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Friendship IS magic: An afternoon with the Boston Bronies

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 12, 2012 06:03 PM

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my little pony.jpgBy Kenny Soto

In recent years, American pop culture has accepted (dare I say, embraced, even?) Trekkies, comic book geeks, and, especially, computer and science nerds, but the idea of Bronies -- bros/grown men who love the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic -- still freaks people out. I mean, what drives a bunch of grown men to get together and watch cartoons and trade dolls, both of which are targeted at 5-year-old girls?

The Boston Bronies meet each month to hang out and watch new episodes of the show. In the days before I joined them at their March meetup, I heard every joke in the book from my friends: Don’t take candy from them. Don’t get into their big, white, windowless vans. Because, you know, pedophiles love going after 25-year-old men.

And while I’m not sure I’ll go back any time soon, my afternoon with the Bronies was a very positive experience. Their community appeared to be as open, loving, and accepting as they claim (and, I’ll admit it, the episode I watched did make me laugh).

The Boston Bronies have been around for quite a while, but Haybuck, one of their current organizers, who asked to be known by his Brony name, became interested in the group after he and his friend Cory had a TV marathon of My Little Pony episodes, like so many of us do with Mad Men, Lost, and Sex in the City episodes.

“[Cory] was having the same thoughts about watching the show that I was, so we gave it a try,” Haybuck, 20, said. “We downloaded a few shows and spent the next three days watching all of the episodes.”

Hours of children’s television might sound mind-numbing, but Haybuck said there’s a lot more to My Little Pony than meets the eye.

“There’s a lot of humor and a lot of references [in the show] to adult topics. [The creators] aren’t afraid to throw in things for the parents who have to watch,” said Haybuck. “They don’t talk down to the viewer. It’s one of the few programs designed for little girls that doesn’t talk down to them.”

The show also teaches good morals, said Timothy Mahony, 19.

“It teaches the kids to love and tolerate and just enjoy being,” he said. “It teaches [viewers] to be good, to be a good person.”

That’s a lesson Mahony hoped his girlfriend, Catherine, would take to heart when he introduced her to his passion for ponies.

“He came up to me, and he said, ‘Can you love and tolerate unconditionally?’ and I said of course,” said Catherine, 19, who also now attends Brony meetups and asked to be identified only by her first name. “Then he showed it to me, and I thought it was fabulous.”

Yes, there are female Bronies (Bronettes), too, though the guys dominate the group’s gender makeup.

“It’s usually about 20-1,” said Catherine. “I think, counting myself, there are five girls here today.”

As the meetup went on, it became clear that it’s more than just the chance to watch the cartoon with like-minded fans that keeps the Bronies coming back.

“One of the really cool things about it, and a lot of the credit goes to Hasbro and the way that they haven’t really tried to protect their intellectual property, is that there’s this incredible creative community,” said James Turner, 49. An experienced member of the world of fandom, Turner said the Bronies are different than many other fan communities.

“In the science fiction community, it’s all about ‘What have you done for me lately?’ It’s a very puritan work ethic, especially in New England. You’re only as good as what you did at the last convention,” he said. “[But as a Brony], no one expects you to do anything, but if you want to volunteer something, if you want to produce something, everyone is very appreciative.”

Even as an outsider, I could feel the Bronies’ camaraderie and their admiration for each other’s work. Maybe it’s because their love of My Little Pony is so unaccepted by the mainstream -- or maybe it’s because, as the Bronies say, friendship is magic.

Photo by Lisa Brewster (Flickr)

About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.

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