"Times" newspaper articlePeachy on the couch
About the article
This newspaper cutting as given to me by a friend at school. I don't have an exact date from it, I'm guessing it's from ~1991. It was published in "The Times", as what seems to be a serious essay on child psychology!
I have typed it out to save on file storage space, but included the original cartoon of a (rather bemused) Peachy. Having read it - did I miss the point? I thought they were just designed for fun and to look pretty! (I like the pegasus theory though).
"My Little Pony needs a shrink"Mary Greene meets the man who put the popular children's toy on the couch
LITTLE GIRLS love Twisty Tail and Baby Rainfeather; their parents loathe them. When Ivan Ward, education officer at the Freud Museum in north London, wanted to analyse why his three-year-old daughter, Jordan, was a connoisseur collector of pink plastic horses, he put My Little Pony on the couch.
In the 10 years since My Little Pony was launched, there has been a population explosion in Ponyland. Every year around 50 new ponies are produced, each with the flowing mane that children love to comb - but branded on their pastel rumps with the distinguishing marks that whet the instinct to collect.
Parents will not be consoled to hear that they are not weakly giving in to their offspring's acquisitive urges - but easing children through the Oedipal stage with anti-phobic objects that reinforce their narcissistic integrity.
Not wanting to suggest answers, Mr Ward sent Jordan into the nursery as investigative reporter. "She said her friends like ponies with wings because everyone wants to be able to fly; flying is associated with being big, independent, looking down on other people, but they all worry about falling. It is the Icarus myth; fly too high and you hurt yourself." Flying ponies balance the tension between the positive and negative aspects of growing up.
Parental reservations are not so much about their daughters working thorough the Icarus stage, but rather that they demand a whole stud farm to get them there. Freud, whose own collection of antiquities ran into thousands, knew all about this. "Collectors are people with a pressing sense of incompleteness ... but the source of My Little Ponies never dries up." Freud started collecting after his father died; Pony lovers just sense they are missing out by being small.
With his long dreadlocks, Mr Ward is the first to admit that if he had a Pony in earlier life, he might have conquered the castration fears that make him scared of barbers. "Haircuts are traumatic. It is hard for the child to understand that part of the body can be cut away, but it won't hurt". The constant combing of a Pony's mane means a child is reasserting his or her integrity, changing a passive experience into an active one.
Mr Ward claims to have got used to the pungent scent of coconut that My Little Ponies emit; to me it smells like lavatory cleaner. Unwittingly, I have grasped it in one. "The child is trying to get away from its body smells, and the main body smell is faeces."
It seems unlikely that Hasbro, the manufacturers of My Little Pony, will want to work this into their advertising. "We're very please to hear what the Freud Museum says," a Hasbro PR person announced. "It shows that My Little Pony is a classic toy because of all it offers children".
They toy was invented by an American woman who heard a little girl complaining that her (real) pony was dirty; the smell appears to be vindicated.
Mr Ward's theories, however, can be tested on other toys. Polly Pockets are plastic compacts that open to reveal a tiny house or shop; the child who carries one is carrying a transitional space. It is a talisman; but also tests the child's capacity to carry its own world in its thoughts. When your secrets are in you pocket, you can check they are there.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a Freudian godsend: "They are a metaphor of the unconscious and dirt. They are a band of brothers controlled by an older rodent, the primal fathers. The eat pizza, which doesn't need a knife and fork: a regression from cultural acquisitions. And as mutants appeal to the child in the latency period. The older child is entering into his own mutation; he wants to be normal, but his fear is that he is perverse. You could go to town on Turtles."
Surprisingly, Mr Ward has not gone to town on sex, little girls and ponies, "You would think the sexual aspect would be obvious to someone from the Freud museum, but I just can't see it," he said. "It must be there, but it's very hard to research. Parents don't like it."
And if parents still do not like My Little Pony, it may help to know that they are not supposed to. If the parent appropriates the toy, the child cannot work out aggression against the mother who does things to her hair.
It could be worse. On the desk in Freud's study - opposite the famous couch - is his own favourite security object. He called it My Little Porcupine.
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