The Bronies Were Always A Fandom: On Related Fields

Until this post, I have studied the Bronies from a subcultural perspective. Yet as I have mentioned in my first post, the Bronies are very much a fandom. Jenkins in his study of the Trekkie fandom offers a definition of “fandom”. ” “Fandom” is a vehicle for marginalised subcultural groups (women, the young, gays, etc.) to pry open space for their cultural concerns within dominant representations; it is a way of appropriating media texts and rereading them in a fashion that serves different interests, a way of transforming mass culture into a popular culture.” (Jenkins 1988:472) Beyond this definition however, Jenkins (1992) also offers a conception of the fandom based on five levels of activity. According to him (1992:277-280), these five levels include:
a) A particular mode of reception
b) A particular set of critical and interpretive practices
c) A base for consumer activism
d) Particular forms of cultural production, aesthetic traditions and practices
e) Functioning as an alternative social community

In my study of the Brony fanculture, I have noted how they in many ways reflect these five levels of activity. In this post, I will consider the second level of activity: a particular set of critical and interpretive practices. As Jenkins (1992) notes, “Part of the process of being a fan involves learning the community’s preferred reading practices.” (p. 278) Fan criticism is “playful, speculative, subjective.” (Jenkins 1992:278) Fan criticism is evident for instance in the random musings and discussions often posted on the Facebook page of the Singapore Brony Society following the release of a new episode of the show. It is also evident even prior to the release of new episodes when individuals “in-the-know” release spoilers and then speculate based on that information. Following the release of Season 3 Episode 5 “Magic Duel”, SBS members speculated the significance of a returned antagonist in the series, the unicorn and travelling magician known as Trixie. In that episode, Trixie, a known braggart and travelling magician of cheap tricks (though she constantly exaggerates her prowess) returns to Ponyville where she defeats Twilight, one of the six protagonists in MLP. SBS speculation ranged widely – from debates about her natural magical powers (which apparently have never been revealed till now), to how dystopic Ponyville would subsequently look like under her “rule” (this is an example of true fan speculation given that the typical ending of an MLP:FIM episode always ends with the 6 protagonists banding together and winning).

theangrymare:
every pony would be her princess leia. she would build some ark and they would go travelling around equestria on that ark

It should however be noted that there are limits to the degree of speculation and play. Jenkins (1992) notes that as much as fans are engaged in “playful, speculative, subjective” critical and interpretive practices, they are also very much “concerned with the particularity of textual detail and with the need for internal consistency” (p. 278) not just across program episodes but also works produced by members of the community as well. Thus following the release of the 3rd season, significant criticism with regard to the portrayal of one character, Fluttershy, has been building in the community.
Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 7.37.14 PM

Fig. 1

Various plot holes are also frequently identified by Bronies (see below).

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 7.37.55 PM

Fig. 2

A limit to the degree of play and speculation also exists as a result of what Jenkins (1988) terms the “moral economy” (p. 472). These “constraints, ethical…and self-imposed rules…are enacted by the fans, either individually or as part of a larger community, in response to their felt need to legitimate their unorthodox appropriation of mass media texts.” (Jenkins 1988:472) I found this concept particularly interesting for the study of subcultures. Could we apply the notion of a “moral economy” to the study of subcultures given that like fandoms, subcultures too are distinguished by appropriations and reworkings of various cultural artifacts?

Bibliography
Jenkins, Henry. 1988. “Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching.”, Critical Studies in Mass Communication 5(2):85-107.

Jenkins, Henry. 1992. ” “In my weekend-only world…”: Reconsidering Fandom.” Pp. 277-287 in Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

And that’s how Equestria was made: Locating the Study of Bronies through Scales

The virtual scale may even be seen as post-spatial as digital media break down the significance of space and place-based identities entirely.” (Williams 2011:163)

“The term “scales” comes from geography, where it has been used to spatialize the social world into nested hierarchies (e.g., local, regional, national, global).” (Williams 2011:146)

In this post, I focus on the notion of “scales” within which we can make sense of subcultures in general. Williams (2011) in his chapter on the said matter, distinguishes several “scales”. For instance, there is the category of “sociological scales” (Williams 2011), which can be further divided into “micro”, “meso” and “macro” scales. Then there are the “spatial scales” (ibid) – the “local”, the “trans-local”, the “global” and the “virtual”. The virtual scale is one particularly relevant to the Brony subculture. Elsewhere, I have mentioned that the Bronyism is also (and in fact, began as) an online subculture. It brings to mind Bell’s notion of “new, distinctly hybrid cyber-social groups rooted primarily in technology.” (Bell 2001 cited in Williams 2011:160) The Brony subculture is very much rooted in IP technologies such as Internet forums, YouTube, Facebook, 4chan and so on. Williams (2011) distinguishes between previous and recent considerations of the virtual scale. In what follows, I will explore first previous considerations of the virtual scale as examplified by the work of scholars such as Hodkinson (2002) and Bennett (2004). I argue that recent considerations of the virtual scale more adequately fit Bronyism.

Previous Considerations of the Virtual Scale
Previous considerations of the virtual scale can perhaps be summed up in one sentence: it considers the ways in which “members of local and trans-local scenes utilise new media technologies to enhance their subcultural participation.” (Williams 2011:158) For instance, Hodkinson (2002) notes how three kinds of insider media within the goth subculture reproduce the subculture virtually and trans-locally in “an efficient and effective way”. (Williams 2011:159) These three kinds of insider media include goth fanzines, flyers and the Internet. According to Hodkinson (2002), the Internet reproduces the goth subculture virtually and trans-locally and enhances the culture in various ways e.g. spreading information about trans-local events, linking up goths from around the world who may have never met. Undoubtedly, the Internet serves a similar function for the Bronies. Let us consider the example of the Bronies in Singapore. Through their Facebook page and internet sites such as Equestria Daily (http://www.equestriadaily.com/), various information or what Thornton (1996) would call “subcultural capital” is shared amongst members. The Internet in fact enables the dissemination of  other types of insider and “virtual” media such as season premiere spoiler clips.

These clips are particularly important for the Bronies in Singapore given that the local screening of the cartoon series lags that in the US by one season. The above clip is taken from the series’s third season which is to be launched on the 11th of November. In spreading and viewing such clips, it enhances the subcultural participation of Singaporean Bronies, enabling them to speculate on the direction of the series together with their fellow Bronies in the US by being on the same page. It thus reproduces the subculture trans-locally. However, I would now like to return to my argument at the beginning of this post. With regard to Bronyism as a whole, framing the Bronies (and even the SBS) within previous considerations of the virtual scale is somewhat problematic.

