My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic premiered on The Hub on October 10th, 2010 and has since systematically taken over the Internet with its message of love and tolerance. While the show is targeted mainly at young girls, Friendship is Magic has acquired an hardcore fan base of older males who call themselves ‘bronies.”
MLP: FIM follows twilight Sparkle, a very studious pony that neglects friendship to focus herself on her studies. Her mentor and ruler of Equestria, Princess Celestia, orders her to go to Ponyville to study the magic of friendship and to oversee the upcoming festival celebrating the 1,000 anniversary of the defeat of Nightmare Moon. During her time in Ponyville, Twilight makes friends with Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie. However, just as Twilight had warned Celestia earlier, Nightmare Moon returns during the festival and it becomes up to Twilight and her new friends from Ponyville to save the world from Nightmare Moon. Through Twilight’s adventures in Ponyville she learns that magic is friendship, choosing to stay in Ponyville rather than return with Princess Celestia. The rest of the episodes deal with the day-to-day adventures of the ponies and always ends with a lesson on friendship.
I will admit here and now that I am a brony. I first heard of MLP: FIM through browsing sites like Funnyjunk, Reddit, and 4chan, where I would find brony threads with thousands of comments and pictures. The usual reaction that almost every self-respecting male teenager (or any aged male really) has at this new pony craze is to call it ‘girly’ or ‘stupid.’ This was my reaction as well, but a few of my friends had already embraced bronydom and after being convinced to watch just one or two episode I became hooked. Slowly but surely MLP: FIM took over our group; for example just last week we had a party where we watched a five-hour marathon of MLP! Even our Facebook group became almost entirely centered on MLP: FIM.
Why is the show so popular? Why does a show meant for young girls attract such a hardcore fan base of older males? The answer is Lauren Faust. Ever heard of her? No? Understandable, she’s only the entire reason you had The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and she also did work on Codename: Kids Next Door. Hasbro specifically chose her to try to change My Little Pony’s ‘girly’ image, and change it she did. By focusing the episodes on adventures and difficulties friendships can bring and creating characters with depth, Faust was able to attract older male viewers. In reaction to the brony movement, Faust said: “The fact that they did and that they were open-minded and cool enough and secure in their masculinity enough to embrace it and love it and go online and talk about how much they love it — I’m kind of proud.”
The creators of the show embrace a lot of what the fans do with the show. For example there is a background pony that is grey and (as an animation error) has crossed eyes. Fans labeled her “Derpy Hooves,” and the creators have since adopted that name for her and given her the ‘derpy’ crossed eye look purposely. In one episode there is a DJ pony, which the fans have named “DJ PON-3.” Another background pony that got his name from the fans is a pony that is brown with an hourglass for his cutie mark, which the fans dubbed “Doctor Whooves” for his resemblance to the doctor in Doctor Who. The shows popularity on the internet has given rise to countless internet memes and funny screen caps, as well as song remixes, fan art, and fan fiction. Much of the fan made content is in blatant disregard for copyright laws. Many fans will upload whole episodes on various video-sharing sites like YouTube and use audio and video from the show for song remixes and fan videos. Hasbro has done nothing to try to stop or contain this, seeing it as helping the show grow in popularity, particularly with the older audience members. Despite the fact that the show is intended for young girls the Internet has spawned some truly mature fan material for the show. Pony porn can be found on Brony threads in Reddit and Funnjunk alike, along with incredibly graphic fan material such as The Sweet Applejack Massacre or Cupcakes. Here are two examples of some of the more ‘adult’ fan material.
Warning: The following links are provided by the author and are for mature audiences only.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has be universally embraced by the Internet and been generally received positively by critics, but it has also received some criticism. Some have claimed that the show still maintains some sexist and racist elements from the original My Little Pony show. Some have claimed that the character Rainbow Dash is a lesbian, and that the darker ponies are always in servitude to Celestia or a different overlord. Faust refuted these claims by saying: “nowhere in the show is her sexual orientation ever referenced” and “assuming tomboys are lesbians is extremely unfair to both straight and lesbian tomboys”, and further stating that “Color has never, ever been depicted as a race indicator for the ponies.”
Despite the criticism the show has received the fans continue to be enthusiastic about new episodes and continue creating fan based content. The brony fan base is unusual for the Internet due to the fact that everyone, or most everyone, is incredibly nice and kind to one another. Bronies live, or at least Internet, by the motto “love and tolerance.” Interactions within a brony thread are respectful, which is a huge contrast for the flame wars the Internet is famous for. When you then take the fact that My Little Pony became an Internet sensation on 4chan, which is a website almost entirely dedicated to making you a worse person, and you’ll find that this show has actually had a serious effect on the Internet. I’m sure most of you reading this will be very skeptical about watching a series about magical ponies, just as I was, and just as was every brony. However I very strongly suggest it, and to help the fan base grow I’m going to take advantage of Hasbro’s loose copyright infringement views when it comes to fans uploading episodes. Below is a YouTube video containing the entire first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That is roughly nine and a half hours of pony. Try watching the first two episodes. If you don’t love it, well than you’re obviously not a Brony.