What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and BronyCon?
August 7, 2013 12:07 PM   Subscribe

It's hard not to stare at everypony. Baltimore has its share of subculture gatherings and nerd conventions. This weekend it played host to BronyCon. MetaFilter has already chronicled the usual "faux-bewildered journalists" who covered previous incarnations of the con in other cities. But this year Baltimore's local papers stepped up. The Baltimore Sun's free weekly b generated excitement with cover stories before the show. And when the City Paper covered the event, they didn't send a reporter—they sent a Gender and Women's Studies professor instead, who turned in this thoughtful piece.
posted by djpatch (97 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Another stereotype dashed on the rocks of reality. Thoroughly enjoyable article. I had somewhat the same initial reaction as ChocolatePickle--shoot me now( if not later)--but switched gears with in two or three paragraphs. I probably will not be rushing to the next BronyCon but at least i will understand it much better.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2013


That was a thoughtful, perceptive piece (last link) about a very peculiar subject. (In fact, Chocolate Pickle, in my experience Gender and Women's Studies professors are often among the very most thoughtful and perceptive people I meet.)

I'd never heard of bronies before, but sure, man. Everybody should let their freak flag fly. Anywhere people gather to embrace compassion and acceptance is OK by me.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:23 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really like My Little Pony. Somehow, and i'll largely credit Lauren Faust for this, it rises above it's origin as a tie-in for an awful Tou line to be a sincerely well made show for kids that's fun for adults to watch without compromising itself.

On the other hand, adults without kids who are REALLY REALLY INTO IT can verge on the creepy.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The picture of the guy keeping track of how many black people were there on a little whiteboard made me laugh so hard I had to go outside and calm down.
posted by Etrigan at 12:28 PM on August 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


I've been involved in a bunch of social groups that have involved volunteer-run events that have centered on everything from martial arts to science fiction to debauched gambling vacations. There's a similarity among them that all go back to it being a labor of love, and I'm delighted to see the same patterns happening with this. Good for them, and hooray for people getting their geek on.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


. My Little Pony is made for little girls, and for most people, the strong pull of gender norms means that any man interested in such programming is most certainly suspect. But perhaps this is BronyCon’s greatest strength—carving out a space where boys and men, straining at the bit against the narrow norms of masculinity, can meet and share in aspects of femininity so often denied them.

I think that is an interesting point. I am also guilty of thinking grown men who are really into MLP are creepy, is this some kind of subconcious bigotry on my part?

Perhaps it is not an attraction to ponies themselves but the values of "pony society".

I made some cracks about clopping the other day in one of the nerd threads. Now I feel I may be been perpetuating oppressive views of masculinity.

Sorry bronies.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:42 PM on August 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Really happy to see this here, nice FPP.

Are the first and last links supposed to be the same? No biggie, just wondering.
posted by sidereal at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2013


Well, it's undeniable some portions of the adult fanbase are creepy and behave in some inappropriate ways so it's hard to blame people for having a negative perception. However, people should definitely try and make an effort to keep in mind the fanbase is mostly like any other fanbase, the vast majority of fans just watch the TV show and that is the extent of their involvement. If there is a surplus of enthusiasm it is likely because the style of the show is so new and fresh for adult males that there is just a lot of creative space to explore. It does go to bad places sometimes, but that isn't the norm.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I liked the article very much. Thanks for posting it.
posted by not that girl at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2013


@sidereal, I was just following the MeFi format as best I could, which encourages the first phrase to link to the main article...but since that didn't work for the flow of my post, I ended up double-linking. Apologies if I caused any confusion.

@everyone else, cheers for the follow-up!
posted by djpatch at 1:04 PM on August 7, 2013


However, people should definitely try and make an effort to keep in mind the fanbase is mostly like any other fanbase, the vast majority of fans just watch the TV show and that is the extent of their involvement.... It does go to bad places sometimes, but that isn't the norm.

This. Rule 34 predates MLP by years.
posted by Etrigan at 1:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ending on the mom who's there just hoping to understand her son better, but clearly already supportive of him and not judging him was sweet.

It seems like bronies are the nerds that it's ok for other nerds to make fun of, just because they're the "weirdest" which isn't fair. Also, I understand some of the creepy vibes people get, but it's not like its a bunch of old guys infiltrating conventions for little girls, its safe to say (and the point the main article makes) that they've co-opted the show originally targeted at girls for their own enjoyment. There's probably the same percentage of "creepy" bronies as non-bronies, same as gay and unemployed like the article mentions.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:06 PM on August 7, 2013


Psychologists and researchers Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden recently completed a study of 40,000 Bronies...
They did? For real? Hunh. This must be it: http://www.bronystudy.com/id1.html And the rsults say that....bronies are pretty normal. Hunh. Who'd'a thunk it?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:07 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was a very interesting article. I feel like I understand the bronies a little better now.


"Perhaps it is not an attraction to ponies themselves but the values of "pony society"."

If you think about it, there really isn't much pop culture dedicated to understanding and friendship. There are lots of stories about shooting people (and things), and lots of stories about crime solving or putting injustices right, but very little outside of soap operas that deals with relationships. And if there is, it's always about romance and sex. My Little Pony is fairly unique, which may be why so many people are into the show.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:08 PM on August 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


I wish more newspapers would send out Gender and Women's studies professors to cover... well, anything.

