Being a geek is easier than ever these days. The Internet has created an amazing virtual meeting space for people with various interests, no matter how niche or weird, to meet with each other and debate endlessly about topics only we can understand.
One of my biggest personal passions is animation. I think it has to do with the fact that there seemed to be an almost endless amount of quality cartoon shows on TV when I was a kid. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of watching re-runs of the Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show when I was three.
The only reason I got up early on Saturday mornings was to watch ABC’s One Saturday Morning and Fox Kid’s block of cartoon programming. Nickelodeon and YTV carried me throughout the school week.
Sadly, those idyllic times are far behind me, but once YouTube came around, I re-discovered all the great shows from that golden age of nostalgia. Hundreds, if not thousands of users, had created channels just so they could upload their favorite cartoons. It was almost like going through a second childhood.
There were the “obvious” standouts from the 90s: Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Arthur, Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Reboot, Batman: The Animated Series, Spiderman TAS, Hey Arnold! Gargoyles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Recess etc.
And then there were some really obscure ones that I thought only I, with my near encyclopedic knowledge of animation, remembered: Rupert Bear, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Bucky O’ Hare, The Mighty Ducks, Sonic the Hedgehog (Sat AM), Silver Surfer, Mighty Max; hell, someone had even uploaded that Godzilla cartoon that was way better than the movie it was based off of, yet for some reason only lasted one season.
There’s one particular Saturday morning cartoon that has caught the attention of the media lately:
Michael Morones, a normal 11-year-old boy living in Raleigh, North Carolina was bullied relentlessly at school because he is a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; a show aimed at little girls, but has caught the attention of boys, teens, and adults like me.
He was bullied so relentlessly that he unfortunately attempted suicide. Thankfully he wasn’t successful, but he suffered permanent brain damage due to the incident, and will never be the same again.
A few days later another story surfaced about a different boy in a different school, who had been bullied in the schoolyard, pushed around and beat up, because he had dared to bring a back pack with one of the main heroines of the show (Rainbow Dash) depicted on it.
I can say with confidence, being a former journalism student and all, that if these two boys had been bullied for other reasons and had they had been fans of something you’d expect, like SpongeBob Squarepants or Adventure Time, no network or paper would have run these two stories.
A “brony” for those not in the know, are what male fans of the new My Little Pony show call themselves; most female fans call themselves bronies too, but some prefer to use the term “pegasisters”. Seriously.
I’m a brony too, if the first few paragraphs of this article haven’t tipped you off already, and I would like to take some time to clear up some misconceptions about my brothers and sisters in the fandom, so hopefully I can see fewer stories like these in my news feeds.
Since pony mania exploded on the internet in the summer of 2011, bronies have baffled older adults, non-fans, cultural critics, and pundits. Bronies are too often the target of scorn or even outright hate, because people outside our community just don’t get why this show should appeal to anyone but little girls, who are too young to know that they are being manipulated into buying toys.
That brings me to the first myth I would like to debunk about bronies. Yes, the show is definitely targeted at the young girls (pre-school/kindergarten) demographic). Yes, it is (or was), created to sell a new line of My Little Pony dolls and accessories from Hasbro. And yes, a few of the episodes are poorly written.
Adults and teens, boys and girls, watch the show for the same reasons that a lot of young adults went to go see Toy Story 3, or to use a more recent example, The Lego Movie, and made both these kid’s films smash successes.
- The show is very good overall.
- The characters, plotlines and world-building was designed by the show’s creator Lauren Faust to appeal to both kids and adults.
- It makes a lot of 20-somethings like me nostalgic. The show reminds us of all the awesome shows we grew up watching in the 90s.
I’ll try not to gush or go into too much detail about the show and why it’s good. I’m not one of those hyperbolic bronies who claim that “MLP FIM IS THE BEST Thing EVAR!”
Several of the previous shows I mentioned earlier I consider to be superior to this show. One of my favorite TV shows of all time is The Wire, for Christ’s sake!
MLP has far more in common with stuff like Peanuts and Transformers than Barney the Dinosaur. That show I’ve definitely grown out of!
The main characters are multi-dimensional and play off each other very well, the animation started off very solid and has just gotten better and better with each new season, the magical land of Equestria which the ponies and other magical creatures inhabit has gotten much more fleshed out as the show has gone on.
Oh, and the references. Any brony worth his or her salt will tell you that one of the show’s biggest draws is the amazing amount of references packed into every episode, to other cartoons, pop culture and mythology.
One of the show’s main characters, Pinkie Pie, is a walking, talking homage to the classic animation of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, especially the work of Tex Avery. Being the animation buff that I am, Pinkie Pie is definitely my favorite character for this reason alone.
Okay, enough about the show, time to clear up the other big misconception that appears to be widespread among non-fans. Bronies are usually confused with furries. While it may be true that furries make-up a small fraction of the brony community, they are hardly a good representation of who we are.
Furries, for those of you don’t know, are people who are attracted to anthropomorphized animals. The most controversial furries are those who write and draw erotic stories based on these characters. They are considered promoters of bestiality (which they don’t by the way, they promote xenophilia, which is significantly different from bestiality), and according to the Geek Hierarchy, they are considered the most disturbing and pathetic members of the internet, right up there with trolls and quite a few denizens of 4chan.
Further confusing the issue is the high amount of erotic fan fiction (known as “clop” among us bronies), on various MLP fan sites, the two most popular being Equestria Daily and Fimfiction. Rule 34 seems to be the Golden Rule on the internet, and that’s all I’ll say about it.
Quite a few people have compared the fans of this show to other sub-cultures that have been stereotyped and misunderstood over the years, like Trekkies, otakus and gamers.
One of the show’s most famous guest stars, John DeLancie (best known for playing Q on Star Trek The Next Generation), has explicitly said that bronies and Trekkies are very similar. In fact, he was so appalled at the negative depiction of bronies in the media that he even produced a documentary on the fandom, which you can find on Netflix. It’s pretty good, but if you really want an in-depth look at this fandom, please check out “Ballad of the Brony” by Saberspark on Youtube.
The show’s staff (writers, artists, voice actors and directors), should be praised for the effort put into this show, if nothing else. They took a franchise seen as disgustingly girly and merchandise-driven, and turned it into a honest-to-God good piece of entertainment.
The show’s creator, Lauren Faust, is not only a talented animator and storyteller, but also an outspoken feminist. She believes that girls deserve as much quality entertainment as boys, and believes that kid’s shows shouldn’t be so sharply divided about who sees what: boys get the adrenaline rush of Transformers and G.I. Joe, the girls the sweet magical princesses of fairy land, and never the two shall meet, according to old marketing wisdom anyway.
Ms. Faust and her team have created something that not only goes against conventional marketing wisdom, but also the predominant attitude towards kid’s entertainment in of itself. This show can be enjoyed by old and young, sisters and brothers, people from every creed and ethnicity.
Whovians, Trekkies, Browncoats, gamers, otakus, and comic book aficionados have faced similar problems in the past; the same stereotypes and misconceptions. Yet they haven’t received as much flak as bronies, or at least it doesn’t seem that way to me.
I’m not asking anyone who reads this to convert and join the herd or anything. I just want people to remember that old adage to not judge a book by its cover.
Even if we are not all bronies, I believe everyone can and should share the magic of friendship.