, now that we have a comment that quotes Zizek on a post about ponies, I think we’ve accomplished our goal of becoming The Worker’s Pony News Site.

    • What did Trixie even DO?! She was a bitch, but she was doing her job. And her job was spectacle. She made her living being a flashy, boastful bitch. You know, a living? That thing that puts food on your table and keeps you breathing?

      Then Snips and Snail get it in there retard heads to test out Trixies boasts by bringing an actual Ursa Major (Minor, but they didn’t know that) to a populated town. Are they punished for public endangerment? Nope! Trixie get’s run outta town cause two stupid kids were being stupid kids.


  11. I am thoroughly disappointed by the impression people seem to have of “love and tolerance”. This phrase does not reflect an unrealistic way of thinking or living. It does not represent the inanity of stories where everyone is just “misunderstood”. Love and tolerance are serious, real, powerful, mature concepts. The fact that the show has relatable characters behaving in realistic ways does not mean that it is not about love and tolerance; It means that it is teaching love and tolerance well.

        • A 1:30+ long video series about it

          Not sure if it’s ironic to say that multiculturalism and tolerance is ethnocentric. We’re paralyzed by “tolerance” but because we package away and write off entire cultures.

          We’ve drawn a line and said “you are different from us but I respect you” but then you dole out standards. Since I tolerate your different culture you get this set of rules while we live by this other one. We’ve written them off.

          Tolerance is the obverse of bigotry where we’ve convinced ourselves that they are intrinsically “that way” and because we cannot change them we should leave them be.

          Like Pinkie Pie’s tolerance of Gilda just lets her rampage around town and make Fluttershy cry. Or Twilight’s tolerating of Trixie allowed her to hurt her friends and nearly got the town destroyed.

          • I haven’t watched the whole video yet, but from what you’re saying it seems to be less of an indictment of tolerance as a concept and more of a discussion of the flaws in how the western world uses cultural tolerance.

            Tolerance as a life skill has nothing to do with packaging people away, writing off cultures, or doling out standards. You’re right about saying, “You are different but I respect you”, but then you describe people treating others with the exact opposite of respect. Believing other people or cultures have intrinsic flaws that they are unable to change is not tolerance or the obverse of bigotry; it IS bigotry.

            Tolerance is about not trying to change others, not because they are intrinsically “that way”, but because it is not our place to judge others for their differences or to change them. It does not mean you have to allow harmful behaviors; that is acquiescence, appeasement, compliance, or neglect. Tolerance means appreciating (or at least allowing) the differences of others, using self-control when dealing with persons or behaviors that you don’t understand or don’t agree with, and knowing what it is or isn’t your place to deal with.

            Cultural tolerance may be applied in ways that are racist, but I don’t know about that and we’re not really talking about that.
            Tolerance as a personal life philosophy is valuable and constructive

            • That’s pretty much what I think.
              “Tolerance is racist” is just a silly, unfounded statement.
              Some people seem to define “tolerance” another way or just misuse the word.

  12. Hi. I’m editing a book of uplifting essays on the ever-changing meanings of love, tolerance, and friendship within the fandom. I’m going to put out a general call for submissions in a couple of weeks, but I was wondering if you would be interested in expanding and revising this essay to become a chapter in “Apple Cider for the Brony Soul,” which is scheduled to be released in 2013.

    Please email me at sdoggingsworth at gmail.com to discuss details if you’re interested.


  13. I don’t think the motto applies to the show at all not do I think it’s supposed to. I think it’s supposed to be about the fans and their tolerance of the haters and people who don’t understand why we love the show.

  14. Alright one thing needs to be set strait. Regardless to popular belief, I LOVE the show, it is not the fact that the fan base is amazing, but more rather for the fact that it has far more story line than any other cartoon on nowadays, it has good writers, voice actors, and animators! It’s comedy isn’t located solely around random mildly funny stuff such as other shows, examples being adventure time, world of gumball, and the normal show. now back to the love and tolerance portion, I cannot seem to see where you are coming from when you say about the show having nothing to do with love and tolerance. The most prominent relationship showing this is applejack and rainbowdash. They are both extremely competitive against each other and yet somehow even after they have pointed out everything wrong with each other they still don’t get each other yet somehow they still are friends. If that isn’t tolerance then I don’t know what is. The term “love and tolerance” is a brony phrase though and it is referring to the widely excepting community that has a record for being the most banded fandom known, as far as I’m aware, to man. We are bro’s. We are Bronies.

