Being a Brony is much more than just MLP fandom; it’s having the courage to defy a cynical culture of violence and hate.
When I was young, I read Nietzsche and dystopic fiction, and embraced cynicism and the ugliness of reality. I sneered when I laughed, and enjoyed humor that lampooned and satirized anything warm, uplifting and upbeat. I scoffed at sentiment and greedily consumed the dark and outre. But I’m not young any longer. I’ve experienced a lot of life, with all its disappointments and cruelty. I’ve had enough.
When it comes to fiction, art, and philosophy, “happy” is treated with contempt because “Life isn’t like that.” I’ve made the argument that yes, that’s right, so all the more reason for fiction to be a comfort and philosophy a consolation. But there’s another piece to it. Life isn’t always like that. Sometimes there are moments when reality is beautiful, when against all odds, something does not end badly and good triumphs. Happy endings do happen, especially when we work to make it so.
I prefer to choose the lovely. And I am not alone.
In spite of the fact that our culture is swamped in the dark, the ugly and the cynical, playing on hate, fear and anxiety, many of us ache for relief, and they find it in odd corners of fandom. It needn’t be trite, sappy escapism, although the critics are quick to dismiss it as such (“Happy books suck,” as one fellow librarian said.) In fact, I see optimism creeping in and whispering subversively, “It doesn’t have to be that way!” Its message that rings sweetly to many of us.
Thus the popularity of Star Trek refuses to go away. The Peace movement persists in spite of Homeland Security propaganda. The Dalai Lama becomes a folk hero with his message that compassion is the new radicalism. Every day, people are nice to each other because it makes more sense than being jerks. We may be a long way from Equestria, but an awful lot of people stubbornly insist on being gentle, kind and idealistic anyway. Count me in.
My two sons are Bronies. They both rejected mainstream YA novels because they hated the angst and grim pessimism of them. They know Reality can be bloody awful. They also know it doesn’t have to be. They chose instead to embrace something beautiful. I didn’t understand at first. My Little Pony? Really?
Because I wanted to understand, I let them share it with me. Besides the show, whose charm finally hooked me after several episodes (I had a sick diabetic reaction to it at first, but I stuck with it — I think it was the Discord episode that finally did the trick) there is a huge culture that has emerged with its own music and fandom. If you’re curious, start with Equestria Daily or the r/MLP subReddit and follow some links. [Also, check out this site which I only just discovered, or should I say, discovered me.]
It takes an immense amount of courage to be a Brony, especially if you are a teen. You expose yourself to ridicule and bullying. Both my boys stubbornly stood their ground. The Brony philosophy is to gently reject hate. They remind me of what the pacifists faced early in the anti-war movement, or what some gay people face even today. Most people don’t understand and don’t want to. “You like ‘My Little Pony’? It’s a dumb little girls’ show! You must be sick!”
In fact, what they are embracing is much bigger than the show. It’s embracing optimism, pacifism, warmth and compassion. It’s believing that it’s better to be kind, honest and true, embracing basic values of friendship and wisdom that our culture has rejected in favor of greed, competition, lies and hate. To be a Brony is to reject a big part of what America currently stands for, thanks to religious intolerance, power-hungry politicians and corporations. To be a Brony is to be a rebel.
It is banding together in a friendly competition on Reddit to raise over $33,000 for Doctors/Engineers Without Borders. It is donating more than 147 years of CPU time for the World Community Grid. It’s just being nice to people, practicing tolerance, making it a policy never to hate or flame. It’s refusing to give in to cynicism and despair, or to apologize for liking rainbows and laughter or for choosing the lovely every time.
I find it not all that different from the hippie culture I grew up with — Peace, Love and Flower Power. There is much of the same impulse to make the world a better place and embrace life with open, innocent joy. Oh sure, some of it is silly and childish, but what’s the harm in that? I’d rather watch children play than see hate on a battlefield. Bronies are a shaft of sunlight, brave and beautiful, in a dark, ugly world. They, and all the others who think like them, the pacifists, the radically compassionate, give me reason to have hope for the future. What’s so funny about that?
You keep your zombie apocalypse and your dystopias. I’ll take Equestria.
[Post Script: Since I posted this article this morning, it has gone viral. I submitted it to r/MLP on Reddit and it made the front page. BTW, I encourage readers to check out the links, including the ones from the images, but especially this one. Thank you for your comments and shares. Never underestimate the power of Bronies.]