Recently, throngs of twenty-something men were walking down Pratt Street wearing over-sized ears, fairy wings, and homemade buttons. As I passed behind them one of them remarked, “I gave that guy a dollar, I don’t care if he uses it for food. I just figured he needed it, and that’s good enough for me.” The group quickly veered over to some nearby steps and broke open a box of cigarettes, one man passed around the pack. These are bronies; a group that was best descried to me by a convention attendee as, “the extremely unexpected fans of My Little Pony.”
When I approached the men on the steps they were initially hesitant, asking me about the intent of my article. Bronies, it seems, have received a lot of negative press. They told me that the media has been all too willing to reduce their fandom to a character portrayal of a grown man who sits around in their parent’s basement. I presented them with the B Paper’s recent examination of Brony culture and asked for a reaction. One man, who goes by the name Scribble Script, shook his head as he glanced over the front page, “This is what I’m talking about,” he explained, “People want to believe that all Bronies are this guy. As though we sit around in rainbow wigs, surrounded by toys. I wear these ears and these buttons for the convention,” he said, pointing at his head, “I don’t walk around everyday dressed like this, but that’s what people want to believe.”
Scribble Script handed me back the paper and finished his cigarette, “No one comes here by accident,” he remarked, pointing to the excited crowds of people who were posing for photos outside doors of the convention center. His friend, a waif thin man, nodded in agreement, “I came here from Scotland,” he professed, “I met these guys the other day when I was asking around for some smokes. They took me in and gave me a button. We’ve been hanging out ever since, but that’s the nature of Brony Con, everyone is here to be friends.”
After leaving the group I wandered off into the convention center and was fortunate enough to be introduced to a number of panelists who were waiting around, milling in the lobby. They invited me to sit down with them and gushed about their experience at the three day con.
One man, who went by the name of Jitters – the creator of Dr. Whooves and Assistant – beamed as he talked, nervous with excitement. “The lifeblood of the convention is that it brings people together; it’s a beacon of community. People appreciate whatever you bring to the table and it celebrates creativity.” As Jitters talked he told me about how Bronies are into co-opting other genres, other communities, and through this they’re able to open up the world of My Little Pony into a borderless experience. “As long as My Little Pony is an element,” Jitters explained, “it’ll be celebrated. We just want to foster creativity, imagination!”
The panelists who surrounded me were unabashedly enthusiastic; they seemed a little tired from the non-stop schedule but were thrilled to answer my questions as they competed with one another in an effort to be as informative, kind, and helpful as possible.
Discussion turned to the convention’s schedule; the panelists broke down acronyms and explained the initiatives that had occurred in the various rooms of the massive complex. One young woman started rattling off an impressive list of seminars that had taken place; the schedule sounded as eclectic and diverse as the attendees themselves; there was an Ask A Brony Psychologist lecture, Grimdark – Ponies and Horror: a talk on infusing horror elements into My Little Pony fiction; Fanfics in Print: a self-publishing seminar; Brony Families: an instructional on using My Little Pony as a teaching tool for positive values. All told, I learned there were around one hundred and ten events that began at 10am and ended as late as midnight. As the young woman finished speaking another panelist chimed in, “Don’t forget about the charity.”
With the mention of charity the faces of the small group lit up, immediately curious I asked for additional details. Talking in unison, the panelists were excited to impress upon me the enormous amount of philanthropy that has occurred in the Brony community. “Bronies like to support those who support Bronies” one panelist, Zachary “Jestre” French, exclaimed, “There are military bronies, they have a slot in the convention. There are Bronies in the armed forces who watch My Little Pony because it’s so positive. It helps distract from war and that reality. You can just get lost in a world of positivity. Some soldiers come back from their post and put it on and get lost in it.” Another man who was a psychology panelist chimed in, “it helps with stress disorders. It’s so calming.”
Jitters cut in, “Last year, at the last convention, during a charity event someone bought a ten thousand dollar poster signed by the show’s creators. I think we ended up raising forty-thousand dollars!”
Beaming, a young woman yelped, “Tell him about the other charities!”
Zachary started counting off on his fingers, “well there’s the Brony Thank You Fund, the Bronies for Good organization, and we did another auction this year for Children in Need. Bronies love helping out.”
We talked for a few more minutes before we parted ways, and I was drawn into another conversation with a group of enthused, costumed young men and women. One woman, who went by Erika “Rainbow DJ Pony”, quickly approached me, “I have one quote for you,” she said, a huge smile breaking across her face, “Brony Con is awesome! Tell them that!” I laughed and we sat down together.
I was curious to know about how the public perceives Bronies and Erika had some blunt but honest answers, “People think they’re a bunch of freaks, running around in dark allies, screwing each other, but no, that’s not the case. I just want people to understand that being a Brony isn’t done for them, it’s done for me. I’m here because it makes me happy. The lessons I’ve learned from My Little Pony are positive. If more kids watched a show that taught them the importance of friendship and being nice to people, working together, they would become better adults. Those are the kinds of things people should care about!”
A young man who was wearing an airsoft outfit introduced himself to me, his name was Blaine Woodward, “this convention can heal you, it really can,” he said, shaking my hand. As we talked a security guard approached us and ushered us from the building, “closing time, everyone out.”
The group gathered up their belongings, paid passing compliments to costumed strangers, and walked with me out of the building. Turning, Blaine pointed at the crowd, “I love Brony Con, it makes you feel good. There are too many people in the world who are depressed and they make themselves miserable. If you put on a shell it hurts you because you wear it until it becomes your life. Brony Con gives you a chance to shed, even if it only happens once a year.”