(seriously folks, start doing this).
posted by el io at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2013 [39 favorites]


It seems like bronies are the nerds that its ok for other nerds to make fun of...

They're a sub-category of Furry, and Furries are open game.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


My 13-year-old son is a Brony, and while I consider myself pretty good at being accepting and not one to enforce gender norms too much, the article made me realize I have done some mild shaming. I'll be more supportive now.
posted by tippiedog at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


Now, apparently, an official part of the U.S. Airforce.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:14 PM on August 7, 2013


It seems like bronies are the nerds that its ok for other nerds to make fun of...

They're a sub-category of Furry, and Furries are open game.


That may be how they're perceived, but they're not at all a sub-category of furries. There's some overlap, but there's overlap between furries and all manner of other fans and cosplayers.
posted by Etrigan at 1:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


They're a sub-category of Furry

Sure, to the extent fans of Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse are.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


All this talk of subcategorizing furries and bronies makes me think of Brunching Shuttlecocks' Geek Hierarchy, which every true netizen should read at some point.
posted by sixohsix at 1:18 PM on August 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's possible that I just find life consuming fandom, of kid's products and otherwise, creepy in general.

Which is ironic since I'm into so many things that attract that kind of attention.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


@IndigoJones, I definitely met two members of the U.S. Airforce that had flown all the way from Hawaii just for the con.

Also, if I can add to what the article already said, one of the things that was striking about the event was the number of possibly transgender young men who looked to be in early stages of transitioning (as well as the usual cross-gender cosplayers and cross-dressers you'd find at, say, Otakon or Katsucon). The feeling that this was a safe space where they could take risks their day-to-day lives wouldn't yet allow—and be accepted regardless—was definitely in the air.
posted by djpatch at 1:23 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


which every true netizen should read at some point

And then reject, right? Do people know you're supposed to do that? I think some shitbags really use it as a guide of who is allowed to be an asshole to whom.
posted by bleep-blop at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2013


I hope so, bleep-blop. The way that some of the categories have bi-directional arrows should tip off any sane reader that it's not meant to be taken seriously.

Most important historical tracts of the Internet are sarcastic jokes, come to think of it.
posted by sixohsix at 1:29 PM on August 7, 2013


Tangential aside: what's a "yoked" control group? Is this a technical term, a pun on the pony thing, some gentle horseplay?

"[O]n the whole, bronies are more introverted than non-bronies, but they are not more likely to be gay or unemployed than a yoked control group of non-bronies."
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2013



Great article. Thanks for posting. I gamed with a guy who I realized is a Brony though at the time had never heard of them. When he first started talking about MLP and liking it a lot of us thought he was joking. He wasn't and it just became his 'thing' that he was playfully teased about just as many of us had our 'things' that we got friendly teased about. I found it odd and even odder when I found out that their are many more like him and that they had a name.

The article does a great job of explaining it and the attraction. I especially appreciate the comments about gender and genderized traits. I'll admit it still seems weird but that's my own socialized biases at play. I'm happy enough to have those challenged. It's a good thing!

Go Bronies go!
posted by Jalliah at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2013


Yoked control group:

research subjects in a control group who are subject to some of the same encounters as subjects in the experimental group, but not inclusive of the experimental remediation or conditions. This process is underwent to make the control group as alike as possible to the experimental group in their experiences in research.

YOKED-CONTROL GROUP: "The yoked control group often experiences the same effects as the experimental group. "

posted by Lyn Never at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks Lyn Never.

Popping back in to say that was a wonderful article. Unexpectedly good, thanks for the post!
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2013


@djpatch it is a perfectly fine FPP.
posted by sidereal at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the geek clans fpp of the other day, and I wonder how important the element of "oh just being into d and d isn't WEIRD enough for you? Fine, watch this!" is, as mentioned by one of the attendees quoted. And don't all geek groups have a self image of being accepting and not judging people by the foolish superficial standards of the mainstream, and then for some reason end up with "I can be a member of this /even though/ I'm a girl"?
posted by jacalata at 1:41 PM on August 7, 2013


Also, I find a comparison between GoT and MLP to have too many variables - tell me how society treats obsessive adult male fans of little boy shows like Thomas the Tank Engine or perhaps Spongebob or gender neutral shows like Sesame St, maybe compare all three of them, don't say that the difference in treatment for fans of a show for adults and a show for kids is clearly gender based.
posted by jacalata at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's possible that I just find life consuming fandom, of kid's products and otherwise, creepy in general.

And of course, this is built on a foundation of one's personal definition of what "life" should be, how one should properly determine their time and money toward the world at large.
posted by Atreides at 1:46 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was a great article. I've been a little judgmental regarding bronies in the past, but I'm going to work on that. I'd found the whole thing a little off-putting, but I can kind of understand it now.

I'm also going to stop automatically suggesting something else the next time my nephew sees MLP on the screen when we're browsing Netflix and he tells me he wants to watch it. I mean, I don't try to suggest that my niece watch something other than The Aquabats Super Show, so why should it be different for my nephew?
posted by BrianJ at 1:51 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Atreides: let me guess- it's tractor pulls, right?
posted by happyroach at 1:54 PM on August 7, 2013


Atreides: let me guess- it's tractor pulls, right?

Extreme grass quilt gardening, wherein it's a competition to grow different strains of grass in intricate patterns on 4 x 4 platters.

