Love and Tolerance: Into the Brony Subculture

A major convention ended over this previous weekend in New Jersey. It wasn’t a local comic convention. It was perhaps more than that. It was the gathering of bronies. It was BronyCon Summer 2012. The sold-out convention of over 4000 attendees.

Before I go into that, know first what you are about to read into. What is a Brony? They are defined as the grown male and, to a lesser extent, female (Pegasister) demographic ages 16-28 who enjoys the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV Series. The majority of bronies enjoy the show for the right reasons, following the adventures of the ponies who reside in Equestria. You’ve probably seen the ponies themselves around the internet in the form of user avatars and Internet memes where it grew into a huge Internet phenomenon, with most of the episodes available on YouTube. The first season has only been aired here on local channel Okto, with the shows’s second season that concluded in April and a third season announced.

BronyCon Summer 2012 also marks the first time the show’s creator, Lauren Faust (who has worked on shows like The Powerpuff Girls) and major voice actors such as Tara Strong (who voices Twilight Sparkle, one of the show’s “mane” characters, as well as several other voices under her belt including Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw) making an appearance to this fan convention. That’s right. BronyCon is not an official convention held by IP owner Hasbro.

Bronies tend to be misunderstood through the general stereotype that grown men liking a kid’s show directed at young girls a dangerous mix or that these men simply have no place liking such a show. But it is in fact these men who want to break past these stereotypes and show the world that they have something to prove.

The community has shown some serious dedication to the franchise creating fan works revolving around the field of music, art, animation, fan fiction, cosplay and even independent fan-made games such as MLP: Fighting is Magic and PonyKart. There are bronies who do contribute more controversial work to the community, adults as some of these bronies are.

The brony subculture is something Hasbro and creator Lauren Faust did not expect to happen. Hasbro has since recognised the brony fanbase adding nods to the fans to the show and making fan-named background characters canon. The shows staff and voice actors also embraces said fanbase, participating in autograph signing and attending conventions such as BronyCon.

The brony subculture is also responsible for changing the lives of others. To the Japan relief effort in 2011, a sketch of a fan-favourite odd-eyed pegasus fan-named Derpy Hooves sold for over US$2000. Major contributions have also been made by representatives of the subculture to The Humble Indie Bundle. Bronies also Kickstarter-funded a documentary about the fandom started by John De Lancie, who voices Discord from the show. The Kickstarter Drive had more than US$320,000 before it ended.

So, no. The brony subculture is not just a bunch of weird men (and women) who circle around the Internet making inside jokes and creating animated gifs. They are more than that. And if the subculture hasn’t proven its point by now, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a really good show with the potential to change lives. I should know, as a brony.

This brony got started when he found the show last year. The hook was discovering who was behind the show and who was behind the voice of one particular pony. He has done plenty pieces of fanart and is recognised somewhat in the deviantArt community. His favourite pony is Twilight Sparkle.

[First photo source: AP]