A few months back, I became aware of a phenomenon known as “bronies” – grown men who are hardcore fans of My Little Ponies. As a child in the 80s, I was aware of the Ponies themselves, a magical race of talking ponies with amazing names like Lickety Split and Sweet Stuff, mainly because my much “girlier” little sister was obsessed with the series, whereas I was all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. To each her own.
I was incredulous when I learned of the bronies and just how ridiculously dedicated they are. The fan base creates a truly amazing variety of fan art – videos, paintings, mash-ups of every kind, and sites like Equestria Daily have all but exploded. So a series aimed at small children (and marketed aggressively at girls) now has an internet-enabled community of adults who mash up pony art with other popular media, and obsessively watch the new episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
So why is this astounding community the focus of this week’s geek column? Because there are few things nerdier than the geek fascination with “internet neo-sincerity” and the ways in which fan communities interact with their media of choice. From a June Underwire post:
Every nerd has a favorite TV show they watch religiously and know inside and out. But My Little Pony seems like an unlikely object of fanboy love. Since the show debuted last fall on cable channel Hub TV, it’s attracted a growing number of male fanatics. Their love of the show is internet neo-sincerity at its best: In addition to watching the show, these teenage, twenty- and thirtysomething guys are creating pony art, posting fan videos on YouTube and feeding threads on 4chan (and their own chan, Ponychan).
Recently, a brony actually conducted a semi-scientific study of brony behavior. He compiled a nearly-90-page report of data collected from an online survey (hence the “semi” in the “semi-scientific”), and the results were absolutely fascinating, and even more than a little gay:
…some of the data is compelling. Take, for example, the fact that 79 percent of bronies said they have gone public with their love of My Little Pony. Huh points out that while the large proportion of “public” bronies isn’t that astonishing, the fact that they feel the need to go public is.
‘If I read a survey that said that said 79 percent of all gay people came out of the closet, that would be an amazing news story, whereas 79 percent of people claiming that they in one way or another talk about a show that they normally wouldn’t [discuss] isn’t all that fascinating,” Huh said. “What is fascinating is that this is a thing — this ‘coming out as a brony’ thing is a meme within the subculture.’
They love children’s shows, they “come out,” and they tend to be educated …
Some results impressed even the census’ creator, like the fact that teen fans like the character Fluttershy, not Rainbow Dash. And Twilight Sparkle became a favorite as fans aged. He also was happy to see respondents’ educational levels. Even though bronies tend to be young, many had advanced degrees: 58 reported they had Ph.D.s and 247 had graduate degrees — not bad considering nine out of 10 respondents were under 30.
What I want to know has to do with subcultures within the subculture. Fifteen percent of the respondents to the survey were female, so we know there are adult women in the brony camp. What about queer women? Are there any les-bronies out there, loving the fabulous show about sparkles, magic and friendship? With all the fan art that’s out there, I’m almost surprised to note that I couldn’t find a single The L Word/Pony mash-up, given the incredible variety out there. Ladies, you know what to do.