By Brenna Lash
As a closeted lover of the show, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” there comes a point in any relationship I have with a friend where I sheepishly and somewhat reluctantly let them in on my “closeted” secret: I watch and enjoy a show meant for young girls; the same type of show I used to watch when I was little, my sister and I curled up together on the couch sharing giggles and popcorn in equal measure.
The usual response to this reveal is a smile or perhaps a teasing jab; I’ve only been laughed at a few times. There is a certain connotation surrounding the show. Those who have never heard of it before recognize the label My Little Pony as a girl’s toy, while others who have never seen it but are familiar with the newly remade television series, have inevitably heard of the “brony” community, which for those who do not know, is a term mashing up “bro” and “pony” to form a word which describes the avid teenaged and adult male viewership of the series. Inevitably, there is something rather creepy and bizarre about the idea of a huge male fan base for a young girl’s television show, which I feel gives the show as a whole a negative connotation.
Those unfamiliar with the brony phenomenon may be understandably confused as to how the show even attracted male attention in the first place. The series, released in October of 2010, was produced by Lauren Faust who has also been heavily involved in The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. She, in her work on the show, hoped to challenge the “girly” nature of My Little Pony and create a more character driven and adventurous series. Many believe she has succeeded, as the show is praised for its excellent animation, witty, self-aware humor, and themes that even older viewers can appreciate. The brony viewership had its start on the internet, screenshots from the series and memes grew in popularity and compelled others to give watching it a try.
The show, its viewership, and reception of its viewership all seem to be entirely entrenched in gender. For example, what elements make a show for girls? Who decides what viewership is acceptable? As a viewer that doesn’t fit into the binary of little girl/older man, I feel my status as a young adult woman who loves the series contributes to the somewhat mystified and perhaps laughable response I receive when I inform others. I’m not the typical audience, especially not now when the brony demographic has gained such a dominating presence online and in the media (the young girls, of course, are not quite old enough to access and articulate themselves on the internet). The online response to and discussion of the show is overwhelmingly masculine, with seemingly little space for a young adult woman to define herself as a viewer and remove herself from this narrow definition. It is impossible for me to self-identify as a “brony” when the word is meant solely for men.
Despite my struggles to identify as a viewer, I still love the show for its characters and humor, and enjoy sharing it with friends who also appreciate the series. Laugh all you like, Rainbow Dash is still the best pony.