Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are bronies the worst people ever?

That can be said to any fanbase.

I've already written two posts on bronies, grown male fans who enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. One of which was an assessment on the first season, the other was how important the fanbase is. Now I'm writing a post to answer the internet's biggest question: are bronies the worst thing ever? Are men who stare at ponies the tipping point in bringing down society in terms of what we're interested in. And if so, does that makes them the most hated fanbase on the internet?
This comes to mind as I'm about to study at Macquarie University in less than a week. Since I am not a very social person, I decided to look at the student groups to which I could join so I can connect with various people and socialize with them more than I haven't. What I found out is that Macquarie has a group for bronies and it has already more than 75 members which is more than enough to make it an 'official' organisation.

People groan about the mention of MLP on any website, whether something is "ponified" or whether someone wrote dreadful fan fiction of tit or if they're turned on by ponies or put simply how it's bizzare for someone in their mid 20s to enjoy a show that's mainly aimed at Toddlers in Tiaras. Any reason to discuss the show explodes out of proportion. I can clearly understand that, but does that make it worst than every other hated fanbase or meme like the Bieliebers, Juggalos, YOLO or every advice animal macro? The answer is no. And I'll tell you why.

As someone who watched the first and second season of the show, it was only out of curiosity and then there are some episodes that had me hooked. Creator Lauren Faust had created Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie out of every romantic heroine from classic novels from Jame Austen to Emily Bronte, hence these characters have a distinctive personality of what they do. One good thing I can say about MLP: FiM is that for the most part, they do emphasize on messages about being yourself and that friendship is what develop you as a person, despite having to use the latter as a god-like power over villainous characters in earlier episodes. But the best thing about it is perhaps the reaction towards it and for me at least, the show presents such a content and light-hearted tone that makes you more happier than you ever were.

The only advantage MLP has over current superior cartoons particularly Adventure Time is how they present conflict. I'm not saying that AT is worst in not doing that, in fact it's very great in showing how problems can be resolved in a shorter and less violent way, but in their case, the conflict presented is primarily based on good vs. evil. We only see Jake and Finn fighting the Ice King simply for the sake of fighting evil when in actuality he's a lonely, misunderstood figure who wants to connect with people, only for the duo to see it as bait for his Schemes. Jake and Finn in every episode never fight with one another which for me is very unusual. Conflict that is outside of one's self is perhaps the one way to make a creative work more interesting because that is the core in storytelling. In terms of realism, the fact that we never see Jake and Finn break off because of something personal is very uncommon with most friendships depicted in TV and movies. Troy and Abed at some points can't stand each other, but that doesn't mean they're out of touch entirely, it even can be said for Fry and Bender, Mordecai and Rigby, Beavis and Butthead, almost everybody in these cartoons has some sense of conflict. With MLP, we seen some tension between Rarity and Fluttershy about their tastes in fashion and Rainbow Dash with Applejack in a running race so they present some difference in interest within their friendship.
Don't ask me about who is who. The important thing to remember is that this is interpersonal conflict.
MLP at its worst cannot present friendship through communication. In one episode, we see Pinkie Pie get crazy about her friends for not attending her party and she sees it as not wanting to be with her where in reality, these ponies are incredibly busy and haven't she already hosted a party before for her pet alligator Gummo? The gap in logic within the show is omnipresent enough to not care for the characters because they don't act the way that normal people do. Another thing that brings the show down is its voice acting. Apart from a great guest role from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Breaking Bad John De Lancie, the casting can be very grating for most people such as the voices for Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie who are airheaded, self-satisfied characters who pretty much don't know any better.

But going back to my main point, why bronies are more despised than every fandom and is it actually the worst? Is it because of the show itself or is it the fact that most people that are not the target audience enjoy it? Well for every fanbase, it's normal to receive their fair share of haters, but in the digital age, it's inevitable for something weird or bizarre occurring to become widespread (Gangnam Style and Rebecca Black are examples of that)

Bronies aren't really the first fanbase to show that someone of another demographic enjoys a piece of pop culture that isn't considered for them. So many kids I know listen to classic rock and jazz instead of Top 40 or indie rock; the Die Hard franchise had a female following and Bridesmaids vice versa.

