Origin Stories: Ballad of the Bronies
One of the most controversial subgroups to emerge in recent history is the Brony. Bro(+ po)nies are a large part of the fan base for the 2010 Hasbro reboot of the My Little Pony franchise. They are inexplicably comprised of grown men: the least likely demographic that comes to mind for a show aimed at young girls. Well, I say inexplicably…
The franchise has gone through many drafts in its animated form over the years. The first generation was surprisingly dark, especially considering the story revolved around pretty talking ponies. It had a fantasy setting that allowed for genuinely terrifying and threatening monsters to step in as the antagonists in every episode. Unfortunately, it fell quite flat in characterization with every pony easily blending into one another. Later incarnations would place the ponies in bizarrely human settings such as high schools and have them singing about preteen girl issues. The main problem in this transformation is that this change of setting made it geared especially towards a single female gender stereotype as opposed to the first version, which was more inviting to anyone. Eventually the series simply nosedived into shameless marketing for the toy series.
In 2010 Lauren Faust, the creative engine behind shows such as The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, took over the series and gave the My Little Pony franchise a whole new approach. The fantasy setting and use of monsters were reintroduced, the backgrounds started to pop, the art design became smoother and less clunky than past ponies, and (probably most significantly) the characters were individuals. She did what many children show creators often overlook, which is to have a show for kids written with as much respect as any other show. Clever and witty writers came on staff as well as an entire music team for the soundtrack. The cast was set up by A-lister voice actors and Faust oversaw the whole operation. My Little Pony ceased to be an extended commercial and became a well-rounded show.
Faust has never seemed to have a gender divide present in her work. Even Powerpuff Girls, while looking distinctly feminine, was always inviting to all genders. Most notably Foster’s never once seemed to favor one gender over the other nor did its characters express any gender norms. Faust’s programs are always ones meant for everyone, so it’s only natural she could orchestrate even My Little Pony in a way that could invite any group.
But then the only missing piece is where did the Bronies come from? Simple answer: 4chan. They emerged on the animation board and spread like a plague around the website until they became banned. From there they leaked onto other facets on the Internet and eventually were welcomed back to 4chan with open arms.
Ultimately, the emergence of Bronies is unusual but not that surprising. And what, truly, is so bad about grown men watching cartoons and preaching its message of love and respect?