Jewish World Review August 13, 2013/ 7 Elul, 5773
Bros filling the void --- with 'My Little Pony'
By John Kass
JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) The last thing I want to do is enrage thousands of young men across America who like to dress up in purple pony costumes.
But I didn't know about the Bronies.
"Don't you know about Bronies?" asked a friend. "It seems like every time I talk to you, you give up a little piece of your soul. You really want to know about Bronies?"
OK, yeah, go on, tell me about Bronies.
That was a profoundly stupid thing to say. And the second I said it, I could feel the fear creeping up my neck. Then he told me about Bronies.
Later, when I regained consciousness, he told me again.
Bros. Ponies. Bronies.
Bronies are young men and not-so-young men who are devoted to the "My Little Pony" lifestyle associated with the tiny toy pony dolls once exclusive to little girls. I am not on drugs. This is really happening. Lord have mercy.
Bronies are inspired by the "My Little Pony" cartoon series that has legions of fans. The stories are simple. The cute little ponies with the big eyes and great pony hair trot out of their castle and have adventures and fight evil and care for their friends.
The ponies have names like "Twilight Sparkle," "Princess Celestia" and "Applejack."
Even the hipster Mecca AV Club, an online alternative entertainment site, gives the series glowing reviews.
"In its own way," wrote Todd VanDerWerf "it reminds me of a movie like 'Singing in the Rain,' in that both properties aim to overwhelm any cynicism directed at them via sheer and utter joyfulness."
So these are the competing vibes of today:
Reality tempered by despair, peculiar to those with mortgages and with kids to educate in a terrible economy ruled by political leaders who mock the people through the false sincerity of the teleprompter.
And the ostentatiously perky optimism of the Bronies, who gain strength through cartoons and simply refuse to take that turn to Negativity Town.
Bronies hold conventions. Many dress up in pony gear, which includes the long flowing manes, unicorn accoutrement and hooves.
"People who log on to this show have been looking for something to fill this void," self-described Brony Calder Putnam, 20, a math and computer science major at State University of New York, said in an interview Thursday.
"All TV now is just . . . goes from one dark, cynical anti-hero to another dark, cynical anti-hero. And all that's different is the outfit."
The ponies, however, offer "that simplicity that I think draws a lot of people," he added.
He's correct about the darkness in the comic book world. It's violent, and the heroes are troubled, obsessive, overwhelmed by inner demons. You may see this for yourself this weekend in Rosemont at the Wizard World convention.
And no, I won't attend.
Putnam made it clear he's not embarrassed by being identified as a Brony. And he loves the show.
"I've had friends who watched it hoping to make fun of it, and they end up really liking it. It's really a bunch of people who like this show," he said, adding in Brony fashion that it's the morals that matter.
"This show has actually made me want to actively try and be a better person, and I've heard a lot of the same comments from other Bronies, that the show really made them want to improve their life or it has gotten them through really hard times."
Who can argue with that?
Oh, how about every young woman of child-bearing age that I talked to about the Bronies.
Would you ever date a Brony?
"Absolutely not," said Morgan, in her early 20s. "A Brony? That would be a definite red flag."
Michelle, who is married, couldn't understand the appeal of little ponies to young men.
"I consider it a very bizarre thing to be proud of," she said. "And it just doesn't seem very masculine to me. … I think you can do Harry Potter. But Bronies … that's taking it a bit too far."
If I were a cynical newspaperman, I might mock the Bronies as evidence of a decaying culture. The Bronies could be the harbinger of a darker truth: that as a people we'll die off much sooner than even al-Qaida could dream.
If only the kind and sensitive Bronies had conventions for ulterior, hormonal motives. If they wanted to dress up in pony costumes, get high and take the pony girls (Pegasisters) to bed, who would complain?
Then it would be easier for many of us to understand. And Howard Stern wouldn't mock them.
Other generations of young men have used appeals to kindness and sensitivity to get girls into bed. And some may still have those old Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan albums lying around the house.
I could be wrong, but it doesn't appear to me that the Brony ethos is about sex. It may be about something else, something profoundly more troubling.
Future anthropologists might view them this way: young Americans ignorant of Aristotle and his list of virtues, perhaps cut off from organized religion, yet clearly seeking something more.
Bronies are trying to create a moral universe out of a cartoon and Hasbro toys.
"I was just living day to day," says a young man in the trailer for the documentary "Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony." "I didn't really have anything to look forward to. As soon as ponies came into my life, I was like, wow, I didn't want the day to end."
Grow up, little Bronies. Grow up.
It's not easy. But it happens to everybody, even Bronies.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.
© 2012, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.