Recent Considerations of the Virtual Scale
My issue with previous considerations of the virtual scale has to do with their focus on the notion of “subcultural participation enhancement”. Implicitly tied to this notion of “subcultural participation enhancement” is the notion of the local scale, that in going online, the subcultural participation of individuals in local scenes are enhanced.  This is for instance evident in Hodkinson’s study of goth, “Hodkinson’s third media example, the internet, is the most obviously virtual of his examples, though it similarly functioned as a medium for communication among individuals dedicated to local or trans-local goth scenes.” (Williams 2011:159, emphasis mine) As Williams (2011) notes, rather than “demonstrating much of the potential that new media possess in creating virtual subcultural scenes……Hodkinson’s study, and others like it,……[give] primacy instead to traditional scales – local, trans-local and global…” (p. 160, addition mine) Following Williams (2011), I argue that the Brony fandom constitutes a virtual subcultural scene and not an extension of a local scene online. This virtual subcultural scene does not merely enhance subcultural participation but redefines it as well. Williams (2006) in his study of identity and authenticity in an online straightedge forum notes “the emergence of a new type of subculturalist…- one whose subcultural participation is limited to the internet.” (p. 173) Where the Internet is but a supplement for “music-straightedgers” (Williams 2006:183), it is “a primary or exclusive subcultural resource and medium” for “net-straightedgers” (ibid). The latter, as Williams writes, contest the necessity of involvement in face-to-face straightedge music scenes (ibid).

A face-to-face scene does not really exist for the Singapore Bronies. Though the Bronies may meet up periodically for gatherings (karoke or simply just hanging out) and even attend anime conventions such as the upcoming Anime Festival Asia, much subcultural participation is done online. One does not have to attend these gatherings or conventions in the physical world to be considered a Brony. The Singapore Bronies do not have a clubhouse. And unlike Bronies in the US, there is no yearly BronyCon at the national and town levels. In fact, it is somewhat difficult to imagine their online participation being taken offline e.g putting together a pony music video (PMV) and posting it on the SBS page, on one’s YouTube channel etc. I would argue that a face-to-face scene (if one does exist for the Singapore Bronies) is but a supplement to the virtual scene, in a sense, a reversal of the situation of Williams’ music-straightedgers. Evidently, besides enhancing subcultural participation, for the Singapore Bronies, participating on the Internet itself constitutes subcultural participation. For some members, it is the only form of subcultural participation since they don’t attend the periodic gatherings and conventions (In fact, these are often attended by the younger members of the SBS, aged between 14-18. In my conversations with so-called older Bronies like myself, they often mentioned fears of awkwardness when interacting with the younger Bronies in the flesh or the “realities of older adult life that prevent them from attending”. For them, merely participating online was enough.)

Bibliography
Bennet, Andy. 2004. “Virtual Subculture? Youth, Identity and the Internet.” Pp. 162-172 in After Subcultures: Critical Studies in Contemporary Youth Culture edited by Andy Bennett and Keith Kahn-Harris. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Williams, J. Patrick. 2006. “Authentic Identities: Straightedge Subculture, Music, and the Internet.”, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35(2):173-200.

Williams, J. Patrick. 2011. “Scales.” Pp. 146-164 in Subcultural Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Bronyspeak
And that’s how Equestria was made: In episode 23, “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, Pinkie Pie explains how she got her cutie mark. She ends the story by saying, “And that’s how Equestria was made”. The phrase is commonly used in forum boards.

Will a “real” brony please stand up? Discord and Disharmony within Equestria

Echoax (Opening post of “What is a “real” Brony?”):
What is a “real” Brony?

 I’m curious what other people call a “true” or “real” brony.
Are “real” bronies the ones that know every detail of the show and the fandom.
Are “real” bronies the ones that only watch the show.
I’m gonna stop that now because I’d have to go on forever like that. All the things that happen in this fandom, things like *insert c word*, the racism, the sexism, the bronies that insult haters, Etc etc. You know what happens in the fandom.
What do you guys think a “real” brony is?

I must admit to something. I admit to feeling overly confident about writing on the Bronies and the concepts of “Authenticity” and “Identity” prior to beginning the research for this post. Having blogged for several weeks about the Brony fandom, I felt pretty sure I knew enough to write about the Bronies and identity. Looking back on the research and literature review process, I have definitely been humbled. Williams (2011) writes that “Early sociologists…tended to assume that the identities they assigned to people, including subcultural participants, were real and accurate.” (p. 127) This however, he notes elsewhere, is “problematic because it concretizes “dominant” definitions that may arise through interaction among members of subcultural networks or from outside actors (e.g., the mass media)…” (Williams 2006:177) Discourses of “real”, “authentic”, “essential” identities constitute claims “made by or for someone, thing or performance and either accepted or rejected by relevant others.” (Peterson 2005:1806 cited in Williams 2006:177) Evidently, discourses of identities and authenticity are not timeless and unchanging. Neither are they held equally by all members within a subculture. Authentic identities are social constructions (Williams 2011). In initially believing in and conceptualising an “authentic Brony identity” as being about showing love and tolerance for others, I am guilty of nearly having taken the easy way out, privileging one discursive position amongst many others. Thankfully, subsequent research has reminded me that this should not be so. Whilst there exist multiple discourses regarding an “authentic Brony identity”, I focus on two particular discourses. The two discourses may be referred as to 1) “Real Bronies are simply fans of My Little Pony” and 2) “Authentic Bronies live the Brony lifestyle”. Trivial as they may sound, both discourses have generated significant debate within the fandom. In the following paragraphs, I will elaborate how “Discord* [on identity] plagues the Brony fandom”. (AndtheyshallknowwhoisCelestia 2012, personal communication, additions mine)

Research Site and Method
As a result of the growth of and increasing access to information and communication technologies such as the Internet, it is perhaps unsurprising that fan cultures and subcultures are increasingly going online. It is within Internet-based subcultural sites that subculturalists interact, “construct and affirm meaningful collective identities based on norms and beliefs that are personally important and that are supported by others.” (Williams 2006:178) Evidently, it is also within these sites that claims to an authentic identity are also contested. These sites include weblogs, domains, forums, Facebook pages and so on. To understand the debates surrounding Brony identity, I studied two Internet forums. Both forums fit Denzin’s definition of an online community, both having “norms…rules (netiquette)…emotional vocabulary – guidelines for posting, acceptable subjects, regular users, leaders, oldtimers, and a constant circulation of newcomers.” (Denzin 1998:99-100 cited in Williams 2006:180) Within these two forums, I focused on forum member initiated threads surrounding Brony identity. A search of both forums brought up several threads related to the issue of Brony identity. For the purposes of this post, I focused on 3 threads:
Thread #1 What is a “real” Brony? (27 posts)
Thread #2 Why the idea of a “True Brony” doesn’t work (27 posts)
Thread #3 What type of fan are you? (62 posts)
As Williams argues, the posts within these threads constitute cultural artifacts “amenable to empirical content analysis” (Williams 2006:180).

