By John Mack Freeman
I am not a brony.
Well, not yet anyway. I’ve never seen an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. But given my love for other cartoons that have a quirky sense of humor (the age-appropriate Adventure Time and the not-quite-so-age-appropriate Phineas and Ferb), I can see where the draw might come from. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me back up for a second.
My Little Pony is a line of television shows, animated features, and toys created by Hasbro in the 1980s. Their popularity died out in the 1990s, but they were revamped in the late 2000s. This newest version, spearheaded by the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is popular among a subset of kids of all ages. Its popularity extends into people well into their 20’s and 30’s. This adult fandom of the show (or at least, the large male portion of it) are referred to as “bronies” (or “bro ponies”). They create fan art, write fan fiction, attend fan conventions, and interact with their favorite TV show on a really genuine, in-depth level.
And that’s fantastic. Taking a show that was originally marketed just for very young girls and making it accessible to society at-large. And because its a cartoon intended to be viewable by children as young as 4 and 5, the content is largely unobjectionable to anyone. In fact, its main theme centers around friendship and what that means.
So why does My Little Pony keep showing up in all these bullying articles I read?
In February, Michael Morones, an 11 year old boy, attempted suicide due to the massive amount of teasing and bullying he received due to his love of the show.
The brony community immediately began to support Morones, starting the “Art for Michael” project where bronies submitted artwork in an effort to help Morones heal and not feel so alone. The artwork so far can be found at the You Will Rise Project website and they are planning on creating a book featuring the art.
Just last week, another young boy, this time 9 year old Grayson Bruce, reached national attention for the bullying that he has received due to his fandom of the show. Bruce’s backpack featuers several of the characters. Due to the repeated harassment he has received, Bruce’s North Carolina school has forbidden him to bring the backpack to school any longer, citing that it is a “distraction.”
Like I said at the top, I’m not a brony. But I think it must be the rare member of the LGBT community who has never worried that they liked something that they weren’t supposed to because of their gender. Hell, I think it’s probably a rare member of the American community who has never worried that they liked something they weren’t supposed to because of their gender. And while the bullying that Morones and Bruce and I’m sure dozens of others are going through due to their pony love isn’t homphobia or transphobia, it’s a related issue that we can’t afford to ignore. When someone is different, when someone decides for themselves what their gender is like, we as a society can’t allow that to be an opportunity for that person to be beaten into submission. We’re all brothers and sisters in the fight for equality for everyone.
Well, maybe bronies and sisters.