  15. BTW the symbolism is everywhere. try comparing these things to the Greek gods/entities and the Egyptian gods. You will be shocked at how in depth it goes.

  16. I’m Brony, get used to it! I’m Brony, hear me neigh!! I’m Brony & I’m Proud! :)

  17. In the beginning it was just something to say on /b/ while the threads were being filled with gore and horse porn, then as the fandom spread it lost all of its original meaning just like the term ‘brony’ itself

  18. Thank you for this wonderfully written article. It really brings to a point a lot of the thoughts I have on the show and the fandom that surrounds it.

  19. Pingback: You should really read this article about the "love and tolerance" meme

  20. Great article. It’s disappointing that “love and tolerate” ended up a fan slogan when it has so little to do with the show itself. “Tolerance” also makes for a poor ideology that has had rather negative consequences. Tolerating the build up of Nazi Germany ended quite badly for a good many people. It also leads to an erosion of values. Far too many democratic countries have opted to sacrifice freedom of speech in the name of “tolerance”, prosecuting citizens who express opinions considered to be in some way intolerant. As for its use in the fandom, I’ve increasingly seen “love and tolerate” being employed as a defense mechanism by those who engage in… questionable activities.

    • That’s what I said. L&T shouldn’t be used as an excuse/defense mechanism from…particular fans. It’s a double standard.

  21. Judging for the comments it seems many agree on the same thing. The article is good but it treats “tolerance” as a bad word. That´s a terrible lesson. If Twilight wasn´t tolerant she would have chased someone as annoying as Pinkie out of her life a long while ago; but she learned to tolerate her friend most excentric behavior the same way she know Pinkie tolerate her usual quirks. That´s one of the reason I don´t like that much the Dragon Quest episode since they tried to say all dragons were bad and Spike was better off with ponies instead of saying that all that normal and accepted dragon behavoir up to the point where they attacked the phoenix´s nest and that´s the point where Spike needed to stand up, but they handle the point badly on my opinion.
    Tolerance is not a bad thing and there are several example of it in the show. Is the message of the show? Not really. Is Love and Tolerate a bad phrase? No, is not; and you missed the irony of the original phrase “Love and Tolerate the sh*t out of you” implied a level of sarcasm that meant that while, I would tolerate your behavior, I won´t let you attack me on any way. Is FiM doing the same thing that other shows have been doing the last thirty years? YES, it is. The only difference is that is doing it right. South Park was going for straight irony, a problem I see with your article. A blatant cynicism that basically said that you can´t live in the same planet with other people. I know I know you said in the middle that you don´t agree with that and that love and tolerance is a good thing; but you seem to think that all journalist and media will aproach the fandom with a cynic mind and think of its members as manchilds. I don´t sahre that. I believe non-brony can tolerate the fandom and talk about it withouth sharing the love for the show. It makes me laugh some non-brony reactions about the show such as a recent Two Best Friends Play video where they mocked Lollipop chainsaw. It wasn´t an attack at bronies or anything, it was just…not their thing.
    So “Love and Tolerance” is a good catchphrase but a better one is “I will love and tolerate the sh*t out of you!” is a better one. And quite ironically that seems to be the real lesson of the show. They may not like all each other but they learned to tolerate each other, otherwise magical freezing horses will show up and create a glaciar age….yeah, that sounds silly. See why you shouldn´t base your life philosophy on a show about magical talking horses?!

  22. I LOVED this article! I was always a little annoyed with the phrase “love and tolerance”, because it seemed meaningless in my eyes, especially with people who USE it, then proceed to spam haters with pony-related material. I never thought that phrase represented the show OR the fandom, and is just a meaningless phrase reduced to meme status, and like most memes, it gets old.

    BTW, I especially loved this one part of the article:

    “The self-improvement nature of the show gives kids the measuring sticks against which to judge themselves and the tools by which they can improve, and it casts those newcomers—like Gilda and Trixie—who don’t measure up, or who don’t agree to even try, as the forces of villainy, not poor misunderstood souls who just need to be given a chance.”

    OOOOOOH, you TOTALLY burned those Trixie fans! Nice! ;)

    • I don’t think he was poking at Trixie fans in particular; just using her character as an example.

  23. I do think this article conveys some good points, but also some bad points relating to the idea of love and tolerance. The idea of love and tolerance is conveyed a lot in the show whether you see it or not is totally different. For example, it was tolerance when they included a character named Derpy, who none the less portrays a character who is clumsy, of course the reason for the name Derpy. It is tolerance where they accept her into the community no matter her state of mind. It is also tolerance in the Ponyville Confidential when they talk about Trixie. Not all the characters talk bad about her, in fact Twilight stands up for Trixie, being an example of the idea of tolerance.

    You see, the fact is there are many examples of tolerance that some people may not interpret as tolerance, but those examples are still tolerance.

    • Derpy was pretty much openly placed there as a callout to the fans, not as any statement about tolerance. Numerous statements by members of the show have pretty stated as much. If anything, the blowback of The Last Roundup should state otherwise: the show runners depicted “toleration” of Derpy in a way that ended up offending those people who felt that they should not simply be tolerated (which implies a sense of acknowledgement without understanding), but actually accepted (c.f. “toleration” as a negative rather than a positive per sqk’s commentary above. Although his point was more on the racist aspects, the same might be said for the ableist nature of the toleration of Derpy. Indeed, Rainbow Dash’s exasperation at Derpy’s klutziness seems to be almost paternalistic rather than truly understanding and acknowledging Derpy’s real nature in a positive manner.)

  24. Good article, however the thing that I think you misunderstand, as I believe others have pointed out, is that the word tolerate has a different sort of definition/connotation than what you are making it out to be.

    While I do agree that it is a bit annoying to see other bronies spout out this catchphrase, I do think you misrepresent it. The image with “I’m going to love and tolerate the shit out of you” should be evidence of this; tolerating isn’t about accepting everything from someone unconditionally, it’s about accepting someone for who they are, but this doesn’t mean they have to like the thing they are tolerating. The image, coupled with Twilight’s unamused look, is directed towards haters, implying the message of “I don’t like you, but I’m not going to be bothered by it. I will tolerate your hate, but do not like your intolerance.”

    I think I’m rambling at this point, but regardless, I do agree that the show doesn’t quite promote the same thing as the bronies claim it does, but it is not exclusionary to this idea either.

  25. *claps* truly amazing, you really did a good analyisis. Very, very interesting. Thank you very much.

  26. A great essay, and many valid points. Though the author, I think, underestimates his first image, the Twilight Sparkle Love & Tolerate banner. I think it, consciously or not, subverts the overdone “tolerance” theme with humor. But even in that ironic sense, it proves the author’s larger point.

  27. I don’t know why people are saying this is well written, when it is based on a false meaning of tolerance.


    1) Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.
    2) Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.

    [Forbearance = Self control]

    And can everyone stop mentioning tolerating Nazis… Because that wasn’t tolerating. That was people ignoring a problem because it didn’t currently effect them.

    Love and tolerate, in my opinion, is just something you say to remind yourself [and others] to stay calm.

    Love and tolerate as a whole applies to “haters”. They don’t like the show? That’s ok. They don’t have to like it. You can still like the person and agree to disagree.

    The tolerate part on it’s own applies to parts of the fandom you don’t like. [Grimdark for example…] If you don’t like it, don’t attack others because they DO like it. [It can also be applied to pretty much anything else.]

    Even if you tolerate something, you can still express your dislike of it. But, do it tactfully.

  28. As much as i agree with your point of view on how MLP is not a show about the over used topic of “Love and Tolerance”. I will have to put my foot (or in this case hoof lol) down because you can learn to tolerate certain things from watching the show; That is from where i come from. In order to understand me a little better ill tell you how i got into the pony fandom in the first place. I’m not that type of person that ridicules anyone because there different and don’t do the same thing i do, but i was never going to watch the show because it seemed…… odd. But sure enough i got the perfect chance to joke around with a friend of mine at school that watched the show, and without me meaning to, i hurt his feeling’s and made him kinda pissed off at me for a while till we started talking about football. During the conversation we were talking about the upcoming super bowl (the one in 2012 so it im a new brony), and when me and him had different teams we thought were going to win he came up with a bet. If his team won then i would have to watch the first season of MLP. If my team won then he had to give up the show for good (btw i wasn’t going to be that cruel and i wasn’t going to make him stop watching) and i was for sure i was going to win the bet. to hurry things along so I’m not rambling on, I lost the bet. So with the mind set of being forced to watch something you don’t want to watch it was hard to get the true message of the show. For me i hated PinkyPie for the longest time and every time i saw her i had to “Tolerate” what she did and how she sounded. By the time i reached episode 14 i started liking the show because i loved the characters because they were relate-able, the animation was good,and it had good non-volgure humor. so by then i was watching it, not because of a bet, but because i wanted to. The message is more clear to me now then back then but tolerance can be learned from watching it if your in my position. other than that like i said earlier i do agree with your stand point and the true message of the show is not “Love and Tolerance”, but to make friends that like your for who you are and not to strive for the friends that dont care that you even exist.

