This Strange New World

Connor Heaton, Staff Writer

A group of teenagers are eagerly huddled around a small flickering computer screen. Meanwhile, a purple hot air balloon floats into the frame and sinks into the clouds below and a vaguely familiar tune from the 1980s reverberates throughout the room.

Onscreen, the clouds are abruptly parted by a blinding rainbow. The tune changes as the camera quickly zooms into a small town. Smiling horses trot about the busy village.The catchy song picks up and lyrics ‘big adventure, tons of fun, beautiful heart  faithful and strong” reverberate from the screen as the audience tries to sing along —albeit an octave too low.

“Do you know you’re all my very best friends?,” they all laugh and sing along. When the show is over, the group- revealed to be made up of mostly men take off their rainbow wigs and hide their stuffe plushies as they leave pleasant company and venture out into a society that will never truly accept or understand them.

This world is full of strange people. If you think about it, we are all really weird, and it gets harder to determine who’s normal,” sophomore James Matthew said.“We all love something which rang  from odd to oddly acceptable, and no matter what they may be, they set us apart from everybody else— they make us unique and in doing so, make us weird.”

Matthew says he is generally a very open minded person who tries new things “I like to keep that in perspective before I judge people, but even with that said,if you told me a few months ago that I’d be watching a show about a bunch of colorful cartoon ponies, I’d probably laugh right inyour face.

I may be a bit of a hypocrite for saying that, but months later and finally I can proudly say that not only do I watch it, I cannot get enough of it,” Matthew said. Matthew is now part of the demographic consisting of mostly teenaged boys who watch and enjoy the show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Matthew is a brony.

Bronies: males —usually teenagers who watch My Little Pony are an up and coming internet phenomenon taking the world by storm. The word brony itself itself

just means “bro pony.”

The brony craze began back in 2010 on the imageboard known as 4Chan.com, when the show first aired . “We were going to make fun of it, but instead everybody got hooked,” fan Nanashi Tanaka said on 4Chan.com. “Then the first pony threads exploded.

Until quite recently, the idea of watching a show meant for an audience of little girls was practically unheard of since nobody ever really thought to expand the demographic. However, one Lauren Faust wanted to change that. Faust was executive producer of the show, but has also worked on the “Powerpuff Girls.”

“People have to understand the context of [Lauren Faust’s] previous exploits in ‘Powerpuff Girls.’ That show was girly and cute, but still had action and things that guys like too. Its nostalgic, and the fact that she would bring that to MLP really shows.” Matthew said.

Faust discusses her view on the brony uprising in a recent interview with wired.com.

“This might be a little short-sighted on my part, but I assumed that any adult man who didn’t have a little girl wouldn’t even give it a try,” Faust said in an interview with Wired.com. “The fact that they did that and they were open-minded and cool enough and secure in their masculinity enough to embrace it and love it and talk about how much they love it — it makes me proud.”

“Not only do they have Faust, but others who previously worked on similar kids shows back in the early 2000’s such as “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Fairly Oddparents.” They were kid’s shows, yes, but they brought something into them that made them fun for adults to watch, too. This same thing is happening with MLP,” Matthew said.

Although the ‘mane’ brony demographic mostly consists of males, this doesn’t mean females aren’t allowed in; however, girls tend to go by their own alias: “pegasister.”

Junior “Pegasister” Jessica Honadel provides insight into her enjoyment of the show.

“It’s a pretty good show,”Honadel said. “[The show is] kind of like a Disney movie in the aspect that you can enjoy it at any age. It seems ironic that people idolize Disney movies revolving around magic and princesses and happily ever afters yet they scrutinize ‘MLP’ even when it actually has important life lessons.”

At the end of each episode, the main character reports the lesson he/she has learned about friendship.

“Its when friendship is mentioned that turns people off to the show the most, I think. Some of [the lessons] are cheesy, but these lessons, they are important for guys too, you know? When did it become more about having the biggest guns than just plain loving and tolerating the people around you?” Honadel said.

“It is interesting that producers of this show can just sneak these insightful lessons about friendship into each episode and [bronies] just take it in willingly. What makes [the lessons] unique is that some of them don’t have cut and dry solutions. Some are quite simple, yes; however, others attempt to tackle slightly more controversial topics such as bullying, pollution and even racism,” Honadel said.

“Everything before the reboot generation 4 reflects society’s view of young girls: one-dimensional materialistic divas for whom men wait on hand and foot. This is precisely what the reboot wants to distance itself from,” Matthew said.

Fan and pegasister Bailey Klehn goes into greater detail about what she thinks is so great about the show.

“The plot is amazing, considering how good plot and story is a rarity in kid’s shows today. [The plot] usually involves something simple — for example all of your friends not coming to your pet crocodile’s after birthday party. It then always goes haywire toward the middle, and in this case, the main character goes slightly insane due to loneliness. It kinda reminds me of Golem from ‘Lord of the Rings,’” she said.

“Hate is something the brony fandom cannot escape from as not everybody is going to be on board with the whole men liking MLP thing. It is out of the social norm and I hated it too before I watched it,” Matthew said.

Bronies’ greatest enemy is the outside world itself. Bronies everywhere are met with constant hate and abuse for liking the show. This has even caused some bronies to “leave the herd.”

“I thought the show was charming and well-written, and I really enjoyed it,” Ex-Brony Harry K. said. “I disliked the connotation associated with being a part of the fandom, especially after it got really crazy and out of control. In other words, the fans got pretty invasive when it came to spreading pony stuff anywhere and everywhere.”

“Fans of any subculture like to spread their stuff and express their love for a series.  While I personally didn’t think there was anything wrong with watching a show that was probably originally designed for children, other people definitely did.  Eventually these people grew tired of seeing that content everywhere,” Harry K. said.

Although there is much hatred for the brony-verse, and that some of it is understandable, most anti-bronies often defy common decency. “They call us gay, pedophile, beastophile — basically any hurtful thing you can think of, they’ve said it,” Honadel said. “It

just gets old. They hate us just because they think we are easy prey.”

Bronies have since moved from the cesspools of 4chan.com to their own pony-related sites. The most popular of which is called EquestriaDaily.com and is filled with pony-related news, fan art and stories.

“Equestria Daily is a great place for [bronies] to just be themselves and not have to worry about constant hate.”

Brony-dom has in ways, moved past the internet and into modern life. Every year, a convention known as BronyCon is hosted in Baltimore, Maryland. Its latest event in August 2014 drew in more than 9,600 attendees.

“It’s a place where we can be ourselves,” said Matthew. “There’s so much to do there, it makes me really proud just being a brony.”

The festivities last for a weekend and are complete with singing, dancing, art exhibits, guest panels and even sneak-peeks.

“I can’t stress it enough — it is the coolest thing about being a brony — so much love and acceptance there. I just can’t believe it,” Matthew said.

Kansas has its own BronyCon known as Midwest BronyFest.

“I’ve never been to an actual BronyCon before, but Midwest bronyfest was amazing. It’s just like a mini bronycon, but that was OK for me because I’m not that comfortable around lots of people,” Honadel said.

“MLP” — or more specifically bronies — are “flipping the social norm on its snout, and are leading a new age of ‘love and tolerance, Matthew said.’

“The thing with ‘My Little Pony’ is that it does have the skin of a kid’s show, but if you take that next step and accept, look past or just plain embrace it, you may be surprised by what you find,” Klehn said.