“One week you might have a comedy about making the perfect dress and the next week you’ll be in suspense worrying about the effects of time travel and the coming pony apocalypse”
Bret- A Brony
When I was younger I fucking loved My Little Pony.
My obsession was all encompassing. As I mentioned in a previous article I spent a lot of my childhood constructing a communist community for my pony village in which everyone had a different but vital role to play within it’s imagined walls, but it went further then that.
I watched the My Little Pony film more times than I watched Grease, my collection was easily in the 40 plus range and I slept with a different one each night so no one would feel left out. Although Majesty was my favourite, because she was a Unicorn and could make wishes come true when she used her horn. Fucking amazing.
I liked them more then Barbies.
More then Barbies!
So imagine my confusion and shock when I heard about these “Bronie fellows,” I was like “WTF. Is this a real thing?”
I looked them up in the Websters dictionary and LOW AND BEHOLD – there they were, therefore they were real.
Websters defines a bronie as “the fan community (usually of the older group, males and females) of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Note the joy of all the ponies about being friends. Makes you wish you made friends more often.
You can pinpoint and trace the rise of lolcatz or David Thorne (“hey guy, have you seen that thing on the internet where that guy paid for a bill using a picture of a spider HAHAHAHA!!!!!) but how did the Brony phenomenon happen? And why does it seem more of a male thing? And where the fuck was this appreciation when the original series aired? I would have loved having a teenage guy to talk to about ponies.
So what does this new show have to offer? And how do bronies show bronie love?
I found out. I asked some bronies to spill the pony beans on their Equus style love, and their names are Bret and Tim, (not their real names, there actually called Tim and Bret.) I interrogated them hard, so I could find out, for you, ALL THE IMPORTANT ANSWERS TO THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS ON THE BRONY SUBCULTURE.
What do Bronies have for breakfast?
BRET: It tends to be cereal, but I like to change up what brand I buy because otherwise it gets boring.
TIM: I don’t tend to have breakfast because I always get up late for work and have to rush out of the house, but I do like a cinnamon danish if I get the chance.
Do Bronies believe in heaven?
BRET: Yes, but bronies aren’t all of the same faith, so some do, so don’t and their concept of what heaven is like is almost definitely different from person to person.
TIM: I don’t personally, but I’m certain some do.
How did you get into My Little Pony, the reboot?
TIM: I can remember hearing that the show was developing a cult following, possibly on Gawker or a similar website, and I saw that Lauren Faust, who’d been involved in making The Powerpuff Girls, was running the show, so I figured it had a decent creative pedigree. I think Bret was the first to actually watch it out of the two of us, but we quickly got into the habit of watching it while hungover on Sundays.
BRET: Tim asked me if I’d heard that people on the Internet were really into My Little Pony, and I’m interested in what people on the internet are interested in, so I watched about 2 or 3 episodes on my phone out of curiousity and thought “This is fantastic”. I went on to watch all the episodes of the first season that had come out up to that point in the next few days.
What is it about the show which is so appealing? Is it the emphasis on friendship? How do the ponies show their friendship?
BRET: The ponies show their friendship the way anyone else would: through acts of kindness, learning through mistakes, and forgiving & forgetting. However, that’s not why I’m interested in the show. It’s the depth to their character and the differences in their personalities which creates interesting and entertaining conflicts which make for a better plot. Also, the structure of the show allows for a massive variety of stories to be told. One week you might have a comedy about making the perfect dress and the next week you’ll be in suspense worrying about the effects of time travel and the coming pony apocalypse. It’s all very entertaining.
TIM: I think the character dynamics are definitely a big strength of the show – there’s a great balance of personality types that spark off each other but the core group of characters (the Mane Six) remain friends despite disagreements. Like Bret said, the show is enormously versatile when it comes to genre – the only show I can compare it to is Doctor Who, which can also change tone from episode to episode but remain the same at heart. I’d also point to the excellent songs that crop up every so often – they tend to be very catchy in a Disney sort of way.
What is the structure of the program? Does it have a central theme, or message?
BRET: The structure of the show is that each week the pony in the spotlight will come across a challenge in their life that they will have to overcome and learn from using the magic of friendship. For instance, this could apply to things like overcoming shyness, or why it’s good to share. Most weeks, at the end of the show, the pony who’s been the focus will write a letter to Princess Celestia, the ruler/deity of Equestria, their magical kingdom, explaining what they have learned about themselves, their friends, and the magic of friendship. It’s a nice device to underline the moral of the episode and bring each story to a satisfying close.
TIM: The show’s central theme is pretty clearly the importance of friendship, but I also like the fact that the characters are so varied. I think it provides a great example to young children watching, especially girls. The characters range from shy animal-lovers to fashion obsessed designers to daredevil tomboys, but they all love each other and celebrate their uniqueness and what they share in common.
Would you regard yourself as a Bronie?
TIM: Yes, but I don’t think I’ve delved very far into the whole Brony subculture.
What makes a bronie different from a fan of the show?
BRET: I wouldn’t go so far as to say there was a difference. In some people’s eyes only boys are Bronies and girls are Pegasisters. However, that’s not something that I personally believe. Also, an argument could be made that to be a true Brony, you need to participate in Brony culture; buying merchandise, making up original characters and producing fanart, as well as attending conventions or at the very least talking to other bronies online. Again however, I don’t believe this to be true. I think a Brony can be a Brony regardless of gender and whether they buy any merchandise or talk to anyone else about their love of the show. As long as you’re a fan and proud, you’re a Brony.
TIM: I agree – I think Bret is considerably more connected to the Brony “lifestyle” than I am, but I don’t think he cares that I also call myself a Brony. The fanbase as a whole is very welcoming and tolerant, and I think any level of enjoyment in the show is encouraged. There’s a lot of places on the Internet where new fans can be intimidated or grilled by more longstanding devotees, but the Bronies seem to avoid that.