    Also i loved the article well done, and much time put into it. But it is sad that non-community members will not see this article because its on this site and because its about the show.

  29. If it wasn’t “Love and Tolerance”, then it would be something else. You described the show as “an inexplicable enigma even to its most devoted followers”, which would mean fans are just trying to describe the show they love with the understanding they have of it.

  30. Although my main point was different, I said many of the same things about a week and half ago here.

    I’m not saying this to be all, “I said it first!” Just backing up what was said in the article. :)

    • But when you go through all of that and then say that you don’t hate cloppers what you are exhibiting IS tolerance. Tolerance does not equal approval. Tolerance of others does not mean tolerance of every behavior.

      • So you have to hate people in order to take a stand against their actions? I don’t believe that. I am completely against what they do and their assertions that we need to tolerate it. That doesn’t mean I should want to put them in the electric chair for it.

        • That is the opposite of what I said. If you disagree with someone’s actions you DON’T have to hate them. That’s what tolerance means. That is my point.

          • Again that’s what I said. I dislike the BEHAVIOR, not the INDIVIDUAL.
            Big difference. One is a slice of the pie, the other is the entire pie.

            Take the sport fan for instance:
            -I like team “A”
            -Whoa dude, are you kidding those guys suck! How can you like them? Team “B” is where its at!
            -Meh, they’re my home team. Hey want to (insert some friendly activity)
            -Yea sure, sounds fun!

            That’s all I was getting at up above in my earlier comment. You can dislike a part of someone, because, obviously we’re all different. The tolerance comes in when you don’t let that one part control you’re overall feelings towards another. My roommates have incredibly varying interests/opinions, yet we still decide to live with each other every year because we overall enjoy each others company in the long run.

            If the admins flag this, again I’m sorry. I’m just trying to express my opinions too.

  31. I never thought Love & Tolerate as anything other than a handy catchphrase to fend of internet trolls.

    I do agree on many of the points about the series’ values. Personally I always considered Sweet and Elite as one of the most interesting stories as Rarity lies her way through the episode. In a normal kids’ show the liar would eventually get caught, and her friends would forgive her anyway and the liar learns her teary-eyed lesson.

    However in this case Rarity never gets caught. She actually gets all the benefit from her lies. Eventually she learns, that lies may not always be the best option, but this is done much more subtly. Furthermore her friends still are not the wiser about Opal’s “sickness”. Nor do the Canterlot elite ever learn, that Rainbow Dash is not the Wonderbolts trainer.

    I thought this approach was refreshing and much more realistic than the typical liar story arcs.

    Oh yeah, I also liked the episode for Rarity’s sake. While she is the element of generosity, she has a very strong undertone of selfishness. Whereas Applejack had hard time lying even when Discorded, Rarity can turn to selfishness, if she does not keep herself in careful check.

  32. I guess I really should have read the entire thing before commenting, but that first picture you posted really says it all. So in the (fake) words of Twilight Sparkle,

    “I’m going to Love and Tolerate the @#$% out of you.”

    Brony love.

  33. Im Commander Brony, and this is my favorite article on the internets.

    A very well done, extremely intelligent and articulate analysis of the underlying tone of the show. I’ve long searched for the right words to define what i belive gives this show its appeal, and i’ve never much cared for the copy-paste ‘love and tolerate’ mantra that so often gets spewed forth by many bronys.

    Good work!

  34. To me, Love and Tolerance has never been about the spirit of the show, but rather, about the spirit the people who watch the show should carry. Most MLP fans know the sting of being called names just because we love this show. Knowing the feeling of being irrationally hated just for loving something, we ought to be better than fall into the same.

