Article by Will Martin | Photography by John Morin | Owl Staff
Ponder the following: a Flash-animated television series intended for six-year-old girls reboots a long derided 1980’s property about colorful ponies. The series ends up several thousand times better than it has any right to be. It comes to the attention of a bitter, cynical young man and in a very short time enraptures him and alters his very outlook on humanity.
Would anyone truly believe such a story upon initially hearing it? Perhaps not, but I intend to provide proof. Living proof in fact, for I am that young man. I am a Brony.
Something that began with a few online jokes has evolved into a cultural phenomenon: a loyal fanbase of adult men and women, animation enthusiasts, artists, writers, and musicians whose open-mindedness, bizarre sense of humor, and desire for quality entertainment brought us together in a way perhaps only the Internet could. We are Bronies.
My introduction to Bronyism brought me out of, as mentioned prior, a very dark place. Familial issues including alcoholism and divorce tore my family apart. Political and social conflicts seemed to divide the world beyond repair. The future seemed hopeless, with acts of kindness regarded as futile and attempts to bridge humanity’s rifts not only failing but also seemingly undesired. I wept for the future day after day.
Then, everything changed out of nowhere. In late 2011, I was visiting my best friend and he mentioned that My Little Pony had been rebooted into a legitimately good cartoon, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, airing since late 2009 on The Hub. Looking back, what could be more fitting than to be introduced through a friend’s advice? Trusting his judgment, I sat down to watch the two-part pilot online and, by the end, realized I was not only laughing harder than I had in a while, but also feeling bliss.
By 2012, I was watching regularly, my love for this series only strengthening. I began keeping contact with many Bronies on official forums and even had the golden opportunity to meet a multitude of them at a meetup at Baltimore’s Otakon in July of that year.
But a funny thing happened: as I became a hardcore Brony, I found my whole attitude changing. My astonishment at the show’s character depth and hilarity was matched only by lasting elation, a feeling brought on by the attitude the series presented. I’m also far from the first to feel this way.
“My outlook on life…is changed,” says sixteen-year-old Dominic Rotter of Texas, who was also introduced via friendly conversation. “Being a part of something that is so hated or looked down upon by others has honestly helped me learn to tolerate things more. If something bothers me, I just let it pass by. Just because someone is into something I’m not, or vice- versa, doesn’t mean we still can’t get along.”
Then, there are some who simply found an outlet for creativity. Angela Jacklin, 20, of Wyoming says, “I kind of don’t like the majority of full on Bronies; they…freak me out sometimes. [But] I was surprised how good the show was – animation, characters, writing, music.”
Thousands have already “joined the herd” due to how varied fan activities are, not to mention recognition by outside parties. Besides the show’s staff having nothing but respect for us, various Brony conventions have been meticulously (and expensively) organized in major cities.
The counterculture has swept the globe; between 4.0% and 6.8% of the Internet-using U.S. population presently identify as Bronies, with the highest age range standing between 21 and 29, according to survey results on herdcensus.com. By experiencing a culture with nurturing acquaintances living by an unwritten policy of “love and tolerance” (an oft-debated phrase but one I highly appreciate), my days of anger and depression seem mostly behind me. MLP: FiM is more than cute escapism. The moralistic aspect of it has genuinely helped many, from struggling students to active-duty soldiers, cope with problems and deduce means to fix them.
There will, of course, always be those who do not understand us. But as more continue to “join the herd,” I perceive that wide acceptance of disparagement may actually be dying. Some might call me overly optimistic, but all it takes is perusing some wonderful pony fan art, fan fiction, and forums to understand why so many are attracted to this immense following. To those that are, brohoof!