Confound These Bronies! Competing Discourses Regarding Identity and Authenticity

“Authentic Bronies live the Brony lifestyle.”
Analysis of posts within the threads revealed a number of competing definitions of an “authentic Brony identity”. As earlier mentioned, I choose to focus on two discourses, in particular. The first of these discourses may be referred to as “Authentic Bronies live the Brony lifestyle.

B-dog1996 :
A brony is someone who is part of this fandom.
 [But] A real brony is someone who takes the values from the show (love and tolerance) and actually puts it into practice…You could say that being a brony is like being a Christian. You can go around saying you’re a Christian. You can even “officially” be a Christian. But the only “real” Christians are the one’s who put the Bible’s teachings into practice.

I have noted elsewhere that one of the key messages of My Litte Pony: Friendship is Magic is that of love and tolerance. As suggested by B-dog1996’s post, a Brony is merely a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic but a “real Brony” is one who believes in and practices love and tolerance in his everyday life. From this, one can see the distinctions being drawn here. The former (like being “officially” designated a Christian) is merely a social label or as Williams (2006) terms it, “social identification” (more will be said on this later) (p. 177). However, what matters more, as B-dog1996 suggests, is something more individual: embracing the show’s message of love and tolerance and putting it into practice, what I term “the Brony lifestyle”. I found B-dog1996’s comparision between “real Bronies” and “real Christians” particularly interesting and worth discussing at this point. Comparisions between Bronies and Christians in fact abound throughout the threads that I followed during the course of my research. For instance, “Bandmaster” Trey writes:

Christians follow the same Love and tolerance code. We’re trying to make ourselves good people, not better than anyone else.

According to B-dog1996, Christians were only “real” if they “put the Bible’s teachings into practice.” This as well as other similar posts brought to my mind Weber’s (2001) description of the Protestant Ethic and how the Calvinists (and even some present day Protestants) sought to “live a godly life in every aspect, every moment of the day.” In comparing Bronies to Christians, it is evident that what B-dog is suggesting here is that an “authentic Brony” is one who lives by (in other words, maintains a personal commitment to) an ethic of love and tolerance a.k.a the Brony lifestyle.

Williams (2006) notes that there are several dimensions of the “Authentic Self”, one amongst them being that which he calls the “personal dimension of authenticity” (p. 178). According to him, “From this perspective, the authentic self is one that commits to a personal life project and is not controlled by outside influence. Subculturalists may identify in terms of a life-long commitment to a subcultural lifestyle, for example, even if that lifestyle commitment precedes or follows subcultural affliation.” (Williams 2006:178) An example of such subculturalists would be for instance, the net-straightedgers Williams highlights in his study of an online straightedge forum who “tended to focus on their affiliation with straightedge in terms of a personal commitment to a straightedge lifestyle.” (Williams 2006:189-190) For the “lifestyle Bronies”, living the Brony lifestyle very much reflects the “personal dimension of authenticity” that Williams (2006:178) writes about. I would thus argue that Bronies such as B-dog1996 promote a definition of authentic Brony identity that emphasizes on the “personal dimension of the Authentic Self.”

“Real Bronies are simply fans of My Little Pony.”
As earlier mentioned, the notion of authentic Brony-hood attained through living ethically (displaying love and tolerance in one’s everyday life) is not universally shared within the fandom. In fact, it is hotly contested by a rival claim of authenticity, a claim that may be summed up in one sentence, “Real Bronies are simply fans of My Little Pony.” Let us consider the following posts:

Mist (Opening post of “Why the idea of a “True Brony” doesn’t work”):
Most attest the idea of being a brony meaning you follow love and tolerance or the teachings of the show. This is NOT TRUE. To be a brony means you simply enjoy the TV show: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Nothing more, nothing less.

Placidzone:
the term Brony doesn’t refer to any type of person who does something a certain way. It’s just refers one who is willing to give themselves a chance to enjoy a show and its subculture.

marston:
Honestly, I don’t think that their [Bronies who live according to an ethic] is a “True brony”. A brony is someone who is a fan of Mlp Fim. Not much more complicated then that, really.

From Mist, Placidzone and company, a “true Brony” is a fan, someone who enjoys the show. Simple as this may sound, advocating the fan discourse of Brony authenticity also (and necessarily) involves the disparaging of the Brony lifestyle discourse of identity. It is through this criticism that we can see how identity and authenticity are contested within the Brony fandom. One line of attack is particularly interesting. “Fan Bronies” have utilised the lifestyle Bronies’s allusions to Christianity, accusing them of “holier than thou” attitudes towards the rest of the fandom.

Mist:
But it creates a sense of elitism. Basically bronies can’t seem to grasp the idea that they are not holier than thou if they follow their precious love and tolerance rule. They actually think themselves higher than other bronies for it, which defeats the purpose of love and tolerance. It’s a broken philosophy that just can’t work.

“Bandmaster” Trey:
Those who follow it are trying to set a good example, not make themselves holier than thou. Christians follow the same Love and tolerance code. We’re trying to make ourselves good people, not better than anyone else.

Mist:
Yes, but let’s not forget a lot of Christians think they are better than people for being Christians, or think themselves better than other Christians because they are following their “code” a bit more closely than others.

Same thing happens with everything. It’s common for people to get so smug and full of themselves when they think they are doing better than everyone else. Sure some people are doing it to be good, but it’s obvious everyone isn’t. It’s just something humans do.

By accusing or suggesting that lifestyle Bronies display “holier than thou” attitudes, fan Bronies set themselves off as authentic Bronies. Through their criticism, fan Bronies “reveal” the illogic of living the Brony lifestyle, in that it gives rise to a real or imagined elitism, the exclusion of members and feelings of superiority that conflict with the show’s (and lifestyle Bronies’s) message of love and tolerance. This in turn portrays fan Bronies as authentic, that they are more tolerant and loving in that they accept members regardless of whether or not they make a personal commitment towards practicing love and tolerance in their everyday lives. Moreover, unlike the lifestyle Bronies with their strict “stipulations” and “philosophies” (Mist), for the fan Bronies, the rule for authentic Bronyhood is simple:

Be a fan of the show.

