Discussing the rise of "bronies"
In 1986 the “My Little Pony” (MLP) television series premiered, targeting little girls ages 3-10 as a tie-in to Hasbro’s lucrative toy ponies. With 80’s nostalgia being the latest entertainment resource to mine, it is no surprise that MLP would try a revival.
What began as a revival quickly became a renaissance. In October of 2010, the cable channel known as the Hub, (formerly Discovery Kids), aired a new series called “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” (FIM). No one anticipated the surprise demographic that rose to prominence as the vocal proponents of “ponydom.”
In a surprising twist, the most outspoken fans of FIM are adult men, ages 18-35. Adopting the moniker of “brony,” (a bro who likes My Little Pony), they began by discussing the show on image boards such as 4chan. Bronies soon began posting fan art, writing fan fiction, and analyzing every detail of the show.
Presidents and ponies
However, not all bronies are relegated to the anonymity of message boards. In June, former President Bill Clinton took a quiz on NPR about FIM; a subject he should know nothing about. Clinton correctly answered all three questions and was designated an honorary brony. In spite of all the exposure and discussion in the media, the stereotypical view of a brony is an unemployed, neck-bearded, basement dweller with no social skills.
While bronies preach love and tolerance, Lauren Faust, who developed FIM for television, did not hesitate in responding to criticism of the series’ special fan base. “The belief that boys shouldn’t be interested in girl things is the main reason there’s hardly anything decent for girls in animation— or almost any media, for that matter.” Faust said, “It’s a backwards, sexist, outdated attitude.” Which begs the question, “what about FIM do men find fascinating?”
What’s the appeal?
The gender-bending appeal of FIM lies, in part, with its creative team. Before making FIM, Lauren Faust directed episodes of the “Powerpuff Girls;” a show that set a precedent for cartoons with strong female leads that transcends gender barriers.
Rob Renzetti, story editor for FIM, also created the cartoon series “My Life as a Teenage Robot;” a show about an android who saves the world, while having the appearance and personality of a teenage girl.
Prior to FIM, Faust and Renzetti worked together on “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends;” and while Faust has stepped down as creative director for the second season of FIM, she still contributes as a consulting producer.
“I didn’t create this show for little girls; I created it for little girls and their parents–including male parents.” Faust said, ”It only stands to reason that adult animation fans without children may like it, too.”
Since Hasbro owns “My Little Pony” and “Dungeons and Dragons,” FIM can incorporate nearly anything from the Monster Manuals into the show. Fantasy genre fans will appreciate FIM using not only well-known creatures, such as dragons and griffons, but also including less mainstream monsters, such as hydras, cockatrices, and manticores.
If the success of a show was measured by its popularity on the Internet, then FIM could last for decades. Regardless of how long the series runs, FIM will always hold a special place in the hearts of bronies. Season two of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic premiers on the Hub Saturday September 17, 9 a.m. EST.