A Belgium magazine has recently come out with a large article about the pony fandom. I do believe the magazine itself is called P-Magazine and covers a wide range of subjects, as it seems one of their own workers has fallen into the fandom. I have not gone over the entire article, but it ranges from the basic information down to pornographic images which unfortunately seems to be heavy in this fandom. Even they suggest to do a google search with the “safety” on. According to the EqD there are some inaccurate statements, I know from my scanning its mentioned (under the porn section) yet again that the fandom comes from /b/, which as I always remind people, no, it came from /co/. Either way, the scanned pages and text behind the page break.
Our employee is becoming is a Brony
“I am 31 and love My Little Pony”
‘My Little Pony: a wonderful and magical land.’ This slogan used for Hasbro’s girl’s toys has had an hypnotic effect for nearly 30 years on everything that is small and live their lives without a willy. Nowadays you could also add Bronies: adult men with an obsession for pastel-coloured toy ponies. And we have one at our home!
They are creative, they are organized and they are with many: men between the ages of 18 and 35 who love My Little Pony. And in case you are now quizzically rubbing your eyes: we’re being serious, and so are they. The little, adorable ponies in the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is magic, who go on many adventures and consequently learn important lessons about, indeed, the magic of friendship, can count on a fanbase which vastly exceeds the producer Hasbro’s target market of 3 to 6 year old girls. At the moment their activities are mostly on the internet, but since the beginning of last year, the Bronies (brothers of ponies) are coming out more often with their fanfiction, arts and crafts projects and endless discussions about the life and times of ponies with names like Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle. As expected from herd animals, these days they also look for each other. Even in exceedingly large numbers, like the most recent Brony Convention in New York, where no less than 700 ponylovers enjoyed a day of watching episodes from the series, discussing plot twists, compared each other’s fanart or simply styled the brightly-coloured manes of their toy ponies. And when it rains in New York, the drops can be felt in… Antwerp.
Yes, in the heart of the ‘Cookie City’, there recently was a BronyCon organised by the internetforum Bronies.nl. A perfect opportunity to satisfy my own guilty pleasure, because truth be told: your humble servant became a Brony recently. The episode where the brightly coloured pegasus pony Rainbow Dash defies the light spectrum, the sound barrier and all laws of physics to save her friend who is crashing down to her certain death, seemed to be enough to convert a young man of 23 years old. And to be clear: I am not a 6 year old girl.
The majestic staircase of Antwerp Central Station are the meeting grounds. In the beginning, the Bronies don’t really stand out, until 3 floating pale blue helium balloons attract my attention to a group of people. The balloons seem to be attached to a rather young, hyperactive young man who welcomes me with the words: “Here for the Bronycon? Welcome to the herd!”. I feel the magic of friendship coming up inside me. As more and more people start showing up, I notice plenty of jackets zipping open to reveal a brightly coloured My Little Pony shirt. At exactly 12:00, the herd of about 60 men (with only 5 women included) start making way to the first destination of the day: the girl department of the nearest Bart Smit [A Dutch toy store]. The faces of the shop clerks are priceless. They’re probably still searching for the hidden cameras.
Jan (22) has been a Brony for a while, but just started collecting the brightly coloured toy ponies. “When I bought my first pony, I was ashamed. It felt weird to be in the pink aisle of the store looking at toys. I was relieved when the store clerk asked whether it was a present. This has changed in the meanwhile: I now dare to say it’s for me.” But it isn’t always that simple for Bronies to come out for their passion. “Not many of my friends know I love My Little Pony,” says Jan. “Even less colleagues know about this. I am a forklift driver by trade, not many fans can be found there. Even my mother thinks it’s quite childish. I was very enthusiastic when I found the Facebook page of this event; finally a place where I could talk with others about My Little Pony!”
The Big Lebowski
But not everybody is as enthusiastic about the pony toys. The modelling errors of the current merchandise are still passionately discussed. “Those errors are mostly the remains of the old My Little Pony series”, explains the 20 year old Brony Mike. “For example: the toy version of Princess Celestia, who rules over Equestria, is pink, but in the new series she is as white as snow.”
The new series, Friendship is Magic, differs on multiple points from the series of the 80’s and 90’s from the last century. “And that’s a good thing too,” says Maarten, a 31 years old electrician. “Those cartoons of the 80’s were just horrible. In the new series, not only is the animation much better, the ponies also have more depth. Every pony has it’s own positive aspects, background story and flaws. This is what makes it hard for Bronies to choose a favourite pony: they’re all cool in their own way. On top of that, the storylines are just incredibly good. I strongly suggest everyone to let their children watch the series, they can all only learn some valuable lessons from it.”
