My Little MLP Adventure: Verdict

I don’t normally watch children’s cartoons.

Yet I sat down and watched several hours of My Little Pony, in an attempt to understand why it has become so visible within the furry community. Here is what I discovered.

(This article follows on from last week – My Little MLP Adventure: Prologue.)

I learned that My Little Pony is a cartoon aimed at an audience of young girls. It’s very well made: high production values, good animation, talented voice acting, robust and logical stories. That’s basically all it is.

Except that it has gained a huge adult following, including a high proportion of furries. The adult fans are largely male, young, and geeky; a demographic that not coincidentally describes a big swathe of the furry population.

I asked a few pony lovers why MLP is so popular. I received responses like ‘the brony community is great‘; or, ‘because MLP has critical mass online, so you can’t avoid it‘; or, ‘because it’s so childish that people like to make fun of it‘. All of these arguments may be true but they require there to be a large pre-existing MLP audience: none of them explain why so many people started—and kept—watching and caring in the first place.

The appeal of MLP can be inferred by looking at its audience: girls, and young geeky men (with some exceptions). MLP is a big deal because its art style and subject matter make it easy for people to identify with the characters. MLP appeals to people who are developing empathy.

Allow me to explain.

1. They Have Big Eyes

The ponies have big eyes: big, big eyes. Their heads are the size of their bodies; their eyes take up half their heads.

We humans are social beings. Most of our communication takes place through body language, especially facial expressions. We see faces in inanimate objects all the time: in sand dunes on Mars, or a slice of toast.

Faces in inanimate objects: sand dunes on mars; the Virgin Mary on toast; a building.
Faces in inanimate objects: sand dunes on mars; the Virgin Mary on toast; a building.

The ability to infer human faces from little visual information is an evolved human trait, akin to the way zebras identify close family members by stripe patterns.

Eyes are especially important. For example, disembodied pictures of eyes, presented with no context, have been shown to have significant effects on behaviour. One study showed that pictures of eyes caused people to triple their voluntary donation for a cup of coffee, compared with pictures of flowers (ref); another found that posters of eyes in a cafeteria halved littering incidents, compared with pictures of flowers (ref).

Screen Shot 2013-03-23 at 12.01.57 PM

Service industry workers relying on tips would be well advised to sketch a smiley face on each customer’s bill.

The ponies have huge eyes, and these eyes make it clear what they are thinking. This is narratively elegant—we don’t need everything spelt out—and it makes us feel like we understand the pony. This is empathy, and it’s why MLP is so engaging. Cartoons in general provoke a similar feeling, but MLP is more effective due to the huge, expressive, well animated, and well directed eyes.

It helps that the characters are female too, because…

2. The Idea of ‘Masculinity’ is Kinda Dumb

The gender of the ponies is relevant, especially for the original target audience. Girls watching MLP can identify with the characters, and engage in play as an imaginary participant in the pony universe.

It’s also relevant for the unintended audience—the young men—because of the state of masculinity in the 21st century. To be masculine, traditionally, was to be a force of change of the world, to be a creator. This has changed, and being masculine is now about being a detached observer of society, a trait that correlates with cynicism, sarcasm, and snarkiness. This can be (and often is) intelligent and worthwhile, but it’s not healthy. It creates a world where men are driven away from participation, because participation can lead to failure, and failure breaks the detached observer facade. (The only other option is to be a flawless hero, fine for cartoons.)

The female characters of MLP can explore friendship and creation without a requirement to be heroic or detached: they can ‘have adventures’ and succeed or fail on their own terms. A male version of MLP couldn’t do that, and still ring true.

As an aside, it’s nice to see that the gender of the characters isn’t relevant to the male viewership. Women are simply portrayed as the norm in the context of the pony universe, and that’s okay.

So beyond its core audience, MLP attracts…

3. Geeks with High IQs

People with maturing social skills may find empathetic experiences to be rare. This is common among intelligent male geeks because:

  • Men tend to mature socially more slowly than women.
  • Geeks may use their intelligence as a crutch to manage social situations, relying on their analytical skills rather than their developing emotional skills.