    I’ll play a personal example: Clop. And I mean the heavily explicit pictures and stories. I wouldn’t touch clop material with a laser pointer, because it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. But do I hate cloppers? No. I’ll most likely react badly to the topic, yes, but I harbor no ill feelings towards cloppers, so long as they leave me out of their activities.

    Another example: best pony/best pairing discussions. I used to be a rabid shipper, condemning all who shipped the pairing who rivaled the one I liked. Then I got into MLP shippings, and started thinking, “man, that’s foolish of me, hating on people just because they like something I don’t. I wouldn’t want somebody calling me out just because of what I like, so why do I do it?” And I stopped. Same goes with the best pony thing. Fluttershy is my best pony, but I won’t try to bomb the hell out of someone just because their best pony is somepony else. We’re all free to our own likes, after all.

    Of course, there are limits to tolerance. Another example: I was on bronies.memebase once, and found a Dolan comic. Now, although I don’t find Dolan stuff funny, I don’t mind it. This one, however, was an image of Fluttershy crying from Bird in the Hoof, with Dolan behind her body saying ‘shh, love and tolerate’. You can imagine why my first impulse was to run my fist through the computer screen. That was my limit. There was no way I would have tolerated that. Months later, I ran into another Dolan comic, although this time it was harmless. I didn’t like it, but I found no reason to hate on it either. Yes, I had a bad experience with Dolan, but that didn’t mean I’d hate all Dolan, the same way you don’t hate all Germans because of Hitler. Or course, if you do see a Nazi plotting to kill Jews, and you choose to act as if everything’s okay, there’s something wrong with you. That’s a plausible limit to tolerance.

    So, in a nutshell, what Love and Tolerance means to me is that you gotta tolerate it when someone likes something you don’t, or dislikes something you do like, and you don’t stand around pretending everything’s okay when someone tries to hurt you because of what you like. And when you think about it, the only link between ‘Love and Tolerance’ and My Little Pony is that the MLP community helped me see you shouldn’t hate on someone for petty reasons. A really valuable lesson, if you ask me.

    PS: great article. Really put me to think stuff through.

  35. Ironically. not only do the non-fans misinterpret the messages of the show, but so do the members of the fandom themselves.

    I think the episode with Iron will needs to be made required viewing. Because I’m very surprised at how many bronies completely fail to comprehend the moral of “No” means “no”. So they obsessively push it on fans then wonder why they’re annoyed with them, underwhelmed by the show, or completely uninterested in it.

  36. It is amasing how you have managed to write such huge article about FiM without understending any of it.

    After reading this pointless garbage, i can only see it as an troll attempt and if i could i would demand the time that i wasted on it returned.

    • It’s amazing that you can read a well-thought-out and more or less balanced article, albeit one with a few poor definitions in it, and walk away having only seen negativity.

      It’s also amazing that you can spell “pointless” and “garbage” properly but not “amazing” or “understanding.”

      • English is not my first Language, i have noticed misspelling after i sended it, sadly you cant edit posts in there.

        Also, this Article only “looks good”, but content of it is simpty a try to troll the community.

        • I’d be interested in seeing your reasoning for that, rather than just these assertions.

          I mean, it sure comes as a surprise to me to hear that I’m just trolling. :)

  37. Rather than a message of “Love and Tolerate”, as so many Bronies do seem to latch on to, it was a slogan of sorts from the beginning of a short music video that really struck me personally: “You are never to old to learn how to be a better friend.” It just hit me as a lesson that so many people never seem to acknowledge. Yes, one is going to encounter those that are undeserving of our friendship, but we can always strive to strengthen the friendships we already have or forge new ones with those that show us promise.

  38. These are definitely some valid thoughts on the show. What’s always appealed to me is that, for what is ostensibly a children’s show, there’s an awful lot of actual character development, mostly generated by the ponies overcoming their own character failings in order to help their friends (or with the help of their friends). This isn’t love and tolerance as defined by “let everything slide.” Letting everything slide just begets worse behavior. Love and tolerance is better defined in this case as “accepting you for what you are, but refusing to leave you that way, and instead, helping you become the best you can be.” But that’s not as catchy or memetic, now, is it? Love and tolerance is what the community is about, not the show itself is about.

