A few days ago, my boyfriend JM and I went shopping for his best friend Peter’s Christmas gift. He had something in mind even before we went to the mall: a My Little Pony toy. We went straight to a toy store and immediately found the girl’s section. The walls were a bright pink and the shelves were stocked with dolls and adorable stuffed animals. Among the mass of pink on the shelves were several of the My Little Pony toys.
A confused-looking salesclerk came up to help us when we started to bicker about which of the toys to buy, when to buy them, and that there was no Pinkie Pie toy on the shelf. JM and I were so engrossed in our argument that we didn’t notice another customer standing beside us. The guy was at least 20 years old, had well-developed muscles, and was standing with his arms crossed. He looked serious. I only glanced at him, thinking he was browsing the My Little Pony section for a gift to give his little sister. He broke me and my boyfriend out of our argument when he said “I prefer Fluttershy myself.”
We looked at him in astonishment: eyes wide and jaw to the floor.
“You’re a brony?” my boyfriend asked. The guy nodded. The two men, both around six feet tall and built like a club bouncer, proceeded to fist-bump. To most other people, they fist-bumped or bro-fisted. But to bronies, they “bro-hoofed”.
Many may still remember the My Little Pony cartoon shows of the 1980s and the toys they were meant to sell. The show and toys were, of course, marketed to little girls while around the same time Transformers was being aimed at little boys. The fame of My Little Pony died down, but it has since been revived and remodeled for modern audiences by the creative director and executive producer, Lauren Faust, and is now named “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
This newest reboot of the series, with smooth Adobe Flash animation, adventurous plotlines, and more in-depth characters and settings, has captured the hearts of a surprising new fanbase. Instead of little girls, the intended target audience, the show’s fans are comprised mostly of teenage and adult males.
The term “brony” as the fans are called, is from the slang “bro” meaning brother or friend, and from the word “pony”. There are also female fans of the show, and they are referred to as “Pegasisters”, or brony as well, though the male fans outnumber them.
The first reaction one might have in seeing teenage and young adult men excitedly browsing the My Little Pony section of a toy store is to think that these men are gay because they like a show for little girls about colorful ponies. This is actually not the case. Each and every brony has his or her reason for watching and loving the show.
In my case, yes, I am a brony; I find the characters charming, cute and fun. I can relate to them. I like how the show’s episodes always end with a lesson on friendship. And JM (who identifies with the character Fluttershy) and his friend Peter (who identifies with Pinkie Pie) are not gay, but they are bronies too.
The Philippine Bronies group on Facebook is very active, with around 277 members and still growing. Asking around, I learned of quite a few reasons why the male members were attracted to such a colorful cartoon aimed at little girls.
At the core of it are the characters. The show’s first season starts with Twilight Sparkle, an introverted unicorn who has trouble making friends. She is sent to Ponyville in an attempt to make friends. While there, she meets the pegasi Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, the unicorn Rarity, and the Earth ponies Applejack and Pinkie Pie. These six ponies are the center of the show and it is through their antics and adventures that Twilight Sparkle, and the viewer, learns a valuable lesson about friendship.
The problems they face in each episode are reflections of real problems we all face in real life – how to fit into a group and help out when you’re the newest member, how to understand and accept a person who is of a different race and nationality. Each of the My Little Pony characters have unique personalities, complete with their own quirks and flaws, and they develop as the show progresses.
But the one thing I think really makes bronies stick to the show is the community of the fans: the fellow bronies. The show itself is amazing, but it inspires and brings out a creativity that most people would not have found if not for the show.
A man might doodle a picture of his favorite pony then post it on one of the many fansites of the show. Other bronies would see it and urge the man to continue his artwork, and soon he would start to create his own pony character and improve his artistic skills.
This is also true for the people who are more into the music of the show: there are so many remixes of and song tributes dedicated to “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.
The brony community not only shares fan works with each other, it is, most importantly, a place to make friends. It’s a place to bring all these like-minded people together, and a place to share their troubles. The fandom may have started with the show, but it lives on through friendship, love, and tolerance. The show, and in extension the community, teaches one to be patient with others who do not understand or accept what you love. Fellow bronies also try to make each other smile and cope with the stressful problems of life.
And so grown men watch the show, and stay in the fandom because Friendship is Magic.
Alexandra, 20, is a fiction writer, gamer, and K-pop fan.