It is also through the simplicity of this rule that fan Bronies advocate their definition of authenticity whilst insinuating that the lifestyle Bronies are people who have somehow “missed the real reason” “ (Williams 2006:190) for being a Brony. In emphasizing that “real Bronies” are simply fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it may be argued that fan Bronies are advocating what Williams (2006:177-178) terms the “social dimension of authenticity”. Where the “personal dimension” of authentic Bronyhood refers to a lifestyle or a personal commitment to showing love and tolerance everyday, “the social dimension of authenticity refers to how individuals claim insider status in a social category.” (Williams 2006:178)

Peterson argues that the construction of “authenticity is not random, but is renegotiated in a continual political struggle in which the goal of each contending interest is to naturalise a particular construction of authenticity.” (1997:220 cited in McLeod 1999:147) In this post, I have shown how notions of authentic Bronyhood are constructed and contested by two interest groups, the lifestyle Bronies and the fan Bronies. This has been expressed through two discourses; one which privileges an authentic identity rooted in a personal lifestyle and another which emphasizes the importance of the social network in defining authenticity and identity.

Bibliography
McLeod, Kembew. 1999. “Authenticity Within Hip-Hop and Other Cultures Threatened with Assimiliation.”, Journal of Communication 49:134-150.

Weber, Max. 2001. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Routledge

Williams, J. Patrick. 2006. “Authentic Identities: Straightedge Subculture, Music, and the Internet.”, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35(2):173-200.

Williams, J. Patrick. 2011. “Identity and Authenticity.” Pp. 126-145 in Subcultural Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

“Love, Tolerance and Other Myths. – The Round Stable: Pony News” 2012. http://www.mlponies.com. Retrieved October 28, 2012. (http://www.mlponies.com/2012/06/20/love-tolerance-and-other-myths/)

Bronyspeak
Discord: Discord is a villain in MLP: FiM. A pony-dragon hybrid known as a “draconequus,” the character is introduced in the show’s second season premiere as a cunning manipulator with powerful magical abilities.

“I wonder if this guy’s a clopper”: Howard Stern Labels Bronies

BronyCon is a bi-annual to annual fan convention held in the greater New York City area for fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, among them adult fans of the show, who call themselves bronies. Four events have occurred to date, with the most recent one in June 2012 drawing in over 4,000 attendees.” (Wikipedia 2012) In addition to the fans, BronyCon (much like the other aspects of the subculture) has also attracted significant media coverage. Coverage that has been both good and bad for the Bronies. During the most recent BronyCon, Howard Stern (a popular and controversial American media personality and host of The Howard Stern Show) sent a media crew to interview BronyCon participants about the subculture. The crew, in particular, appeared to focus on several things: Bronies who are “Cloppers” and the opinions of Bronies on the societal reaction to the Brony movement. These interview clips were subsequently aired and discussed on The Howard Stern Show (on Sirius XM Satellite Radio) by Stern and Robin Ophelia Quivers (Stern’s co-host).

What follows is a transcript of segments of the show that I found were relevant to this week’s topic: Labels and Moral Panics. For the full show, give this a listen

Howard Stern Explores The Bronies [Transcript]
Interviewer Wolfie (W): Can you tell me what’s a Clopper?
Interviewee #1 (1): Er a person who enjoys erotic pony art I guess
W: Now you would consider yourself a clopper, wouldn’t you?
1: Mm-mm, sometimes, it depends.
W: So you have pleasured yourself to a My Little Pony image?
1: (sounds embarrassed) Uhhh, I guess, yes
W: How many times would you say?
1: Uhhhh, I don’t know, alot..

Robin Ophelia Quivers (RQ): So the people who dress up as ponies, are they expecting to have sex with the people who like that? (Aaron (A): I.e. the cloppers. It appears that our hosts are unable to differentiate cosplaying Bronies from Cloppers!)
Howard Stern (HS): You know how Comic-Con is sorta for losers, let’s be honest…Comic-Con people are winners compared to BronyCon…

W: What’s the biggest misconception about Bronies?
2: That we all er want to screw ponies.
W: What is the darker side of the Brony fandom?
2: Those would the people who actually like look at the porn of the characters and have actually made like plushies that you can use for sexual purposes…
W: What is a plushie?
2: A stuffed animal (A: Interviewee #2’s response is too abrupt, there’re signs that he said much more than that!)

HS: A clopper is someone who speeds off to My Little Pony. (RQ: Oh) You know like people who watch pony porn but it’s My Little Pony porn.
RQ: Who even knew that existed?
HS: Yes that’s why I’m saying it’s a whole universe out there you don’t know about.

RQ: Where are their parents?
HS: Do they live with their parents?

W: Which pony are you most sexually attracted to?
5: Mmmmmmm tossup between Rarity and Pinke Pie

W: Which pony do you jerk off to most often?

HS: Let me play you the clip that guy (A: Interviewee #6) who talks about living with his folks. (FG: Yeah I wanna hear that, I wanna meet thse parents.) He’s like 28…Poor parents have got a kid living in the basement who’s (inaudible) a man. He’s into My Little Pony.

HS (on Interviewee #6’s background): So there’s no girls (A: 6 stated in the interview with Wolfie that he had no girlfriend at the moment), no apartment, that’s a bleak life.

W: Who is your favourite My Little Pony character?
7: Princess Luna, absolutely without a doubt she’s the one that I can most identify with. I know exactly what it feels like when she’s trying to get out there and make friends and have people just be absolutely afraid of you.
HS: I don’t know I can’t take this much more, do you wanna hear more of this?

W: Now why do you feel people are afraid of you?
7: Well it’s unfortunate but I’ve always been a fairly tall person, um I have a tendency to have a very serious sort of appearance to my face I don’t smile very easily so it tends to make people a little bit skittish, there’s actually a time someone actually reported me as a potential terrorist just for going into a store and shopping
(HS and FG laughing in the background)

W: Now what would be harder for your father to hear: you coming out of the closet as a gay man or coming out of the closet as a Brony?
7: I think he would have trouble with the Brony because he won’t be able to look past the idea it’s for little kids, he wouldn’t be able to see past that, that anyone can enjoy the show

HS: This one interests me I think, “Depressed Brony” (A: Interviewee #8) it’s labelled. Here’s the first guy making sense.

