Friday, August 16, 2013

My Little Pony Has A Whole New Fan Base

From the August 26, 2013 Weekly Standard:
In the near future, historians will struggle to locate the precise moment when civilization’s wheels finally, irretrievably came off. By then, there will have been too many such moments to pinpoint one with any certainty. But I’ll mark the day as having occurred on a recent August weekend when, standing in the concourse of the Baltimore Convention Center, I watch grown men with problem skin and five o’clock shadows prance around in pony ears, rainbow manes, and braided tails lashed to their belt-loops, doling out “free hugs,” starting “fun! fun! fun!” chants, and spontaneously breaking into song. “Give me a bro hoof,” says one, trying to knuckle-bump me. It’s what you might imagine heaven to be like, if your idea of heaven is hell.

I’ve come to BronyCon, where the herd gallops 8,500 strong, up from a “mare” 100 conferees (apologies, but Bronies insist on speaking in horrible horse puns) at the first BronyCon in 2011. If you’ve been lucky enough to stay off the Internet for the last three years​—​Internet-culture and culture-proper having long since become one and the same​—​you might not know that “Brony” is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony,” used to indicate the (mostly) late teenage and adult male fans of the children’s cartoon series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. (Average age: 21, though I encounter scores of middle-aged Bronies, and even a 60-year-old.)
As the article points out, American men are showing profound signs of juvenilization -- and worse, it isn't that they want to be 6-year-olds -- but 6-year-old girls.

UPDATE: Since a number of readers have come to the defense of My Little Pony, let me emphasize that this was not a criticism of a program aimed at little girls.  My daughter was a big fan, and I believe that she even had a My Little Pony themed birthday party.  It was a criticism of the juvenilization and gender confusion of adult men.


  1. Girls get all the benefits in schools today, especially the benefit of the doubt.

    Also, a lot of this is likely just to annoy people.

  2. Maybe this is a consequence of not letting kids fight at all. This would have been grounds for getting your butt kicked on a regular basis even when I was in school.

  3. Some of this stuff is silly, yeah, but frankly, the cartoon is pretty good, and has lessons that don't beat you over the head.

    Go out to Youtube and find the full episode of Winter Wrap-Up, for example.

  4. There are some pretty good arguments for the (in many cases intentional!) juvenilization of young adult men.

    This particular show isn't what you'd expect, though. While airing in genre normally aimed solely at the 5-12 year-old range, the complexity and emotional maturity of the typical stories are somewhat closer to Star Trek than anything else, up to and including two episodes where John De Lancie plays Q-as-a-dragon trying to traumatize the protagonists. The episode the "fun! fun! fun!" chant comes from, to provide another example, is about one of the lead characters trying to use a magic cloning machine to solve a problem of separating intrinsic and extrinsic values (which... ends poorly). Several other episodes surprise the viewer by starting themes or aesops that are cloyingly typical after-school fare, then go on.

    More importantly, several underlying themes point to types of maturity that even adult-focused media are fairly unwilling to explore. The importance of personality responsibility and autonomy isn't just a theme, but it's actually a fundamental aspect to the story, starting in the first episode -- the protagonists fight off elder gods not because they have a stamp of government approval, or destiny forcing them into such a place, but because they're a farmer, or a seamstress, or a vet, that doesn't want the world to end. The stories operate in a setting where the main characters are young adults, living on their own and with jobs (or the equivalent of a grad student position), complex social structures, and mature emotional constructs.

    That goes even further in the fandom for the show, which tend to do things like write crossovers with post-apocalyptic fiction, or deep psychological horror, or transhumanist literature, or relationship drama, and so on.

    The show isn't for everyone, and a lot of folk that enjoy it aren't very mature. Correlation alone can be very misleading, doubly so when you operate with pre-existing assumptions

  5. Funny thing is, the show is better than its fans. (Okay, a low standard). the lady who created it hated the current state of "Girls shows" and set out to make something different. She succeeded, apparently too well.

    I have watched a few, but since I don't have a daughter, I'm unlikely to watch more, but if I had one, I'd much rather see her watch this than the typical "girls cartoons".

  6. Let me emphasize that this isn't a criticism of the cartoon. My daughter was a big fan of it when she was six.

  7. I know I enjoy snippets of the show, due to its witty writing, and I greatly admire the animation technique used.

    Also, some of the fan created parodies and satires are pretty good. (There's a retelling of Kubrick's 2001 that's fabulous.)

    But the adult male fandom is way over the top, disturbingly so.

  8. This isn't the same show as the one your daughter might have watched.

    It actually bothers me that a lot of my favorite conservative pundits tend to go off on this show, immediately after saying that they've never watched an episode, and never intend to.

    Regardless of the merits or not of the show, to hold forth a position based on ignorance is beneath them. I expect better of my deep thinkers.

  9. I don't believe the Weekly Standard article was criticizing the show. The concern was the BronyCon.

  10. The Weekly Standard's about BronyCon seems to be that the only reasons folk could be excited about the show require either that those folk be juveniles or gender confused (or brain damaged), if I'm reading it correctly.

    I don't think that's as obvious as it seems at first glance. My point was that not only is the show fairly good and complex by the standards of media aimed at 6-12 year-olds, but that it's fairly good and complex even by the standards of media aimed at adults.

    In that sense, BronyCon tells you that a bunch of young adults are doing something that looks juvenile to outsiders, but that isn't terribly meaningful or new.

    ((The fandom is crazy in a lot of /different ways/, but those aspects are outside of the scope of this article.))

  11. Josh is correct that the current show has a lot more complexity to it than a bunch of cute ponies. My daughters are 14 and 17, love the show, and also like reading discussion about where certain characters and plots are headed. They also call themselves Bronies, even though they never dress up, and usually don't do bro hoofs. ;)

  12. I'm mostly thinking of the Trifecta crew.