And living the life of the anime fan...no, really, it's not a "cartoon" it's Japanese animation and it's incredible and animation is just a medium for telling stories, not just an avenue for creating entertainment for children!
posted by Atreides at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Baltimore City Paper is the best city paper. (At least among the ones I've read.)
posted by Nomyte at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2013


Spongebob was a thing for a while, or at least there seemed to be a lot of Spongebob GIFs and memes floating around. I think the show has to have some kind of inherent quality that sets it apart to achieve success out of the original demographic. For example, the original My Little Pony show doesn't seem to have made a comeback, even with all the recent Pony popularity. But then, it was a pretty generic 80s cartoon.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:08 PM on August 7, 2013


My 13-year-old son is a Brony, and while I consider myself pretty good at being accepting and not one to enforce gender norms too much, the article made me realize I have done some mild shaming. I'll be more supportive now.

Elder Monster, who is 21, is a cheerfully enthusiastic Brony with a loud fondness for Rarity. (His girlfriend delights in Rainbow Dash, the arguments are epic and hilarious.) He worked hard for children's charities in grade school, a community outreach program to match teenagers with "grandparents", and was a founding member of his high school's Gay/Straight Alliance. He is currently running the kitchen full time at our neighborhood Middle Eastern joint, while he sketches out a business plan for a restaurant that includes an option for the homeless folks of our city to show up and wash dishes, bus tables, or chop veggies for an hour or two, in exchange for a full meal.

These are the things that Bronies do. I have yet to encounter a hard-hearted Brony.

Your kid? Is a good kid. Probably even a phenomenally awesome kid with a giant heart and a decent sense of social justice.
posted by MissySedai at 2:11 PM on August 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


I read the article, and I've seen the show, but I'm not closer to understanding the broad appeal of MLP:FIM. It's a fine show - catchy intro, interesting animation, noble (if saccharine) morals, but it really doesn't have enough depth inside to explain the fandom imho.

I think that Bronyism has way more to do with identity than it does to the actual merits of the show. Geek men wanting to belong to an in-group that is outside the dominant culture, but not so misogynistic as previously-popular geek subcultures (comics, anime, video games). That's just a thought though. Bronies - help me understand!
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2013


Adventure Time however...
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, I find a comparison between GoT and MLP to have too many variables - tell me how society treats obsessive adult male fans of little boy shows like Thomas the Tank Engine or perhaps Spongebob or gender neutral shows like Sesame St, maybe compare all three of them, don't say that the difference in treatment for fans of a show for adults and a show for kids is clearly gender based.

I would read this article!

If you think about it, there really isn't much pop culture dedicated to understanding and friendship. There are lots of stories about shooting people (and things), and lots of stories about crime solving or putting injustices right, but very little outside of soap operas that deals with relationships. And if there is, it's always about romance and sex. My Little Pony is fairly unique, which may be why so many people are into the show.

That is the only thing that has made any sense to me about this. I can get that lots of men felt shut out/penned in by entertainment that is unrelentingly violent.

MLP reads as so very girly, though, that I still feel surprise that straight men are attracted to it; it's like meeting a straight guy that loves ice-dancing, or Project Runway, or playing Barbie.

But I like that about bronies; they make me wonder if what I know about what straight guys might like is really limited.
posted by emjaybee at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Baltimare's public radio station had a good piece on it this morning.

I can get that lots of men felt shut out/penned in by entertainment that is unrelentingly violent.

Plenty of adult fare isn't particularly violent, and violence isn't completely absent from MLP. The big thing here is that the target audience is little girls. Thus, it must be sub-par. Thus, the only people who would claim to enjoy must have ulterior motives. If you're a woman, it gets chalked up to nostalgia but if you're a man OMG PEDOPHILE MAN-CHILD PREDATOR!

This is, incidentally, why the fandom is so heavily (~85%) male. They're the ones who feel the need to circle the wagons.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:41 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


My five year old son LOVES MLP, and quite frankly I always look for it at the library for him (he gets to pick out one video a week), because it, especially the Friendship is Magic, is one of the better written cartoons out there.

MLP reads as so very girly, though, that I still feel surprise that straight men are attracted to it;

I don't think that it's particularly girly (as in focuses on things that girls are assumed to be interested in) so much as focusing mostly on girls as main characters. It's really a morality play with each pony playing an admirable trait. Even the Rarity, who could very easily have turned into a vain girl stereotype is constantly working to make others feel better about themselves. It's just that instead of having the balance of 4 guys and 2 girls in the main ensemble that we're used, it's 5 girls and 1 guy (or whatever). I don't know, maybe that right there's enough to make it seem girly.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:00 PM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Note that as in all fandoms, not everything in Bronyland is sunshine and hugs.
posted by kmz at 3:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, adults without kids who are REALLY REALLY INTO IT can verge on the creepy.

Yeah, but people going overboard in a fandom are nothing new.

I am also guilty of thinking grown men who are really into MLP are creepy, is this some kind of subconcious bigotry on my part?

Here is my question: why would you think that?

A. If it's because of what you've heard about bronies, then you've been tricked by the usual media and internet exaggeration and othering. Putting spotlights on the least socialized members of a fanbase, the constant search for "news of the weird" pieces, the association with furries (who have it MUCH worse than bronies), and even a bit of the pedopanic.
B. If it's because men "shouldn't" like MLP, then it's because of prejudices you've picked up over time through socialization. There is nothing about the content that brands it FOR females.
C. If it's because they're waaay too into it... well, see above. Some may be, most are not. Either way, if you don't feel the same way about Trekkers/ies, it's probably because of a lingering connection with A and B.