  39. You would be right if love and tolerate was anything more than a meme response to people who hated on Bronies. The love and tolerate response is nothing more than a message of “I don’t care what you think, i like the show and nothing you do will convince me otherwise.” Your looking too deep into a simple message. This is the internet. People revel on the feeling they get when they purposefully ruin someone’s day or attempt to. That is half of what the internet is for nowadays. People love this show because its good. It gives life lessons, has superb animation, comedy, adult references, and has a very well thought out story. Love and tolerate was NOT intended to be a serious answer to tackling life problems and encounters and when you take it out of the context you make the Brony community seem like immature little kids who know little to nothing about life. But that’s wrong.

    • To be honest, a lot of bronies do tend to throw the phrase “Love and Tolerate” around. A lot. And it’s pretty clear that they really don’t have any idea why they’re using it and in some cases use it because they think it sums up the show or the fandom. Neither of which is true at all.
      I tend to think a portion of the fans who discovered the show at a later date (and not at the time it exploded on 4chan) might have missinterpreted the meaning of the phrase and thought it was some kind of actual idea (either from the show or fandom) and not a joke aimed at pissing off trolls.
      The way I see this article is going “Yeah guys, about that. It’s not like you think it is.”

  40. This is a well thought out and written article. There is little that I can add that hasn’t already been said, but there is one thing someone pointed out earlier that I think needs to STRONGLY be reiterated before more people make this mistake.

    Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. In this article, you seem to make tolerance the same as acceptance, and in fact cite pretty much the definition for acceptance with your South Park caption. This is simply the wrong definition, and I urge people to not make the mistake between the two terms, because assuming that tolerance means ‘acceptance’ makes the phrase ‘Love and tolerance’ all that much worse.

    It’s okay though. It’s easy to make that mistake. At some point, someone tried to spread the phrase ‘love and acceptance’, which sounded simply… wrong to me, and it really made me wonder just what the difference is. The difference is enormous.

    Dictionary.com defines ‘Tolerance’ as: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

    Acceptance, on the other hoof, is a little more difficult to define, but the most accurate way that it’s being thrown about is this: the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.

    That’s a big difference. Tolerance is not saying that you should accept people and the things they do. It’s simply saying to not be a jerk about things like who a person is, their race, or what people believe in or do. It applies mostly to things that people cannot help, or which they choose to do which is not harmful, and doesn’t imply that people should not change for the better. It also doesn’t imply that you should accept someone’s bad behavior. You can be tolerant, but still try to change someone or try to change yourself.

    To steal a phrase, it’s more along the lines of: ‘It’s okay to not like things, but don’t be a dick about the things you don’t like.’

    Accepting someone assumes that you actually believe in what they do, that you’re ‘OK’ with what they do. Let’s face it, there are a LOT of things in this world that people are simply not going to accept. And rightfully so. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t accept.

    Let me repeat myself: Tolerance isn’t acceptance. But people are mistaking it as that. I fear that this article may further spread that mistaken definition.

    Well written, but I think it may be wise to go through what you’re saying and reconsider it with the proper definition of tolerance.

