Reflections on the My Little Pony Fandom

Last night in my internet travels, I stumbled upon a couple things that got me once again thinking about the My Little Pony fandom and how utterly distasteful it can be. The rampant misogyny and dudebro postulating has made bronies and fedoras the new peanut butter and jelly. Whenever anyone has tried to address all the porn, fetishization, and problematic memes, their criticisms have been met with harassment. I’ve even seen vehement backlash against simple suggestions like female fans calling themselves “pegasisters.” I think the reason is that “brony” is apparently supposed to mean everyone, but addressing the problems I have with using male words to talk about everyone would be a completely different post. It’s gotten to the point where I have to tell people “Yes, show your kids My Little Pony because it really is a great show about friendships between very different types of girls, but DO NOT let your young child get into the fandom online.”

I don’t have a problem with dudes liking girly stuff because what you like shouldn’t have any effect on your gender identity or the way others perceive you. However, there’s a difference between being a dude that likes My Little Pony and reacting with such vitriol against anyone who points out that certain behaviors are really not okay, especially if those people are women. Dismissing such things as “well, that’s the Internet and this stuff happens in every fandom” is pretty lazy in my opinion, especially for a fandom based on a show about friendship and harmony.

Sometimes, I get so tired of it all. It really seems like there’s a huge, unspoken caveat to the Friendship is Magic subtitle. Friendship is magic until you don’t laugh at my joke. Friendship is magic until you call me out when I say that the “B” in “LGBT” stands for “brony.” Friendship is magic until you anger me by pointing out sexism in the fandom. Then, I have the right to tear you down and do just the opposite of what the show I love teaches.

My Little Pony is an inherently feminist show. It portrays women in all positions of power, all types of character roles, and all types of personalities. It focuses on women building healthy relationships with each other and reconciling the different ways that a girl can be a girl. It’s even lightly sprinkled with a magical girl plot line, and the magical girl genre is the bildungsroman about girls growing up. So, it always saddens me when I hear another story of immaturity and/or vileness coming out of the My Little Pony fandom. The irony of it all is bitter, sour, and doesn’t carry a shred of humor. In many other fandoms, the characters are people that fans aspire to be. I read a short post last night that asked if we like certain stories because the characters are already like us, or if we like certain stories because we eventually become those characters.

Do My Little Pony fans aspire to be like the characters they so passionately defend, or do those characters exist just to fulfill a fetish? What would it look like if the fans who get angry and attack or harass women who call them out actually used the dozens of reconciliatory examples in the show instead?

I imagine it would look something like this picture I found when I did an image search for “My Little Pony” as a test. I expected to find hundreds of porn pictures in the results, but instead I found official art, fan art, and screencaps that seem just fine (and SafeSearch was off). Among them was this fan art that immediately grabbed my attention.

Here I go again with ponies and Christianity. Art by Ethan Deitrich

In my moment of pessimism and frustration with a world where nothing celebrating women can go untarnished and gets refocused on male pleasure and the male gaze, I was looking for confirmation of an ugly truth that is but a drop in the ocean of things that motivate me to be the best writer possible and actually change the way people think with the stories I tell. Instead, I found this. Normally, I’d find this sort of thing corny, as overtly marrying Christianity with a story that’s not clearly associating itself with Christianity isn’t usually very compelling or effective to me. However, sometimes God provides peace of mind through vectors of colorful ponies. Far be it from me to question the method.

What I’m getting at here is that the positivity of My Little Pony needs to outweigh and dismantle the decrepit parts of the fandom. What’s excellent and praiseworthy about the show is that it’s a very well-done response to the lack of quality shows for and about girls. What’s admirable is that it’s so well made that it has the widest audience possible. What’s lovely is that it does a really good job of portraying very different personalities.

However, what’s true is that bronies have gotten praise and attention for breaking gender boundaries while girls who love comics, video games, or anything considered distinctly “male” still face harassment and arbitrary litmus tests to prove that they are real fans (which really translates into a ridiculously high standard for how much knowledge a girl has to have about something before a dude decides to respect her). What’s true is that My Little Pony has become more about bronies than anyone else. What’s true is that there’s even porn of Lauren Faust’s pony version of herself, which seriously undermines the work she has done with re-imagining the franchise.

What’s noble is expecting and calling for decency again. What’s right and pure is working for a time when none of this will need to be explained anymore. It should just be done. Whether it be the My Little Pony fandom, any other fandom, or the world at large, it should just be done.

So, I suppose I’ll heed the verse for now and think about such things.

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on the My Little Pony Fandom

  1. It’s a shame the picture got taken down! I would have liked to see it. I see what you mean, but you may accuse me of airing on the lazy side by saying not only “it’s the internet” but “it’s the world.” These kinds of men have a heart that can’t be changed by a mere show about ponies no matter how well done. I can’t believe that any amount of scolding will change their hearts either. It’s good to stand up for what is right but, some people are just brick walls. Maybe I’ve lost too much faith in humanity, but I personally have had to step back and just focus on the positive parts of things like that or I will be angry every second of every day and I don’t want anger to take over my life…again. On the other hand, I am sure it gives other people strength to see someone post something standing up for women. I am not sure how to proceed. I guess I’ll have to find some sort of righteous anger balance. Ah, but I’m rambling :). I really enjoyed your post!

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    1. The artwork was basically cells of the Mane Six with different parts of that verse next to them in appropriate colors/styles, if I’m remembering it correctly.

      And yeah, it’s really easy to be cynical about people/systems that seem unchangeable. It’s one of the many reasons why I actually enjoy and look forward to stepping away from my more “playtime” social media like Tumblr and Facebook for Lent. While the anger is righteous in many cases, IMO, it’s also really easy to be bogged down by what it’s all pointing out and letting that anger fester into something you dwell on every day. At least, that was my experience in the past.

      Still, at the end of the day, I do believe that words and actions and calling things out do reach people and do compel them to extract mindsets and actions that harm and oppress others. Unfortunately, the ones that truly need to hear those messages most often don’t listen.

      But I do believe in a radical Christ who upturned seemingly unchangeable people and systems, so maybe such change is possible.

      Practically speaking, one thing I know I can do is promote the positives of MLP. So many people seem to dismiss the show itself because of the fandom and it seems like the fandom gets more attention than the actual show.

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