I made some cracks about clopping the other day in one of the nerd threads.

Bronies make those jokes themselves. I suppose I can't speak for the whole fandom here (I'm really casual), but "clop" is often a derisive term. Most fans do not create or consume that material. Really! The most prominent sites either have strict rules against it (Equestria Daily strives to be kid friendly while catering mostly to brony fans) or adult warnings.

That was a very interesting article. I feel like I understand the bronies a little better now.

Glad to hear it, although it's nothing Drinky Die and I haven't been telling MeFi whenever a pony thread comes up.

They're a sub-category of Furry, and Furries are open game.

Well... one might think this, and I suppose technically it's true, but from what I've seen bronies don't have a huge crossover with furries. The connection doesn't seem useful to me. Maybe I'm saying this because of my own negative connotations of furries? Again, speaking only from my limited perspective, but fursuits don't really have a brony version. The more into-it furries like interacting as those characters, and there's a desire to make it a lifestyle thing, at least among themselves, which I don't see in brony culture, where some people are still into it as an ironic thing, and some others because of novelty.

Anyway, I've been meaning for some time to make a good FPP about brony culture, to indicate its breadth and just how much of it there IS. My note file lists: Derpy Hooves of course, princess rivalry, Luna on the Moon, Meta Pinkie Pie, Human-Crazy Lyra, Lyra and Bon-Bon, Dr. Whooves, Tavi and Vinyl, pony comics, pony repurposing, full-bore pony animation projects, Team Fortress 2 crossover videos, a plethora of fan Tumblrs (questionable content on some of them though), PMVs, and even more pony gaming, despite Hasbro's continued efforts to discourage and disgust game creators with Cease and Desist orders. If you don't have a ground-eye view of the subculture, it's very easy to think it's a bunch of perverts, but really, you don't have to scratch very deep AT ALL to see there's a HUGE amount of stuff here, and that kind of causes me to loose patience with people who just dismiss it as creepy internet people doing creepy internet things. Don't just take the attitude handed to you by the next person in line. I mean, sheesh.

For example, the original My Little Pony show doesn't seem to have made a comeback, even with all the recent Pony popularity. But then, it was a pretty generic 80s cartoon.

Oh god am I really going to do this well with personal knowledge it's sort of my responsibility so here goes (deep inhale) --

I've written some MST-style riffs (actually, a complete set) for the first episode of the 80s My Little Pony show, "Escape From Midnight Castle." Yeah.

The animation is pretty bad. It's very badly paced, looking a lot like a script that was intended to be an hour or longer was compressed into half an hour. Despite this, they kept in two full-length musical sequences. For one of those, the joke I wrote, was "the storyboarder wrote checks the animation can't cash." The ponies are all pretty annoying. Human friend Megan just sort of bumbles throuh the story, the character to point the camera at. The show tries to push the sense-of-wonder thing, especially in the first music sequence, but it's not happening. And there are a lot of other strange things. BUT....

There are some interesting and non-generic things about it. Tony Randall has a significant part, although the material is at least three tiers beneath him. But most of those things are the villains, monkey/scorpion person Skorpan, and giant menacing centaur Tirac, who are awesome.

Skorpan is conflicted about his role in capturing ponies to be turned into big winged reptilian doom monsters. And Tirac, despite his great orangeness (I made a John Boehner joke), is magnificantly evil, with a great echoing voice and a cloth bag of darkness on a chain around his neck that beats loudly like a big ominous HEART. That's quality menace, and they do a lot to make the ponies' quest seem doomed and futile.

So... overall I agree, but the original villains are pretty awesome.
posted by JHarris at 3:06 PM on August 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also, I do have to admit, I thought it was super girly to, until I watched an episode. It's just really well done.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


...it's like meeting a straight guy that loves ice-dancing, or Project Runway, or playing Barbie.

I'm a straight guy who watches Project Runway. Negative on MLP, ice-dancing, and Barbie, though.
posted by The Tensor at 3:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't tell if the WGS author is pretending that the "dark side" of the fanbase doesn't exist, or is not actually aware of it.
posted by Benjy at 3:17 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a fine show - catchy intro, interesting animation, noble (if saccharine) morals, but it really doesn't have enough depth inside to explain the fandom imho.

I think part of it is what you say, it's a convenient selected identity to attract like-minded potential friends, where people who wouldn't like pony will select themselves out, that's not misogynistic and is generally friend-positive. I find there is some high-quality stuff in there if you look for it that justifies the ruckus; Rarity episodes are all wonderful, Pinkie is an eternal puzzle, Rainbow Dash's flying scenes are awesome, etc. You probably have to watch more of it to "get" it, the fandom didn't take off from the first couple of episodes, it took a few more than that for it to take hold.
posted by JHarris at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't tell if the WGS author is pretending that the "dark side" of the fanbase doesn't exist, or is not actually aware of it.

