Why & How Bronies are Misunderstood
In the broadest sense, a brony is simply a boy or man who likes My Little Pony, but why do we even need a word for that? Anypony who watches “Friendship is Magic” can list the many ways the show appeals to all types, but why do bronies always feel compelled to defend their interest in the franchise?
For most of us, our gender has affected the way others have treated us since before we were even born. “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” is usually the first question pregnant women get asked, and the answer determines what kind of clothes their baby will wear and what kind of toys they will be given. Consequently, we learn from a young age that the differences between boys and girls are fundamental facts of life: Dresses and Easy Bake Ovens are for girls; Hotwheels and Legos are for boys.
The Origins of MLP
Hasbro obviously created the original My Little Pony toys to appeal to girls. The first and all subsequent generations of ponies have bright fur, stylized manes and “cutie marks” on their flanks. Common cutie marks are flowers, diamonds and hearts, all symbols people tend to associate with femininity. If you step back and think about it though, is there really anything innately “girly” about certain colors, shapes and hairstyles? It’s like the chicken or the egg dilemma: Do young girls like “My Little Pony” because they are girls or because adults have trained girls to like “girly” things?
Giving boys and girls different toys is harmless, but sometimes adults go too far. They tell boys, “Don’t act like a girl,” implying that acting like a girl is a bad thing. Young kids learn fast, and they are quick repeat back what they hear. For example, in 2014 the mother of a male elementary school student in North Carolina called her son’s school because the boy was being bullied for carrying a backpack depicting Rainbow Dash, one of the most popular characters on “Friendship is Magic.” Instead of telling the bullies not to harass the child, the school counselor told the mother that her son was “asking for trouble” by bringing the backpack to school, and the principal outright told the kid to leave his backpack at home. The school officials were fortunately reprimanded by the local school board and media outlets when the story broke, but incidents like this happen every day. It’s no wonder that students bully each other over gender; they learned it from adults.
MLP Expands beyond its core
Surely there have always been boys who like the My Little Pony toys, but the male fan base has surged since 2010 with the introduction of “Friendship is Magic.” Thanks to the show’s clever writing and unique art style, a lot of people outside of the traditional target audience have become captivated with Equestria and its inhabitants. On the surface, it’s easy to see the show’s universal appeal. Plots of episodes usually revolve around conflicts between friends, which is something everyone can relate to. However, because our society holds such rigid ideas about what boys and girls should like, a lot of people think males who watch the show aren’t normal. Instead of hiding their love for MLP, many men and boys are embracing it, hence the label “brony.” By calling oneself a brony, a boy or man is saying “Yes, I am a male who likes My Little Pony, and it is OK for other males to like it too.”
Some Brony Misconceptions
The biggest misconception about bronies is that they are all the same. There are online communities and even international conferences for bronies, but the ones who draw elaborate fanart, dress up like their favorite characters or blog about My Little Pony for a living are in the minority. Most males who like My Little Pony have plenty of other interests. Some bronies may also do other traditionally “girly” things like paint their fingernails, but other bronies would rather have motor oil on their hands. A brony can be any age, race, size or sexual orientation. The only thing all bronies have in common is an appreciation for one of the greatest franchises of this generation.
Not all male fans self-identify as bronies. Some may say only hardcore fans who go to MLP conferences count as bronies, but the label is really something that has been forced upon males. If boys weren’t taught from a young age to avoid “girly” things, there would be no need for the term. Nonetheless, we live in a world where people do care a lot about gender, so it’s important for boys to know that liking MLP doesn’t make them weird; it just makes them human.
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