W: What do you do for a living?
8: I’m currently unemployed.
W: What do your parents think of your obsession with My Little Ponies?
8: Er they don’t seem to care. Er that’s not the first weird thing I’ve latched onto (HS and RQ: Oh WOW, what else!).
W: Do you think they’re disappointed in you just a little bit?
8: I think maybe sometimes…
W: Well, how motivated are you to get out of the house and find a job?
8: Er….er I’ve been suffering from fairly severe depression but actually coming here is really helping and bringing me out of the rut

W: Isn’t it really one of the goals in life to get laid?
9: Nope, just to have fun. Have fun, enjoy life and watch My Little Pony.
W: If you had a choice, would you rather attend Brony-Con today or have sex with a supermodel?
9: Quite honestly, I’d rather be right here at Brony-Con ponying it up. I just love it so much that it’s just better than anything. It’s just better than everything.
W: What’s the biggest misconception about Bronies?
9: That everybody’s a Clopper.

Stop this Horsing Around! The Brony-Clopper Moral Panic
Evidently, a specific stereotype/impression of the Bronies is not only being formed here but being presented for public consumption as well. Let me summarise part of this stereotype for you in a few sentences: “Bronies are real or potential Cloppers (MLP fans who masturbate to MLP related media). They engage in unnatural sexual practices as a result of their sexual attraction to animated horses. These sexual deviants might be something to be anxious about.” 

Cohen (1972) in Folk Devils and Moral Panics notes how societies experience periods of moral panic from time to time. During such a period, “A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests” (Cohen 1972:1). As illustrated by the example of The Howard Stern Show, the Bronies have evidently been defined as the latest in a long line of youth culture threats to society. The Bronies’ “nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media” (ibid). Though there exist a multitude of practices, beliefs and in a Klappian sense, social types within Bronyism, Howard Stern and co. attempt to limit Bronyism to just a few practices, beliefs and one social type in particular, the Clopper. As earlier mentioned, Cloppers are MLP fans said to masturbate to MLP related media, often erotic pony art. They have favourite ponies they “clop” (masturbate) to and they do so frequently (W: So have you pleasured yourself to a MLP image?…How many times would you say?). Contrary to Howard Stern and co.’s claims, Cloppers do not constitute a majority amongst Bronies. As mentioned earlier and elsewhere in this blog, Bronies enjoy watching MLP for a variety of reasons besides sexual pleasure (which may even not be a reason). For instance, Interviewee #7 mentioned how the show’s emphasis on the difficulty of making friends resonated with his life experience. Similarly, Angel (2012) in her article, In Defense of Bronies, notes how “all bronies have a pony they identify with. They see themselves in a character and relate.” Evidently, it is the thematic appeal of the show that resonates with both Bronies and Cloppers rather than just sexual pleasure.

Beyond constituting a minority in the Brony fandom in terms of beliefs and practices, Cloppers also constitute a minority within the fandom’s power structure. Though tolerated by most Bronies (see image below), Cloppers continue to be subject to various “social controls” by other non-clopping Bronies. For instance, in the case of the Singapore Bronies Society, posting erotic pony art is banned. Members who flout this rule have their posts removed as well as their membership in the group temporarily revoked. In addition, talk about clopping is restricted to the private sphere, to Personal Messages (PMs) between Cloppers. It is evident from this that whilst Cloppers may be Bronies, not all Bronies are Cloppers. Clopper beliefs and practices are not characteristic of the fandom as a whole nor does this minority occupy a powerful position with which to influence the fandom as a whole.

In addition to stereotyping Bronies as Cloppers, Howard Stern and co. stereotype and label Bronies in other ways as well. Bronies are “losers”, in fact a worse kind than geeks/nerds/cosplayers who attend ComicCon. Bronies lead “bleak lives”, having failed to achieve “what’s important in life” (HS: So there’s no girls, no apartment, that’s a bleak life.). It should be noted that up till now, I have yet to demonstrate how Bronies have been defined as a social threat. What I have done however is to illustrate how the mass media’s portrayals of them are highly stereotypical and often obscure reality. In what follows, I shall demonstrate how and why they are social threats.

The perception and construction of Bronies as social threats no doubt has to do with the stereotype of them as Cloppers, as sexual deviants. As Becker (1963) notes, “deviance is created by society…social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and by applying those rules to particular persons and labelling them as outsiders.” There are several “rules” that the Bronies (and the Cloppers) infract. First and foremost, the Bronies break the gender rule that “Boys cannot like girl things”, in this case, a cartoon associated with young girls in social memory. In liking MLP, Bronies are thus seen as gender traitors. They are not doing what “real” men do. In addition to breaking gender rules of what boys can like and dislike, Bronies or rather Cloppers (and thus by extension, Bornies) are seen to break rules on sexual conduct. Despite the Sexual Revolution of the 1940s and 1950s, masturbation continues to remain somewhat a taboo practice in society. In the case of the Cloppers, it appears that the deviance is not so much to do with their masturbation but rather that these young men are masturbating to animals.
HS: A clopper is someone who speeds off to My Little Pony. (RQ: Oh) You know like people who watch pony porn but it’s My Little Pony porn.
RQ: Who even knew that existed?
HS: Yes that’s why I’m saying it’s a whole universe out there you don’t know about.
It is written in Leviticus 18:23 of the Christian Bible, “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.” Durkheim (1972) in his study of religion, notes its various functions, one of which is as a source of morality. Religious rules specify the proper conduct towards a tribe’s totem and in that the totem represents society, a crime against the totem is thus a crime against society – it is an act of deviance. That the Christian’s physical body represents the temple of God (it being made in God’s likeness), sexual relations with an animal would thus constitute an act of deviance, a crime against Christian society. Though society has since secularised, yet such moral notions continue to permeate society. Those manning the moral barricades such as Howard Stern (it should be noted that Mr Stern is no saint whatsoever – after all, he prides himself on being radio’s “shock jock”) in turn apply these historical rules to the Bronies and thereby label them as outsiders.

On a final note, I would like to make some other observations that I found interesting.
1) As much as Howard Stern and co. try to shape impressions of the Bronies, it was interesting how (and perhaps for Bronies listening in/who subsequently listened to this) they could not distort everything about the Bronies. Consider what Interviewee #7 said.
7: Well it’s unfortunate but I’ve always been a fairly tall person, um I have a tendency to have a very serious sort of appearance to my face I don’t smile very easily so it tends to make people a little bit skittish, there’s actually a time someone actually reported me as a potential terrorist just for going into a store and shopping
Interviewee #7 became a Brony for the very reason (and which Angel has (2012) noted) why many young men have become fans of the series i.e. their real life difficulties in making friends which the series captures. Thornton (1996) has noted how “rave participants authenticated themselves through the negative news coverage they experienced…” (Williams 2011:123) In the case of the Bronies, Interviewee #7’s “testimony” (which while mocked by Howard Stern and co.) has in fact served as a rallying cry and source of pride amongst Bronies.
2) I found it interesting how the question “Where are the parents?” is often brought up by the media during moral panics. Shall think more about this over the next few days.

