Friendship is Magic
Colorful ponies, friendship and magic: these are all characteristics of what most would call a television show for young girls. However, the one show on the air that features all three of these components, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, has attracted a much different crowd: grown boys and men, ages 13-35. These male fans, known as “bronies,” originated online, after an article by Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew sparked a debate on the 4chan forums. Amidi argued that The Hub channel, created by Hasbro to sell toys, marked “the end of the creator-driven era.” He went on to argue that Hasbro’s acquisition of Lauren Faust as the Creative Director for FiM was an example of an established star of the industry “selling out.” It was a surprise to him that Faust, who had been involved with successful original creations such as Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls, would take the lead in creating a television show that was designed specifically to sell toys. Some debaters on the 4chan forums argued that Amidi was judging Faust and FiM unfairly, and that the show itself was actually amazing. A few other guys decided to watch the show as a result, and the fandom started to multiply into what it is today: a creative, loyal fanbase that dedicates itself to a quality program.
At first glance, it certainly seems strange as to why bronies enjoy FiM. After all, it’s a children’s cartoon about multi-colored ponies that learn about friendship, with the occasional musical number in between. However, it’s not the concept, but the substance that attracts bronies to the show. The animation, despite being done using a simple program called Flash, has received rave reviews from viewers and professionals alike. Online reviewer Pan-Pizza praised the animation, believing that “for Flash animation, there is often so much on-screen while [the movements] remain incredibly smooth.” Also attracting the male fanbase is a cast of quality voice actors, including, but not limited to: Tara Strong, John de Lancie and Andrea Libman. Strong, best known for voicing Timmy Turner of the hit show The Fairly Oddparents, voices the lead character of FiM, Twilight Sparkle. Unlike many children’s television shows nowadays, there is certainly realism in the voice acting of FiM, despite the show being set in a fantasy world. Add de Lancie, who is most famous for his portrayal of Q in Star Trek and Libman, who is skilled enough to voice two characters in the show at once, and the result is a very qualified cast of voice actors.
The final two aspects of FiM that attract bronies to the show are the character development and the positive acknowledgement of the fanbase by Hasbro and the creative team of the show itself. As for character development, Faust stated in an interview for Equestria Daily that character foundation was “the focus of my pitch bible.” Looking at other popular children’s cartoons that target similar age groups, such as Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory show that a developer doesn’t necessarily have to develop the characters in his or her cartoon in order to create an effective show. Characters can simply go through the same motions every episode; Johnny Bravo constantly fails to impress women, and Dexter’s experiments are constantly foiled by his sister. In FiM, however, characters do not stay the same. With each passing episode, certain ponies learn about their flaws, and after they learn their lesson, their characters develop. For example, in the episode “Griffon the Brush Off,” Rainbow Dash allows one of her old friends to bully her five closest friends. At the end of the episode, Dash learns that you should defend your friends, even if the bully is close to you. Fast forward to “Wonderbolt Academy,” multiple seasons later, when a pony close to Dash almost causes her friends to fall to an inevitable doom. Dash immediately disapproves of the act, saving her friends and reporting the bully-pony’s actions to the head of the academy.
Hasbro and the FiM team have been more than accepting of the brony community. In February 2013, Hasbro released a commercial for FiM that was based on the well-known Dos Equis beer commercials. It is unlikely that a commercial such as this one was directed towards a young audience. Hasbro has also been incredibly lenient regarding copyright infringement. There are many brony artists on the web that create music, fine art and even their own animated FiM shorts and episodes. Only one fan-created project, a video game known as My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic, has ever been sent a cease and desist letter by Hasbro. Other than that, Hasbro lets bronies get away with using their characters, music and episode footage from FiM. Even more accepting of the brony fandom are Lauren Faust and Tara Strong. Faust has given shout outs to the bronies on multiple occasions in episodes of FiM, either by obscure geeky references or by naming background characters after brony-given names, such as Derpy Hooves and Doctor Whooves. She also contacted the creative team behind the aforementioned Fighting is Magic and is now working to remove copyright infringing material from the game, while creating new, original character concepts for them. Strong has also reached out to bronies, volunteering her Twilight Sparkle voice to YouTube animators and attending many brony conventions, along with other cast members.
Of course, a fandom like this is bound to receive criticism. Fox News bluntly accused bronies of being “a bunch of grown men to stay home from work to watch My Little Pony.” Howard Stern interviewed one particular brony at a BronyCon who admitted to being sexually attracted to the characters of FiM, and applied that to the entire fanbase. Other common accusations toward bronies are claims that they are homosexuals or pedophiles. Of course, none of these accusations can be applied to the entire fanbase. In fact, a study by Dr. Patrick Edwards and Dr. Marsha Redden proved all of these accusations to be false when applied to the entire fanbase. The results of the study showed that 84 percent of the bronies who took their survey were heterosexual, while only 1.7 percent were homosexual. To disprove Fox New’s accusation, 64 percent of bronies who took the survey were in college or had earned a college degree, 70 percent were full or part time students and 32.7 percent had full or part time jobs. One would imagine that those numbers would be much lower if bronies were staying home from work to watch their beloved show. As for Stern’s accusation, it’s simply not fair to apply one weirdo’s personality to an entire fanbase. Every fanbase has a few quirky individuals; honestly, it is very easy to find them, as they are only a Google search away. When analyzing the brony fandom, or any fandom, it is important to analyze the entire thing, not just specific aspects.
The brony fandom is a unique fandom that has many viable reasons to enjoy watching FiM. They are creative, analytical and, most importantly, normal. In fact, the brony study showed that bronies are less aggressive and more connected with art, music and nature than non-bronies. It would be fantastic if, in the future, the gender and age gap was broken for television shows, and anyone could watch what they wanted, when they wanted, without the risk of not being accepted.
“Equestria Daily: Exclusive Season 1 Retrospective Interview with Lauren Faust.” Equestria Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/09/exclusive-season-1-retrospective.html>.
“FOX Attacks Bronies – YouTube.”YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqEDIFfy4Yg>.
“Howard Stern Explores Bronies – YouTube.” YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATBuvElZZig>.
“Hub “Stay Pony my Friends” Promo Commercial – YouTube.” YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oOeT6J5XIo>.
“Moments In Review: My Little Pony Friendship of Magic Review.” Mr. Coat and Friends!. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://thatfellowinthecoat.com/momentslittlepony.php>.
“Study Results.” BRONY STUDY (Research Project). N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://bronystudy.com/id1.html>.
“The End of the Creator-Driven Era in TV Animation | Cartoon Brew.” Cartoon Brew | Animation News, Animated Cartoons. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/the-end-of-the-creator-driven-era-29614.html>.