  41. An excellent article, though I agree with many of the previous commentators that the way tolerance is defined plays a large role in how valid the arguments are. Frankly, I think MLP offers a strong argument for tolerance. By definition, tolerance is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.” The show’s premise is that Twilight Sparkle, an introverted big-city unicorn, travels to Ponyville to learn about how to socialize. In the opening Mare in the Moon 1&2 episodes, we see Twilight grow from someone who hates the idea of having to put up with other ponies because they’re annoying and troublesome and different to someone who values her newfound friends exactly because they have aspects of their character that she doesn’t.
    This message is the core of the majority of the episodes – while people have pointed out that Look Before You Sleep is about Rarity and Applejack (less than nicely) helping each other recognize character flaws instead of just tolerating them, I think the more important message is that the two of them learned mutual tolerance and respect for one another’s vastly different personalities. From Sisterhooves Social to Dragon Quest to Owl’s Well That Ends Well, most of the episodes ultimately come down to two (or more) characters learning that just because they think or act or feel differently doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. Tolerance is about accepting, ignoring, learning to like, laughing off, avoiding, or otherwise overcoming differences – notice that “accepting” is just one of myriad ways to do that. Whether it’s Pinkie’s hyperactivity and Dash’s laziness, Rarity’s cleanliness and AJ’s get-it-done mentality, or Twilight’s decisiveness and Fluttershy’s phobias, we constantly see characters discovering ways in which they don’t work perfectly together, and finding ways to maintain close friendships despise them.
    Some of the less warm-and-fuzzy episodes, like Griffon The Brush Off and Boast Busters, are evidence of how tolerance is good up to a point, but not as a general carte blanche to behave however you want. The mane 6 are perfectly willing to give these new and different characters a chance, and even to forgive them after they’ve made it clear they’re not very nice people, but ultimately they draw lines. What MLP is not about, and what differentiates it from so much of the saccharine kids’ programming of the 80’s, 90’s, and today, is unconditional and undeserved tolerance. MLP has no problem with telling us that trying to overcome differences in personalities and expectations may involve conflict, and that it doesn’t always work – that’s what gives it real depth. As a community, bronies have seized the first part of the message – as long as people are willing to be nice, let’s all be friends and work together to overcome our differences – that the show so merrily embraces, and coupled it with a euphemistic way of saying “Don’t feed the trolls” that unfortunately ends up coming dangerously close to the kind of doublespeak in which the word “tolerance” is frequently used to mean “unconditional acceptance”. Ultimately, I think “Love and Tolerance” is a wonderful and encapsulating message for the show, but it’s important for both bronies and those trying to understand the brony phenomenon to understand that to tolerate means to compromise and work toward being better and overcoming differences, not to ignore unacceptable behavior to avoid conflict.

  42. Love and Tolerate people, not actions.

    This definition of L&T supports moral development. If you truly love others, you can forgive their actions without condoning them. It applies to the troll situation as well. You don’t thank someone for hating you; you love them as people in spite of the fact that you disapprove or even suffer from their actions. One goal of such love is to inspire the person to change.

    That is what L&T means to me. As far as whethe it comes from the show, perhaps not so much as the fandom. But the show at least somewhat support the idea that you forgive people’s actions and move forward.

  43. I agree with certain aspects of both sides here. “Love and tolerate” originated as a defensive mantra of a fandom in its infancy. It was conceived as more of a form of troll-proofing than as a phrase summarizing the message of the show. The original image macro indeed had nothing to do with anything the show had actually said, and was only humorous and made sense to non-bronies because it was the type of message that one might expect from a show directed at young audiences. Somehow the phrase became tied to the show’s meaning after-the-fact, and it really shouldn’t have been.

    The article’s author is correct; “tolerance” is never uttered by any character in the show. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the show does not approve of tolerance. In fact, the characters do display plenty of tolerance for each other. On the other hand, the show does indeed teach that there are limits to what can be tolerated. The antagonists of the shows are used as vessels for such actions. I can’t think of any way to tolerate Discord, who is the embodiment of everything that ruins friendships. This is a credit to the show’s staff, which was smart enough to stay away from the mass-produced “ignore all problems with society” bilge water that comes out of most children’s programming.

    My main issue with the motto is that the way that many people use the word “tolerance” is one of the most disgustingly criminal abuses of the English language that can be observed. Today, much of society thinks “tolerance” means “shut up and sit down!” They confuse tolerance with blind acceptance. I find this “shut up” use of the word to be disrespectful and unloving to both the heritage of English as a language and to any involved parties. It discourages discussion. It shuts down any possibility of social resolve. It takes what could have become an intelligent and enjoyable expansion of horizons and destroys it before it could blossom. “Tolerance” does not mean “acceptance.” It never has and it never will.

    All that being said, I think that the author’s main point was that this form of tolerance is a very poor description for a show that in actuality is entirely against such dystopian silence. The author wanted to point out that the motto was never meant to describe the show, but became something that did, at least to outsiders. This misrepresentation makes it easy for journalists who know absolutely nothing about the show or its community coming in to think that the only reason any of us like the show is for this old, overused, unremarkable reason that’s been done countless times before. This has a negative effect on the brony community because in the journalist’s eyes, this eliminates the possibility that our passion comes from any merit the show itself has, and that therefore the truth must be that there must be something wrong with bronies that makes us like the show.

