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My Little Bronies: This is a Real Thing?

4 Nov

This morning, my brother alerted me to this story in the Wall Street Journal, about a burgeoning subculture of older people (read: teens and up) who are enthusiastic about the new version of the “My Little Pony” cartoon.

Older male people.

As a free thinking liberal who supports gay marriage, female hockey players and David Bowie, I have no problem with this on any kind of gender-stereotyping level. Besides, there’s a good chance that my previous sentence, in which I lump these male “Pony” enthusiasts in with homosexuals, is potentially offensive to the aforementioned “bronies.” (Yes, bronies. That’s what they call themselves. I know, right?)

(WSJ: Jessica Blank, a 32-year-old computer programmer who is BroNYCon’s organizer, says people inevitably ask her whether the bronies—three-quarters of whom are male—are gay. “Actually, the overwhelming majority are straight,” she says. )

My response to this article and the existence of this subculture – assuming it actually exists and the WSJ wasn’t merely taken over by The Onion for a day – is less “THIS IS WRONG!” and more “WHAT THE FUCK?”

I literally DO NOT understand.

If you’re unfamiliar – and having grown up without sisters, I am completely unfamiliar – here’s a quick synopsis of the show from the article: “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” [is] a remake of a 1980s animated TV show for preadolescent girls featuring plucky, candy-colored equines.

Personally, I’ve never been much into pluck. Or candy-colored things that aren’t actual candy. How about you?

The article is bizarre; the entire subculture is completely baffling. As the father of a young boy, upon reading about it I had to ask myself: if my son were old enough to watch TV, would I let him watch “My Little Pony”?

Well, why wouldn’t I? If I were concerned that my son might be gay, which I’m not, and if I were Christian insane enough to think a cartoon could turn my son gay, which I’m not, then I wouldn’t be preparing to show him all my old VHS tapes full of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” episodes.

But if I’m to believe the bronies, it’s not any potential gender-confusion that might make the new “My Little Pony” inappropriate for a youngster, it’s the sophistication of the material. From the WSJ article:

The Ponies confront knotty challenges—such as an invasion of adorable but hungry insects called Parasprites—and report to a ruler named Princess Celestia about the life lessons they learn. “The characters aren’t one-dimensional,” said 15-year-old Christian Leisner, a brony in the Berkeley group. “They have flaws, they have backgrounds they’re ashamed of.”

Leaving aside the oxymoron that is “adorable insect,” what I find strange is the idea that these ponies have “backgrounds they’re ashamed of.” Huh? What makes this sophisticated? The idea that the ponies hate their upbringing? (Read this take on the unnecessary “edging” up of childhood material.) Why should characters in a children’s cartoon be ashamed of themselves? Much more than any arbitrary ideas about what constitutes masculinity and what doesn’t, being ashamed of yourself is not a lesson I need to convey to my son; he’ll learn to be embarrassed and feel shame soon enough, not least because his father has a collection of “He-Man” episodes on VHS.

But ultimately, no, I wouldn’t prevent my son from watching that show just because he’s a boy, nor would I have a big problem with it if he were a teenager. If he were 30 and still into it? Yeah, that might give me pause, but for a whole knew set of reasons; I mean, the whole thing just DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. Then again, the way our society is regressing, by the time my son is 30, 30 will be the new 10.

Except, apparently, it already is.

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26 Responses to “My Little Bronies: This is a Real Thing?”

  1. Nissl November 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Hmm, I wandered in here looking for follow up blog posts on the WSJ article. The show is done by a lot of the same crew behind a number of great older Cartoon Network cartoons (Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack), and they’re having an absolute ball with it. I pretty much enjoy it the same way I enjoy Pixar movies or Harry Potter, and I watch plenty of normal adult shows as well. With anything high quality, though, you will get a small percentage of obsessives.

    You may be getting the wrong idea because you have the wrong generation picture up. Previous generations of the show were by and large awful. (The 80’s version was arguably about as good as other toy-driven 80’s cartoons, which is not exactly a high standard). All the episodes are up on Youtube with Hasbro’s tacit permission should you be inclined to investigate further. I will caution you that the show is man crack. Anvil gags, Benny Hill chase scenes, and derpy faces abound. They had Q from Star Trek (same voice actor, same personality) as a villain in one of the two-parters. It’s pretty clear you’re not targeting 6 year old girls when you do something like that.

