In 2010, a new television channel was born called The Hub. The channel was a collaboration between Discovery Communications and toy company Hasbro that allowed Hasbro to produce their own original programs to promote their different toy lines. Examples ranged from Transformers to G.I. Joe to Littlest Pet Shop, to name only a few. While the channel died 4 years later and was replaced by Discovery Family, one of Hasbro’s programs managed to become a sensation on the Internet. That show was a little cartoon called “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Created by Lauren Faust, best known for her work on “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” “Friendship is Magic” became an instant success, garnering positive reviews and becoming the highest-rated original series on The Hub. Even today, the series is still going strong today, with the show currently on its seventh season and a film currently in theaters. The most fascinating development the show has created is one of the most unique fanbases on the Internet. As the show began airing, it slowly grew an adult audience, like most kids cartoons, but the fandom seemed to mostly consist of adult and teenage men, a sharp contrast to intended audience of young girls. Very soon, the term “Brony” emerged, creating one of the biggest, yet most surprising fanbases ever to be conceived.
Unfortunately, there’s been a massive backlash towards Bronies, as they have been hit with negative stereotypes and being the butt of jokes for years, for the sole crime of enjoying a TV show not intended for them. While it’s understandable why people are so confused and bewildered by grown men enjoying “My Little Pony” (I myself laughed when I heard the word “Brony” while scrolling through the Internet so many years ago), it’s rather unfair the group has to handle so much vitriol among Internet cyber bullies and a society that refuses to accept deviation from the gender norm. So let’s take a brief look at every argument made against Bronies and deconstruct the flawed reasoning as to why people hate the group so much.
“‘My Little Pony’ is for little girls. Adults, specifically adult men, should not watch it”
That is somewhat true. Every “My Little Pony” cartoon made up to this point, including “Friendship is Magic,” has always been intended for an audience of little girls first and foremost. Everything in entertainment is made to appeal for a specific demographic, whether it be kids, adults, men, women, white, black, gay, or straight.
However, just because something appeals to a specific group does not mean it can or should alienate all other audiences. Many animated films, particularly from Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks, have sustained their popularity not just due to kids, but many adults, thanks to their artistry, creativity and smart writing. The comic book industry, an industry that is typically known for strictly appealing to boys and men, has slowly grown to become more appealing to both sexes, as women are now finding themselves engrossed in the adventures of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman, resulting in big bucks for Marvel and DC.
“My Little Pony” is very much the same. Just because you aren’t the one who is specifically being targeted, it doesn’t mean you can’t find enjoyment in the series. Even Lauren Faust herself didn’t intend to develop the show for little girls, but for the parents watching the show, making it understandable why so many adults would like the series.
“Well it’s still ‘My Little Pony.’ How does that show offer anything of value or worth?”
Again, Faust specifically made the show to be appealing to parents so they don’t want to blow their brains out while watching the show, but she also made the show because she hated the content and execution found in the majority of cartoons made for girls when she was growing up. In a response towards the show in Ms. Magazine, the reason why Faust developed “Friendship is Magic” was to prove girl cartoons “don’t have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness,” as well as show there’s more than one personality type for girls than the “princess/ball/dress-loving” girls Hollywood loves to shove down children’s throats in media targeted towards them.
In many respects, “My Little Pony” is one of the most progressive cartoons currently airing. How many shows, especially ones targeted towards children, feature an entire cast of females with different backgrounds and personalities not only as friends, but best friends? Add in a fantasy edge, strong animation, and some enjoyable, but not preachy morals about how to be a better person, and it’s somewhat understandable why people would find a lot of the show’s content endearing and memorable.
“But Bronies are all fat neckbeard perverts with no job.”
Ah yes, the classic “thirtysomething jobless fat nerd who lives in his mother’s basement” stereotype. An interesting stereotype, considering outside of cartoons and sitcoms, I have yet to meet or see a person who fits that stereotype, although what I’m saying could be anecdotal. But regardless, that common argument doesn’t really hold up as shown through a 2014 survey. A team of “My Little Pony” fans named Herd Census analyzed how big the fanbase was and the diversity of the group, and in the case of the census, it reveals the majority of bronies are around the ages of 15 to 25, essentially high school and college students. Not anywhere close to the “neckbeard” age. It’s true a good majority do live with their parents or don’t have a job, but they’re teens and young adults. What do you expect?
“Bronies haven’t done anything worthwhile. Stop being so defensive over them.”
That seems to be a bit of a stretch to make, considering how much high-quality art, animations, video games, and music made by MLP fans there is out there throughout the Internet. Fan content that is so popular and so high-quality, it has even gotten the attention of the show’s crew members. I haven’t even mentioned the large amount of charity drives and organizations made over the last few years made by the Brony community. But yeah, nothing worthwhile or interesting has ever come out of the fandom.
“But there’s so much Not Safe For Work artwork and fanfiction of the characters online. Little girls can’t safely look up the show, because those awful men have perverted this cute little cartoon show.”
Let me start upfront by saying I have very little interest in Rule 34 or NSFW content, especially ones depicting candy-colored ponies that have names like Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, and it definitely should not be seen by children.
And many Bronies agree with me, considering there’s a Tumblr movement called “Safe Search Wrap Up,” where people go out of their way to report any questionable images of the show and its characters from appearing in Google Images’ Safe Search mode, so families can safely search for “My Little Pony” without worrying about any naughty images popping up. (I tested it out by the way, and it took a lot of scrolling to find just one inappropriate image, both with and without Safe Search) While some may argue kids aren’t completely safe, it would be fair to assume most households with young children will have parental blocks, making the issue nonexistent. There’s also the fact that kids shouldn’t be on the Internet, especially unsupervised, in the first place, but that’s another story for another day.
Besides, this isn’t the first time a show has had lewd art or fanfiction. The very definition of Rule 34 states “if it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” Look for any movie, cartoon or TV show and you’re bound to find pornographic content. For years, girl-targeted and boy-targeted media have had Rule 34 based on them, an example being the famous gay-themed genre yaoi, which often includes the sexualization of teenage boys and young men. But for some reason, “My Little Pony” is the only one that makes people ask the question “Won’t someone think of the children,” at least to a large extreme.
For the record, I’m not trying to kinkshame. I’m generally indifferent towards Rule 34, with a few obvious exceptions (Pedophilia and zoophilia? Yeah, not a fan of that). But I hate the hypocrisy from many and how they act as if Bronies are the only fandom that makes lewd fanwork and ignore any other instances of Rule 34 from other groups. Either get mad at all types of Rule 34 or none of it.
“Well who cares? Why are you getting so mad about people hating on Bronies?”
I don’t know, why do these people find the idea of somebody watching a TV show so abhorrent and despicable? Their enjoyment of the series isn’t harming anyone. If anything it’s helped keep the show alive for so long, giving the young girls watching the series more episodes to enjoy, so why make such a hissy fit? And considering the heavy stigmatization over boys and men enjoying what is considered more feminine, to the point where a young boy attempted suicide because he was bullied for liking “My Little Pony,” I’m much more sympathetic to a group of people not caring about what society thinks than a group of people disgusted at the crime of someone watching something not intended for their age group and believing in a bunch of debunked stereotypes.
I’m not saying Bronies are a perfect fandom, but if someone doing nothing but watching a TV show is such an awful problem to so many people, then that says a lot about our society and our priorities.