Another example is that James Deen, an adult star who has a fanbase of more than 20000 teenage girls which may parallel the brony phenomenon with the unexpected following considering that women are not fond of porn. In both cases, there are fears that the followers will be "degraded into whores and pedophiles upon watching. It threatens our morality and our taste in entertainment". I would call "bullshit" on that statement because what we watch doesn't make us do something that isn't ethical. But it's that we do something unethical to create an exact replica of what we watch.

Hey girl. It's important that I put the meat into you
The problem isn't the bronies themselves, however. The problem is the place that they're in. They have been incredibly overexposed not just on the interwebs, but in political talk shows, radio stations and podcasts; it's not the show that's they're shoving, it's themselves and they sometimes reveal very creepy and disturbing traits that the fanbase wouldn't want to be represented and they actually care about what you think unlike every other fan. You can say the same for every other fanbase who experience the same exposure as them; they'll have their fair share of haters and they'll state reasons why they couldn't stand them or the show they enjoy simply because they're unexpectedly everywhere and you wish you would spend a minute without hearing about them.  (read: 50 shades of Grey, Twilight). The bronies have their fancy little conventions and they might be hanging around to the nearby toy store where they sell pony figurines to buy. Why can't they hang out there? (though, a toy store would be too awkward). My statement isn't "please lock yourself in your mom's basement and do your business" but it's that if they are discussing their interest anywhere else beside Twitter or Facebook, then everything is perfectly normal. It's like watching porn (yes, I am going back to the James Deen analogy); It's absolutely unacceptable to watch rough sex anywhere in the public, whether it'd be on the train to work or when you have company at your house. But if you did that by yourself and privately so, nobody complains.

An argument that I can clearly accept against the bronies is that they can influence the show they have thoroughly enjoyed. Season 2, while having a decent opening two parter, fell apart as they try to attract more bronies by inserting references to films adults remember such as The Big Lebowski, Indiana Jones and at some point Star Trek. Most fanbases have an influence to the creator's work and they can have different outcomes for the non-fan if the demand from them is huge. For most teen pop singers, to maintain your fanbase, you have to please them more than a scale of 11 and they will buy your music. That's why Justin Bieber has to sing about having sex with his female groupie to keep his prominence. With MLP, it's basically putting every allusion to that thing you love growing up but your kids won't know that suffice as doing an impression. If you resort on your fans to do your work, I maintain that you would be better off without them. It wouldn't be why I give up on MLP, but it's reasons why a show actually decline as it grew popular.

Another aspect of the "worst thing ever" is the impact. With men watching MLP, does this reduce their masculinity? Absolutely not. The same can be said for fans of things that are really cool to hate like Justin Bieber or Twilight. Doug Walker once said that young people grew up on characters that are not of real life and they might look up to them more than their parents, but once they get older they adapt because the reality compared with a show like Save By The Bell is imminent and has more chance experiencing things that are challenging, or stuff that most people will certainly face. They look at real people that are helping them for the best. (Go to six minutes and you'll see his speech)

Bronies are more likely to move on with their routine of watching the show or save it as their spare time since they have other things to do. People who grew up with cheesy shows will transcend into society and contribute to it greatly by doing their jobs. E.g. - Tammy, who goes for Team Edward, went on to become a respected lawyer. Samantha, who has One Direction posters in her room, is studying to become a climate scientist. And Bob, who watches My Little Pony every week, may become a doctor who might find a cure for cancer. These people will admit what they read, watch or listen to is stupid, but they'll know their lives are important than anything else.

And someday he'll tell you how foot-to-mouth actually exists.
Maybe the fanbase isn't getting vitriol due to its obsession with ponies, but that they're at the wrong place at the wrong time. I really appreciate that there's a fanbase who could embrace and open up to things that are not only based around age, but by gender as well which, to me, is incredibly brave. However the reasons for its hatred are about the same as every fandom. Sure Twilight spawned famous fan fiction as Fifty Shades of Grey, yet it's not the fault that it exist. They have hardcore defenders? I don't care. They made music videos out of ponies? Same with every anime. Rule 34? I don't want to go there, but you get the point. You can dislike whenever you want, but by the end of the day, it's dumb; it's a guilty pleasure. Maybe the whole phenemenon comes off as a reaction and we're confused about where it came from or why is this happening. Bronies are going to be remembered as those people who watch ponies with their little girls, but the show wouldn't be memorable after five years or so. And with the group at Macquarie... yeah I'm gonna live with it whether I like it or not.

I'm Adrian Nguyen and I say love and tolerate.

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