As for the driving force of the renovations for the franchise, all Bronies point to one figure unanimously: Producer Lauren Faust. She has been awarded an Emmy for her earlier work, which includes The Powerpuff Girls – ask your kids about it. When toy producer Hasbro came knocking on her door to revive the My Little Pony animated series, she made clear from the start it wasn’t going to be a little girl’s show. It had to become a series that parents and children could enjoy together without grabbing for the nearest reins and stop enjoying it. The award ceremony at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope was almost totally copied in an episode and in another episode we recognise some characters from The Big Lebowski. You must be a fundamental nihilist to not even grin at that. The Dude abides, man!.
“Adults can also learn a lot from My Little Pony”, says the 22-year old student Elvira. “The personality of Pinkie Pie for instance (a particularly cheerful pink pony that wants to be friends with everyone; red.), has made me realize that I have to be just happy more often and have to be able to experience carefree fun, while Twilight Sparkle (a unicorn and egg-head; red.) constantly reminds me that I have to work hard and study.” Yes, they’re clever animals, those ponies.
Moreover, Elvira is in a terrible minority today. Out of the 60 present Bronies barely five are Pegasisters or female Bronies. But please don’t say that word in their presence. “Then it looks exactly as if there is some segregation. Let’s all just be Bronies”, thinks chemistry student Jolien (21). “That there are so many men who love My Little Pony now, is also not necessarily because of gender patterns in my opinion, but because of the fact that it’s mostly an internet phenomenon – and the web is mainly a man’s world. So when a high percentage of men indicates something, then the show must simply be good.”
After an hour of drooling in the girls department of Bart Smit, they move to the Groenplaats, a town square in the middle of Antwerp. When one of the Bronies notices that there’s a McDonald’s nearby, a rush to the fast food chain commences. Namely because there are ponies in the Happy Meal, an action of which McDonald’s employee Bart clearly had not seen the consequences yet. “We have never experienced this before. We’re actually being overwhelmed here: we didn’t have enough ponies in stock to supply one for everyone. But why do all those men actually want the girl toy?” Because friendship is magic, duh.
The disappointment is visible on some Bronies who couldn’t get a pony, but at that point the community shows her best side: anyone who had double horses, sells them for a symbolical euro. And actually a notable conclusion when the pony whirlwind leaves the McDonald’s establishment again: almost nobody ate the carrots that are included with the Happy Meal nowadays. That must rather be something for the horse of Sinterklaas [a European folkloric figure that delivers presents to children, comparable to Santa Claus].
Out of the closet
Meanwhile the Bronies regroup at the Groenplaats again for an introduction round. Someone suggests the especially witty idea to form an introduction circle, and just like that half the Groenplaats gets marked out by Bronies who shout their names and favorite ponies to the other side of the circle. It’s the moment where everyone becomes less of the shy Fluttershy and more of the extraverted Rainbow Dash. The Bronies do their coming out in front of all of Antwerp.
After the mandatory group picture a Brony gets out his guitar. When Nothing Else Matters from Metallica gets played, metal-Brony Dieter (20) looks approvingly. With his long hairs, leather jacket and Iron Maiden sweater he looks like the odd one out in the stable. Yet he quickly gets two little pony figures out of his jacket’s pocket. “I’ve been a closet-Brony for a long time,” admits Dieter, “yet by now I like to express it. That way I’ve also learned who my real friends are.”
One night at a pub when I told my friends I think My Little Pony is a great show, they immediately started laughing at me, and asked ‘if I was a woman or something’. Oh well, there will always be haters, but those are just insecure about their own sexuality.” (laughs)
Although the wonders of Equestria aren’t completely clear for Dieter either. “I have to admit that I myself also don’t completely understand what about the show attracts me so much, but that’s a problem more Bronies cope with. It’s probably also about the animation and the level of the humour of the show, because after one episode I was so sold that I also started watching the rest of the season in a short period of time. When that was over, I was hungry for more ponies, but it was such a long time of waiting for the second season would start. So I just threw myself on the Fanfiction I found on Equestria Daily.” How would you be, yourself?
That website has grown to -the- news website for Bronies by now, with about 500,000 daily visitors. Inside the Brony community a publication on Equestria Daily is the equivalent of a scientist publishing in Science, because only the best fan art reaches the front page. Like the songs of BeatleBrony, who ponifies Beatles-classics. The Balled of John and Yoko consequently becomes that of Twilight Sparkle, and Baby You Can Drive My Car sounds like Pony You Can Pull My Cart. But there’s also ‘Friendship is Metal’, a project that supplies the songs from the animation series with a sturdy metal coat that even Peter Evrard [A Belgian singer who sings in the Rock genre] wouldn’t wear even if he could go empty the cesspool of Ozzy Osbourne.