  2. Anonymous November 5, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    What I’d suggest if you don’t understand the phenomenon is to simply check out a few of the episodes yourself (they’re all on YouTube, as the above commenter said). You aren’t going to get a very clear picture of the show from a few quotes. (And by the way, that picture is from an older generation that is very, very far from the current show.)

    I wouldn’t say they’re ashamed of themselves, personally – they all generally have quite positive attitudes. But they also have flaws in their personalities (shyness, perfectionism, stubbornness etc.) that make them a lot more interesting and engaging than if they were perfect and cheerful all the time. The conflicts that result from this tend to be realistic and believable, and are always resolved in a positive way at the end, leaving you with a moral that isn’t crammed down your throat but naturally follows from what you’ve seen. A lot of people who have watched it generally feel like it’s awakened a more positive side of themselves that they’d previously forgotten, so I think it’s ideal viewing for children learning how to relate to others as well as cynical adults.

    And in my opinion, this is insect is indeed adorable: http://images.wikia.com/mlp/images/2/28/Parasprite.jpg

  3. Cailin Coilleach November 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    > “As a new father, would I let my son watch this show, so squarely aimed at little girls?”

    I’m a fairly new father of a 3yo daughter. I watch this show together with her and we both love it 🙂 She gets to see pretty, colored ponies doing fun stuff and I get to crack up at inside jokes aimed at parents. Like the ponies in a race wearing numbers such as “42” and “∞”. Or like the dude sporting an hourglass on his flank, with a David Tennant hair do. (thus becoming Dr Whooves).

  4. DadandBuried November 5, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Judging by these comments, it seems like the show is somehow aimed at geeks. Are little girls getting Dr. Who references? Maybe @jakester’s kids. But are the show’s producers really aiming for a bizarre mix of young girls and geeky older guys?

    My bafflement only increases.

    • Jakester November 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

      My daughter has seen a few episodes of the OLD show, and still really likes the toys, but we have no experience with the reincarnation that’s on The Hub. Given her penchant for Doctor Who (and that I’m trying to get her into “Hitchhiker’s,”) I might have to start recording it. Although she’s well on the way alrady, it sounds like a good introduction to nerd-dom.

      Oh, and D&B, there are a lot of chicks who are full on nerds, and not all of them are…ah, stereotypical in appearance.

      As far as my son watching it, it might not be a bad thing for him to occasionally check something out which doesn’t have him punching and kicking at the TV screen.

    • Nissl November 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

      I don’t think it was a deliberate aim, but this iteration of the show got handed off to a bunch of thirtysomething art geeks (many including the creator are longtime deviantart users, even more pop in on the various fan websites) and they’re making the fantasy show that they would want to watch together with their young kids.

  5. elementofrandominity November 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    You do seem to have missed something in translation. If the WSJ article is your only basis for this post then you’re not going to understand. Firstly, parasprites are adorable insects cause they’re a tiny fuzzy ball of colour with eyes and wings. Butterflies are insects too so don’t get bogged down in words. =P
    Secondly, the ponies do occasionally appear to have complexes or are “ashamed” in certain episodes, though I hesitate to use that word. However the point of those episodes is to address these issues and show that who you are and where you come from are great things in creating the awesomeness that is you. For instance, Twilight Sparkle fears her friends judge her for her magic ability when they judge a different unicorn for showing off but at the end of the episode, her friends assure her that it was the other pony’s loud mouth personality that they disliked, not the magic part. The show isn’t about shaming but accepting instead.
    Anxieties are a part of civilization it seems these days so addressing this in a kids cartoon is quite appropriate.
    Also, you’re point about geek references in the show perhaps intentionally looking for an older audience is a bit misguided. Almost all kids shows have references to adult/pop culture. It’s usually a nod to the parents but also a little extra joy for the animators in their work. I mean, if Penelope Pitstop can have a vibrator in her car, Dr Whooves can roam Ponyville.
    I don’t believe it’s important but for reference sake, I’m a 21yr old female fan rather than a male one. I was just wondering if the “collector” side to it is different cause I’m a girl rather than a guy. I already have horse toys from my childhood still sitting out on my bookshelves but have since become a wannabe figurine collector. Is this more acceptable cause I’m female or would you say it’s similarly weird for me to want a half decent small Pinkie Pie figurine to display (and potentially photograph in ridiculous scenarios for photo challenges cause i’m one of /those/ people)? Tbh, I am hella weird but I like doing what makes me happy.
    I like the point from Nissl about liking Pixar in the same way. This is super important to me cause very few things bug me more than people seeing animation as a lower form of film/tv than live action. Just because an animation may be accessible to all ages doesn’t mean it’s for kids. I also prefer to living in a world where MLP is discussed rather than Sex and the City. At least MLP has positive female characters.