Such geeks may prefer to socialize where interpretation of subtle body language is less important: perhaps online, or otherwise where behaviour is constrained by rules (stereotypically over a game of Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering).

People with limited empathic skills will often find social situations to be stressful and exhausting. If you are relying on an analytical brain in a social situation (rather than an empathic brain), it requires a lot of concentration, especially if there are more than a few people present. Geeks often find socializing stressful, and will sometimes incorrectly misdiagnose themselves as being introverted, or having mild autism. They’re not: they are just lower in empathy than most people, something that will grow given time.

***

My Little Pony, then, is going to meet an unconscious emotional need for many young men: the need for empathy. Young and geeky men will tend to find MLP very engaging, as they will be able to easily understand and empathize with the characters.

And if some of the fans are geeky, a subset of them are going to hyperfocus on the show, like Trekkies or any other geeky fandom. These hyperfocussed geeks make up MLP’s committed and intense following of bronies.

For the rest for us, MLP is engaging and easy to follow. We can ‘see’ what is going on inside the heads of the main characters—eyes being the windows of the soul—so the show is pleasing and familiar. It’s a relaxing viewing experience, almost hypnotic. As an experiment, my fellow viewers and I watched for a while with no sound, and we were able to follow the story with no apparent loss of fidelity.

For all its value, MLP is not high art. The humour is childish slapstick, a pre-teen version of Ow My Balls. The characters are simply drawn and simply motivated. The morals of the show are relentlessly, mind-numbingly positive. As an adjunct to our no-sound experiment, we also tried looking away so we were only exposed to the soundtrack: the script, the songs, and the foley artistry are nauseating, pandering, moronic. Like America’s Funniest Home Videos without the videos, but less fun.

Even with its limitations, the resonance of MLP with many members of the furry community is genuine and valuable. I suspect that its influence on furry culture will grow: like The Lion King or Robin Hood, MLP will be a gateway to furry for many people. The MLP fandom is innately limited by its subject, and many pony-fans will find the furry community to be an environment that allows them to grow beyond the constraints of the MLP universe. Pony lovers will easily fit into the furry world, a world which allows them to explore their connection with anthropomorphic animals on their own terms. As I’ve written in previous articles for [adjective][species], furry is a community that can help personal growth and maturation.

Such opportunities for personal growth will be greatest for younger MLP fans. Typically, people reach emotional maturity at about age 30, although this isn’t a hard limit.

I would argue that older fandom geeks, and they exist in any fandom, are limited people. They have failed to develop broader emotional skills that would allow them to look outside of their own interests and into the wider world. Such people limit their intake of culture to a small number of simple artefacts (MLP, Star Trek, whathaveyou) and are prone to hyperfocus on the minutiae of that culture. This doesn’t make them bad—such people are often great servants to their fandom—but they tend not to be well-rounded people.

There are broader horizons out there. Most geeky young men will fit the stereotype of the high school nerd who turns out to be the hunk at the 15-year reunion. Geeky young men remain intelligent and capable human beings, gaining empathetic skills later in life. They grow and shed their social awkwardness, learning to fit in without compromising their identity. The ‘sexy geek’ is a well known phenomenon, to the point that fashion houses try to package and sell the ‘geek chic’ formula. More simply, furries can take a look around and observe that the older members of the group are often confident, happy, and sexy.

Furry provides an environment for such growth. We’re diverse. We can engage with cultures like MLP without being defined by them. We can equally decide that MLP isn’t relevant to our personal interests and look elsewhere. This is what’s great about our community: we create our own culture. Many MLP fans will discover furry over the coming years, and learn such joys.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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25 thoughts on “My Little MLP Adventure: Verdict

  1. “Most geeky young men will fit the stereotype of the high school nerd who turns out to be the hunk at the 15-year reunion.”

    CITATION NEEDED.

    I know approximately ZERO people that this is true for. Which is a very, very far cry from “most”.