I think that probably you think it's bigger than it is.
posted by JHarris at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think that it's particularly girly (as in focuses on things that girls are assumed to be interested in) so much as focusing mostly on girls as main characters. It's really a morality play with each pony playing an admirable trait. Even the Rarity, who could very easily have turned into a vain girl stereotype is constantly working to make others feel better about themselves. It's just that instead of having the balance of 4 guys and 2 girls in the main ensemble that we're used, it's 5 girls and 1 guy (or whatever). I don't know, maybe that right there's enough to make it seem girly.

I've never watched the show but I'm planning to now. I think this hits on some of my assumptions or bias though. I do know that the ponies are mostly female and for the most part, in our culture shows with majority female casts just seem to be 'female' oriented, with mostly female fans. I realize now that it's an unconscious bias or assumption I have/had that is socialize in larger culture. Why shouldn't men like shows with mostly female casts? I mean I like shows with mostly male casts. Cool that it's a cartoon breaking an this unconscious stereotype. Love it.

It's also probably that my only other experience with ponies was through my younger sister and her friends who collected and played with them when they first came out. I attended a few pony tea parties during that time.
posted by Jalliah at 3:23 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rainbow Dash has taught me to live with neither shame nor fear nor regret.

I think this was a really nice article.
posted by mikurski at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


...the original villains are pretty awesome

Praise Smooze!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:29 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


tell me how society treats obsessive adult male fans of little boy shows like Thomas the Tank Engine or perhaps Spongebob or gender neutral shows like Sesame St

Anybody here like Batman the Animated Series? It was a boys show I grew up on. It's great. Seriously, it won multiple Emmys. One place to start would be "Heart of Ice." It's fans grew up but didn't go away, they just moved on to adult-oriented versions of the same characters.

MLP:Friendship is Magic is in the same league. We laugh at Bronies but not Batman fans. Why?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:33 PM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Because Batman is a psychopath vigilante who watched his parents get murdered. USA#1
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


/Resolves to treat Chris Sims as more of a social pariah.

Anyway, Brave and the Bold is where it's at.
posted by Artw at 3:46 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that attendees at the Gathering of the Juggalos often describe their attraction to it in the same terms - acceptance and tolerance of difference, brotherly love, and so forth.
posted by Flunkie at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flunkie, that's really insightful. Bronies and Juggalos are not opposites, but sort of the flip sides to the same card.
posted by JHarris at 4:34 PM on August 7, 2013


I'm a straight guy who watches Project Runway

Come on, it's been terrible since Season 6.
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whenever anyone posts about an unusual fandom, I'm always struck by how discussions inevitably come down to two statements:

1) A general acknowledgement that the fandom can have its creepy and weird parts without damaging the entire fanbase (good!), and

2) A complete dismissal of that by a blanket declaration, no matter how nicely couched, that "it's still creepy and weird to me" (bad!)

It seems axiomatic at this point that every fandom in existence, from sports to cars to knitting to soap operas to MLP, has X% of "creepy and weird" in it, where X is not nearly large enough to represent the whole fanbase. Society politely ignores the X% on "acceptable" fandom but gets a shame boner when luridly reporting about the rest. The natural result is to join the crowd and hate on the outsiders, which was the Secret to Being Cool back in high school and really should be left to rot back there.

It doesn't have to be your thing- I'm not a fan of MLP and probably never will be. But there's no point in belittling people who harmlessly enjoy something you don't.
posted by Maxson at 4:54 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Plenty of adult fare isn't particularly violent

I am actually drawing a blank here. I can't think of a thing off the top of my head that is aimed at teenage to mid twenties men that doesn't involve violence or sports... seriously.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:57 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


[CiS, I am officially asking you to leave this alone.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:06 PM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am actually drawing a blank here. I can't think of a thing off the top of my head that is aimed at teenage to mid twenties men that doesn't involve violence or sports... seriously.

Big Bang Theory or Dr Who? Also, it seems like moving the goalposts to respond to 'there is plenty of non violent stuff' with 'I can't think of anything without either violence or sports'.
posted by jacalata at 5:33 PM on August 7, 2013


I agree with JHarris, above, who suggests the appeal of the MLP isn't instantly apparent; especially if your exposure to the Poniverse is limited to seeing stills from the show and reading online about the supposed swarms of creepy guys who are into it. I had some reservations about letting my kids watch it, because I thought it was going to be another one of those pointless cartoons that exist solely to market consumables, but my daughter was very keen to check out the ponies, so I bought a DVD and we watched it.

Now everyone in my family is a fan, to varying degrees, from my daughter's white hot passion (I've described in another thread her keenness to watch the "talking baby ponies" when she was a mere scrap of two), to my husband's slightly more offhand interest (although he can still nominate a favourite pony: he likes Applejack). My sons all watch, and all have favourites. We frequently watch it together, in twos and threes.

I don't want to cover the same points that have already been raised in its favour, but I do certainly agree that it is interesting, this divide between what is appropriate for (adult)men to enjoy, and that generally it needs to be about violence, or power for their interest to be non-squicky.

If you haven't watched any episodes, or only a little bit of one or two, I'd strongly encourage you to watch a little more. We were constantly taken by surprise by how funny a lot of it is, entirely apart from the all other good qualities the show possesses. I *love* that it is a show about relationships and challenges, that never once devolves into girl on girl squabbles over a male trophy. The ponies all have busy lives doing their thing, but have time to nurture close and supportive friendships. The songs are catchy and fun to sing along with. It's really a fun and charming show.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 5:35 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't think of a thing off the top of my head that is aimed at teenage to mid twenties men that doesn't involve violence or sports

Mad Men is what I was thinking about when I wrote that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:44 PM on August 7, 2013


Big Bang Theory or Dr Who? Also, it seems like moving the goalposts to respond to 'there is plenty of non violent stuff' with 'I can't think of anything without either violence or sports'.

