Growing up in the internet era, I’m pretty sure a vast majority of people my age have one or two fandoms they’re ashamed to admit they were a part of. From Homestuck to Hetalia, from “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” to Danganronpa. There’s something in your past you loved and lost and never want to think about again, I guarentee.
For me… well, actually that could be many fandoms. I did my time in Homestuck, Hetalia, Warriors, and many others. But for today I thought I’d take a look at perhaps one of the most infamous fandoms of them all.
The Brony Fandom.
Perhaps it’s obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Brony phenomenon, but I’m not exactly your quintessential brony. I mean, I’m a girl. To most on the internet, the word “Brony” brings up an image of a neck-bearded adult man wearing a fedora and living in his parents’ basement. And that’s… perhaps not untrue. But it’s not exactly fully true either.
For some background – I was always the weird horse kid back in elementary school. I loved to draw them, read about them, play games with them in it, and even pretend to be them. So, unsurprisingly, I loved My Little Pony as a kid. I grew up in the third generation of the toys and show. To spare you a long explanation, this was the era where the ponies got a lot curvier (as opposed to just chubby) and committed entirely to a fantasy world of dragons and magic (as opposed to a weird modern-style pony world). It wasn’t exactly… good, but it was sufficient for being a little kid who just wanted to act out the events of the cartoon with her Pinkie Pie toy.
Perhaps more importantly than the toys or the cartoon, though, was the element of creativity I experienced loving these little ponies. I used to make up my own ponies, drawing and coloring them and giving them their own names and special talents (signified by their very own characteristic butt-tattoo-I-mean-cutiemark). I loved the color and the creativity and the ponies themselves, of course.
But I outgrew the ponies, as so many before me had. I moved onto Littlest Pet Shops and then Warriors and then several other internet-based fandoms I would love and then later regret.
But then My Little Pony came back. Now with thin, streamlined designs and nicely-animated and far higher quality cartoons, suddenly animation fans on the internet were talking about the new My Little Pony. Curious, I settled down and watched the first two episodes and was hooked.
The new My Little Pony, titled “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, stuck with the same fantasy genre its predecessor had, but had allowed its main cast to have distinctive personalities and flaws. The world built around them was steeped in an interesting mythos and the same feeling of pastel fun that has always been a part of the series. But now it was more sophisticated, with more of a plot, and with more of a strong central theme – that of the friendship between six ponies and their adventures together. Plus, there was the fun and well-written musical numbers and legitimately funny and a joy to watch.
I wasn’t the only one drawn to this show by any means. No, I was merely part of an internet movement, an unexpectedly large fanbase built of mostly teen-to-adult, (seemingly) mostly male fans. These fans came to be known as bronies, a pun on bro + pony. (Female teen-to-adult fans were usually called Pegasisters, but I actively resisted this term because I didn’t want to seem like an offshoot of the real thing.)
Nowadays it seems like this fandom has more or less died down, but at its heyday it was an incredible hub of creativity. Fanart, fan-composed music, fan-animations, fan-games, fanfiction, OCs (even some of my own), cosplays, analysis videos, and even more, all created by fans of a show that was supposed to be made for young girls. The brony fandom is legitimately one of the most creative fandoms I’ve been a part of, and probably also one of the most organized. Nearly everything about the fandom could be found on Equestria Daily, a blog that complied fanworks and shared them on the hour.
It’s hard to describe the electricity of being in the fandom in those days. There was always something new and amazing to watch, to listen to, to read. It was a perfect storm. It was an exciting and welcoming place to be, especially as a young creator and writer. I made a lot of fan characters and wrote a fair amount of fanfiction for this show. Like many of the early fandoms I took part in, it influenced a lot of my creativity. It also made me a lot of friends.
That’s not to say everything was sunshine and roses all the time in the brony fandom. But I share all of the good things mainly because they were all that I ever experienced. Besides some of the weird content created around a few of the notable creepypastas produced by the fandom (god do I hate “Cupcakes”), it was never anything but a good place for me.
And yet, I’ve always had a hard time admitting how much I enjoyed my time in this fandom.
It’s probably due to the seemingly unanimous disdain for the fandom. And… I get it. There is something a little suspect about an entire fandom built around adult men taking over a show made for young girls. There’s something even more suspect about adult men drawing sexual fanart of this show made for young girls. You can be as open-minded as anything and still see a slight problem in a bunch of men setting the cultural standard of a fandom that’s supposed to be for young girls! And I’ll be right next to you all the way saying that that’s not a good thing.
But I mean… that was only on the surface. As a young girl in that fandom, I interacted with lots of other girls like me who created and took part in fandom activities just as much as the older men. And even the boys and men I did meet were always kind and respectful, and never bullied or belittled me. We were unified in our common love for the show.
Did bad stuff happen in that fandom? Totally. I’m sure it did. But it wasn’t the universal experience. There was good and bad in the brony fandom.
Even as it’s difficult for me to admit, I look upon my days loving “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” with an overall positive outlook. Okay, I’m a bit embarrassed, but hey. We’ve all got something to be embarrassed for, right? No shame in that.