Did you know that there are now many thousands of adult fans of My Little Pony (which like the Trekkies or Gleek has their own fan name: "bronies")? On average, people don't know or care, but there are some people who have become anti-brony zealots with a ferocity and intensity that is both odd and surprising.
But maybe they have a point.
It could be said that some shows actually damage people and our society in tangible ways. That push boundaries that shouldn't be pushed. Shows that are mean in spirit, exploitative, or glorify the bad guys in ways that could be argued make us worse people for watching them. But is My Little Pony one of them?
Below I've gathered all the arguments I've heard to date for why there's something wrong with adults who like My Little Pony.
#1 – "Adults who like little kid's shows are creepy"
The truth of this statement depends on what you mean. Toy Story is a little kids show and so is Dora the Explorer. But Disney animations have been enjoyed by adult audiences for almost a century and Japanese kid's shows (called anime) have been popular in the states for decades. So clearly adults can enjoy "kid shows" if they're good enough.
So while it's true that shows like Dora and Backyardigans are hard for anyone over the age of five to watch (little kid shows), and many other cartoons would be hard to watch for people over 10 (age-restricted shows), quite a few animations are enjoyable by people of all ages (family shows).
No one is going to try to convince you that the My Little Pony of the past didn't fall squarely into the first two categories. However, the 2010 reboot was specifically designed to appeal to all ages. With smooth Flash animation, top-notch voice acting, great characterization, an unprecedented level of art and lore along with a a plethora of adult gags and references, My Little Pony has transcended it's legacy and become something unexpected: not just watchable by any age or sex, but genuinely enjoyable.
Verdict: FALSE. There is nothing creepy about adults watching shows that were designed for them to enjoy.
#2 – "But it's a girl's show!"
Lauren Faust is working to change the idea that girl characters have to all be vain, weak, and stupid. [Source]
First, when you say "girl's show" you're talking about a HUGE range. There's the brainless giggle-fest nonsense like Strawberry Shortcake and then there's action and humor packed shows like Kim Possible. There are even in-between things like the newer Barbie animations that have great animation and design, but are still quite girly overall… but that's only if you're one of those people who equates "girly" with froo-froo worthless nonsense.
Lauren Faust (the show's artistic creator, and season 1 executive producer) always hated the stereotyped girls portrayed in cartoons. Through her career, she has fought this trend by introducing and strong and interesting characters like the ones in The Powerpuff Girls, The Kids Next Door, and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Not brainless. Not weak. Not stupid. And a decided lack of makeovers and so-called "girly things".
She made this show to feature a variety of girl types and show that each can be great in their own way. In doing so, she's trying to sever the link between "girly" and worthless… and she's succeeding.
Verdict: TRUE. It IS a show targeted towards girls.
#3 – "But there's something seriously wrong with guys who like girl shows!"
The stereotype says that women like stories, romance, and drama while guys like violence and punching. Both have a fair degree of truth, but where they fall down is in the overlap. Take for instance Naruto. Unlike a lot of "boys cartoons", Naruto includes a deep and detailed story plot that progresses through the series. The cast is huge and each character has their own issues, goals, dreams, and problems. Take away the Ninja powers and fight scenes and you essentially have what people might consider a "girl's" show.
Everyone knows that guys appreciate a good story too. We care about personal issues, we want the guy to get his girl or the girl to get her man. We cringe when they make embarrassing mistakes, we root for them to defeat the bully. Heck, most guys will admit to fighting tears during that one scene in Toy Story 3 or Futurama (you know the ones I mean).
Lots of "girl shows" include real issues, violence, humor, suspence, and consequences… stuff that guys can still relate to or at least enjoy watching play out. Desperate Housewives, many Japanese anime, Sabrina the Teen Witch, and iCarly are just a few examples.
Saying that a guy can't enjoy a show only because the target audience is female is as ludicrous as saying my wife can't enjoy The Big Bang Theory or my daughter shouldn't watch Avatar: The Last Airbender just because they were made for guys.
Verdict: FALSE. Things that for girls by design can, and often are, liked by perfectly normal guys (here are several examples. NOTE: The linked article has strong language!).
#4 – "Only someone super creepy would dress up like a pony!"
Out of context, seeing a picture like this might really make you wonder about the people in the costume, but consider other places you might see someone in costume:
- Sci-fi or anime conventions
- Movie premieres
- Parties or other gatherings
- Sporting events
Some Bronies dress up in relevant costumes when they go to brony events just like fans of other things do when going to a special movie, a party, or sporting event. Pretty much everyone would agree that someone wearing paint and a cheesehead in the grocery store is a little odd, but there's a statistically insignificant number of people who dress up outside of relevant events.
And if, for whatever reason, you felt that dressing up is still "creepy" even for appropriate occasions, that still has nothing to do with the majority of fans who don't ever dress up.
Verdict: FALSE. Fans dressing appropriately for fan events is not something to get worked up over.
