Bronies are a subculture that, not entirely unreasonably, weirds some people out. Hell, I like the show, I’ve got a degree in the worst flake magnet in the arts, and some bronies weird me out too.
But they seem to be on their way to mainstream pop culture. Once the far right stumbled across it, it was only a matter of time before Jerry Springer showed up. Really, think pieces in the Atlantic and the New Yorker are only a matter of time, probably about “shifting goalposts of masculinity” or some other load of crap.
So, love it or lump it, grown men who enjoy a cartoon aimed at preteen girls are about to have way too much ink spilled over what they “mean”, since this is largely Baby Boomers who, let’s face it, will take any opportunity to freak out over the behavior of twenty-somethings. So, for some of those confused and lost, here’s a step-by-step guide to “getting it”.
Step #1) Accept That The Show Itself Is Actually Pretty Good All-Ages Entertainment
I mean, we’re not talking earthshaking here. It’s not nearly as disturbing or cheerfully grotesque as, say, SpongeBob SquarePants or Ren and Stimpy. It’s not crammed full of jokes kids won’t get, although there are plenty of little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nods to pop culture.
But it’s fairly witty, it doesn’t talk down to its audience, and it’s not really “gender-specific”, partially because Lauren Faust didn’t want to make a “girly” cartoon. The result is wholesome entertainment about funny animals along the lines of Mickey Mouse.
The one thing that truly stands out about it, and is likely the reason bronies exist, is the characterization. The characters are actually quite sharp and well done with strengths and weaknesses that make them relatable. Fluttershy, for example, might as well be the mascot for people with crippling social anxiety, and Twilight Sparkle manages to capture being a bookish nerd without being insulting about it. Faust makes a point of undermining stereotypes as well: There is a girly pony named Rarity, but instead of being a shallow twit, she’s a fussy workaholic. In terms of characters it’s actually better than a lot of sitcoms.
Step #2) Understand That The Writers Listen to the Fandom and Respond
Most TV shows, if the fans have opinions, the writing staff will occasionally acknowledge them in an interview.
Hell, this is a show that went out of its way to cast John DeLancie in a role because they knew the adult fandom would go nuts. In other words, people who love the show know people who write the show listen to them.
That’s powerful. It gets the fans invested in the show… and watching the episodes.
Step #3: Realize There’s a Strong Sense of Community Here
Some people want to bloviate about how people don’t want to meet face-to-face and deal with “real” people anymore. But the reality is this: meeting a person you really click with and can really get along with is hard. Finding any sort of community is a powerful thing in modern times. Communities are where you find them, and this tends to be a strong one, partially due to that writer feedback I mentioned.
#4) Realize That Bronies Have More Than One Interest
Eventually, cultural commentators will figure out that watching one show and liking it doesn’t translate to “completely obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree.”
Of course there are people unhealthily obsessed with the show. But there are people unhealthily obsessed with any form of entertainment. Hell, in terms of unhealthy obsession, you can’t beat sports fans. When was the last time fans of any fictional TV show rioted? Why is nobody asking what the hell is wrong with them?
Step #5) Realize That You Don’t Understand These Guys Not Because Of Their Love of Cartoon Horses, But Because Being In Your Twenties is Way Different Now.
As we mentioned before, the bronies did a census and found that most bronies are single, male, and 15 to 29 is the largest age bracket.
For all the old people confused as to how a guy like this could find some joy in watching a bunch of talking horses, it’s not really that hard. Being in your twenties generally sucks. You’re probably broke, you’ve got between ten and thirty thousand dollars of debt to work off if you’re an average American, you’re dealing with relationships as an adult for the first time and likely making a miserable hash of it, and you’re probably working a job you hate that a monkey could do.
Escapism is the order of the day. I spent my early and mid twenties watching Mad Men, Sealab 2021, The X-Files, Bones, House, Burn Notice, The Venture Brothers… point is, you find something that makes your day-to-day a little easier, you get obsessed. And if you happen to be lonely and looking for friends, it’s just that much easier if the show has a subculture to get that much more into it.
In short, bronies are just people looking for a half-hour of fun. So cut them a break.