You may or may not have heard the word “brony” thrown around in your time as a user of the Internet. You also may or may not have known what it refers to. Even if you know what it refers to, you may or may not find it extremely weird and confusing. First let’s give a quick definition. Bronies are the adult male fans of the Hub Network’s TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which started in 2010 and is based on the classic pony dolls marketed to little girls. This version takes an approach seeking to appeal to parents as well as kids.
When I first heard that this show had such a huge following among grown men, I thought it was weird, to say the least. The fandom inspired a documentary called A Brony Tale that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week. After looking into the phenomenon a bit, I find it pretty fascinating. I won’t pretend to fully understand it, but it’s interesting that a fandom exists that totally defies gender (and age) norms and expectations. In case you’re as curious as I was about what bronies are, here are five basic facts I discovered.
1. The obsession started as an Internet meme.
Bronies first emerged on 4chan boards, through memes and running jokes. A lot of fans intended to make fun of the show but ended up enjoying it. It became such a popular topic that fans of the show became victims of trolling from other boards, and there was even a temporary ban on the word “ponies,” but fans found ways around it. They then spread the fandom to other parts of the Internet.
2. The fan demographics might surprise you.
A 2012 survey revealed that the average age of adult My Little Pony fans was 21, and they were 86% male. Many had college degrees or were pursuing them. And if you think most bronies must be gay because the stereotypically feminine nature of the show, think again. Another survey found that most fans were heterosexual.
While there are certainly groups of bronies who have a sexual or perverse outlook on the story, a lot of bronies would be quick to tell you that’s not how the approach the whole fandom takes. As you can discover from spending more than three seconds online, there are perverse sections of every fandom. Plenty of fans just appreciate the messages of friendship and acceptance, as well as the way the show is written to also appeal to adults.
3. The people involved in the show accept and embrace bronies.
You might think the show itself would try to distance itself from fans outside their target audience. But considering bronies have played a huge part in making Friendship is Magic the highest rated original Hub show ever, that would be a pretty silly stance to take. And turns out they totally embrace this unexpected fan based. The voice actors attend conventions, and the show’s creator Lauren Faust had this to say: “The fact that they did [try it] 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 show has also incorporated fans’ inside jokes.
4. The fandom is known to give to charity.
Bronies give back in various ways. The Brony Thank You Fund has raised money for Toys For Tots. A group called “Bronies For Good” ran blood drives and raised money for various causes in 2012. After an 11-year-old boy attempted suicide after being bullied for being a brony, fans began raising money to help his family.
5. There’s a documentary about them on Netflix right now.
It’s called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. You can stream it right now on Netflix. It was funded on Kickstarter by fans and was executive produced by Faust, the creator. Here’s a trailer to give you a taste:
Aaand now you know some more about bronies. Don’t you feel so enlightened?