    1. Hi Ozx, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      My statement is based on studies performed that look at furries (the Anthropomorphic Research Project based at the Niagara Community College), and studies on the general population, looking at the ‘Big Five’ personality traits. The ‘Big Five’ has been the clinical standard for personality studies for the last decade or so.

      Specifically, here’s how I came up with that statement:

      1. Furries tend to score lower than the general population on ‘Extraversion’, a reference score of 3.4 against 4.4 (ref https://sites.google.com/site/anthropomorphicresearch/past-results/furry-fiesta-2012).

      2. Extraversion correlates pretty well with most measures of social comfort. You can read about this on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits#Extraversion. People who are less socially comfortable tend to be socially awkward, which I think is a fair description of many geeks.

      3. College-age non-furries are comparable in age to furries, who have a median age of 22 (ref http://vis.adjectivespecies.com/furrysurvey/age.shtml)

      4. College age non-furries score higher than the general population on ‘Extraversion’ (ref Costa & McRae 1992, a common reference for Big Five studies).

      5. Both furries and non-furries moderate their personality as they become older. That is, they regress towards the mean. So furries become more extraverted and non-furries become less extraverted. The ARP has data on furries, Costa & McRae on everyone else.

      6. Personalities stop developing at around age 30 (ref http://academic.udayton.edu/jackbauer/PGSG/Sheldon%20Kasser%2001%20older%20better%20copy.pdf). So I figured that 15 years was enough to see this change in personality. I could have said 10 years but I figured that 15 was safer.

      7. The aging process through one’s 20s is correlated with “decreased alienation and social criticism” (ref Jessor 1983, sorry no link as I’ve taken this straight from C&M).

      8. So the socially awkward, the geeks, will be less socially awkward at the 15-year reunion, as a general trend. The geeks tend to be outstanding in other elements of personality: sharp, analytical, curious minds for example. So they will tend to exceed the general population after 15 years, hence ‘hunks’.

      I hope that covers it. I decided not to run through this reasoning in the article because it’s secondary to the point, and it’s reasonably complex. However you’re spot on to identify it as a shortcoming—I normally try to back up my reasoning with references and ‘show my work’, if you like.

      Apologies for the glib language. This wasn’t an easy article to write, knowing how much MLP means to a lot of people. I tried to keep it as neutral as possible, although obviously I didn’t completely succeed. Thanks again for keeping me on my toes.

      1. I think all of your research is sound, but your conclusion (point 8; “exceed the general population” [at what?] and “hunks” [do we get sexier and more muscular too?]) is not backed up by any of it. Yes, I believe that all of my “nerdy” friends are much more socially adept fifteen years after graduating high school, but compared to the rest of the class we are all still the nerdiest and least extroverted.

        I’m not trying to belittle your greater point here either; I think that MLP is certainly a valid gateway to personal empathic growth as well as a furry gateway. You said some other things I would disagree with. But this one is stuck in my craw.

        1. I was aiming for ‘sexy’. Certainly that’s how I find well-rounded people with curious, analytical minds. (Even if they are still the nerdiest 15 years later.)

          1. The nerdy introverts were always the sexiest ones in high school. Fifteen years later, still true.

            It prolly only works like that for us, the other nerdy introverts, though. I bet the jocks still think we’re dorks and the cheerleaders still want to date the jocks.

  2. Interesting theory about the eyes. My immediate thought was that this implies a connection with Japanese anime and manga characters, who are also drawn with huge, exaggerated eyes. I wonder if the same audience is also attracted to those.

    I’m both impressed and appalled that you were able to sit through that much MLP material. For me, it is on the same level as Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, or Barney the Dinosaur on American television, and somewhat below the level of Sesame Street.

    Since I arrived in the furry fandom by way of classic literature like Black Beauty and The Wind in the Willows, with a little extra nudge from some modern works like Watership Down, I guess I understand how the attraction to anime or MLP completely escapes me.

    1. Just out of curiosity, have you actually watched any of those shows, or an entire MLP episode? You listed a bunch of shows targeted at the 0-4 demographic and compared it to a show for the 8-year old demographic. They are pretty dramatically different.

