On fandom and groups and such

Lynn is nonplussed by the existence of Bronies:

I cannot understand adult My Little Pony fandom, especially adult male Pony fandom, known as “bronies”. I can sort of understand adult female Pony fandom but guys being interested in the activities of cute, pastel colored ponies… well, frankly, it’s just a wee bit creepy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. You can be as creepy as you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone. Viva la diversity!

But I suppose I’m stuck on the old-fashioned, out-dated 60’s notion of “real manhood.” Neither John Wayne nor Captain Kirk would have ever been caught playing with cute pastel Ponies. And, come to think of it, neither would have Captain Picard.

For those not keeping score, ‘Bronies’ are male fans of My Little Pony. For those who still aren’t keeping score, yes, you read that right. My Little Pony. The little colorful ponies who are generally seen as the equine analog of the Care Bears.

Lynn’s view is not unusual. I’ve come to know Lynn pretty well after years of online interaction, so I’m pretty confident that when she says she finds it a ‘wee bit creepy’, that’s pretty much what she means: “OK, I’m not gonna lie, that’s kinda weird. But whatever floats your boat.” She’s nowhere near as irritated by Brony existence as some other people I’ve seen online. A recall a while back when I went on one of my rare visits to the FSM message boards and found someone there going off on an extended rant about how Bronies are literally pedophiles.

My reaction to learning the existence of Bronies was twofold: “Huh, OK, whatever” and “Why would anyone of adult age be a fan of those?” Well, apparently the Brony ‘phenomenon’ is centered mainly on the current incarnation of the Ponies on teevee, via the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Having never once seen an episode of this, I had to look up the following on Wikipedia:

The show has been critically praised for its humor and moral outlook. Despite the target demographic of young girls, Friendship Is Magic has, in addition, gained a large following of older viewers, predominately teenagers and adults, largely male, who call themselves “bronies”. Reasons for this unintended appreciation include Faust and her team’s creative writing and characterization, the expressive Flash-based animation style, themes that older audiences can appreciate, and a reciprocal relationship between Hasbro, the creators, and the fans. Elements of the show have become part of the remix culture and have formed the basis for a variety of Internet memes. As a result in part of this unexpected cross-demographic audience interest, the series has become a major commercial success, becoming the most highly rated original production in the Hub’s broadcast history.

So apparently it’s a kid’s show that has been crafted in such a way as to have appeal to older age groups. This is, I suppose, not at all unlike other successful cartoon franchises of long-standing — Looney Tunes, for example, or Tom and Jerry. Again, I’ve never seen any of this, so I can’t personally vouch for it. But I do have a good friend who also happens to be quite the MLP fan, and she strongly recommended that I watch some of Friendship is Magic, describing the show’s sense of humor as ‘delightfully twisted’. I have to admit that I am curious about this, and also that the main reason I haven’t is the same reason I haven’t got around to watching Farscape or the rest of Battlestar Galactica or [insert thing I haven’t seen yet]. I just haven’t got round to it.

I don’t rule out the possibility of me actually liking MLP: Friendship is Magic, either. As kid-stuff goes, I am a huge fan of the show Arthur. Now there‘s a fun show with a ‘delightfully twisted’ sense of humor.

The whole ‘Brony’ thing interests me, though, as a larger part of fandom. I consider myself a fan of lots of stuff, and readers here can probably attest to a lot of it. Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Quentin Tarantino, The Lord of the Rings, Guy Gavriel Kay…yes, I have my fandoms. And yet, I don’t really associate with any other fans of such things, at least not in areas such as online forums which are intended for interaction of fans. I exercise my fandom here, on this blog. And through that, I do meet other folks, and interact with them; but doing so in this way, rather than on dedicated sites, seems to me to allow for a wider connection with fans of things that I like. And it also heightens the likelihood that they are not fans of other stuff that I like, which is fine…but on dedicated sites and such, it can be a bit of a shock.

Back when I actively posted on the FSM boards, and Usenet before them, the conversations pretty much stuck to film music. This led to the phenomenon of discovering that someone with whom I had previously thought I was simpatico with on all things is actually almost completely different from me on everything. Talking passionately about the music of John Williams with someone, only to find out that they are a deeply conservative Republican? In Blogistan, this does not come as a shock at all. But on a dedicated site, it can be a jolt.

I ultimately don’t participate in those kinds of forums because of issues like this. Not because I’m trying to avoid people who aren’t exactly like me, but because when the conversation is that limited to a single topic, no matter how strong the passion can show and how deep the conversation on that topic, you almost never get a good feel for the other person beyond that particular fandom. This was one of the things that drew me to blogging in the first place, way back when: Usenet was just less and less satisfying. If I wanted to talk film music, there was that group. If I wanted to talk books, I had to go to another group — and the denizens of that group weren’t the same as the first. It was this compartmentalizing of fandom that I found so irritating: that I had to remember to which group I was talking about what. As soon as I discovered that I could set up my own spot where I could talk about what I wanted when I wanted, no matter if anyone was listening or not, that was that.

There’s also the fact that people may like the same stuff you do, but in different ways. Fact is, there probably are Bronies who are drawn to it for less than savory reasons. I remember years ago when I discovered other fans of pies in the face AND overalls online — in separate communities — and then realized that they’re fetish communities, with all the gradations that go with such things (meaning, some of which were hard-core). Again, fine if that’s your thing, but not for me, thank you very much. I quickly realized that I had little to no basis on which to interact with those folks, and that was that.

Fandom is an odd thing. It’s personal, but it also makes us crave connections, doesn’t it? So I suppose ultimately the question becomes, what kind of connections do we want. Speaking solely for myself, I don’t want connections that are based on a single shared passion for one particular thing. But, as in all things, that’s just me.

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2 Responses to On fandom and groups and such

  1. Lynn says:

    It's so refreshing when someone gets me. That seems to not happen very often.

  2. mylittlegeekery says:

    Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! *waves hand* Me! Me! Me!

    I get mention in Blogistan. I feel all warm and fuzzy. You can use my name. I grant permission.

    I truly do not understand the fear and loathing of the brony. I truly do not. Some of it seems to seep in from the masculine ideal and the notion that in order to be a real man you must be just so. You cannot like brightly colored ponies with rainbow hair. To do so means that you are a freak and a danger to certain prescibed perceptions and you must be punished.

    The computer is your friend. You can trust the computer.

    Unfortunately it isn't just guys who have issues with bronies. A lot of females also seem to have problems with bronies. In this case it is a combination of the above mixed with 'It's our fandom! Go away you icky boy!' and 'Go away you posers! You're just a fly-by-night fan! You're not a real fan!'.

    I have given tounge lashings to many a My Little Pony collector and usually they sit down and shut up when their wank is exposed.

    Alas it does not always work. I am a My Little Pony fan who embraces the brony and I emplore anyone else not to judge your fellow man.

    Even if he does have a leather wallet in his back pocket with a rainbow tail hanging over the little square of fabric.

    Because ponies are cool.

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