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As a kid obsessed with all things equine, I have fond memories of melting into the couch on Saturday mornings with a bowl of Life cereal in hand to enjoy a whimsical half hour of My Little Pony. What wasn’t to love? The show that originally aired in the early eighties featured magic, everlasting friendship and well…pastel ponies. Understandably, the MLP fanbase consisted primarily of magic-obsessed adolescent girls like my nineties self. But a recent reboot entitled My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has seen an acquired an unlikely new batch of fans.
Meet the “Bronies,” a fandom comprised primarily of late teen to 20-something straight men. While it might be hard to imagine a group of adult men fixated on a cartoon featuring characters with names like Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, this vibrant community has been established for a few years on websites like 4chan and in the form of blogs and conventions.
Now you’re probably wondering what draws a bunch of straight dudes to a cartoon targeted towards little girls. Shaun Scotellaro, founder of fan blog Equestria Daily is quoted saying, “Honestly it differs for everyone. Some just like the cute ponies, others get lost in the setting and the newer guys tend to flock toward the incredibly friendly community aspect. It’s a mixed bag.”
In fact, the fortitude and diversity of the Brony community is being heralded by some as a sign of a pivotal shift away from stereotypical gender norms perpetuated by the media. In stark contrast to the guns and violence usually associated with masculinity, Bronies are drawn to MLP’s celebration of tolerance and peace.
As for claims that the adult male affinity for the show is inherently creepy, MLP reboot creator Lauren Faust remarked, “I don’t think you have to have bad intentions to like little girls or to like the things that they like. And it’s upsetting to me that people jump to those conclusions. I think it’s unfair to men and I think it’s unfair to girls and women.”
In spite of the general public’s skeptical reception of their community, Bronies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the fandom’s unlikely popularity has attracted the interest of documentary filmmakers. Released digitally last month, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony provides an in-depth look at the lives of individual Bronies and sheds light on their unusual but tight-knit community.