Monday, 11 August 2014

The B-word: Why it's fine to be a brony

If you look at Louder Yay's little "ABOUT LY" section, tucked away in a corner of the screen, you'll see that I've written this:
Vague thoughts and ramblings from a British brony
 It's that last word that I want to dwell on here. When I first came into the MLP:FiM fandom, in the spring of 2012, I wasn't entirely comfortable with using the word. There were a number of reasons, but one of them was that I worried that it tended to imply the sort of fan for whom My Little Pony really is everything, the type of person who really didn't have any other interests at all – and that's not something that I wanted to be a part of.

The other main problem was that I didn't really like the word itself, given the way it seems to imply that only male fans can be bronies. You know and I know (now) that this isn't the case at all; that large swathes of female fans actively choose to be known as bronies and dislike being called "pegasisters" instead; but I didn't know that back then. Many otherwise neutral mainstream media outlets still don't, it would seem.

Now, though, I'm much more comfortable with the word, to the extent that I actually feel rather irritated when I read a piece arguing that "we" (the fandom) should drop it entirely in favour of something else. Quite apart from the fact that it would be impossible to enforce, is there really a better term out there? "Fans of MLP:FiM from outside the show's target audience" isn't going to fly; bronies it is, and bronies it will stay.

As for reacting to criticism of the fandom? In a lot of cases, the best course is simply "Don't". If a writer is spending a whole piece telling us that we're all pathetic manchildren, evil child stalkers, active bestialists, incapable losers or any combination of the above, they're probably not likely to react even to reasoned argument. They're not going to go away, so it might be better if we spent our time on more interesting things.

I understand how hard it can be to hold your tongue when you see a writer who says that they wouldn't trust bronies with their kids. (Goodness knows what they'd make of those bronies who have their own kids.) It's a very emotive charge, for obvious reasons, and so naturally it's upsetting. But if a writer won't allow any form of disagreement with their point of view, why do they enable comments at all?

The one place where I might make a slight exception is if a writer has made a clear error of fact. For example, claiming that cons like BUCK were originally aimed at little kids, or stating that there's explicit fanart on the first page of Google results for pony names. Both of those are demonstrably untrue. But it's so easy to get off the point and start giving opinions. If you do correct facts, only do it if you can link to a strong source proving you right.

What we have here is, I firmly believe, a fundamentally good and decent fandom. There are bad bronies who've done bad things. We shouldn't shrink from calling those people out any more than we would if we came across them outside the fandom. But that's a far cry from saying that what we're part of is an utter cesspit of moral depravity and filth. No. It's really not. No more than any other subset of this strange and wonderful thing we call life.

Bring a brony doesn't magically make you a better person. It doesn't give you a free pass to hurt people by word or deed. And nobody should be pushed into identifying as a brony unless they freely choose to. But if you want to call yourself a brony, if you like the idea of being part of this crazy group of people, then go right ahead and do it. Do you have anything to be ashamed of? No? Then you have nothing to be ashamed of by calling yourself a brony.


  1. I think most 'Bronies' go through a stage where they are very unwilling to identify under that name, I certainly did. One of the problems is undoubtedly that there is a definite negative stigma associated with fans of MLP, the stereotype of the fat, lazy, uneducated, creepy neckbeard who lives in their mother's basement. We must accept that this stigma is there and it is harmful.

    But if this is the case, then why do people like you or I bother to call ourselves Bronies? Clearly we are aware of the cost that is the stereotype of 'pathetic manchildren, evil child stalkers, active bestialists, incapable losers' and it is perfectly possible to appreciate and watch the show without being involved in the community and using the name.

    Furthermore, aside from the negative stigma, there are additional costs involved in being a Brony. There is a time commitment of being active in a community, of writing fiction you can never sell or creating artwork, animations and videos that are removed for copyright. Not to mention the thousands of pounds and man hours that go into setting up and attending conventions.

    I am a firm believer that Humans as a group are rational beings and a rational being does not put effort in for negative gains. If the social costs of negative stereotypes and monetary cost of merchandise is the cost of being a brony then we must therefore believe that the benefits of being part of a ' fundamentally good and decent fandom' and the community, friends and support that comes with that must, by logical outcomes, be worth more.

    What all bronies have eventually decided is that, despite the hate, being a brony is worth it.

    - JL

  2. And if I may say so (which I may because I brought a sayso season ticket), well said. :) There are any number of good points made there, and it does make the overall point perfectly well.

    In my case I guess I'm just plain awkward. I *love* being a part of the fandom. I'm very proud to be amongst the fans of the show, and although I've not really been able to contribute anything creative as such, seeing all that creativity is a wonderful thing. I know for sure I've never felt quite so happy at being in a fandom before, and in no way would I be ashamed to admit I was in that fandom either.

    (As a semi-aside, and it ties in with what you said about fandom criticism, it is a very good point about not wading in and getting too over-protective about it all, when dealing with someone who has utterly set their views in stone. I did feel the need to "protect" the fandom about a year back, when someone on LJ claimed that they were sickened by bronies, and that their Google searches were showing up nothing but rape allegations, stories of sexism, racism, etc. Seeing as I knew that person, I had to take them to task over that one, especially when there was a barrage of comments from her friends saying how they never knew bronies were such revolting people. That one was not going to be left alone...)

    But for some reason, it's the *word* itself, brony, that I'm not comfortable about. I don't even know why for sure, so it's just me being a pain. I was never struck on the word "furry" either. But yes, there's just something about the word that I'm not keen on. What it means, what the word covers, I love it to bits. And if I were female, I think I'd be very happy to use the word "pegasister." For whatever reason that word doesn't bother me at all. I don't know... If someone asks me "are you a brony?" I'd say yes, because of what it represents and I've no shame at all in that. Quite the opposite. I just wish it had been a different word.

    Still, it's the word that the fandom has settled on, and really that's the bottom line. I wouldn't dream of asking people to change it now, even if I somehow magically had the authority to do so! :) Personally though, I'm more likely to refer to myself as "a fan of the show" if I were writing about it on a forum or blog post.

    1. As it happens, that "And nobody should be pushed into identifying as a brony unless they freely choose to." sentence was included partly for you. :) I've always believed this -- one of the things I don't like to see on UK of E is attacks on terms like "pegasister", "pony fan" etc. Nobody's under orders in this fandom, and there's no "right" or "wrong" way to self-identify.

      I do understand some of your points, since I felt some of that discomfort myself at first. It's just that for me it's diminished enough for me to be happy using the word, whereas for you it hasn't. I personally don't simply use "fan of the show" because *to me* that doesn't feel wide-ranging enough to cover the creative community. But *to me* isn't the same as *to everyone*. :)

    2. Right, that does it. I'm officially a pegasister. ;)

      Seriously though, that's another of those great things about the fandom/community. As a *whole* there's so much freedom and very few take the approach that you have to comform to a particular name or label. It really does seem like a case of "whatever you're happiest with." Compared to certain other fandoms I could name, that's a definite plus point for MLP.