Monday, January 16, 2012

Bronies: Trolling is Magic.

Bronies are a new phenomenon that are currently sweeping through the internet, and I have little doubt that before long they will reach "critical mass", spilling over into popular culture and making their way into the everyday mainstream.  They might never be accepted (ask Star Trek/Wars geeks), but they do seem to be around for a while, and I'm fairly confident they're in for the long haul.  I think it's presumptuous to call it a movement, but for simplicity I will throughout this post.
For those few of you who don't know what Bronies are, they're just adults that enjoy the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Well, maybe they're adults who enjoy it a little too much.  There are lots of YouTube videos made by these guys- and there's a lot of talent and imagination in the crowd.  It's a very large movement- Anthony Bourdain, Former President Bill Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Rebecca Watson are all either Bronies or have publicly endorsed it.  I have a friend who hated the movement a little bit too much, and before long he realized he had "become" one.  He described the transformation as more like he had a realization- he realized, he didn't want to be one but he was, and he just had to accept it.
I'm not sure I buy it.  I've watched an episode or two, and they're OK, I mean, no different from the Simpsons (except for clearer, lower pitched dialog, no pretense at being a kids show, and generally unambiguous messages about life, the universe, and everything), but nothing I could ever consider throwing myself behind.  Not because it isn't cool, because it just doesn't do anything for me.  Then again, I'm not a big fanboy, period.  I admit to an unfair appreciation of the Final Fantasy series, but mostly because it has deep, emotional ties in my childhood.  I like the Elder Scrolls, but the games are not without their significant flaws, I just enjoy the general freedom in play.  I never made up my mind between Kirk and Picard, Skywalker or Solo.  I just don't invest myself enough in media to change my daily life.  I enjoy Spock and Riker when I see them as much as I enjoy Voldemort or Dexter.  They're all just characters, and whether or not there's new stuff coming out, they're still just that, fictional characters I care next to nothing about.  I don't draw lines, or make judgments, I take them at face value.  As far as that goes, I don't care much for Fluttershy or Twilight Sparkle, but I can appreciate the ideas behind.  I can totally see the movement.  I just can't get behind it, anymore than I could any of the nation's other greatest fads.  I really enjoyed Army of Darkness (and the Evil Dead movies that came first), not enough to stand "behind" them, on any issues.
And those would-be-(if-I-were-talking)-air-quotes are, I think, the crux of this movement.  What are the requirements for entry into this movement?  Is it just an appreciation for MLP:FIM?  Is it just enough to acknowledge they're a good show, much like the Powerpuff Girls or The Adventures of Billy and Mandy or Invader Zim (I think it's evident I could go on)?  Or does it take more?  I'm asking, I don't presume to know the answer, and as I have only one contact in the Broniverse (to my knowledge, that term is copyright by me.  Originality is, after all, undiscovered plagiarism) I can't say with any certainty, but I do suspect  something more is required ("You're not a real Brony!").  An obsession with the culture.  And, as with House, Dexter, American Dad or Castle, I can't say I obsess.  I watch all these shows regularly, but I don't even engage in conversation about them, except for the occasional small-talk.  So I'm not a Brony, but there are a couple of sub-movements my friend has mentioned- maybe there's something .
The Pegasisters are Bronies who object to the idea that the term Brony is masculine.  If you've read my previous posts, you may be aware how pathetic I feel this argument is.  Many of them either feel men either shouldn't watch or should be ashamed of watching MLP.  It probably goes without saying that I find the needlessly sexist behavior off-putting if I'm feeling generous, and discount them without a second thought.  Many Pegasisters just refer to themselves as such because they aren't crazy about the title "Brony", given its obviously male implications.  I have no problem with them.
Then there are the Shippers, they write fanfiction (or sometimes just post/comment publicly, maybe make a Youtube video), usually romantic in nature, between characters in the series.  Consider "Huddy" fans, of House fame, people who publicly postulated that Drs. House and Cuddy should be (or were already) together in some romantic relationship, long before one actually started in the show.  Like the rest of the Brony movement, I have no problem with people writing fanfiction, even if it's of the romantic variety.  Practicing creativity is a good thing, and if some dragon-pony affair tweaks your muse, then so be it.  I won't read it, but I won't begrudge them for doing what they want.
Some mainstream Bronies don't take kindly to it, which is a little odd.  Their argument has to look something like:
Brony: "You wrote a story about Rainbow Dash and Applejack getting together?  That's weird."
Shipper: "That's weird?  I wrote a story about something I enjoy."
B: "Yeah, but they're cartoons.  And ponies."
S: "And?  I'm being creative."
B: "But it's a kids' show, and that weirds me out."
S: "So, you feel about me the way the rest of the world feels about you."
B: "Well played."  >.>
I admittedly haven't watched enough of MLP:FIM to get a good idea of exactly who it applies to, but they exist, and they draw some line there.  Again, I think it's a silly line to draw, but in any cult following, you end up with shippers, and you end up with "normal" members of the obsessive group disliking them.
My Brony friend doesn't think anything analogous to the Brony movement exists.  I don't think it's unique in any way.  Like any cult following of, well, anything (The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes to mind), it's a culture where people can meet each other and have a common ground.  Like 4chan and Reddit, some of the people within the movement are obscenely talented, and they put together technically impressive videos, or sometimes animate their own spin-offs which are nearly identical to the original.
I don't know what to expect from this movement.  Personally, I'm not overly impressed.  My friend seems to think it's a completely unique development, but I think I've shown it's nothing new, just a new object of fandom.  It's another movement, we'll watch it surge, wither and finally discover a sustainable homeostasis, eventually earning a solid position in society.  Or not.
What's the difference between Bronies and Twilight fans? (Team Rainbow Dash or Team Pinkie Pie?) Demographics, I'm guessing, and there's probably considerable overlap.  Being a Brony is just a level of fandom that started, I think, as a troll, and ended up with people legitimately enjoying what is nominally a kids' show, and spreading the magic to others (ie., growing the fan base).  But like most modern kids' shows, there are plenty of adult jokes embedded in the story.  It's clearly a charming, enjoyable show, and I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying it.  Or obsessing about it.  Whatever dills your pickle.

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