      1. As a professional librarian, yes, I have seen all of these shows, including MLP, and have watched entire episodes (though not with much pleasure.) I am also familiar with the printed materials (I hesitate to call it literature) that is derived from them.

        And yes, I find that even a Sesame Street program is more interesting and diverse and contains more depth and complexity than any of them.

        1. MLP is more complex than Sesame Street by design. They are both written by professional adults, for different age groups. Don’t let your dislike of a program color your objective analysis of it. You may find Sesame Street more interesting, but I doubt you could argue against the point that the ponies get into more complex and sophisticated situations than Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
          And don’t waste time slinging random insults like “I hesitate to call it literature”. It makes you sound immature.

  3. I am not even all that attached to MLP. I’ve watched all the episodes sure, but I consider myself a casual fan. But even I find myself shaking my head at your approach here. Your biases show to varying degrees in your editorials, but it is rather blatant in this article. It’s like asking someone who dislikes Rocky Horror Picture Show to sit down with it and understand it. A person who doesn’t particularly LIKE a thing in the first place will not easily sympathize with it or analyze it well from all angles. I as the patron of RHPS could extoll all the virtues of it being an avant-guarde trans piece about self expression but that does nothing to inspire my friend who still thinks it’s just frivolous BS.

    Unfortunately, your skepticism and even dislike for MLP is evidenced in your condescending tone and giving the complete brush off to several areas. MLP’s humor, for example, is ever so MUCH more than just “slapstick” humor, sorry. If that’s all it was, I’d be watching the Three Stooges, and I detest the Three Stooges. It’s okay for you to dislike something, but your summations of the show are completely unfair, and you make more sweeping generalizations about people toward your last paragraphs, which can in no way be justified by just one study (especially if it’s your own).

    I was once asked at a birthday party by a non-furry what I do for a living. I replied with bald honesty, “I draw furry art.”
    “What, you mean, like, porn?”
    “Sure, lots of porn, too. But all sorts of things. Just mostly furry.”
    “That must be really weird for you,” he replied. “Don’t you get mistreated a lot of the time?”
    “No, actually, a vast majority of my customers are really damn awesome.”
    “Really. Well tell me this. What IS furry fandom? How do you personally explain it? Do you think it’s just remnants of PEOPLES’ CHILDHOODS, fetishized?” Emphasis mine.
    “No man,” was all I said, simply, “it’s just all about roleplaying the animal.”

    When you try to reduce your analyzation to infantilism, it really just ends up sounding like Freudian armchair psychology. I think it’s a real mistake. Human psychology is infinitesimally more complex than just ‘carryover’ fetishes as supposedly conditioned to us through childhood. None of your essay explicitly outlines any of this, but I feel like a lot of it comes dangerously close to implying it.

    1. Hi Kaput, thanks for taking the time to make such a thoughtful comment. It’s not easy to be critical, especially over the internet, so I appreciate your friendliness and positivity.

      I tried to keep my tone neutral in the article, but I suspect that some people will come away thinking that I hated MLP, others thinking that I loved it. The truth is somewhere in between: I enjoyed watching it, and I respect it for being so different from so much else that’s out there. It’s nifty to see something so positive and uncynical thrive. But I’m not going to seek it out in the future.

      I appreciate your comparison between RHPC and MLP. It’s an elegant example demonstrating how one person’s trash can be another’s treasure. Personally, I’d argue that RHPC, for all its silliness, is an intelligent and important counter-cultural bit of cinema. I wouldn’t call MLP intelligent. I guess you disagree.

      I love your story, and I think there is an implicit criticism of [adjective][species] in it: that we’re overcomplicating things. I’m not trying to reduce the value of MLP (or anything else I write about in these virtual pages). Quite the opposite: I’m curious to understand it, and I’m hoping that my article adds to people’s appreciation or enjoyment of the show.

      It was never my intention to imply that enjoyment of MLP is a kind of fetish carried over from childhood. I was talking about maturation; I don’t think that enjoying media made for children is indicative of arrested development or anything like that. However reading through the article, I can see how it might come across that way. That’s just a failure of my language, I’m afraid.