How do people react to your bronie ways?
BRET: Sceptically, but generally with open-mindedness. This might be because I’m quite personable and good at explaining why the show is fun without sounding crazed, but I tend to find that after I’ve spoken to most people about it, whether they’ve heard of the show or not, they’re willing to give it a try.
TIM: I think they’re a little nonplussed but I tend to be very matter of fact about it. Luckily, most of my friends are fairly nerdy, so tend to be quite forgiving of people evangelising the shows they love.
Have you met many other bronies?
BRET: Yes; a large portion of my friends are Bronies and I’ve met a few at comic book conventions.
TIM: I think we’ve been pretty successful at converting our friends on the show but I haven’t made any friends based on a mutual love of My Little Pony. Like Bret, I’ve met the occasional person at a convention.
Are there any other cartoons from the 80’s which you think have as strong messages as My Little Pony?
BRET: I think that the 80s version of My Little Pony had just as strong messages as any other 80s animation. The current “G4” reincarnation is very much for a more modern audience so it’s hard to make a comparison with shows from that era. However, I will say this: I used to watch both Thundercats and Transformers and haven’t bothered to watch the new versions of those, whereas I never really watched My Little Pony in the 80s, but do watch them now.
TIM: I’d compare it more to shows like Recess from the 90s that managed to have an appeal to both kids and adults. Shows like that and things like Pixar films have helped bridge the divide between children’s and adult’s entertainment. No-one thinks twice about an adult who loves Wall-E or Up, or denies that they have a strong central message, and I’d place My Little Pony alongside those sorts of films.
Did you watch the original series? If so, what is the difference between that and this, and if not then are you ever tempted to?
BRET: I watched bits of the original series but they were never aimed at me – they were clearly aimed at stereotypical little girls. I found the tone of voice, plot and pastel colours dull.
Young Wombs taking offence to this comment, storms out but re enters five hours later dragging a dozen horses head behind her. She throws them at Tim and Bretts feet and screams “CALL ME A STEREOTYPICAL LITTLE GIRL AGAIN.”
Tim and Brett politely ignore the outburst.
TIM: I think I watched one episode to see how it compared and it was very simplistic. There wasn’t much sophistication to the story-telling or humour, and there wasn’t nearly the same variety to the characters.
How do you feel about the stigma attached to being a bronie?
BRET: There’s a stigma attached to being a Brony?
Is there stigma attatched to being a bronie?
BRET: Yes, but half of the stigma is the same stigma that any fanbase gets when they’re passionate about a show they love, whether it’s Star Trek, Doctor Who or whatever. The other stigma, I guess, would be the fact that it had previously been marketed to the stereotypical “little girl” but I found that’s easily overcome when I say to people, “Well I’m not a little girl and I like it. Seriously – give it a try and see what you think.”
TIM: I think there’s definitely a stigma that comes from not only enjoying what is ostensibly a kid’s show, but one that’s traditionally marketed to girls, but the benefit of being a grown-up is that I have the self esteem to tell people who would look down on me for it to jog on. I feel bad for any young boys who might be bullied for enjoying the show, as there’s a lot more societal pressure to conform to gender roles at that age, both from their friends and adults in their life.
Are there bronie in jokes you can let us in on?
BRET: This is something me and my friends like to do: we’ll shout “They joined in!” whenever someone makes a bad horse pun onscreen. Also, every Brony seems to instinctively know that a conversation that begins “Well, (Insert Name Here) is clearly the best pony…” to designed to get a rise out of other Bronies. No-one ever takes it seriously, but everyone is always adamant that the other person is wrong. Apart from that, nothing springs to mind.
TIM: There are a lot of background characters who have built up a strong fan following, like Derpy
and Time Turner (aka Doctor Whooves) and there tend to be some little adult-only in jokes slipped into the show, like some Big Lebowski ponies appearing in a bowling alley in one episode, and the end of the Season Two opening two-part episode mirroring the closing scene of Star Wars: A New Hope.
How do bronies celebrate their fandom?
BRET: Bro-Hoof. I mean seriously. Bro-Hoof. You don’t even know.
If I make eye contact with someone wearing Pony paraphernalia in the street, there’s no way that I’m not going up to that person and bumping knuckles. It happens to me when I’m dressed in Pony t-shirts and it’s great. A universal sense of love and acceptance.
TIM: There’s a lot of very good fan-art out there. I’ve only seen a few bits, but the quality is always very good. I’ve also seen some amazing My Little Pony cosplay, and there are some great videos on YouTube that mash up the show with film trailers to pretty hilarious effect.
Could you tell us about your favourite character?
BRET: Well, obviously my favourite pony is the white pony but that’s only because Rarity is clearly best pony. She’s the biggest drama queen and she never fails to make me laugh. Also, Tabitha St Germain just does such a fantastic job of voicing her that I can’t help but smile in amusement whenever she’s onscreen. Just ridiculous, but that’s why we love her.
TIM: I prefer Applejack, who is clearly best pony. She’s got a no-nonsense attitude and she’s very self-reliant, which I identify with, plus the show occasionally hints at a tragic backstory for her character, which I think gives her a lot of depth for a cartoon pony. Plus she has a cool hat.
Young wombs leaves dragging the carcass of the pony heads behind her.
I’ll get around to watching an episode soon, for sure, right after I watch The Sopranos, the rest of Breaking Bad, Homeland, The Killings, Party Down, Downtown Abbey….
PLUG TIME: Tim and Bret do a podcast, in the style of a comedy advice show, called Bros and Cons. They occasionally throw in some My Little Pony references (in fact, episode 4 was a Pony special) and we and they think you should listen to it.