    • Jakester November 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      I don’t think figurine collecting is weird at all – if that’s what you’re into. One guy I know has a little gnome dude and he photographs him in all kinds of weird places with various craft beers. It’s amusing and it makes him happy.

  6. dspawn November 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    ” If I were concerned that my son might be gay, which I’m not, and if I were [s]Christian[/s] insane enough to think a cartoon”

    Just to let you know, it is not just Christians who might speak out against homosexuality or go nuts if their child may be leaning that way. Being a generally open minded Christian (sort of creationist/atheist mix really), I find this an article/blog killer as stereotyping shows that you may have little knowledge of a group of people/things you generalize.

  7. Anonymous November 5, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    the phenomenon can only be explained by doing three things
    1. Checking out Memebase’s Bronies sub-site
    2. watching the show
    3. Going to ponychan
    in all honesty nothing i can say could accurately describe the fan-dom/culture

  8. Lord Xeen November 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Hi DadAndBuried —

    First off, you deserve props for not dismissing to pony fans as a bunch of pedophiles out of hand, and further props for holding on to your old He-Man tapes. So believe me when I say I’m not trying to insult you, but, you’re arguing like a chick.
    Women always give the “horses for courses” argument about this kind of thing for that kind of person and so on.
    Men, on the other hand, believe in and accept an objective reality ranging from quality to crap.
    My Little Pony is quality. Many of the male fans who watched it tuned in for snarky laughs and were quickly schooled by the pony’s superior kung fu. As guys, we know that quality is independent of taste, so we just have to show respect.
    I agree that our society is regressing, but My Little Pony isn’t a symptom, but a bold stance against degeneracy. I finally capitulated and watched the show after reading a review from video game designer Jacob Minkoff. He noted that, to please its corporate masters, all the show really had to do was to be pink and sell toys. Instead of just doing that much and cashing the check, the pony creative team added tons of gratuitous excellence, crafting the absolute best product they could produce, despite having to believe their works would just pass through a bunch of giggling 8-year old girls and be discarded with puberty. Imagine how great they must feel to see people in their peer group taking the time to appreciate their hard work.
    Ultimately, the show is not going to be to everybody’s taste. And I agree, it is odd. If you’d have told me 2 weeks before I watched the show that I would turn out to be a fan of My Little Pony, I’d have laughed in your face. But here I am. If you choose to have a look to make up your mind for yourself, I suggest you set a timer for 90 minutes (the length of a bad movie) and start watching with S01E01. If you feel each episode had anything to offer, move along to the next. If not, just drop it.
    I suspect you’ll find, at the end, that even if you didn’t like it, you’ll at least see the things that others are responding to. It’s not a pervy fetishist creep-fest, but a uniquely charming, cheerful show that earnestly tries to be the best it can be and succeeds in a way that, after 20 years of increasingly corrosive cynicism and ironic detachment in popular culture, is almost a miracle.

  9. Mason Arandombronie Miller November 6, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Dude. Really?
    ”If I were concerned that my son might be gay, which I’m not, and if I were [s]Christian[/s] insane enough to think a cartoon”

    No need to burst your bubble here, but… I’m a brony and I’m Lutheran. Yeah.