Oh yeah, it is moving the goalposts a bit, but when you're talking about young men at an age where they're trying to think about what it means to be 'manly', stuff that is sepcifically marketed to them seems to be a lot more relevant - and at least in my mind that skews to the uber macho and violent side of things to ridiculous degree. I think the popularity of MLP is in part a backlash to that.

And I really didn't mean that comment to be snarky. I can think of very few things that are specifically popular among the geeky you male subset - stuff like Call of Duty and Halo and all these comic book action movies figure a lot more heavily in my mind. It's also been a long day... Neil DeGrasse Tyson? XKCD? Now that I've gotten home, my brains working a bit better, but it still feels to me that action movies/video games have a lot narrower and ridiculously overmuscled and overviolent in their presentation of what's properly 'manly'.

Maybe I'm just getting the 'get off my lawn' mindset a little too soon in life.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:50 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mad Men is weird though, isn't it? Atypical? And it's not really a young make thing. (I haven't watched it, although have been meaning to give it a try.) And about other things I, too, have difficulty thinking of something young males are "supposed" to like that doesn't involve one or more of: violence, sex, alcohol, sports. The stuff that aren't tend to be other geek things like Star Trek, Star Wars, D&D, etc. (And D&D, although a pencil and paper game, have characters with swords going out and killing things.) I suppose it's all how far you go into saying something is "about" violence.
posted by JHarris at 5:53 PM on August 7, 2013


Well, I'm not a young male, so maybe? Point being, violence isn't a requirement, just not having anything to do with icky girl stuff.

That said...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:04 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sons are 18 and 13 and while they used to ID as Bronies they now just call themselves MLP fans. I think my older son urged that change after catching on to some not-cool Bronie-identified behavior online. I don't care what they call themselves, I think it's great that they love such a sweet show and have no problem telling people all about it. They do call me Purple Smart sometimes, which I think is a good thing...
posted by Biblio at 6:48 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Baltimore Sun's free weekly b

Shouldn't it be /b?
posted by ShutterBun at 8:17 PM on August 7, 2013


I thought the gender-norm-defying aspect of the brony phenomenon was pretty cool from the beginning. But why are there so few women? Anyway I tried a couple episodes when articles started proliferating and I have to say I don't get it.
posted by atoxyl at 11:08 PM on August 7, 2013


Speaking of the Geek Hierarchy, I really don't know where MLP fans who create really rather detailed pony themed tributes to seminal early 90's PC demos show up, but it's either at the very very top, or the very very bottom.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:08 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think that it's particularly girly (as in focuses on things that girls are assumed to be interested in) so much as focusing mostly on girls as main characters.

Not quite true though, is it? Whole episodes have revolved around stereotypical "girly" pursuits like spring cleaning (Winter Wrapup), it's just that there isn't the whole pink washed princesses undertone "girly" shows get forced upon them.

What MLP does well is to actually let the main characters solve their own problems, "girly" or otherwise, without having to have a boy save them. I think this is what sets it apart from most other shows and is part of the appeal to older fans.

Combine that with the better than it needed to be writing and acting, the use of continuity and hints of a larger world outside what you see in the show and you get something that's ripe for a fandom to spring out of. You need to have room for your own stories to be able to have a fandom.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:11 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Winter Wrapup is totally one of my favorite episodes. I love how it emphasizes people having different skills, and the importance of honoring those skills without shaming people who don't have them.

Oddly, though, my "favorite" ponies remain my GenOne ones, with Windy at the lead, and a ton of the Gen3 (though they got very pink, and I was always sad they didn't bring Surprise back because she is AWESOME), with Triskelon and RainbowBerryButt as my favorites. While I like all of the ponies of GenFour and love the show, I don't self-identify with any of them, which is really unusual for me.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:32 AM on August 8, 2013


I guess I've never understood the idea of declaring oneself a fan of something in such a defining way. There are a lot of things I really like, but I wouldn't identify as part of their "fandom". That said, I don't believe this to be a new or unique phenomenon. I remember myself and my friends greatly enjoying the powerpuff girls for example (which, while perhaps less aggresively targeted at little girls, is clearly in that wheelhouse). I suspect bronyism becoming a "thing" is due almost entirely to the internet's ability to create communities much more easily than used to exist.

Honestly I do think there is a slight level of creep in MLP because whenever these threads crop up, we get someone explaining that there are explicit rules against the adult stuff, or its explicitly tagged on some sites. Is this an issue for, say, Dr Who? I'm aware lots of adult stuff exists, but it doesn't really appear on main stream websites. I'm not saying its fair to tar fans with the same brush, but I can see where that impression comes from at least.