#5 – "They're just fat neck-beards who will forever live in their mother's basement"
So let's agree that there are fans among the bronies who are less aware of social norms or just don't care. And let's agree that you're welcome to feel however you want about that. But how do you justify assuming so much about them?
There are thousands and thousands of bronies and only some of them live at home or have social or medical differences from the norm. We have fans among the military, webcomic authors, animators, musicians and artists. If anything, the common denominator among most brony fans seems to be people with a lot of talent and creativity.
As for the insulting physical description, any group photo of brony gatherings or conventions shows the same thing:
It's a bunch of people varying in age with an almost equal distribution of guys and girls. They look like average college students to me, though based on other pictures I found, there are plenty of bronies above college-age as well.
Verdict: FALSE. Brony fans are across the spectrum of age, sex, and physical characteristics.
#6 – "Bronies are pushy and treat it like a religion! As if they're special for ironically watching a kid's cartoon"
Well, first we already know it's not a kid's-only cartoon any more than Kung Fu Panda is. But that aside, some bronies can be very excited about sharing the show with others. Of course, people were the same when Gangnam Style was a huge hit (ex. "Hey have you watched this!? You HAVE to see it").
Showing your friends something you found online is not new, but I would be foolish to pretend there aren't people who take it too far. That said, consider this chart:
On the far right, we have brony extremists. People who consider bronyism a "lifestyle", who spend hours a day looking for an commenting on MLP content. People who make death threats to other fans who expressed negative opinions about the show (this happened). These are extreme fans and everyone knows it. However, this is not really unusual:
- There are people who threatened death to RottonTomatoes reviewers who gave a Batman movie negative reviews
- Fans of the Harry Potter universe have conventions, dress up, and generally enjoy the show in ways some people mock and deride.
- Some people were so upset that the planet from the Avatar movie wasn't real that they needed a support group
- Sports fan fights, vandalism, and even outright riots over things that don't go the way they want (I don't need to provide a specific example since this happens pretty much all the time).
And the concept of extreme fans making people hate ALL fans isn't new either. Just ask fans of the Twilight saga how they were treated. Or fans of Anime what people said about them in the 80's and 90's when it was still new. Fans of Dungeons and Dragons or live-action roleplay. Even people who listen to Heavy Metal music! Extreme elements in every group were easier to see and make fun of and the media was only too happy to reinforce the stereotypes for as long as it got ratings.
But just like those other groups, the vast majority of fans are happy to goof around, chat, create art/music/writing or whatever they want to do. It doesn't affect or involve anyone else so well-adjusted people know to live and let live.
However, extremism among bronies isn't limited to fans. There's a new group of people who actively spend time during their day, looking for brony videos and stories to make fun of. They devote themselves in a cult-like fashion to making their hate and displeasure known. When presented with information that contradicts everything they say, they continue to mock and bully because they're not really interested in facts or logic. They are the nega-bronies.
Now, some of the nega-bronies are just misguided. They make snap judgments based on bad information and don't bother to research it before forming and sharing their opinions. For example:
Kurt Schlichter, a LA-based lawyer and columnist wrote a vicious hate-filled article attacking bronies where he described the fans as "perma-virgins" with a "disgusting obsession" while stating that womanizing characters like Captain Kirk are a far better male role-models.
The funny part is how he contrasted bronies on one end of the spectrum with people in the military; not realizing that there are a lot of military bronies.
To his credit, when military bronies challenged him to wear a My Little Pony hoodie in public for charity, he agreed. I'm sure he was disgusted with the whole ordeal and it probably didn't change his opinions much, but at least he learned that you can be a defender of the USA AND a fan of a cartoon… even if the cartoon is one he thinks he doesn't like.
Believe it or not, there are actually groups and websites completely dedicated to insulting and sometimes cyber-bullying bronies. In an extreme case, a group of 40 or more continuously encouraged one brony to commit suicide.
If there was ever such a focused anti-fan group for Trekkies, Whoovians, or any other fan group, I've never heard of it. Still, people hate what they fear and don't understand and it's a crying shame that so many people are still so eager to attack those different from them in entirely inconsequential ways.
Verdict: FALSE. Every fandom has extremes who are loud, obnoxious, and socially awkward. It doesn't mean anything in regards to the rest of the fans.
Take the challenge!
Above you see the most often used and repeated arguments for why My Little Pony and it's fans are a menace to society and why each is weak to downright silly. But maybe you have something to offer that I haven't thought of before. Some reason why it's truly wrong for an adult male to enjoy watching this great show. I guarantee you that if you can point to some actual harm or problem that has resulted from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I will reconsider being a fan.
Until then, Here's my personal theory: Lauren Faust is right that My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic is making our society better by causing a lot of people to question their assumptions not only about "girls" entertainment, but the attitude they have towards people who watch it:
But whatever you think about it, just remember this: