I watched that Netflix documentary about Bronies. For such the sensation that this generation y born cult seems to be cracked up to be, the documentary felt lacking. I expected something a little more vile, nauseating, and fun to watch. For a documentary, it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t keep you from watching it on your own time on, say, a Sunday afternoon that [insert popular sports team here] isn’t thrashing the [insert unpopular sports team here]. Maybe as one of those educational naps I know you take while you burn through your queue of Planet Earth episodes. As I said, the film isn’t as inflammatory as these things always seem to want to be. It’s informative in the purest sense.
Background: What’s a Brony?
If you aren’t the type to take naps on Sunday and you couldn’t possibly fit a two hour Netflix original documentary in your day, I can provide a bit of background.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a cartoon reboot of a slightly older storyline which features the adorable virtuous wanderings of talking ponies. It isn’t one of those witty cartoons filled with all kinds of double talk for the benefit of babysitters and parents. In fact, the reboot set sail for the sole purpose of rekindling interest in Hasbro’s line of MLP toys, unmistakably targeted to young girls.
Figure 1: Nothing cynical at all
People generally have no issue with the show. It’s the new crop up of male twenty-something fans that bother them. The show has recently attracted large numbers of male viewers that proudly don themselves bronies (a reduction of bro and ponies) to distinguish themselves from the little girls the show targets.
Though the typical brony is often accused of a perverted satisfaction, their public explanation for their taking to a show about ponies is in the show’s innocence. These ponies are simple entertainment, teaching good lessons in front of a back drop of pure optimism.
These people are organized. They have a vibrant community that backs an annual BronyCon that has been expanding in participation since 2011. At these conventions, bronies “cosplay” (dress as) their favorite pony characters from the show or fan fiction spin-offs of their own.
The Typical Brony
The more - traditional - of us insist that all stereotypes exist because at some point, they were true. That’s another Internet fight for another time, but it stands within reason when depicting your typical brony.
A Fedora (or trilby , depending on who you are talking to) is a creased, pointed hat that was most popular in the Rat-pack days. For whatever reason, bronies have proudly associated themselves to the Fedora. But the ridicule received isn’t just because they wear a Fedora. The brony’s Fedora is a synecdoche pointing to a much more deleterious lack of self-awareness. This extends into sense of fashion, abolishment of social barriers, and an overall prohibition from allowing yourself to look ridiculous. The idea is that anyone who thinks they look classy in a Fedora must have a completely skewed and irreparable self-image - almost like if you were to think wearing a refurbished set of fifth century Spartan armor in public would make you look tough.
Figure 2: Fedorable qualities intensify
“Swarthiness” is a great word, isn’t it? It almost qualifies as onomatopoeia - if grossness could make a sound, it would probably be swarth-swarth-swarth. It also plays upon your suspicious of what a twenty-year-old-something who watches a cartoon show for girls would look like.
I try not to objectify people, but bronies tend to objectively look gross. The propagandist’s depiction includes a hairy, busty gut, sparse but oily facial hair, and plenty of acne to go around.
None of these are needed to be a brony . Their are enough cases of firefighters, football players, and straight-up beautiful male specimens that march under their Twilight Sparkle banner. But samples of the stereotype in general population seem to inconspicuously spike wherever BronyCon is held.
This associative metaphor isn’t as tight and fast as the other two, but if you wear a Fedora you more than likely talk often about the dreaded “Friend-Zone”. This is a metaphysical place for failure in pursuing a woman (i.e., she forever sees you as just a “Friend”).
The “Friend-Zone” gets associated with bronies because of their sensitivity. Since they have such an affinity for positivity and innocence, their ‘game’ (in terms of “scoring” a girl) involves a lot of empathy, listening, and relating with females. It’s easy to see why a guy who constantly relates to you would make a great ‘friend’ - but inevitably the last thing that would come to mind would be his sexual needs. After all, you were too busy reflecting on how sensitive he is to even remember he was anything like your typical horny, feel-copping late teen male. Because a brony's overcompensating sensitive side, they are often placed in the Friend-Zone.
We get it - these people are weird. If someone in their right mind
actually enjoyed this show, they would hide the episodes on encrypted
hard drive in a folder labeled
But the brony doesn’t really fascinate me. I practice to each his own . Cartoon ponies are just not my cup of tea - albeit a rank and unusual cup of tea.
What does interest me is in how much brony hate there is on the Internet. It’s arguably easier to find hate blogs, mock-memes and troll-sites than it is to find opportunities for earnest brony fellowship.
The edgy web comic Cyanide & Happiness touched on the subjected in their playful, intentionally cruel explanation for the recent budding of bronies as a social caste. It’s worth a good read:
Poignant. Ironic. Totally crass. This is your typical C&H strip right here. But the comic became a conscious summary of brony hate. I saw this strip tossed around way more often than the other C&H comics. It struck a nerve. It seemed as if people who hate bronies laid a sort of allegiance behind it.
Interpreting this Like an Evolutionist
Allow me to wear my “Charles Darwin” hat (and maybe even by Freud Pants). I can’t help but notice a naturalist component to this hatred of bronies. Just what do you call that mixture of sympathy, embarrassment, and anger for another human’s pathetic exhibition of shortcomings? I don’t really know the name for it either, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Evolution.
A central principal of the evolutionary model is that the fittest deserve to survive. The best hunters, jumpers, and swimmers deserve to have their choice attributes represented in the next genetic batch.
An implication of this central principal is that the fittest surviving is also central in our value system. We also desire to have the best of our species live on. It’s arguably the reason we meekly label super models as out of our league and categorically subjugate ourselves to those brilliant kids in our science classes. We acknowledge the natural pecking order based on ability.
Extending into entertainment, it’s why we enjoy shows like American Idol - not the boring seasons where every contestant left can do a decent number. I’m talking about the unbearably awkward preliminary tryouts, fed by an endless single file line of socially inept and hopelessly untalented oddballs and wierdos. Watching them gloat of their unique abilities only to croak Wonderwall before a dickish British guy gives us pleasure because it enforces our natural sense of the relationship of abilities with prestige. The strongest survive. It’s just as fun to watch an unshakably cool, collected Philip Phillips rise to the top as it is to watch the SHE BANG guy not own up to his promised title wave of talent.
As it gives us pleasure to watch this law of the jungle shatter the dreams of the undeserving, it would have to really stress us out to watch the undeserving reject it. It’s one thing if we hear of a thirty-year old dude working his beat at Subway and spending his down time entertaining is misplaced interest in My Little Pony . That’s just a sad story. But when we hear of hoards of these men embracing their hobby and even naming it, the primordial hairs on the back of our neck laboriously preened by Charles Darwin can’t help but bristle a bit.
We try not to judge. We have no reason to. After all, what does the decisions that our Subway guy makes beyond how long to leave our Spicy Italian in the oven have to do with us and the way we live our lives? Nothing. So the brony hate must be coming from a much deeper pride for the human race. We want to see pathetic people rally behind their weakness, hit the gym, and finally start becoming the sexually-threatening male acquaintance they were always meant to be.
I suspect this applies beyond just brony hate. The same could be said about all judgment casted at Second-Life gamers, Magic the Gatherers, Mac users, and all other social outcasts walking among us.
I don’t mean to defend My Little Pony . Although I might be a little condescending toward these people, I didn’t mean to bash them either. My scrutinizing eye, dear reader, looks at you this time. Whenever you find yourself frantically querying YouTube for videos of people that just make you sick , examine your hate. Is it a thoughtful, constructive criticism, or do you echo the bestial breast beating of a much harrier, more honest ancestor of yours?