By now the herd sets sail for Antwerp Expo where the Bronies hired a room to continue a meeting with a livestream of the episode of that day. In the tram the almost unbearably happy Smile Smile Smile got sung lustily by almost all the Bronies – which yielded a firm applause from the rest of the tram passengers at the end of the ride. The herd that started the day remarkably timid and somewhat skittish, finally seemed to get loose. That magic of friendship has to be in there for something.
A laptop swiftly gets connected to the projector and tons of fan-made YouTube video’s get played in the room. Lots of Bronies seem to know the clips almost word by word, but at one YouTube movie, Save Derpy, the almost harmonious connection gets abruptly broken. One half of the Bronies welcomes the clip with a cross-eyed pony as the main role with cheering and applause, while the other half boo’s and some even storm outside. “Out of protest, indeed – even though I also just wanted to go smoke a cigarette”, says Guus, a 21-year old Dutchman. “Derpy has grown to the ultimate symbol for the Brony-community, but it’s also become a divisive – and that’s incredibly sad.”
Derpy was actually an error by an absent-minded animator who accidentally gave one of the background ponies Marc Reynebeau-eyes [Marc Reynebeau is an extremely cross-eyed Belgian writer and historian]. The Bronies actually immediately embraced the cross-eyed pony, gave her a name and caused an explosion of fan art. This didn’t escape the attention of Lauren Faust and the makers of the show, who started giving Derpy a more and more important role in the series – a clear shout-out to the growing Brony community. In the second season Derpy even got to speak, when she demolished the city hall in her typical clumsy style. She also actually gets called Derpy by the other characters and her voice sounds… retarded, to put things softly.
“It was actually an incredibly nice gesture of the makers of the show to the Bronies”, thinks Guus. “But some people thought that Derpy showed too many characteristics of a mentally deprived, and that the show made fun out of handicaps that way.” In the end, iTunes, where the episodes of My Little Pony are downloadable for a price, decided that the character was too insulting. Hasbro was forced to change the character, the name Derpy got scrapped and the pony got a different, more normal voice.
The Bronies felt attacked and responded heavily. An online petition to save Derpy managed to get about 41.000 signatures in less than a month. “But the discussions derailed eventually”, says Guus. “There was quite some cussing between the pro- and contra- Derpy-camps and there were even threats. The whole question caused a deep gap in a fanbase that is otherwise very attached and cozy. On top of that such reactions do not at all fit with the ideal of friendship that gets preached by the show. Also: in the end it’s still about a show for little girls, eh.”
About the latter the internet seems to be divided. But not even the cute little ponies can escape from the one inevitable rule of the internet: If it exists, there is porn about it. “I suggest everybody to use the ‘safe-search’ option when Googling for My Little Pony pictures”, says 18 years old Kevin. “If it isn’t on, you’ll get more sexy variants. These are often anthro’s, a kind of fan art which gives the ponies a more human look and can be related to the lolita-factor of the Japanese animation shows. These are still quite innocent, but there are also a lot of pictures of ponies doing really naughty stuff. Most Bronies find the pony porn disgusting: A children’s show should remain innocent. On top of that you build a relation with the characters of the show – I want to be able to look at Rainbow Dash without thinking about breasts.”
The sick minds who are often responsible for the pictures of, as example, a small unicorn being taken forcefully by a strong Brabantian [from Brabant, a southern province in the Netherlands] draft horse – we’ll save you from pictures, no thanks needed – are often considered to be accusative Bronies. Sometimes they’re being referred to as /b/ronies, after B, the anarchistic section of the infamous internet forum 4Chan, which stood at the cradle when the pony madness was born. The cartoon fanatics of the forum were the first ones to give the reboot of My Little Pony a chance and they were immediately sold. Afterwards they flooded the entire forum with the cute Equestrians. This to the disgust of the horde of unmannered, but sneaky nerds – 4Chan is the home of Anonymous, the group of hackers who brought down the Vatican website in early March and who came in contact with the FBI on numerous occasions- who populate 4Chan. They saw the pony madness as a pest and threw everything at an attempt to drive the Bronies away. But the Bronies didn’t bend, they stayed loyal to their own motto ‘Don’t hate, love and tolerate’ and forced a spot on 4Chan to call their own. Love and tolerance, Jesus couldn’t have said it better himself.