Bibliography
Angel, Rebecca. 2012. “In Defense of Bronies.” Wired, May 27

Becker, Howard S. 1963. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. USA: The Free Press.

Cohen, Stanley. 1972. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. USA: MacGibbon and Kee Ltd.

Durkheim, Emile. 1972. Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings edited by Anthony Giddens. UK: Cambridge University Press.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom.” 2012. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved September 01, 2012. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronies)

I’m gonna love & tolerate the SHIT outta you: Bronies and Subcultural Resistance

Me: Who are bronies different from?
FluttterShY*: Well, we’re different from normal ppl, I guess.

Me: So what’s your relationship like with normal people?
FSY: Well, they obviously don’t geddit [the show]. You know if they watch the show, they might ged it. I get alot of bs sometimes, especially from my bro who’s anti-brony. But I can’t hate them, I think it’s wrong. It’ll just go against MLP. I just have to love and tolerate the shit outta them. Hahaha.

Me: Have there been times when they’ve tested your tolerance?
FSY: Sure…sometimes the eeyers or the that’s fucking gay just get to you. But its times like these when you step up and become a Brony. If I can’t try to love and tolerate, then I’m not living up to [being] a Brony. I’m just like anyone ordinary.

*To protect my interviewee’s identity, a pseudonym is utilised here.

Bronies and Resistance
It’s abit strange to think of fans of a cartoon centred around the themes of love, friendship and tolerance as resisting society and dominant culture. Love, friendship and tolerance in fact appear to be values of the dominant culture. But as I have mentioned in previous posts, it has been argued that Bronies resist hegemonic notions of masculinity (though I have also shown how in the case of Singapore, hegemonic masculinity is also reinforced) and attempt to redefine what masculinity is. To an extent, we know the ‘where’ (the direction) of that resistance, this being an area that outsiders such as the media have often focused on for better or for worse. However, Williams (2011) notes that ‘resistance may occur in multiple dimensions simultaneously…’ (p. 94) Utilising Williams’s (2011) of subcultural resistance, I will go beyond these often superficial explorations of Brony resistance.

Micro <–> Macro
In Williams’s (ibid) chapter on subcultural resistance, he “offers a theory of subcultural resistance in terms of three dimensions: passive <-> active, micro <-> macro, and overt <-> covert.” (Williams 2011:94) According to Williams (2011), the micro <-> macro dimension conceptualises answers to the question of where and how resistance is directed. At the micro social-psychological level, ‘resistance is represented as an individual’s rational choice and consequential behaviour in a particular situation.’ (p. 99) It is how individuals act in particular moments when confronted with ‘immediate concerns about power and control.’ (Williams 2011:100) FluttterShY, during his interview, self-identified as not being ‘your average Singaporean guy’.
FSY: I’m more passive. I don’t like being overbearing. I think alot of guys are that way. It’s just a male thing to be, like conquer. I mean dominate someone through power or your pro-ness in something. I don’t like that.
His ‘passive’ nature however conflicted with the masculine, competitive nature of his previous first person shooter (FPS) guild. While his previous guildmates would often engage in newbie-hunting/’noob’-hunting as well as “noob-hating” (derisive language targeted at newbies in matches), FSY (who is quite highly ranked) preferred to teach newbies how to master the complexities of multiplayer gaming. He has also stepped in when verbal abuse gets too vicious and in fact, likes to remind all players not to verbally abuse newbies at the start of matches. This occasionally brought him into conflict with members of his previous guild.
FSY: I dont see why we should slam noobs. weren’t we all noobs before? I’d rather we all learn something out of a game than go round telling noobs to f off and ruining their game.
Until he became a Brony, FSY struggled with the disconnect between the masculine expectations of his guild and his desire to teach and cultivate friendships with new players. Becoming a Brony and committing himself to follow the cartoon’s principles thus allowed him to resist “the status quo” through speaking out and promoting ‘love, tolerance and friendship’.

This new self-concept for FSY was also validated by his new subcultural peers. He eventually located other fans of MLP who too played the game (Planetside) and joined their guild. As Williams (2011) notes, “while active resistance occurs at the micro-level of individual action and may be framed as social-psychological, it is supported by a meso-oriented subcultural “frame of reference” (see A. Cohen 1955: ch. 3).” (p. 100) Beyond validating his new self-concept, he and his fellow subculturalists also engaged in “meso-oriented resistance” (Williams 2011: 100-101) such as discussing how else to spread the MLP message through the Planetside gaming community (elements of whom are perceived to be more concerned about guild/individual ranking and therefore more competitive and intolerant of newbies). They also contributed posts in general discussion threads calling for displaying greater ‘love’ of newbies.

I earlier mentioned that Bronies have been perceived to resist hegemonic notions of masculinity at the macro level. While this is no doubt true, it is but one aspect of the movement’s (and therefore not merely a fandom) proclaimed mission to “do whatever we can in order to make the world a better place. This belief manifests itself in the hearts of those who understand what it truly means to be a brony.”  (AskThePonies.com 2012) It appears that rather just resisting hegemonic notions of masculinity, Bronies resist societal intolerance (intolerance that stems from difference) in general.

Bibliography

Williams, J. Patrick. 2011. “Resistance.” Pp. 87-106 in Subcultural Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

“Why Is There Brony Hate?.” 2012. Asktheponies.com. Retrieved September 21, 2012. (http://asktheponies.com/why-is-there-brony-hate/)

Bronyspeak
Love & tolerate: “Love and tolerate” was created to deal with trolling and hatred in pony related threads, while staying true to the show’s message of friendship and kindness. Love and tolerate is commonly used in place of violent terms in an attempt to stay non-confrontational. It is often used in image macros to express contempt in a joking, light-hearted manner.

Oppa Pony Style: Subcultural Style Goes Online

Locating Brony Style
I encountered quite a bit of trouble going into this blog post. Though Bronies do meet up in person to interact, Bronyism is also (and in fact, began as) an online subculture. A review of the literature on subcultural style (see Williams and Kidder 2011) reveals its focus on ‘argot, demeanor, and image (Brake 1985 cited in Williams and Kidder 2011:67) in the ‘real’ as opposed to the ‘virtual’ world. There is no doubt that bronies wear MLP t-shirts, collect MLP dolls, ‘bro-hoof’ one another and so on in the ‘real’ world. But yet, style is also created and displayed online as much as it is done offline. This is not to say that the online and offline are separate and apart from each other. I believe that both in fact interact with one another. ‘Virtual’ style no doubt carries over into the ‘real’ world and vice versa. This blog post will as far as possible talk about both ‘online’ and ‘offline’ Brony style but for the most part, will be focused on that which is enacted online.

Elements of Brony Style
Before identifying what may constitute Brony style, perhaps it is useful to elaborate upon what style is. It was earlier mentioned that Brake (1985 cited in Williams and Kidder 2011:67) identified the dimensions of style as ‘argot, demeanor, and image (i.e. how subcultural members speak, behave, and look).’ In “Subcultural Conflict and Working Class Community, Cohen (1972) identifies 4 dimensions of style: dress, music, ritual and argot. Williams and Kidder (2011) propose an elaboration of Cohen’s conceptualisation of the elements of style, distinguishing between cultural objects and cultural practices. Where Cohen (1972) describes ‘plastic’ elements (dress, music), Williams and Kidder refer to as cultural objects. Where Cohen (ibid) describes ‘infrastructural’ elements (argot, ritual), Williams and Kidder distinguish them as cultural practices. I too distinguish elements of Brony style in this manner.

Cultural Object and Cultural Practice: The Pony Music Video and Bromixing
Apart from the show and MLP dolls, there also exist other cultural objects significant to the Bronies. Most of these objects as I have earlier mentioned can only be found online. Visit youtube.com, type in “My Little Pony music video remix” and your search will be returned with several thousand results. At the Singapore Bronies Society page, not a day passes without a member posting a MLP music video/Pony Music Video (PMV) on the wall.

In Knobel and Lankshear’s (2008) study of Remix, he notes how anime music videos (AMVs) “form a distinct branch of fan music video clips.” (p. 24) Appropriating clips of various Japanese animated cartoons (‘anime’), they are often DIY creations which serve as a form of tribute to an anime or which are “conceptual and focus on a particular dimension of an anime series, such as…values such as strength…” (Knobel and Lankshear 2008:24) PMVs are little different from AMVs. Like AMVs, they too are remixed (“Remix means to take cultural artifacts and combine and manipulate them into new kinds of creative blends.” (Knobel and Lankshear 2008:22)). Through MLP videos, Bronies pay tribute to the anime

or publicise the series’s message of love, friendship and tolerance.

PMVs even constitute opportunities for parody and humour as examplified by this video (which also happens to be a personal favourite).

It appears in the case of parody PMVs, a case could be made that Bronies constitute bricoleurs, in that “they rearrange the symbolic meanings attached to mainstream cultural objects.” (Williams 2011:74) In this case, they create new meanings to Eminem’s song, the Real Slim Shady. But yet, it is difficult to draw this conclusion. The CCCS bricoleur as Williams (2011) notes entails “resistance to hegemony” (p. 74).  The video’s creator in fact makes this comment “Oh and remember, don’t take this video seriously. It’s made purely for the lolz.” In fact, I am personally not sure what the creator could be ‘resisting’ through his video. Thus, we see more of the postmodern notion of ‘play’ being at work here rather than resistance.

As Williams (2007) notes, ‘Style is not an essential quality of any of these dimensions…’ (p. 578, italics original) Rather, “What makes a style is the activity of stylization – the active organisation of objects with activities and outlooks, which produce an organised group-identity in the form and shape of a coherent and distinctive way of ‘being-in-the-world’.” (Clarke et al 1976:54 cited in Williams 2007:578) For the CCCS theorists, what made a style was thus its capacity to solve problems (Williams 2007) or represent ideological contradictions. Thus, we now examine how the PMV represents problems or ideological contradictions the Bronies face. Angel (2012) in her article, In Defense of Bronies, notes how “all bronies have a pony they identify with. They see themselves in a character and relate.” In particular, she notes the popularity of one character in particular, “Fluttershy, the shy, kind pony that was bullied in her youth.” (Angel 2012) Angel then goes on to link what Haenfler (2004) refers to as the contemporary crisis in masculinity to Fluttershy’s popularity with Bronies. “This guy, who has spent his childhood in our culture with its conflicting messages to boys about what it means to “be a man!” This young man, who is supposed to hold the weight of the world without crying, identifies with a character that needs friendship to be strong.” (Angel 2012)

Like Fluttershy, PMVs which serve as form of  tribute to the series could also represent the solution to the contemporary crisis in masculinity that Bronies could possibly be facing. Beyond reflecting the crisis in masculinity, PMVs also serve to reinforce boundaries of distinction and group-identity. In “Proud To Be A Brony” (see earlier link), the lyricist not only proudly proclaims his insider status but also distinguishes between insiders and outsiders:
“Many try to make me feel embarrassed but their attempts have been in vain,
For though they tell me I’m the one with problems, they’re the ones who are insane!
So for those watch but won’t admit it; well you shouldn’t be like that.
Cause you could be twenty percent cooler in ten seconds flat!”
Bronies (who assert their Brony-ness) thus are not only cooler but in a later part of the song, ‘real’ as opposed to being ‘phony’.

Bibliography
Angel, Rebecca. 2012. “In Defense of Bronies.” Wired, May 27

Haenfler, Ross. 2004. “Manhood in Contradiction – The Two Faces of Straightedge.”, Man and Masculinities 7(1):77-99.

Knobel, Michele and Lankshear, Colin. 2008. “Remix: The Art and Craft of Excessive Hybridization.”, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52(1):22-33.

McArthur, J.A. 2008. “Digital Subculture: A Geek Meaning of Style.”, Journal of Communication Inquiry 33(1):58-70.

Williams, J. Patrick. 2007. “Youth-Subcultural Studies: Sociological Traditions and Core Concepts.”, Sociology Compass 1(2):572-593.

Williams, J. Patrick and Kidder, J. 2011. “Style.” Pp. 65-86 in Subcultural Theory edited by J. Patrick Williams. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Real men give each other brohoofs: Masculinities and My Little Pony

In my earlier post (“Welcome to the herd: The Bronies”), I mentioned that the Bronies could constitute a subculture in the sense that they are considered non-normative and possibly occupy a marginal position in the overall male gender structure. Non-normative because boys shouldn’t like ‘ “girl” things’ (Angel 2012). And boys who like ‘pink and sparkly’ (ibid) girl things especially like MLP are emasculated. They fail to live up to some standard of masculinity.

As Robertson (2007) notes in his review of  Connell’s relational model of gender, one way gender could be seen is ‘as being about sets of relations between men and women, but also between men and between women.’ (p. 32) ‘An adequate theory of masculinity…’ and gender, he  (2007: 32) notes, requires acknowledging the diversity of identities amongst men whilst retaining ‘a focus on the differential power relations between men and women, and between different groups of men, and how these both create, and are created and sustained, through social structures.’ (ibid) The bronies, as suggested above and in many of the attacks against them, clearly fall out of what Connell terms ‘hegemonic masculinity‘ – ‘that form of masculinity which is culturally dominant at any one time’ (Jones et al 2011: 227) Connell (1995) in his relational model of gender argues that masculinities in the ‘current Western gender order’ (Robertson 2007: 32) are ordered hierarchically. At the top, there is the previously mentioned ‘hegemonic masculinity’ or ‘the configuration of (gender) practice’ (Roberston 2007: 33, addition mine) that legitimates patriarchy and guarantees the dominance of men. However, ‘the superior position of any one hegemonic form is never secure; it is always subject to resistance and contestation both by other forms of masculinity and by oppositional femininities.’ (Jones et al 2011: 227) In showing their enthusiasm for a cartoon series and toys conventionally associated with girls, bronies thus appear to contest the current hegemonic configuration of gender practice. They may constitute what Connell (1995) terms a ‘subordinated masculinity‘. In order to do ‘hegemonic masculinity’ successfully, culture dictates that boys and older male fans should watch cartoons made for men i.e. those which feature/emphasize upon violence, strength and power, technology, male heroes who always get the girl and rescue the world etc. Watching a cartoon centred around the theme of love and friendship, with very little violence, which features ‘girly’ colours such as pink on the other hand entails not only a failure in doing masculinity (Butler 1993) but also cultural stigmatization amongst other consequences (Robertson 2007)

But even as the bronies have been condemned in many quarters, they have also been increasingly held up as a movement that’s ‘changing the definition of masculinity’ (IDEA Channel, 2012). ‘By un-ironically enjoying a show that’s only supposed to be for little girls, bronies are actually challenging what constitutes masculinity…bronies challenge the usual nature of masculine media consumption. Girls are supposed to watch TV shows with cute pink animals and boys are supposed to watch shows where aliens and robots blow each other.’ (ibid)

Beyond challenging the usual nature of masculine media consumption, bronies can be argued to challenge and redefine masculinity in other ways as well. Haenfler (2004) in his study, “Manhood in Contradiction: The Two Faces of  Straight Edge” notes how male straight edge (sXe) members redefined masculinity through practices that ‘resisted the emotional distance so common in male relationships.’ (p. 83) He noted how male sXes openly displayed their affections for one another, for instance through the giving of hugs. Bronies in Singapore claim to display love and tolerance for one another (what the show preaches) through their frequent meetups (Lee in Ann Zachariah 2011). In addition, masculinity is redefined to include an acceptance of affection for ‘cute things’. Fan art of ‘cute ponies’ are often shared by male SBS members in addition to being frequently commented upon for their cuteness.

Fig. 1 DJ Fluttershy (Note the caption, Shooo cute!)
Exhibit 1.Example of a comment made by a male user (‘love love love love‘)
Exhibit 2. Example of a comment made by a male user

But as much as masculinity is redefined by the SBS, hegemonic masculinity too is in other ways reinforced. Haenfler (2004) notes that as much as the sXe movement possessed the potential in moving towards a ‘more progressive masculinity’ (p. 95), it too ‘maintained aspects of dominant, patriarchal masculinity.’ (p. 93) Utilising Kimmel’s (1996) descriptions of the ‘three primary ways men’s movements have responded to the crisis of masculinity’ (Haenfler 2004: 87), he illustrates how self-control, exclusion and escape by the sXe movement reproduce hegemonic masculinity. Kimmel (1996), for instance, notes that the creation of ‘homosocial settings‘ (p. 315) within men’s movements protect men’s privilege even as they enable men to become closer to one another. In the case of sXE, ‘crews’ (Haenfler 2004:91-92) were ‘essentially boys’ clubs’ that became associated with hyper-masculinity. Within the SBS, there too exist similar homosocial, female-excluded spaces (note however that there is no explicit exclusion of female SBS members) such as their Minecraft server and video gaming group. A survey of the latter’s membership revealed a total of 7 female members out of 117.

In addition to this, MLP has enabled bronies to overtly reassert certain aspects of hegemonic masculinity notably that to do with the man as sexual predator and woman as sexual object. Angel (2012) for instance, notes that ‘When a brony talks about plot, they are NOT referring to the events happening in the storyline, rather “plot” are the flanks of a pony. As in, “I only watch the show for plot.” ‘
I observed something similar at the SBS page.
Fig. 2 The Ponies as Anime Schoolgirls

As earlier mentioned, typical comments about MLP fan-art often remark on the character’s/characters’ cuteness. Comments on this image however were highly sexual in nature, ranging from descriptions/discussions of the character’s/characters’ boobs to the insinuated/proclaimed desires of the commenters to masturbate after having seen this image.

It is undoubtedly evident from the bronies that multiple expressions of masculinity are expressed within the movement. The progressive ‘face’ of  brony masculinity is no doubt displayed through their consumption of a formerly gender specific media product as well as their acceptance that men can like ‘cuteness’ and proudly proclaim it. But even so, progress is inhibited by their practices of exclusion and escape. Worst still, a negative aspect of hegemonic masculinity and one dangerous for women especially i.e. the man as sexual predator is reinforced through the sexualisation of fan-art.

Bibliography

Angel, Rebecca. 2012. “In Defense of Bronies.” Wired, May 27.

Ann Zachariah, Natasha. 2011. “Pony posse.” Straits Times, October 30.

Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. London: Routledge.

Connell, R.W. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

Haenfler, Ross. 2004. “Manhood in Contradiction – The Two Faces of Straightedge.”, Man and Masculinities 7(1):77-99.

Jones, Pip, Bradbury, Liz and Le Boutillier, Shaun. 2011. “Feminist and Gender Theories.” Pp. 208-235 in Introducing Social Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Robertson, Steve. 2007. Understanding Men and Health (Masculinities, Identity and Well-being). Maiden, England: Open University Press

Bronyspeak
Brohoof: The phrase Brohoof is often used to express approval towards another brony, and comes from the term “bro fist”. This can be used in an image macro, or by typing. It is also commonly used as a greeting towards fellow bronies. Other words and gestures that feature a hand in some way have also been changed to their hoof equivalents. So is the Facehoof a derivative of the “facepalm”, commonly used as a reaction to something silly or senseless.