Oct 14, 2012

The Brony Talk

Cutout of Rainbow Dash on black in profile with only her hair colored inHey, internet. It’s time we had a chat. It’s about ponies. No, no, this isn’t some birds-and-the-bees talk where I show you that mrhands video. It’s about smaller ponies. Little ponies.

I’m sure you remember way back to 2010 (it seems so long ago!) when the world was still young, the Summer of Recovery (thanks, Joe!) was surely starting soon already underway, boys were boys, and girls were girls. How things have changed, huh? Now you can’t throw a rock without it smacking some effeminate schmuck with a Rainbow Dash plushie in the head. What has the world come to? What happened?

Well, ponies happened.

I still remember all those months and months I witnessed the sickness creeping into everything I loved on the internet. Pony macro images, brief mentions of RD, and Derpy Hooves on everything. Even if you did live under solid mineral aggregate, you probably still managed to get bludgeoned by ponies at some point. The fans of these ponies, they were everywhere, these…


Group photo of young men from a New York City brony club surrounding a gigantic Pinkie Pie stuffed toy

Somewhere back in April of this year I finally gave in. I’d been planning on seeing what all the fuss was about for awhile. As a veteran of dozens of embarrassingly silly/dinky/girly animes over the years, I was not afraid at all of venturing forth into the land of ponies. (Fer chrissakes I’ve seen Bottle Fairy and was into Di Gi Charat in the very early aughts). Even so, the hype and overbearing fandom preceded it, giving me a lot of preconceived notions that I was attempting to discard in order to give the show its fair shot. Lucky for me, Netflix had recently added My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to their streaming catalog, so I was able to watch legally, conveniently, and in high-def to boot.

And it was… good. Not the second coming of Christ, but just quite good. Really well written, the designs were carefully and thoughtfully done, and the execution and animation was a treat. It’s episodic and doesn’t exactly cater to marathon watching, so the girlfriend and I mostly just watched it in short 1-3 episode bursts every so often.

But there have already been several top notch essays on the show and bronydom that I won’t attempt to paraphrase here.

Of course, as soon as you mention twenty-something men liking a cartoon that has, at least historically (see above links on why this isn’t so much true anymore), catered to girls you can expect the inevitable butthurt outcry.

So, yeah, I like the show (Twilight Sparkle is best pony!), would even consider my self a fan… but a brony? Well… there is a bit of intra-fandom confusion over what the term even means. It is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony”, so does it only apply to that pervasive twenty-something male bunch of fans? Or can the females use it, too? Should they exclusively use “pegasister”? It doesn’t roll off the tongue as much, it’s less well known, and it uses the more specific “pegasus”, one of three specific types of ponies in the show, instead of the generic term “pony”. Already this is getting too complicated, and we haven’t even covered whether brony should instead be relegated to the more serious uber-fans and not the casual ones like myself.

Additionally, the word carries a lot of baggage as it seems that there is a lot of hate directed to bronies. Not to the degree that, say, Chris-chan is hated but quite a bit more widespread. Some of it is understandable. Far too often and far too many of them can be a little… shall we say… obnoxious. But I don’t believe this is unique to bronies, rather a symptom of any fandom. They annoy me in much the same way Doctor Who fans do (which, before you brandish the pitchforks, is another show I hope to someday give a shot to see what the fuss is about). Hardcore fans, period, can be annoying even to fellow fans. As someone who has been a longtime fan of anime, believe me I know how annoying fellow fans can be. Bronies don’t even come close to the obnoxiousness otakus are capable of.

The term and fandom is so controversial it has become a game of sorts for fans to “out” famous (and I use that term loosely) folks as bronies. Notch (of Minecraft fame) and Gabe Newell (Valve head-honcho) are frequently cited as such in the geek community. More mainstream celebrities would be Lady Gaga and Seth Green. And I chose the verb “out” on purpose: to some, this is an embarrassing thing to admit (Notch, in particular, was frequently hesitant about it, especially after the initial backlash).

Any fandom that includes generous helpings of fan creations can get a little weird and exasperating to the outsider. All of the art (I’m convinced at least 25% of the whole of Deviant Art is MLP related), fan dubs, music videos, inspired music, and, yes, the fanfics and more fanfics. I’m not even going to go into the seedy Rule 34 underbelly. And then there are just the folks that are intellectually masturbating (thankfully, a good number of folks chimed in to say as much).

I don’t know. I find myself in an awkward position. Much like my experiences with Katawa Shoujo and its equally at times exasperating fandom, I’m sighing in face-palming frustration as often as I am sympathizing. I know where they are coming from, I understand their zeal and enthusiasm, but I’m also constantly wishing they’d maybe, I dunno, dial it back a notch? Jesus. It’s as if they invite hatred and criticism with their frequent obnoxiousness, but I also know that is entirely opinion and perspective — to them they are merely being typical fans, what’s the problem? I also don’t want them to feel like they should have to censor or hold back either. Like I said, I don’t know how to feel about it all. As much as it is exasperating, I anticipate having to frequently (but cautiously) defend them, if only because the show is undeserving of the hate and the fans are too easily mocked.

I’ve noticed this is a frequent position I take, one of moderation. My Little Pony, Katawa Shoujo, and anime in general. I rarely find myself going to the disturbing lengths some fans do and always feeling as though they are “giving the rest of us a bad name”. But are they? Is it really so pervasive? Or are they just a minority, albeit a vocal one? Isn’t this true of a lot of passions? Isn’t this just a symptom of nerdiness in general? Or am I just perpetuating an unfair knee-jerk assumption?

Or maybe I’ve just spent way too much time pondering ponies.

1 comment:

  1. Whoops! Spotted a typo! I think you *meant* to say "Fluttershy is best pony."