That Weird Shizz: Bronies

That Weird Shizz is a recurring feature from the Bizarre and Amazing channel on Break.

“Watch that video. It’s the best video I’ve seen in ages. Oh my God.” Wednesday evening I saw this tweet from Twitter phenom Nick Robinson about a My Little Pony convention video float through my Twitter feed. He would spend the next 24 hours going crazy on Twitter and Facebook about the video. You can see why. This herd of Bronies is a ball of awkward that is amazing to watch bounce around this convention hall.

At this point, you may be asking yourself what a Brony is and how you can avoid becoming one. A brony is a male fan of the show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. That bit after the colon is important. These guys aren’t just weirdos who loves all things My Little Pony. They’re weirdos who loves this specific incarnation of the show, launched in 2010 on The Hub, a channel that is probably so high up your cable lineup you need a scientific calculator to enter all the digits required to get to it.

Yes, this. This is what all the fuss is about.

The reason this reboot of a cartoon series based on an 80’s toy franchise aimed at girls, airing on an obscure children’s cable channel, garnered so much attention was that it was being helmed by Lauren Faust, a lead animator on Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Animals. She had star power for nerds (A term I use respectfully), and when it comes to nerds, there is perhaps no larger haven than 4Chan, where the maladjusted go to troll and be trolled. It was deep within 4Chan that the Bronie movement was foaled. A small but dedicated group of guys on 4Chan went crazy for the show, began calling themselves Bronies, and poured MLP:FIM images into the message board.

The Brony movement jumped out of 4Chan into the wider web… or was chased out. This was due in part to a backlash against Brony posts on 4Chan. Bronies soon developed their own communities, creating websites, subreddits, and social networks. The community aspect is important– many Bronies have suggested that being a part of this community has helped them deal with social inadequacies. I hear you: Really? Guys who like a girly kids cartoon are socially awkward? Unbelievably, yes.

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Bronyism is essentially fandom. It’s just fandom of a really weird thing that seems counterintuitive. After all, most things that garner a hardcore male fanbase seem to boil down to two things: Boob. Really into computers? Well, they make it easy to get boobs. Anime? Robot boobs. Sci-Fi? Alien boobs. Comic books? Partially-obscured super boobs. My Little Pony:Friendship Is Magic lack boobs altogether! Yet, these Bronies are pouring their hearts and souls into this cartoon, creating images, comics, fanfiction, video mashups, and even a convention. The video that sparked this post came from a My Little Pony convention, but Bronycon is the jam that all the Bronies are waiting for. Bronycon was created in 2012, and it quickly grew from a handful of attendees to thousands. The next Bronycon is August 2, in Baltimore, and it should easily see over 5000 attendees.

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Do you dare check out this Brony cosplay?

As their numbers have grown, so has their legitimacy as a subculture. In 2011, the New York Times included Brony in a list of popular words, asking which words would still be around after 2011. Brony has fared much better than Kardash and #Winning.The New York Times did a feature in 2012 on an autistic couple, which included a girl who was a brony. In fact, the Times printed a correction the day after their article that brought the nerdy side of the net to its knees with glee. 

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2013 is likely to be the Year Of The Brony. A documentary about the Brony subculture that was a Kickstarter success will air on Logo and be available online for free later this year. This year’s convention highlights video is the kind of video that people won’t forget. Hasbro is even releasing a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic feature film.

Is it weird? That is a question that doesn’t even need to be answered. All subcultures need to be a little off in order to be of interest and to thrive. Bronyism, though, is really like any other fandom. It’s just a bunch of people who are really into a thing and spend, probably, way too much time, energy, and money on it. If the thing you’re into– whether it’s fantasy football, video games, or even fixing up old cars–makes you happy, who cares what anyone else thinks? And that’s the beauty of Bronyism. It helps the people who probably need it most be able to say “Who cares what you think?” to the rest of the world.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve got a question for you. What thing are you a fan of that is difficult to explain to other people? For me, it’s professional wrestling.

-Earnest (Follow me on Twitter @earnestp)

Previously on That Weird Shizz: Die Antwoord