The animated show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic took a life of its own after it first aired in 2010, originally launched as a TV series in junction with the dolls of play sets it unexpectedly developed a serious fandom. This fandom largely consists of males ranging from 18-35, and they have deemed themselves “bronies” (singular brony) by combining the words “bros” and “ponies” because they are bros who love ponies. This shocking turnaround is a bit humorous in having grown men enjoying a frilly pink pony show meant for young girls that also love imaginary tea parties. Many people see the community as strange and so much of our attention and curiosity has been directed to looking at the oddity of this phenomenon. My younger brother, an admitted but rather reserved brony, commented that he used to be in denial as he felt judged for his ironic interest in the show, but then he “just didn’t care”. He had felt because there was a large enough community, even though by social convention his attraction to the show was odd, it no longer felt odd to him, but normal. And for the most part, that oddity and strangeness was what I discussed with him about, because I was not a part of the community, and wanted to at least rationalize why this phenomenon is occurring. But that is the mistake.
Molly Lambert one of many who attempt to put bronies into the field of vision of society in her piece on Grantland, The Internet is Magic: Exploring the Wonderful World of My Little Pony Fandom in Bronies. Lambert explains the bronies phenomenon is an outlet for those suppressed by the alpha male stereotype by standing up and saying that it’s okay to be a fan of a media that is intended for a significantly different age group. We spend all this time gawking, observing, rationalizing, just simply attempting to explain what are all these grown men loving little pink ponies and rainbows for, but I think that all of this is a huge distraction from what we should all should actually be gawking at. Charity. Nobody is thinking that these random people have gathered for good causes, your average person is fascinated about how grown men have all pledged allegiance to a fantastical cartoon series. But by taking a short tour through The Manliest Website in the World you see that they bravely take on the irony in simply their title, in their about us they boldy state
“Bronies aren’t intimidated by childish Internet trolls….Bronies know that worthy men aren’t chauvanistic, homophobic, or living in denial of their positive emotions. Bronies have risen above the cynical destructive culture of Internet hipsters…”
They completely leave out their charitable contributions and yet they have an entire page called The Manly Challenges which poses various challenges (ie weekly or monthly), that ask for donations while matching the amount to a specific cause/charity. And no matter where you are on the site there is a side bar with a dollar amount of how much is earned, and if you click the number it takes you to a page called Manly Challenge Score Sheet documenting all the money raised going to which charity, and below it a list of notable donors of $200 or more. In five days’ time (5/9/14-5/14/14), The Manliest Website in the World has already raised over $28,000! The original purpose of this website is to act as a brony hub that streams weekly live video show with various fandom guests such as voice actors, writers, production staffs, etc. The site however goes a step beyond simply entertaining and connecting the fandom with the actual My Little Pony staff and upgrades it to a hub of good deeds, yet we are so distracted and fascinated by the oddity and irony of this fandom that we easily overlook all the wonderful things this fandom has gathered for.
There are many more sites and events other than The Manliest Website in the World. Some organize blood drives (this is one by Bronies for Good), performance events or fandom events in general like this one organized by Equestria Daily that is trying to encourage the gatherers of the fandom at a My Little Pony concert to help out. Then there are more specialized sites that solely focus on the charitable aspects of bronies like The Brony Thank You Fund which selectively donates their raised funds only to charities that help benefit children. Their website actually also similarly have a sidebar on the right that lists some of their notable donations to institutes, schools, and foundations. In addition they have a sidebar on the left that shows a up to date counter that keeps track to where their donation amount is to their goal. It is simply amazing to think that this community is gathered solely by their own accord, the producers of My Little Pony, Hasbro Studios, has absolutely no participation in organizing any of these websites and fundraisers. There are also other small scale charity projects that combine first person shooter games for charity, my brother spoke about in games such as Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike. They do play for charity and each kill is a dollar donation, and the community produces fan based products that can be sold, or some other incentive to acquire donations.
The bronies of the My Little Pony fandom are not only progressive in stepping away from social conventions of an alpha macho male stereotype, and they’ve done so by pledging allegiance to not just the show, but to the principles of the show and to their community. They built a safe haven in the virtual world which would not have existed without technology and allowed many people to find comfort and relaxation even with an identity that is considered socially odd. And at the same time we are so fascinated by the oddity of it that it became a distraction to understanding the “spirit” of bronies. It’s like society is a bit blindsided to judging a community for their actions because their reputation is unfamiliar and controversial to the norm. I think that maybe bronies are so influenced to participate in charity because they are bronies, in Lambert’s article she interviewed Lauren Faust who said
“These Bronies are taking these lessons to heart. We need to allow men to be sensitive and to care about one another, and not call them weak for caring.”
So if these people are pledging themselves to the My Little Pony principles which Faust has implied is most distinguished by the ability to find strength in caring in compassion, then I think its possible to draw the conclusion that the charitable actions are simply a part of what the brony culture entails. Our distraction in trying to superficially understand why bronies are bronies may have taken us down the garden path, when their actions are clearly telling society that bronies are bronies because they believe in being good, and doing good. The television series of My Little Pony is simply a coincidental anthem on the TV medium that has given people the excuse to gather for this cause.