The big moment has arrived in Antwerp: the episode is about to start. The introduction tune gets sung along from the start to the end as if it were a religious experience. Yours truly too, completely into the mood by then, doesn’t hold back. The episode turns out to be a fairly complex chunk about the paradox of time travel: Twilight Sparkle gets visited by her future self who warns her about a great danger, after which the magical unicorn tries everything she can to change the future – which of course doesn’t work out.
After it’s done the episode gets received with loud cheer, even though there are a few critical remarks here and there. “They should still pay attention at Hasbro that they don’t respond too much to the Brony-community”, thinks Mike. “Like that the Twilight from the future had remarkably much in common with the main character of the spy game Metal Gear Solid. Such references are of course great for the Bronies but the makers can’t deny their original audience.”
By now the herd considers it time to go find their respective stables. A whole day of trotting around excitedly is already tiresome for children of 6 years old, and it’s no different for grown men with a job and a social life. E-mail addresses and telephone numbers get exchanged, dates for a next Brony-meet-up get made. I too decide to head back home to hit the hay. On the train I decide to bring out the pony that was included in my Happy Meal this noon. A little girl that is sitting a bit further immediately puts on huge, questioning eyes right away. For a moment I hesitate if I should give her the pony. But I don’t. Friendship is not that magic after all.
My Little Pony for rookies
A large section of the success of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, can be found by the relatively relaxed way producer Hasbro uses their copyright. Fans who use the ponies to create their own material, are left unharmed (there will even be a My Little Pony game coming out, entirely made by Bronies) and the episodes can be found on Youtube – something Sabam [a very strict copyright firm that always gets in the media for extorting money from people and companies on very “creative” ways.] can learn from. But in case you don’t have the time now or are scared you might be caught by your wife, here are the basics.
Everything happens in the kingdom of Equestria, which is ruled by a majestic, winged unicorn named Celestia.
Being different then let’s say the Smurfs, who obviously lived in a kind of collective society, the Equestrian ponies need to work for a living. They have a free market economy which looks like ours, but the horse-meat industry is because of understandable reasons much smaller. People don’t seem to exist, but there is plenty of other fauna: rabbits, birds, cows, zebras, donkeys and above all: ponies. Three kinds of ponies to be more accurate: winged pegasi, magical unicorns and regular ponies, which seems to be a little stronger then the others.
- Twilight Sparkle: A purple unicorn who can move objects with her horn, and would have been great in ‘The Sixth Sense’ [Belgian tv-show about people with paranormal powers] She counts as the red Power Ranger of the gang: she is the unofficial leader. She keeps her head in the books and has a lot to learn about friendship.
- Applejack: Orange working pony who runs her own apple orchard. Stubborn, sometimes straight to the point and not very subtle, nevertheless dead honest. She could use some lessons in company management, and she has been in luck that the labor inspection hasn’t found out about her little sister Applebloom working on the farm too.
- Rainbow Dash: Pale blue pegasus with rainbow(!)-coloured mane and who controls the weather. Proud and boastful, but always loyal to her friends. Remarkable by the way, looking at the many times she made it storm.
- Pinkie Pie: Bright pink earth pony, who throws a meaner party than Dennis black Magic. Is best compared to an overdose of sugar: pleasant in the beginning, but can make you sick later on. if she has an off-switch, it hasn’t been found yet.
- Fluttershy: Pale yellow pegasus who cares for all the little critters in Ponyville. She is so shy, she is scared of her own shadow and is being dominated by her pet bunny. She is the embodiment of kindness.
- Rarity: White unicorn annex fashionista. Exceptionally vain and wants everything to be perfect, but makes dress after dress for her friends. Unfortunately these are often plain crazy. This is indubitably the favourite pony of Walter van Beirendonck [A Belgian fashion designer].
In each episode the ponies go on an adventure, where surprisingly often they must often rescue their town of certain doom. They learn an important life lesson each adventure, which even our politicians could learn from. Like every enemy could become a friend, if you compromise a little and show understanding, or that you better not boast you can do something before you start with it. Yes, Bart and Elio: We’re looking at you! [Bart and Elio are two of the most important Belgian politicians who always argue. This is due to Belgium’s extremely complex government. We’re not going to explain it all here, but the short version is this: Elio is the current Prime Minister and from Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium in the south. Bart is the leader of the opposition, and a person from Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium in the North. Elio is left-winged whereas Bart is right-winged. This obviously creates tension in the Belgian parliament.]