It is a TV show about cartoon horses made for little girls. Yet in just three years, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, produced by Hasbro Studios, has amassed a huge following among an unlikely audience – grown men, reports Kevin Fallon at The Daily Beast.
That’s the crux of A Brony Tale, a documentary that takes you inside the unusual and unexpected community of grown men who live and breathe everything related to Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and the rest of the pastel-colored animated equine friends. For the uninitiated, My Little Pony is a toy and merchandise enterprise that first became popular in the ’80s, but experienced resurgence in 2010 when the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic popularized the franchise for a new generation of little girls. And also, apparently, adult men.
These adult men call themselves Bronies. And they’re not what you think.
They’re not overly effeminate. Many aren’t gay. They aren’t predatory, or even being ironic. They are just guys. Dudes. Dudes who like My Little Pony.
Just take it from “Dustykatt,” the pseudonym for the first brony we meet in A Brony Tale, and the self-described “manliest” brony in the world. “I can build a custom motorcycle from scratch, can weld, and worked as a lube guy at a GM dealership,” Dustykatt says. “And on top of that, I watch a show for little girls.”
And he’s not alone. There is an entire online community of Bronies that has blossomed out of the message boards and fan sites and into the real world. The BronyCon convention planned for August already has 10,000 confirmed attendees.
There are many misconceptions about the Brony community that A Brony Tell sets out to dispel, and among them is how the community started, and how they got their name. Surprisingly, and against what most think, “Brony” isn’t a combination of “bro” and “pony.” The name actually comes from where the movement began, on the web community 4chan.
Back in October 2010, near when My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic premiered, a few people, likely guys who stumbled upon the show or were forced to watch it with a daughter or a niece, posted on the 4chan boards that the show was actually quite good. They became a micro-community, discussing and praising the show. Soon, others came across the group and decided to check out the show to see if it was as good as they said it was. Then they started posting about it, too. So the name actually comes from where the community started, on the “b” 4chan message boards. Bronies.
“What we realized when filming this is that Bronies isn’t about guys liking a girl’s show—it’s about the community they’ve created,” Brent Hodge, the filmmaker behind A Brony Tale, tells The Daily Beast. “That’s a big line for the Bronies: ‘We came for the show but stayed for the community.’”
But “coming for the show” is the interesting thing here, and the thing that most people are having a hard time wrapping their brain around. Even Ashleigh Ball, who voices the characters of Applejack and Rainbow Dash on the My Little Pony series, agrees: “The pervert alarm definitely went off in my head when I first about it,” she says in the documentary. In the film, Ball serves as our entryway into the Brony community—the rational, skeptical voice who needs to be convinced that these guys aren’t creepy wackos, that they come from a pure, fun place that makes their movement worth embracing.
“It was weird,” Ball tells The Daily Beast, recounting when she first heard about the Bronies. “Because it wasn’t the intention of the series. It wasn’t for adult men. It was for little girls. But everyone involved in the series, from Hasbro to the studio, everyone, has really learned to embrace it.” Ball now regularly attends BronyCon conventions. And she loves her Bronies.
There’s undeniably a barrier to get through before one can accept the Bronies, and it probably has a lot to do with the earnestness with which they fawn over My Little Pony. They are truly fans. Like, big fans. They think it’s the greatest thing, and they think that authentically. As a culture, we’re perfectly accepting of fandoms of embarrassing, slight, or silly things, particularly when they go against others’ perceptions of what you might like. Are you a physics professor who loves Real Housewives? How fun! But only as long as you call that fandom a “guilty pleasure.”
The Bronies, however, aren’t guilty about it. Oh my, they are so not guilty about it…….