Monday, January 13, 2014

Brony Wisdom

My wife and I stumbled on a documentary about Bronies on Netflix the other night. For those who don't know, Bronies are to My Little Pony what Trekkies are to Star Trek. The only difference is that My Little Pony's intended audience is little girls and the majority of Bronies are males ranging from early teens to full-grown adults. The public's knee-jerk reaction to Bronies ranges from confusion to disgust. Bronies are routinely called creeps, pedophiles, or homosexuals. They are bullied and ostracized and distrusted.

Who doesn't love Raindow Dash?
The world is full of wisdom. The experiences of others are lessons that teach us how to better navigate life. If you watch people carefully and pay attention to the decisions they make and the consequences of their actions, you can avoid many pitfalls and find shortcuts to happiness, well-being, and success.

Some people are to be imitated while others are cautionary tales, models of what not to do.

So what can we learn from Bronies? What hidden wisdom can we obtain from this misunderstood group?

In light of the accusations I listed above, you probably think Bronies are into some strange stuff. Judging from the documentary and my conversations with a dozen Bronies online, I have surmised that the typical Brony watches My Little Pony (MLP) religiously, discusses the show online in message boards, collects MLP merchandise, and attends MLP conventions (think Comic Con only with way more ponies). The creative Brony makes fan-art, writes fan-fiction, or remixes songs from the show.

Did I mention Bronies are into cosplay too?

So far, Bronies are indistinguishable from the fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pokemon, etc. So what's with the name-calling? Why do Bronies receive so much flack? 

The "logic" behind the negative reaction goes a little something like this:
  1. My Little Pony is a show for females aged 3-11.
  2. Bronies are males aged 13-50.
  3. The show isn't made for males aged 13-50.
  4. Therefore there must be something wrong with them.
The leap from "there must be something wrong with them" to "creepy gay pedophiles," while completely unjustified, isn't hard to make.  The show is for girls, therefore any man who enjoys it must be gay. The show is for children, therefore any adult who enjoys it must be a pedophile.

How does liking a girl's TV show make one gay, exactly? I've watched my share of shows and movies geared toward girls of all ages and I think I'm still straight. And the fact that it's a children's show, how does that imply pedophilia exactly?  Do you think maybe Bronies are just cultivating knowledge of the show so they can lure our daughters off the playground with MLP trivia? 

Give me a break.

When we put our misguided assumptions aside and ask Bronies what they like about the show, we get answers that make actual sense. That's the awesome thing about these guys. It would be easy for them to hide their love of the show and avoid ridicule but they don't. They own up to it, like champions. They are more than happy to tell you why they love the show, and guess what? It has nothing to do with sex.

It turns out Bronies like MLP for the same reason anyone likes any TV show. They like aesthetic of show. They relate to the characters. They enjoy the writing. Some even say that the show's morals helped them become better people.

There's a few lessons to be learned from the Bronies. The first and most important, in my opinion, is that people cannot help what they like. Your personal preferences were forged by genetics and environmental pressures. You had no hand in deciding your biology, nor did you handpick your parents or the way they brought you up. Much of who and what you are was decided for you before you were born; yet more of your personality was assembled during the formative years of your childhood through social interaction with a bunch of other kids who likewise had no say in their biology or upbringing. You cannot predict nor control what music, TV show, food, book, or movie will appeal to you.

Your likes and dislikes are a key part of your individuality so you'd think that, in a society like ours that supposedly values individualism, the Brony phenomenon would be encouraged, celebrated even. Don't teachers and parents tell kids to "be themselves," that people should "like them for who they are?" I think it might be best for future generations if we add a caveat to this cliche: "Be yourself unless it crosses some vague social norm, in which case too bad for you, be like everyone else."

You may be asking yourself, "Is Oscar Bellevue a Brony? Is that why he's getting so worked up about this? Has he been mocked for his love of Rainbow Dash?"

The reason this topic gets me fired up is because it applies to everyone. If you've ever had to hide some aspect of yourself simply because it contravened social norms; if you were or still are "in the closet;" if you've ever been mocked or ridiculed for liking something that isn't mainstream; if you've had to mask your opinion on a topic because it was novel or unique; then you understand the plight of the Bronies.

Rather than ostracize people who break harmless social norms we should be celebrating their willingness to do what parents and teachers have been telling us to do for years: be themselves.

You were forged by a unique cocktail of genetics and environmental pressures. Your likes and dislikes are a byproduct of this. If something speaks to you, brings joy to your heart, and harms no one else in the process, then I say put your back into it, my friend. Go hard. I support you and am your ally. Call on me whenever you need help and I will stand up for you and defend your right to watch My Little Pony or listen to One Direction or whatever it is that puts you on the outskirts of the mainstream.

Don't hide what you are from the world. Don't be afraid of ridicule or mockery or losing a few fair-weather friends. If they can't get over the fact that you're into Hello Kitty or enjoy cross-dressing on weekends or whatever your thing happens to be, then forget those friends. You don't need them and I daresay they were never really your friends to begin with.

Bronies found each other. Whatever your preference, I can guarantee you're not alone.

/rant over