My Little Brony: A fandom is magic

By Bryan Coullahan

Chris Withers, a rumored “brony” (Photo by Tom Doyle)

The concept of older guys watching a show intended for young girls may seem strange on the surface, but it appears there is more to the cult hit “My Little Pony” than its bright and colorful style. The show itself, spawned from the line of toys created in the early 1980s, focuses on a handful of colorful ponies teaching one another about friendship and harmony. It’s not often that a show demographically intended for children is deemed a “cult classic,” especially at the time it’s airing and not based out of nostalgia, but a growing population of the audience is comprised of teen and adult males. One such adult male, Dan Butler, a Salem State student, took a moment to think and smile before answering what he liked best about the show. “Everything really,” he said. “The humor is great, the characters are likable, the stylized animation is perfect, and the overarching story throughout the series is amazing. It’s difficult to describe.”

When asked how he came to watch the show in the first place, he replied that it was simply a case of happenstance. “I came back to my dorm one day and my roommate was marathoning [sic] it,” Butler said. “He showed me the first episode that day and I wasn’t blown away, but I kept on watching. It only got better from there. By about the 12th or 13th episode of the first season, I was totally hooked.” From there, he watched every episode from the two seasons released so far online, occasionally with other people who, like him originally, hadn’t watched the show before.

The term “brony” came about when a wave of older male fans surfaced with the release of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” in 2010. Since then, the creators of the show have acknowledged them as “bronies” with lyrics within the songs on the show and visual in-jokes. In the time since, there have even been MLP: FIM conventions held across the country, from “Everfree Northwest” in Seattle to “BroNYCon” in New Jersey. The latest BroNYCon brought in over 4,000 attendees from across the country. When asked about it, Butler said that he “totally would have gone if [he] had a means of getting there during the summer.”

Some of the fans have even taken to collecting merchandise from the show, which led to an amusing story between Butler and the group of fans with whom he watches. “Over the summer, McDonald’s did a promotion where they gave out MLP toys with ‘Happy Meals,’” Butler said. “My friend Jeff had collected all of them except for one and didn’t get the one he needed with his meal. He proudly went back up to the counter to ask if he could trade for a different pony toy and the workers were visibly ashamed for him. Granted, it was for his favorite pony, but it’s not worth that much to me,” Butler admitted.

The public reaction towards bronies has been pretty negative over the last couple years. When asked why he thought this was the case, Butler said he could understand where they were coming from in some ways. “It’s because people think it’s weird that we like ‘TV for little girls,’ but also the fan base can be creepy or obnoxious at times.” The outside view of the fandom seems to reflect this sentiment without considering what the people generally are like. “Well, as people they’re fine. Pretty normal. Being weird in general doesn’t attract you to the show,” he continued. “As bronies, they’re fine too. I know it’s vague, but they’re not weird about the show and it’s pretty fun to discuss pony-related things with them.” Partly as a joke, Butler and his roommate created a Facebook group called the “Salem State University Bronies and Pegasisters Club” as a forum for people to discuss the show. So far they have a membership of seven people, all of whom already knew each other beforehand, but they’re looking to expand to a recognized club on-campus.

The show has also attracted a small following amongst celebrities. The most notable confirmed MLP fans being Lady Gaga and Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve Corporation best known for developing the “Half-Life” and “Left 4 Dead” video game series’ among others. Newell has publicly supported the show when asked about it and Lady Gaga even once wore a necklace with miniature ponies attached all around. There are also rumors that Tom Cruise is a closet brony, but Mr. Cruise has yet to comment on the allegations. The third season of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” premiered November 10th and will air every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on “The Hub.”