I have watched the first couple of episodes of MLP. It was fine, a perfectly good, well written show. Can't say I've been troubled to watch much more of it though.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:07 AM on August 8, 2013


Not quite true though, is it? Whole episodes have revolved around stereotypical "girly" pursuits like spring cleaning (Winter Wrapup)

That's a case where it can be given a surface description that hides the whole story. Not only is it hard work that both the male and female ponies take part in, the "spring cleaning" is literally cleaning up the countryside for spring. Ponies have to clear away the snow, make homes for the animals, break the ice of the lake, and other tasks or spring doesn't happen. What you derided as a stereotypical girly thing is one of the most terrific and mysterious things about the show, which hasn't really been explained by the writers yet: why do the ponies have to move the weather along manually? That's possibly the thing I like about the show most. Look closely at it and it's deeply weird, but in a way that invites thinking about that weirdness, not shoving it under the rug. More than once I've speculated that Equestria is actually on a colony ship space station whose climate computers are either stuck or aren't programmed for variety.
posted by JHarris at 2:46 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


It still puzzles me that MLP is so big that it has its own cons. This is in contrast with, basically any other programming except from Star Trek and maybe a few others. There are, to my knowledge, no Adventure Time con, no Spongebob con, no Breaking Bad con and no Big Bang Theory con.
posted by ymgve at 3:21 AM on August 8, 2013


Spongebob con.

Big Bang Theory con.

And there are tons of other single-show cons out there, especially for genre (sci-fi/fantasy) shows. Galactica, Firefly... hell, there were Due South cons.
posted by Etrigan at 4:00 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember myself and my friends greatly enjoying the powerpuff girls for example (which, while perhaps less aggresively targeted at little girls, is clearly in that wheelhouse). I suspect bronyism becoming a "thing" is due almost entirely to the internet's ability to create communities much more easily than used to exist.

Yes. Had we had a proper internet in the eighties, we'd be talking about Jemites and how weird it was for men to enjoy a show about a female rock group (actually...).
posted by MartinWisse at 4:44 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


the "spring cleaning" is literally cleaning up the countryside for spring.

Well, yeah, but the real story is Twillight Sparkle trying and failing to fit in with something that's very important to her friends but she knows little about and how much more "girly" can you get?
posted by MartinWisse at 4:46 AM on August 8, 2013


Well, yeah, but the real story is Twillight Sparkle trying and failing to fit in with something that's very important to her friends but she knows little about and how much more "girly" can you get?

I have two stepsons, about three years apart. Every time the elder finds a new obsession (Lego, Pokemon, Minecraft), the younger desperately tries to fit in and figure out what's going on. Trying to get up to speed on something your friends all know about isn't even restricted to kids, for that matter.
posted by Etrigan at 6:39 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great article. What a lovely culture.
posted by aka burlap at 6:45 AM on August 8, 2013


Not quite true though, is it? Whole episodes have revolved around stereotypical "girly" pursuits like spring cleaning (Winter Wrapup), it's just that there isn't the whole pink washed princesses undertone "girly" shows get forced upon them.

The choices aren't limited to girly and masculine, there's also universal in the mix, and cleaning is something we all do. I mean, there's an episode of Parks and Rec where they use a male character teaching a newly married young couple how to clean as way to signal that he's trying to get them to grow up. Hell, that tension between the cleaning character and non-cleaning character was the whole joke in The Odd Couple , and was a big part of inter-character tension in MASH, Full House, Fraggle Rock, and even the few episodes of House where Wilson moves in. All of which have male characters being the ones with the drive to clean. Heck, one of the twelve tasks of Hercules was cleaning. You don't get much more manly than Hercules.

Well, yeah, but the real story is Twillight Sparkle trying and failing to fit in with something that's very important to her friends but she knows little about and how much more "girly" can you get?

That's pretty much the entire plot of The Sandlot, which is about a boy learning to love baseball. Heck, that's at least the first book of the Harry Potter series. I just don't agree that girl is the absence of traditional masculine markers.

To address the larger point, I should clarify, I agree that the characters do things that girls do, because they are girls. It's just that they also do things EVERYONE does and the girl things generally sort of go on in the background for most episodes. The other thing is that the girly things, like Rarity making dresses, all are outgrowths of their established personalities, not things that they do because "well girls like dresses." They're part of the story, but not the whole story.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:53 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a grown ass man that still digs me some Muppets and/or pretty much anything put out or blessed by The Jim Henson Company.* If there was a Muppet-con within my means to attend you better believe I'd be there in spades.

I've been looked at askance by friends a few times for this opinion, like when I suggested a movie night include A Muppet Family Christmas. I mean, who doesn't love A Muppet Family Christmas? It was that or some action flick that is like all other action flicks ever, blech, no comparison.

I talked it up and we watched it and about halfway through I realized my friends were pretty much just humoring me at this point. God love 'em but they weren't grooving to Fozzie singing "Sleigh Ride" (yes I have the version that includes this deleted scene, be jealous all you want) nor were they getting all the Gonzo punchlines/double entendre really nor were they getting misty eyed when the fraggles showed up to sing with Robin. Good friends, every one, to humor me and put up with it but did they get it? Nope. And they ribbed me a bit afterward, which is all well and good, truly it was. They'd earned it and by god I watched A Muppet Family Christmas with friends that were good enough to stand it to the end.

Who am I to judge the folks that feel the same way about MLP? They take a lot more heat than I do and I can't really put my finger on why. Are the assorted talking creatures made from foam and cloth (but also cartoon based as well at times) somehow more adult-consumption friendly than talking cartoon horses?

Why?

Is it because the material/delivery of Jim Henson's ilk/material is more mature or has more depth? Several people in this very thread have said that's not the case and I believe them. So what?

