May 20, 2015

The Brony Closet

Leaving a job is never easy. Doubly so if you liked it and/or the people. The obligation to those you leave behind is, at least for me, also a bit daunting and agonizing. I don’t like schmaltzy farewells or half-hearted platitudes. But, I also don’t hold it against folks because I know it’s hard to do well and, frankly, it’s rarely worth it nor is it required in the first place. At best it is a polite consolation.

Recently, another co-worker moved on but, before departing, she dropped an incredibly long and heartfelt bomb on us via email, where she talked about where she was going, why she was thankful, and even went through each of us one by one to give a personal shout-out. It was like a giant wot-i-think about us all and it was very honest and from the heart and also just a tad psychotic but the best humans in life often are. Needless to say, she’s now set the bar super high for whenever anyone else leaves.

But you don’t care about all that… you’re here to read what she said about ME, right? Right?? Or maybe you clicked on this with a sigh, thinking “oh no, Sean wrote something about bronies”. Well… okay, I can’t really blame you for thinking that but you can hit the back button at any time you know.

That’s what I thought!

Here’s her pair ‘o paragraphs on little ol’ me, reprinted here with permission. I even maintained her curious formatting and capitalization!

IMHO Sean can do no wrong, even when he posts really fucking weird anime on my Facebook posts, because I believe he is the funniest person in the office. He is very subtle and quiet and full of 'zingers'. They're very witty and you're like "How did you think of that so quickly?" or "What's wrong with you?" or "Goddamnit Sean, that's gross." or "Stop making those hand gestures!"

He came out of the closet as a Brony a long time ago, but it's not something I've inquired about because it's a subculture I don't identify with. I don't get "Let's be grown men and watch an animated show about toy ponies and get into it and buy figurines." Maybe it's ironic. Or maybe we live in a really sick cruel world, and the colorful ponies are optimistic and give us hope.  Maybe we are lacking direction, and the ponies give us lessons and guidance. Maybe people just don't value the wisdom of MLP. Idk. I'm guessing it might be an enjoyable show if you're on drugs. Maybe that's the key element I'm missing. I think Sean should elaborate.

Hey, she thinks I’m funny! At least somebody does...

Well, elaborate I shall.

Desk figurines of a G.I. Joe, a Sackboy from Little Big Planet, and Luna from My Little Pony

First off, thanks for being so accepting of my… subculture? It’s not something I think I actually advertise all that openly, nor do I think I try to hide it either. Honestly, I don’t even really think about it being part of my identity. But, it’s probably still noticeable and you looked past it to see the can-do-no-wrong good in me and for that I thank you.

I don’t like the term brony. I’ve more-or-less talked about this before. Sure, it’s clever and all and has more or less cemented itself in the fandom and world at large as the go-to-term (see similar terms like potterhead and whovian). It’s meaning is still a bit ambiguous in my mind. Is it only for hardcore fans? Only for guys? Must it be self-ascribed or can others label you as such? And what’s, ultimately, the point, aside from having a shorthand sweeping term for lumping a lot of very diverse people together? Hypocritically, I suppose it’s no different than any other “discriminator” term to group people. It’s convenient for language and discourse. I’m not sure what I want or why I’m even annoyed.

But… already I think we’re off to a bad start. I don’t want this to be defensive or whiny and I don’t want you to think I’m offended or upset. Far from it. I’m more using this as an excuse to rant about shit, something I like to do on occasion. In the process, maybe we’ll all learn something today, even if it is just “don’t ever read any more of Sean’s picture-less blog posts”.

I like MLP: FiM. A lot. But I also like TWGOK, House, The Office, and Home Movies. Only there aren’t, to my knowledge, convenient terms like “brony” for those fandoms.

I’ve actually only seen MLP the series one time through, which is less times than I’ve seen Scrubs and Star Trek: TNG. There’s maybe a couple MLP episodes I’ve actually seen twice and none that I’ve seen more than that. As far as most bronies go that’s probably unusual but I honestly don’t know or care.

So, yeah, there’s more to me than “brony”, but more specifically let’s talk about the MLP fandom itself, as it's really the draw for me. It’s one of the more active, creative, enduring, and inclusive fandoms I’ve ever seen. The amount of fanart is mind-boggling and not letting up. The artwork, music, discussions, analysis, in-jokes, documentaries, conventions (even in SLC), spillover into other games and areas --- basically, the passion. It’s crazy. And I love it. I don’t actually participate much beyond consuming but like a run-over fire hydrant it’s a unceasing geyser and I probably dip a toe or two in every day.

I guess my point is to redirect the focus. It’s not “Let's be grown men and watch an animated show about ___” because you can fill that blank in with just about any airing show out there. But, few airing shows have fandoms that produce as much as MLP’s. It’s not any weirder than watching a show about colorful sea creatures making krabby patties, or a weirdly dressed kid with a sword and a dog whose legs can extend ludicrously far. (Drugs aren’t really necessary but they may alter/enhance your experience, I suppose.)

But you’re also not entirely wrong. The world can be sick and cruel and full of hardships and unpleasant things. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and escape for a bit. Maybe you do that with Call of Duty or Age of Ultron. Maybe it’s colorful ponies. Maybe it’s all of the above and more.

And maybe, yeah, some part of it, for some people more than others, it is the optimism. For some, it is precisely the fact that the show glamorizes positive things like friendship, trust, facing and overcoming your fears, improving yourself, looking up to heroes, and the courage to be who you are.

Ponies have cutie marks that identify them, usually in a way that corresponds to their special talent. As young fillies and colts they are “blank flanks” and will magically receive their cutie mark usually in an epiphany moment. Transparently it’s an analogy for puberty and the adolescent struggle for identity made manifest like a tattoo for all to see and judge. In their world, it is worn like a proud badge and a reminder of their true nature and passion.

Is the show wise? Eh, not really. But the real trick is that it doesn’t need to be. On the surface it’s just another slice-of-life mild comedy with fantasy cartoony aspects. But it’s conspicuous in what it is not: angsty, depressing, cynical, or pessimistic. It’s not that it’s wise so much as that it is constantly so positive, and sometimes that’s really refreshing and uplifting.


So how are you doing at your new job?

As for all of the “fucking weird anime on [your] Facebook”, well… #sorrynotsorry. You can always set me to acquaintance and Facebook will spam you less. If that feels too distant/cold, well… if I may, I do try to write for entertainment. By that I mean, I kinda hope my shitty anime reviews could be enjoyed by anyone, fan or not, having seen it or not, caring about anime at all or not. I like to think my sarcastic and sometimes silly voice comes through despite and makes them a fun read even if the subject at hand isn’t normally in your purview. I like to think that, but no promises. Maybe it’s just inane prattling. Maybe that’s why nobody cares or reads them. Actually I have no idea if anyone reads them but I still foolishly keep writing them because I like to read them. They’re like fun reminders of how I felt. Some part of me doesn’t trust my brain to remember in a few months or years, but now I have some record, some sliver of my thoughts about things. Maybe when I’m old and senile I’ll have sentimental youthful reminders. You know, the kind where I say things like “lolicakes” and “sappy sea bass”. Or maybe I’ll just facepalm and will myself a heart attack on the spot.

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