Bronies and Masculinity in 2012

“Bronies” is the moniker for any male between the ages of 18-35 that watches “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” This is a real show, and it’s a show that was initially supposed to be for young girls around the ages of 4-12. Yet, it has formed an underground following, a following that includes college-age hipsters creating drinking games around the show.

One big question arises from this: is this true love, or is it ironic love? The only ways I’d be able to figure this out was to talk to my Brony friends as well as watch an episode of my own.

First, I watched an episode. Below is the first and only episode I ever watched:

Basically, the main characters in this particular episode are sisters. One is the older sister, Rarity, who feels burdened by the younger one, named Sweetie Belle, since Sweetie Belle is always messing up Rarity’s things. To sum things up, Sweetie Belle enters a sister competition that Rarity initially doesn’t participate in. But wait! At the end, she shows up in order to help Sweetie Belle win the competition! So basically, it’s a simple story of the importance of being a big sister who loves her little sister for who she is, a moral that anyone can learn from. Clearly, the lessons are not for the older Bronies, who have grasped the concept quite well. Instead, they stick around for the little things: the parts of the show that lurk under the eyes of young girls.

By talking to my friends about the show months ago, I found that each of them watched it for a different reason. One person loved it because of the artwork, which includes a world with vibrant colors, and another friend loved it for the adult-themed jokes.

Still, the most poignant response came from a friend who said it’s a way of experiencing a feminine side of himself. This is something that stuck out to me the most, because of how the definition of masculinity seems to coincide with this trend.

Think about it: we have created a culture where it is okay to be a feminine man. Just look at the examples of this: Glee is a big show where the singers and “Geeks” are getting more attention than the jocks and cheerleaders, people are more accepting of the LGBT community than ever before, stay-at-home dads aren’t creepy anymore, and, most importantly, women are joining the workforce in droves. So, why wouldn’t men my age want to watch a feminine show about ponies? In this age, they’re allowed to and should be allowed to.

Let’s not forget what the premise of this show is: that friendship is magic, and, to further the point, that friendship is an important right of passage that shouldn’t be taken lightly. These are themes that everyone relates to, not just little girls. Look on any Brony message board, and you’ll see that these themes are what keep people watching. Just check out the forum below and you’ll see the friendliest and happiest forum on the Internet. In that thread alone, each one of them is simply introducing themselves and telling everyone their favorite character. Clearly, each one of them thinks friendship is both important and magic:

From that forum alone, you can tell that people don’t watch to be ironic. This community has created a sacred place where you won’t be judged for your infatuation for the show or forced to watch something more masculine, like football.

Now, here s where things get interesting. Football is associated with masculinity, since it is a sport focused on simulated warfare and violence. This is why men that tend to be more masculine love the sport so much. Ponies, on the other hand, is associated with magic, wonder, and cuteness. So, men who watch the show will tend to have an affinity toward these concepts, and thus, be more in touch with their feminine side.

When you think about the changing definition of masculinity in 2012, that seems to be the dividing line between football and ponies. I have friends who love football and think Ponies is a joke, and I have friends who love Ponies and think football is a joke. Only one of my friends likes both. BUT none of them watch the show and delve into a football fantasy league, which is the defining factor between football fan and fanatic. Are there Bronies who love football and the fantasy leagues that come with them? Of course! But this seems to be a rare case.

So, when it comes to football and ponies, the 2012 man may have to choose between the two. Then again, you can choose neither, but it’s hard to choose both. Is the most important question facing men today a simple “are you a Brony or a football fan?” Not exactly, but asking the question narrows down what type of man you might be, and thus, makes the question of what a man is in 2012 a more complex question to answer.

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