      Anyway, thanks again for your comment. I hope you found the article interesting and engaging one way or the other.

      1. Thanks JM, I appreciate your reply as well. I feel like I should back up some of what I said with a more coherent example. I wouldn’t say [A][D] is overcomplicating things, rather, quite the opposite — actually I think it’s oversimplifying.

        As soon as I saw your essay begin with “The Eyes”, I just about facepalmed. It’s like we’re talking about anime in the year 1990. The fixation on big eyes has often had implied ties to infantilism, and yet we don’t reduce general enjoyment of anime to infantilism anymore — we have several decades of that behind us. Furthermore, big eyes are expressive, cute and attractive, but they are a superficial hook. They are not what keeps people returning to the show. They are not what inspires peoples’ imaginations. That would be the writing.

        This is one example to your thesis of the show appealing to “people who are developing empathy”. But the discussion does not explain the position. The discussion explains how we can read the ponies well, but not how pony eyes are relatively more attractive to people ‘developing’ the ‘skill’ or how that compares to people who already have the skill. (As some of your own examples illustrate, even adults with ‘developed skills’ will see faces in the abstract.) It merely describes one aspect of what’s superficially attractive about the show, which is a trait it happens to share with _just about every other cartoon show out there_ . And Revlon advertisements.

        I appreciate your concessions that some of your wording might come across as condescending or about arrested development, though you may not have intended it. I might have been very ready to call some of this reduced infantilism, although I had to make sure.

        Intelligent? I would absolutely, hands down without hesitation call MLP intelligent. _Complex_, no. Its simpler approach is one of its hallmarks. But that doesn’t detract from the intelligence of its thrust, parts of which are indeed jokes with more subtlety than I believe you gave it a chance for — and of course, for teaching lessons in ways which do not talk down to audiences, young and old alike.

        That’s about all I can think of to reply with for now, perhaps more later as the discussion develops.

        1. Thanks again Kaput.

          I won’t challenge any of your points here: I think your arguments are sound and are well made. They stand in intelligent counterpoint to my article. To point out where we disagree would only be rehashing what I’ve already stated in the article itself.

          Having said that, I don’t want to discourage you from adding to your comments if you are so inclined. People reading this article will probably tend to largely be MLP fans, and I imagine that your thoughts will reflect their own feelings. They add important balance.

  4. > I would argue that older fandom geeks, and they exist in any fandom, are limited people. They have failed to develop broader emotional skills…
    > More simply, furries can take a look around and observe that the older members of the group are often confident, happy, and sexy.

    For heaven’s sakes. Make up your mind.

    Personally, as an older geek, I simply appreciate the sincerity of fandom, of people being unapologetic about things that bring them joy. There’s far too much of the “wider world” out there which is, to put it bluntly, toxic; you don’t even seem to consider that older fans might have consciously chosen to engage with a peer group which values expression, creativity and sincerity.

    As for your post itself, the beauty of the childlike nature of MLP is that it’s fertile nature for extrapolation. The fan works outshine the show itself, and that’s a large part of what keeps the community so vibrant. Both furry and MLP are creator-driven fandoms at heart.

    The main difference is that MLP has a specific theme and setting, and furry is a vast anything-goes playground. Both have their charms. The specificity of MLP lends fan works focus and guarantees that your audience understands the characters and tropes you’re using.

    1. Hi Baxil. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      To clarify, my comments were intended to contrast members of a fandom with members of the furry community. I think that’s a key difference between furry and fandoms: as you say, furry is broader and less tied to a work of art and its associated canon. However I appreciate that fandoms offer something pretty wonderful too.

      Thanks for talking about your engagement with fandoms. I think it’s a perspective that’s lacking from my article: I can write as a furry, but not as a fandom geek. In a few short sentences, you’ve conjured up a vivid image of the value of fandoms, the rather amazing MLP fandom included.

    2. Hi Baxil

      Having slept on it, there is a sentence in your comment that interests me: There’s far too much of the “wider world” out there which is, to put it bluntly, toxic; you don’t even seem to consider that older fans might have consciously chosen to engage with a peer group which values expression, creativity and sincerity.