    -Minecraft and ponies. dealwithit.jpg

  10. Anonymous November 6, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    I applaud you are sort of open-minded about this, but then again, I take offense to you indirectly inferring that the MLP fandom is making society regress.
    Investigate the fandom yourself, and more in-depth than just a few sentences of description and a picture and you’ll find:
    -Fans outside the target demographic are largely high school/college students who will go on to hold professional, intelligent, and highly productive careers, not people with problems living life (or at least, no more problem than you or anyone else)
    -The fan community is CRAZY TALENTED. I myself got into MLP because I became a huge fan of a few DJ’s who were putting out music better than 95% of mainstream radio stuff and just happened to be using MLP as source material for vocals/sound bites to make said music. And then there’s the art, the videos, the parodies…The show is really just the world’s biggest artistic muse at the moment.
    -The show is decent. A diamond really, compared to other children’s programming. Like the huge following Pixar and Studio Ghibli have gained over the years, the new My Little Pony show didn’t accidentally end up with a huge fan base, it earned it.
    -Nearly everyone who becomes a fan of MLP (including me) goes through a remarkably universal process:
    1) Scoff (which is where you are by saying “IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE”. I believe I actually said those exact words, too)
    2) Curiosity (I’ll just watch a few minutes to see what the big deal is and laugh at how crazy everyone else is)
    3) Surprise (I… like it? And did I just watch 4 episodes straight?)
    4) Confusion (Why do I like something I was so sure I wouldn’t like?)
    5) Acceptance (It’s because this show is so quality it destroyed my adult preconceptions about children’s shows! Another episode, Huzzah!)

    And I think shattering adult preconceptions is probably the most beneficial impact of MLP for its fans. Regressing society? Heck, its improving society with each and every older fan it gains who realize they shouldn’t judge things or others and that they don’t have to hold themselves to some gender mold society still tries to impose on people.

    • Raharu December 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

      What’s with the put downs? We’re nerdy now? We’re gay? We’re turning your son gay? Ponies are ashamed? Insects aren’t cute!? Well I think you’re cute, you cuddly little Parasprite. You keep Paraspriting. We’ll keep loving and tolerating.

      In all serious though, why are you being so opinionated about a something you “don’t understand”? This scares me. If someone can misunderstand the awesomeness of ponies and draw such a quick conclusion about it from simply reading a news paper article… no wonder we’re broke and fighting a war in countries that 90% of Americans can’t even locate on a map.

      • fred September 30, 2012 at 10:05 am #

        you’re just extremely obnoxious and VERY creepy. All of you.

    • Margie March 16, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Name (online name) Liam (BronyGuy795)Age 15Favorite Pony Princess LunaSkills Complicated work with GUI’sExperience (explain some things you have done in the past, if pilosbse post links to websites and projects you have previously worked on) None, I haven’t been able to help on any other websites before. I’m still only starting to learn to program.Why would you like to work on this project? To gain skill sets and contribute to the Brony/Pegasister communityAnything else you want us to know? Not much programming experience, will be a little slow while familiarizing with site.Email address liammagr@gmail.com

    • pcveazmbnf March 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      Fx1j7o samylbjosbni

  11. EquestriaGuardian December 12, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Loving the way fellow “Bronies” are getting defensive when they aren’t exactly being targeted in the article. Have you even read it? There is nothing outlining with problems with Bronies in particular, or gay people or even the show in itself.

    It seems that obsessives like Bronies read into things selectively, THAT is what the main problem is, if you like something that’s fine, but adding supplemental creative angles seems like making an excuse.

    I don’t mind if someone likes ponies, I love the show myself, I’m a bronie through and through, but I appreciate the show as what it is, a cartoon which I can loosely follow and what can form as a way to spend time. But once all the arguments of how it’s”intelligent”, “well produced”, features a wealth of talent and can be appreciated on a variety of levels come out it’s just tiring. You could apply all those arguments to pretty much any cartoon, it doesn’t make MLP:FIM anything more special than the last cartoon or the next.

    And that’s where the regression comes in, because people are using cartoons as a scale for moral values. Please, it’s a cartoon, it’s a sequence of brightly coloured animations with a storyline that’s supposed to sell. If it’s popular that means it’s doing it’s job, it’s not meant to be anything more or less.

