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.
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/)
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.