Is it because of a perceived desire of [parts of] the MLP fanbase to have sex with animals or molest small children? JHarris, among others, has covered that notion better than I can.

The only complaint with any quantifiable, real merit that I've seen, and this is a stretch because I've also seen people here quote/cite/mention that people do try to specifically avoid this, is that some parents have said they now have a harder time filtering through the goods that are out there to find merchandise geared towards younger kids instead of older fans. I can see their woe, not everyone is as skilled at parsing the internet search results as I may be. But the upside is that the show their kid is obviously interested in has all the more staying power thanks to this fanbase/culture surrounding it.

Mission/subject/tone creep could also be an issue but that's a level of nuance that I'm not qualified to speak to, but it seems like kids still love the show, so where's the problem?

*Tale of Sand just came to my attention, from another thread somewhere around here I think, and it was honestly pretty dang good. /psa
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:40 AM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Haven't read the links or thread, yet, but I wanted to comment before I got pulled away from the computer to watch Equestria Girls for the zillionth time since Monday.
My 19 year old younger brother went with three of his friends (one pictured here). Despite having two small daughters, he was the one who introduced me to the show and got me into all of it. Looking at all the pictures and hearing how kind everyone is to little kids, I wish we'd gone too.
posted by zorrine at 8:06 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found Bronies hard to grok, but it's like Browncoats or Trekkies, right? Except that this particular fandom got picked up in big parts of recent internet culture too, so those of us who spend a lot of time online get extra exposure to it.
posted by lucidium at 12:50 PM on August 8, 2013


Perhaps if they had a different name, given the somewhat negative connotation of "bro." Apparently, according to this MLP wiki, the term originated from 4chan.

That article then pointed me to a footnote to a Wallstreet Journal article from 2011 in which a tv executive for the show made the surprising (to me, based on how the older fandom is expressed in this post) statement that women make up the majority of the older fandom for the show.
posted by Atreides at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2013


Link seems broke, but I'm curious if that is because of more Moms watching with kids or if they are fans on their own. Would not surprise me either way.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2013


Blegh, sorry. I didn't notice the error when I posted. Here's a working link to that last one.

However, your guess I think is close to the mark. They note in the article that the show was designed to appeal to young girls and their mothers who would remember the original show.
posted by Atreides at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2013


BREAKING SUPER IMPORTANT INCREDIBLY PRESSING ESSENTIAL TO SURVIVAL NEWS!!!

Try searching Youtube for: Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, Princess Luna, Celestia, Doctor Whooves, or others, and notice what happens to the top-of-page banner. Example (because she's awesome): Lyra

Also, Google Hangouts supports a /ponies command.
posted by JHarris at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's some more recent demographics for the show. Although, that doesn't take into account the various "other means" that the college age crowd often resort to.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:02 AM on August 9, 2013


Try searching Youtube for: Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, Princess Luna, Celestia, Doctor Whooves, or others, and notice what happens to the top-of-page banner. Example (because she's awesome): Lyra

It didn't dawn on me what was happening until I searched a different character. Surprisingly nifty of Youtube, that.
posted by Atreides at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2013


Inspired by an article in the first issue of Gygax Magazine, a father runs a combat game with his daughter: ponies vs. monsters.
posted by JHarris at 7:04 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm homunculus-ing a half-dozen other threads, why not this one too....

Pony fan comics are interesting. I will admit, many of them are not that great. No I'm not talking about pony porn (porny?), I'm talking about glurge. For some reason there is nothing like PONY to make artists think they can throw together some manipulative hackwork and think it's worthwhile -- and one of my few beefs with Equestria Daily is that they regularly link to that stuff.

But on the other hand, there's a good number of cool pony comics. That's what I'm presenting here. Take a look.

Slice of Life (a Tumblr) is an excellent continuity Tumblr dramatizing the lives of the Cakes, Pinkie's employers/landlords/caretakers/sanity anchors, set a while after the events of the show so kids Pound and Pumpkin are the pony version of pre-teens. The writing is easily show quality, and the art, while a different, looser style, is excellent. It is a prime example of how a motivated, talented fan can expand upon and deepen the events of the show. dhx should hire its creator to write for it immediately.

Ask Surprise (a Tumblr) is about as far away from that as you can get. Surprise is the original version of the character who would become Pinkie Pie, and the blog is very random because of it. It frequently crosses over with another random Tumblr, Ask Hot-Blooded Pinkie Pie, which is basically what would happen if the creators of Dragon Ball Z wrote for Pony, except better. Surprisingly good art.

Another fairly good slice-of-life comic with its own art style, of more recent origin, is Tales From Ponyville.

One of the best pony artists is PixelKitties, who made a name for herself with her uncanny ability to accurately reproduce the look of the show. A crossover with Wreck-It Ralph. One with Dan Vs. (a popular crossover character for pony comics). The broken-down Dalek from Asylum of the Daleks. Dungeons & Dragons. Oh, she can do other Lauren Faust-created characters too.

And here's one more, just because it has to do with the intersection between pony and advanced mathematics. Oh, and I can't leave out the serious hat.
posted by JHarris at 2:54 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And can someone explain to me just why the heck Rarity is fighting so many giant crabs?
posted by JHarris at 11:17 AM on August 11, 2013


Pretty sure that started at EQD's Draw Friends. Someone requested Rarity fighting a Giant Enemy Crab, and then everyone had to try their hand.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:29 PM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


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