    Oh, I forgot, any culture that is specialised is allowed to automatically have the moral highground, get a grip of yourselves, the world has moved on, take your rightous trolling elsewhere. Real Bronies don’t have to explain themselves away with making the show out as something it’s not, real Bronies don’t jump the gun in reacting to well thought out articles like this and real Bronies don’t use the show as a way to wage a verbal war or take the moral high ground against non-fans in the name of a movement that the show (as a show for everybody) does not overtly represent. They are entitled to their opinion as much as us, so much for “Love and Tolerate” if we can’t abide it by ourselves…

    • EquestriaGuardian December 12, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      In a nutshell, the writer is saying it’s not a problem that the show is around, that it has fans, hell, the’ve outlined themselves as liberal as you can get! It’s just that MLP offers nothing over any other cartoon and some of the Bronie community is taking it far too seriously by over-elaborating the show and being offended by anyone who doesn’t happen to be a fan or ask the question of why people like it.

      Seriously, you guys should be ashamed of yourselves, what would Celestia say?

    • Lunacy April 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      I’m just as certain that you didn’t really read the generally polite and well thought out brony replies as I am that some of the bronies didn’t really read the post. You won’t bring anyone to your side by being an offensive, sarcastic douche.

      • Dad and Buried April 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

        I don’t have a “side.”

        My post was about my ignorance of the show and my incredulity at the unlikeliness of the Brony subculture. I didn’t think it was particularly insulting to Bronies; half the point was “to each his own,” no matter how weird I might think it is.

        Also, since I’m such a douche, my blog isn’t so popular that reading all the comments is a huge demand on my time, and I read every single comment I get. So it looks like we’re both wrong.

        But least I have a sense of humor, which is more than I can say about most of the hyper-sensitive superfans of an animated show about magical, rainbow-colored ponies.

  12. bob April 20, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    sgs

    • Kerry June 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      I love how you call yourself a “free thinker” and then later substitute the word “Christian” with “insane”. But I don’t think you are a Hypocrite. I just think you lie to yourself. Be honest bro, you are as narrow minded as anyone else…

  13. fred September 30, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    I know I’m getting in on this late but I too wanted to try to understand this cultural phenomenon. Or should I say, cultural perversity? Bronies? Are you people for real? This is a sub-culture of people that have real issues that they need to address. Especially any grown man that watches this and considers themselves a “bronie”. I’m looking at a sad reflection on the state of our society when I see a group of mostly males banding together to stand behind a cartoon THAT’S FOR LITTLE GIRLS!!!! Grow up people. I weep for the future.

  14. GetRealAhole October 2, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I just heard about this brony stuff today. The most interesting thing about this phenomena is the reaction from schmucks like you. What’s the big deal? So called “adults” watch childish shit like the endless assembly line of comic book movies, and Pixar films and no one bats an eye, and yet you’re a creep if you watch My Little Pony? Why shouldn’t other adults enjoy watching My Little Pony? If you have ever watched a comic book super hero movie and you’re over 16, that’s just as childish as watching My LIttle Pony in my book.

  15. SeaChelle February 3, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I think something that needs to be considered in your perception of Bronies is that the Generation X children are growing up and taking their place in the world. For whatever reason, this generation has largely been less conservative in their personal lives and sharing how they think, what they feel, and what they love. Judgement from peers has always been an issue every child has had to face, and again I do not know the specific reasons why, but this generation has grown up into a “You don’t like it or me? That sucks for you. I’m gonna move on with my day now.”
    I’m sure there is a more intelligent way to convey my words, but I am suffering from hepatic encephalpathy and my words are far from what they used to be.
    My point is that this sub-group of Bronies is just another version of anime nerds, comic book geeks, Whovians, Hitchhikers, or any other fandom. The people of this generation choose to not let other peoples’ judgements keep them from enjoying something, whether it’s considered immature or whatever.
    The joys of finding a fandom and then meeting those people whom you might have never had a reason to meet before brings a level of happiness and acceptance that a lot of people are denied in their school years. These teens and adults are vibrant, passionate, and enjoying their lives. It may not be something everyone understands, but they’re harmless to others and rarely bite. =]

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