  44. Pingback: What "Love and Tolerance" does and doesn't mean. - Page 3

  45. Well.. Sure, tolerating doesn’t make us progress. Wars made the best evolutions in technology, based on fear and hate for the other party. Hum, yeah, much better :o))))

  46. Pingback: Stacking of Tolerances | EverFree Radio

  47. Pingback: Stacking of Tolerances | The Round Stable

  48. so ,then, a more fitting slogan (if there absolutely MUST be one) would be something like “love and compromise”, or “Comprehend and compromise” ?

  49. postmodern shmostmodern son, this is beyond that school. This show is one hell of an awesome example of metamodernism

  50. Pingback: Huge writers block on totally unique idea.

  51. Thank you! I’ve been noticing something was up with the phrase, “Love and Tolerate” for a while, now. At first, it was just the realization that it caused a paradox, since the two words are near-opposites. But as time went on, I began to realize that it wasn’t just paradoxial, it was corrupt, as well.

    There have been some people trying to give me a hard time when I mention this, becoming instant hypocrites, themselves. This definitely proves some very valid points, some of which I’d never even thought of.

  52. I always interprited love and tolerance as “I will love you as a person and tolerate your negative behavior/opinions/life perspective/ect.

  53. “Love and tolerate” is the message of the fandom, not the show. I mean, the show conveys various messages and lessons about friendship. Love and tolerance is implied within the Brony community, because we are all-inclusive and we “love” each other.

    The whole show is about the resolution of conflict between friends and enemies. The show strikes the right balance between three extremes.

    1) There is the traditional model of conflict, the hero vs. villian struggle. This has fallen out of style among modern cartoons; as it is both repetitive, one-dimensional, and largely promotes dangerous ideas about friend-enemy distinctions. However, it is the easiest to understand.

    2) Then, there is the second, the friend vs. friend struggle. This occurs when the main conflict is between the protagonist and a friend turned enemy, or between the protagonist and an enemy. The resolution is always the same: the enemy becomes friend, through some sort of love/toleration. This is perhaps the most overused in modern cartoons, because on the surface it promotes a positive message and it is relatively easy to explain. It ultimately, however, promotes unrealistic ideas of friendship that don’t apply well to real life. The solution to every conflict is NOT friendship; rather, conflict resolution is often best accomplished through individual action.

    3) And the final is internal conflict. It is the hardest to demonstrate in a kids’ show, but it is ultimately the most useful and applicable (at least to me, because I am very individualistic and anti-social). For children, especially: everything seems like an external conflict. Get cake, make friends, do work, break rules, ect. What adults don’t realize is that children do deal with serious internal conflicts that aren’t easily simplified. This is what FiM does best: presenting and resolving internal problems in an interesting and entertaining way.

    MLP: FiM also does a good job of balancing the first two conflict types. There are about as many friend-friend conflicts (Zecora, Spike/Owlowiscious,Look before you Sleep, Feeling Pinkie Keen, Nightmare Night, Party of One)as there are friend-enemy conflicts (Discord, Nightmare Moon, Trixie, Chrysalis, Gilda, Diamond Tiara) and that is a good thing. What makes the show even better is that the external conflicts are accentuated by internal conflicts. None of this would be possible without a great cast of characters, of course, and that is why I think the characters are the best part of the show.

    I disagree slightly with the author because I believe that MLP: FiM has an implied message of friendship and tolerance. I mean, the mane six have almost nothing in common, and they are under constant pressure from external and internal forces pulling them apart. The fact that they stay together after every episode is largely attributed to a high valuation of love and tolerance.

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  55. Anyone who thinks tolerance is something to mock is either a bigot or annoyingly cynical. The fact that you said it’s “against human nature” and a negative thing really leave everyone to wonder. They did try to give characters the benefit of a doubt, but it didn’t work every time and mistakes were made…that doesn’t make it a “myth”. So-called “human nature” (which is odd to bring up in a discussion about characters who aren’t human) isn’t always good, and some of it isn’t really human. You should resist certain animalistic and/or primal feelings–there would be no modern medicine or ideals like justice if we didn’t. If we just say “oh it’s ‘human nature’, there’s nothing anyone can do”, then we’re no better beasts or sadists.

  56. I’m sorry, but ARE we watching the same show? It seems like those who insist that the show doesn’t promote this stuff are over-analyzing or completely ignoring the central message. It IS a cartoon made for little girls, after all.