The Night I Tried Unlocking My Inner Brony (or Pegasister)

If you spend even half the time I do on the internet then you’ll have heard of Bronies – male fans of the animated show My Little Pony. Most of my previous exposure was from tweets teasing the fans or more racy, adult artwork created by a handful of Bronies. I did attempt watching an episode on Netflix a year or two ago but only managed five minutes as I found it too bright and squeaky to stick with (I blame my inner goth, don’t judge me!). At work, just before the Christmas holidays, a couple of male teen students were watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (MLP:FIM) videos on YouTube and I was surprised to discover their openness about being Bronies. We had a brief chat and I was mocked for only knowing about the first generation of ponies. I thought I would have gained cool-points for owning the originals back in the 1980s but I guess I was wrong! Unfortunately, I had to get on with my job before asking what appealed to them about MLP but it sparked enough interest to look into the show and its fandom further, if only to understand the students better. If a Brony ever happens to come across this blog post then I do hope it isn’t patronising as it certainly isn’t intended that way.

After watching some documentaries and videos I realise the show still isn’t for me but it raised an issue in my mind that I’m yet to get to the bottom of. Why is it such a big deal that teenage and adult men love this show so much? And, why do geeks especially lay into and tease Bronies? Most of us geeky folk have encountered people in day to day life who don’t understand and taunt us for being passionate about video games or anime or sci-fi. If Bronies fall under our ‘geek umbrella’ then perhaps we should empathise with them more, instead of having them as the butt of jokes.

MLP:FIM has made me reflect on the division of sexes. What is considered ‘girly’ or ‘manly’ and why that matters, how it’s come about, and if it’ll change. From birth we are defined by colours – pink for a girl, blue for a boy. Baby clothing enforces this with shops flooded with pastel shades for girls and dark greens and blues for boys. As babies grow up it then affects their toys. You can spot the ‘girls’ section in a toy department straight away with its bold pink displays. Everything is arranged with the dolls strictly in one area and the boys cars and action figures in the other. Even colouring books can be divided into ‘glittery mermaids and kitties colouring books for girls’ and ‘oh-my-gosh these are manly fire engines and aeroplanes for boys to colour’. Roleplay toys are still categorised into traditional jobs for each sex with mini-kitchens and vacuum cleaners for girls and police uniforms and plastic tool kits for boys.

I have absolutely no issue with children who want to stick with the toys that are deemed ‘appropriate for each sex’ by society but do we need to funnel our offspring quite so strictly down these paths? I have two daughters but only one is into ‘pink stuff’, Barbies and cuddly toys. The other, when younger, was happy playing with cars and reading The Beano. If I had, or ever have, a son and he asked to make-believe with a toy kitchen or wanted a bright pink teddy then that’s equally okay with me, as it is for many parents, but unfortunately not all.

As a female it is socially acceptable for me to be into ‘boys things’. In fact, in geek circles it’s considered pretty darn cool. If I told friends that I’m watching old Thundercats or Defenders of the Earth cartoons then I don’t get mocked for it. If I want to play Battlefield and be an inept soldier for a couple of hours then I’m not teased for declaring that in public. So I don’t fully understand why a guy who has an interest in a harmless cartoon such as My Little Pony should receive so much grief. They are deemed “weird” or “gay” for enjoying it. It’s okay one way but not the other? It seems to be a double standard and as a society we are not used to it and don’t understand, so then it’s derided and jeered at.

Bronies may be the among the first, pioneering waves to help break down these barriers of what is considered acceptable to ‘be a man’. From my brief foray into the fandom then I hope I’ll at least be one less person to react with a raised eyebrow and a “You’re into what?.. But you’re a guy!” the next time I meet a Brony.

Leave a Reply