Post by: Katie Bernhardt
In the cold , unforgiving, and sometimes frightening bowls of the internet, sub-culture fans of anime, cartooning, and other uncommon things find themselves at one point or another faced with the 2011 phenomenon of My Little Pony. The original My Little Pony cartoon was a marketing ploy by Hasbro to create a counter toy line for girls so as not to leave them out after the extreme popularity and success of the Transformers franchise. Recently, with Michael Bay’s Transformer summer blockbusters, the retro cartoon movement has been in full speed, re-making such popular shows as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and of course My Little Pony.
This reboot of an old 80’s girl oriented show is known as My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (MLPFiM). It is about what you would expect from a show with that title, it focuses on the adventures of a Unicorn named Twilight Sparkle and her friends, ponies named Pinkie Pie and Apple Jack, Pegasi named Rainbow Dash and Flutter Shy, and a fellow Unicorn named Rarity. It’s a cute show full of bright colors and lessons on friendship to help its target audience, little girls, learn about dealing with others in everyday life.
However such a show is not, itself, a phenomenon, what sets it apart from other 80s era reboots is its fanbase. Fanbase or fandom is a term used to describe fans of a certain thing whether it be movie, book, TV show, or other. The MLP fan community for the reboot is actually primarily made of adult men ranging from late teens to midlife. This is not a small sector of fans either. It appears from fan media that over 30% of the My Little Pony fanbase is actually made up of adult males. There was a Jerry Springer episode making fun of the incredible amount of adults (male and female) who have gotten incredibly obsessed with the cartoon. These men call themselves ‘Bronies’ a play on the colloquial term ‘bro’ and the word pony. (The female equivalent of this term is Pega-sister). There are a plethora of full grown males wearing My Little Pony T-Shirts or other types of pony paraphernalia. There has even been a Pony Convention, at which only My Little Pony fans gather. The amount of adults attending was utterly astounding to look at; the last convention had more than 4000 people for a two day long pony extravaganza.
On line there are many fan-sites based on My Little Pony’s explosive popularity. Equestria Daily is one of the most popular and follows art, stories, games, and other fan created things that it then shares with an over eager populace. To make this utterly baffling, to join many of these My Little pony fan-sites you must be over the age of 13, which is over the age of the target audience. There has been a documentary done trying to explore the unexpectedly adult fanbase of the Pony reboot. Demographically speaking this is astounding.
However, why is it astounding? Is it astounding because adults like a children’s show? Well that has happened plenty of times. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Adventure Time, all of these are child oriented shows that have at one time or another had an adult fanbase. But there is something different this time around: This is a children’s show that was made for girls. Most of the old shows that had incredible popularity (with the exception of the afore mentioned Adventure Time which is gender neutral) were geared toward boys. This show is clearly a girl’s show with accents of pink and talk of love and fashion scattered throughout the dialog. This calls some gender stereotypes into question. Why is it more okay for a woman to like a boy’s show than for a man to like a girl’s show? Can girl’s shows- on general principal- not be as good as boy’s shows? Do we focus all our efforts on making boy’s shows better?
It is hard to say why exactly the community has decided that this is an incredible phenomenon and many are deeming it creepy for men to enjoy the show at all. There is a level of discomfort in something seen as unusual in gender roles to be so wide spread. There are T shirts boast the word ‘Brony’ in Wallmart and full grown men getting happy meal toys so as to make sure they get the My Little Pony Toys. This is not a small cultural event in a tiny sub culture, this is big and it is only growing with time. Below I have a picture from a My Little Pony panel at a non-pony related convention. Please note the primarily male group.