Bronies: first friendship, then world change

A list of popular TV shows for university boys to watch: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, the Wire, House of Cards, Walking Dead, Sopranos, Breaking Bad and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

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Ponyspeak is the Internet term for the jargon between My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans (Andrea Bárcenas/AQ)

Haven’t heard of that last one? Clearly you’re not versed in the world of Bronies.

Bronies are adult men in high school, university or older who love the 2010 Hasbro show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. They started on Internet forums like 4chan after the show’s pilot episode but have since moved to the real world. They have their own community, slang and inside jokes. If you type, “Friendship is Magic” into the website Deviantart over 600,000 results of My Little Pony fan art comes up – only a small per cent as disturbing as you’d first think adult men painting portraits of little ponies would be (I still suggest keeping safe search on).

Last week the documentary The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony was screened at St. Thomas by an organization called the White Ribbon, who advocates for the end to violence towards women. It was a small group of no more than 15 people who attended the film. After the film, the attendees engaged in a discussion about how Bronies are changing the way the world sees men. Shawn Dorey was of the attendees. He’s a UNB student writing his honours paper on gender roles within video games. He told me about the early days of Bronies.

The Bronies started off like any fandom does, discovering how many other people loved the show. Soon they were remixing the songs, painting pictures, gif-ing their favourite moments in the show and writing fan fictions about the characters.

“Once there were these big groupings, there was natural movement against it because there were these individuals who were not conforming to their gender roles,” Dorey said. “And because they weren’t conforming to their gender roles they had to make a statement about it because otherwise they were going to be ostracized without any hope of being able to enjoy their show.”

The writers of Friendship is Magic try to remember their target demographic when writing the show but will occasionally throw in references to shows like I Love Lucy, 2001: A Space Odyssey and, most importantly, The Big Lebowski for older viewers.

It’s all a bit strange, but Bronies are putting pressure on those old ideas of what’s OK for men to like. It’s not all guns and violence anymore; sometimes it’s pretty ponies that discover the power of teamwork.

Many Bronies cite the show’s positive message of friendship, love and tolerance as reasons they became fans. Values they say are lacking in other media. My Little Pony accepts them for who they are and so does the Brony community.

Bronies could have clung to any kids’ show though: Spongebob, Phineas and Ferb, Powerpuff Girls, but there was something about the fandom itself that would solidify its place in pop culture.

“We have this incongruence of expectation,” Dorey said. “That’s where all this exploded from. People pushed back [against Bronies], so the fandom, who just wanted to enjoy their fandom, pushed back and was like, ‘NO,’ which fostered this chance for world change.”

So if you are looking for the closest herd to join, there are New Brunswick groups of Bronies on Facebook that plan meet-ups and pony-related events.

Bronies didn’t start off as a statement, all they wanted was a quick-witted show that made them feel good at the end of each episode. It’s the world that made them political.

Bronies of the world unite and canter on.

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