      I’m curious about this. It strikes me as an unusual characterization of the ‘wider world’, so I’m not sure if you’re talking about something specific, or a general philosophy. Could you expand on it?

      1. JM,

        I’m a little curious about your definition of “fandom” in that you don’t choose to consider furry one. Maybe that’s at the root of the disconnect here.

        From where I stand, a “fandom” is a simply a community of 1) appreciators and 2) creators that is 3) centered around a specific focus. All three are necessary, and furry meets all three (#3 is “anthropomorphic animals”). You see plenty of communities calling themselves fandoms, from sci-fi/fantasy genre fans (and its more specific offshoots such as Trek and Harry Potter fans) to video gaming to LARPing to furry to anime and beyond.

        I cut my teeth in SFF fandom, which I think had/has a wider age demographic, and many of the coolest people I grew up with were older fandom geeks. You can still see this today online without much effort: SFF authors such as Corey Doctorow and Neil Gaiman are effortlessly interesting and sincere people, and by all accounts amazingly mature and emotionally developed (especially for celebrities).

        Celebrity culture, in fact, is one big root of the toxicity I mentioned. Look at the things that mainsteam America idolizes: sports and media figures*. Step out of the fandom niche and people sit in stadiums for games and rock concerts, sit in pews and listen every Sunday, and the rest of the time sit on couches and absorb advertising and short-attention-span news and entertainment*. Mainstream culture encourages passivity, and then bombards you with messages that tell you the way to be happy is to buy things, conform yourself into specific standards of beauty, and follow arbitrary unquestionable rules.

        Fandom may have its own brand of B.S., but at least it provides a genuine alternative.*


        * There’s a side discussion here to be had about the ways that many media-driven fandoms sit at the intersection of niche and mainstream culture; many fandoms (including MLP) are in response to professionally produced TV or movie content, and you get uneasy echoes of that same celebrity worship. MLP, perhaps due to its close association with furry, seems to avoid this more readily than most; there are thriving music remix and animation/PMV and fanfic and visual-art scenes, to the point where the fan content completely eclipses the show itself and top fan creators are prominent at the many brony conventions.

        1. Baxil,

          I like to call furry a ‘community’ rather than a fandom, because furry isn’t based upon a pre-existing work of art. Many of us are fans of some works of art—MLP, The Lion King, the works of Kyell Gold—but there is no all-purpose common ground.

          I think you captured it perfectly in your original comment: “The main difference is that MLP has a specific theme and setting, and furry is a vast anything-goes playground.”

          Furry certain began as an offshoot of sci-fi fandom, but I think it has long since cast off its fandom roots to become something else. I’ve written about that before:
          http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2012/12/03/the-second-wave-of-furry/

          Having said that, the other contributors to [adjective][species] typically refer to furry as a ‘fandom’, including Phil Geusz (aka Rabbit), who has probably been around for longer than any of us. As you point out, it’s probably just a semantic issue. Interesting though!

          Your comments comparing mainstream culture to fandom are also interesting, and it’s not something I’d really considered. However I can see how a fandom might be a kind of wilfully contrary counterculture, and how that will be rewarding. Certainly fandoms are amazing places, and however we might disagree about the artistic merit of MLP:FiM, I’m sure we can agree that the MLP community (rather than the show) is what makes MLP so special.

          I would argue that fandoms are self-limiting by nature, because they encourage people to look inwardly, rather that out in the broader world. And I certainly don’t think that mainstream culture is universally (or even mostly) negative or toxic. But it can be unwelcoming and unforgiving to those on the fringes, and the very least, fandom can provide a ‘safe place’ for some people.

          Of course, my point of view is that of an outsider, so I have not been exposed to the nuances of the MLP fandom. I don’t—can’t—fully grasp what fandom has to offer. It’s why I think your comments, and those of a couple of other people here, provide a much-needed perspective. So thanks again.

