Lately there has been a lot of talk about Bronies on game sites. Mostly because the team behind the video game My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic, a fan game for the My Little Pony community, was handed a cease and desist order from Hasbro. They were ordered to cease production and release of the game just a week before the game was scheduled to be released.
It’s very magical sort of story where several people, connected through this fandom, wanted to create something meaningful for their community. This humorous contradictory idea of the My Little Pony characters fighting despite being about love, friendship, and magic united 3 men to create a fighting game. It was a daunting task.
Lauren Faust, creator of the show’s first two seasons, saw the cease and desist. She has been quoted remarking that she loved the humorous idea and what they were trying to do. She then offered to create completely new characters, detached from My Little Pony, for a new game.
Then the team was then offered a physics engine from the creators of Skull Fighters to be used for free.
On seeing all of this I decided that being a Brony was clearly nothing to be ashamed of and that there was clearly something bigger to it all other than the humorous idea of grown men like a “little girls show”. If My Little Pony was about friendship, collaboration, idea sharing, and community – all things that I value greatly – the show was right up my alley. Just because the show was intended for younger girls did not mean that I could not enjoy it. Just because I wasn’t the target market didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it. And more importantly, being a strong supporter of abolishing gender stereotypes and rules which say what is acceptable and unacceptable for genders, meant that I would be a walking hypocrite if I refused to watch the show purely because of its intended audience. All signs pointed to at least giving the show a try. If I didn’t like it because I didn’t find it entertaining or meaningful then I could cite such reasons, I would not be a walking hypocrite, and I could be legitimate in my non-Brony status.
I watched the first two episodes and became hooked instantaneously. Being a role model for children for years in my capacity as a Martial Arts instructor I can say that if any of my students had been ardent My Little Pony fans I would wholly embrace said fact. It is a good TV show that doesn’t rely upon the sort of childish humor that is we, as consumers, so often see employed in television. The show has characters with legitimate depth and they stand as characters who do not rely upon other characters to be relevant. That is to say – all of the characters exist within their own right and they are not periphery to a single character. They all exist in their own rights, with their own flaws, strengths, and personalities. It is – by all regards in my mind – a good show.
But I’m writing just to legitimize being a Brony but I want to describe what declaring myself a Brony did and how I can learn, and perhaps teach others, from that experience.
I tweeted the morning after watching the show that I was now a Brony.
Within, what I swear was 30 seconds, I was retweeted by a Twitter account BronyRT.
Within a few minutes of that I was then “welcomed to the herd” by two Bronies on Twitter. I found it entertaining and it tickled my fancy that the community was so quick and responsive to engage new members of the community. Even if I have no ambition to be involved in the community or engaged in other than supporting the show by watching it, it was kind, nice, and I appreciated it.
But, of course as I had expected, there were two responses from people who follow me that put me off. One person replied with a simple “Welp” and then later in our conversation cited a picture, which I refuse to post, of a person who had photoshopped a pony into a picture of himself. The caption of the photo was “Me with my girlfriend.” There was more which gave credence to the idea that this person was serious – and perhaps he was. But the photo implied as though I was going to become this thing, as though being a Brony meant that you would be consumed whole by this fandom in a way which will make you delusional. Through mere association I would become this thing – as though fandom was not a choice, but was a borg assimilation. Once you encounter it “you will be assimilated.”
The second tweet was one which told me “I’ve heard it’s excellent, and that it’s just the MRA’s that give it a bad rap.” This more passive tweet felt like a simple jab as though trying to wake me up from some sort of delusional fantasy, as though I was supporting the Men’s Rights Activists groups by merely saying that I like My Little Pony and was willing to ascribe the sort of title like Brony to myself. I felt, once again, guilty through association. As though I would be consumed whole by this fandom and this movement of bronies and, as before, once I encountered it I would “be assimilated.”
But of course fandoms are a choice – one in which you can enter into and one which you can exit out of.
After pondering for a while, and offering forth my quippy remarks to both twitter followers, I remembered David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.” I have listened to the speech probably a dozen times in the past month alone. And of what he says what most applies is that we get to choose how we see and understand the world. When we see an SUV, that soul sucking SUV which is destroying our planet and emitting carbon dioxide and consuming precious non-renewable resources, we have a choice. We can understand it in that way – or we can choose to think of it in another way. As David Foster Wallace suggests in his speech, perhaps that person was in a horrific auto-accident and was all but ordered by their therapist to buy an SUV so that they can continue to drive, and commute, and live their life without the fear of being in another auto-accident doesn’t. Perhaps that SUV saves them from being consumed by their fear of being in another auto-accident every time they are on the road.
With being a self-ascribed Brony – one in which the only true meaning to me as a Brony means I enjoy the show My Little Pony – I could choose to feel guilty. That by being a Brony I am accepting and embracing the Brony community in a way which allows the Men’s Rights Activists to continue to congregate and work towards a goal which I wholly disagree with.
I could also feel sorry for or pity the person in the photo – but perhaps this person was bullied their entire lives and as such has such crushing social anxiety that social interaction is near impossible for him. As such he has found a group that he can be a part of that is willing to accept him for who he is. And perhaps this is his way of trying to reach out to the world, saying this is who I am and hoping that someone he knows in real life, someone who he can talk to person to person, will see this picture and connect with him.
As a person who smokes I know I am judged everytime that light up a cigarette and I know that I am judged to have poor judgement merely for smoking. Despite all of the things that I have done with my life and the successes I have had I am judged based on the fact that I smoke. What people don’t see is that I developed the habit during a deep bought of depression in my life where cigarettes were one of the few things that I felt I could enjoy in my life. Even if it was a poor choice it was a choice that kept me going long enough to get help and to change my life. And everytime I smoke I know people don’t think of it this way, I am merely judged to have poor judgement skills in allowing myself to become addicted to such a substance.
But I can choose how I view the things in my life and the people who exist within it. Because of the association of Bronies to Men’s Rights Activists and with what is often considered delusional, I could easily choose to see it in a negative light where I refuse to be associated with not only Bronies but the show because of how the community around it has evolved. Instead I choose to see that not all Bronies are Men’s Rights Activists and choose to view those Men’s Rights Activists as people who would exist as Men’s Rights Activists whether or not they were Bronies. Perhaps if all Men’s Rights Activists were Bronies I would feel differently, but this is not so and I choose to see the world in a better way.
As for the young man who posted the picture, rather than seeing his deep jump into the fandom as delusional or harmful, perhaps he will find people who are willing to support him and help him with his potential social anxiety and this fandom will offer him help in becoming more socially adept.
Most importantly, I think, is to be willing to look at things in a way in which the actions of others are not only taken into consideration, but are considered meaningful.
As for being a Brony, I choose to see it as a fun little fandom that I can practice within the four walls of my room and watch on TV. I choose to see being a Brony as merely being someone who enjoys the television show. It doesn’t have to be more than that for me and I don’t ever have to bring it outside of the four walls of my room. Others can choose to see it as some borg assimilation in which I support a soul sucking, delusional fan base which has a fringe of Men’s Rights Activists. Instead I choose to see it as something which is fun, entertaining, cute, and brings me joy. Especially after a long day of work.
Most important – every time you see someone and you judge them because they dress up in a costume, or you judge them for some action that they take, you are instantly assigning a negative value judgement upon them. You don’t know the context of their life nor do you know whether this just happens to be their “bad day.” Remember – every time you make a negative judgement you are making a choice to be cynical and negative in the way that you think. It’s you’re choice, and if you choose to see the world that way then so be it. I choose to be happy and to view the world as a place where Friendship is Magic.