  5. I just read this article: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2012/05/the_10_nerdiest_easter_eggs_in_my_little_pony_frie.php — it elaborates on specific pop culture moments that explain why geeks enjoy the show, but more prominently it reminded me of something I’ve said before and wanted to comment on:

    People who like original Looney Tunes cartoons will probably like My Little Pony. They are both substantially pop culture references, slapstick humor, and jokes, with a mild plot to bind them together. Despite having different target demographics, they are both enjoyed by an extremely wide age range. They’re both animated, anthropomorphic, lots of squash-and-stretch similar. MLP has included a number of Looney Tunes homages.

    I think some people would call the pop culture references “rip-offs”. Some people don’t enjoy the slapstick. I expect neither of those groups (or especially their intersection) enjoy many Looney Tunes cartoons. Personally, I get the exact same enjoyment from MLP that I got from LT when I was growing up (and still get). More than anything else, this is why I enjoy the show.

      1. Hahaha, quite possibly. That did cross my mind on many occasions while writing the article. I’ve joked with Makyo in the past that he could change the [adjective][species] tagline to “overthinking it so you don’t have to”.

  6. “It’s also relevant for the unintended audience—the young men—because of the state of masculinity in the 21st century. To be masculine, traditionally, was to be a force of change of the world, to be a creator. This has changed, and being masculine is now about being a detached observer of society, a trait that correlates with cynicism, sarcasm, and snarkiness. This can be (and often is) intelligent and worthwhile, but it’s not healthy. It creates a world where men are driven away from participation, because participation can lead to failure, and failure breaks the detached observer facade. (The only other option is to be a flawless hero, fine for cartoons.)”

    I have observed this too; the modern breakdown (as I see it) of masculinity is the primary theme of one of my novels. I can understand why society wants to “reign in” masculinity’s worst excesses, but I have yet to grasp why the young are so eager to accept the proposition that being male and taking a male approach to life and its problems is somehow something to be ashamed of– and that _is_, IMO, the underlying message society is sending us. To lead and create and make things happen is fundamentally manhood at the “First-class” level; it’s what the male brain and his hormones shape him to succeed at and derive happiness from. To make fun of and mock and practice studied cynicism about what _others_ have created _for_ you is at best an unrewarding, second-class existence. I challenge _everyone_, male and female and anything else they want to identify as, to be both who they are and all they can be and to hell with society’s expectations. Your ancestors mastered fire, unlocked the secrets of the universe and used this knowledge to fly to the moon– they didn’t sit around finding fault with and making fun of Neil Armstrong. Go, do, be!

    This rant is now officially over. Thank you for your patience.

    1. I completely agree. Society has told men that it’s not acceptable to treat women as inferior, which is all good. But it means that masculinity needs to be redefined to move away from misogyny and towards something positive. (Not that we’re there yet: I note that the president of the United States, a modern man if there ever was one, thought it was appropriate to judge a new Attorney General by her ‘hotness’.)

  7. I think one of the strong reason why this “fandom” is very popular is the likings of the ponies and the styles of them, not just liking the show/story, but often due to personal experience and with the characters. Some of the effects might be similar to furry “fandom” too. At least my reason for being a Brony is very different and yet, people might spit out hatred bull crap if they knew, which of course, that needs to stop.. directly.
    I mean I think the truth is that, many people will like the show for different reasons, some for stories, or in love with the ponies, effects, for what kind of reason, even beyond certain target reasons too.

    As for the “limits”. I wonder if the “brony fandom” would kind of become a culture like thing like Furry? If more people were to go “crazy” and practice so much personal freedom from the show, sort of like this culture we have here, it could also be more than just a “fandom” just like how furry sort of started in the first place. Since at one point, it started from Sci-fiction (Was once a limited setting at one point) sort of like what you said in the comments JM I think. (Only thing though, those ponies are anthro, so of course, it would often connect to furry too sometimes or all the time.)

    I would love the Brony fandom to rise much more, but I hope it doesn’t “stay” limited and such though and of course, that’s up to any fan. Just like the Furry fandom. And not mattering what it was from, like MLP-FiM.
    Sorry for long post, and I’m kind of tired.

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