This past Sunday, Wired's GeekMom section dropped a piece called "In Defense of Bronies," which, like most such articles, was laced with incredulity grown men watching this girly stuff? but which eventually caught on to the truth of the matter, which I attempted to describe over at EqD:
"All bronies have a pony they identify with. They see themselves in a character and relate."
Which is not to say I'm not in any way conflicted, since I tend to think (and agonize) along Twilight Sparkle-ish lines, even if my personal behavior is more Applejack-like. But I'm guessing that some people have a problem with the very idea of identifying with a character of the opposite sex, though I've never had this difficulty myself: as a teenager, I was very easily drawn into Cassandra Mortmain's life in Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, and she, according to the Vicar, was basically "Jane Eyre with a touch of Becky Sharp."
Besides, I'm pretty much at home in bronydom these days. As I commented on that Wired piece:
I consider myself exceedingly fortunate to have been introduced to MLP:FIM at exactly the point in my life where worrying about the opinions of other people my age I'm fifty-eight is so low a priority that I don't think Twilight Sparkle would bother putting it on one of her legendary lists. This community has been very good to me: there is neither deference to the old guy nor impatience with the newbie. And as I dig deeper into the fandom, I keep discovering amazing art and music and stories, more than enough to sustain me even in this painful period when there are no new episodes yet scheduled.
I spent literally most of Monday trying to get a handle on a fanfiction called The End of Ponies, officially not yet finished but already over half a million words, a story which somehow manages to cover the considerable distance between The Omega Man and Footloose. I can easily imagine half a million more words, though not well enough to put them down myself. (The lead character is, indeed, the Last Pony; her identity was not revealed at the start, but it wasn't particularly difficult to figure out.) One of the more perplexing aspects of The End of Ponies was that it led me to break my one-book-at-a-time rule, though I'll attempt to handwave this violation away by pointing out that the current book I'm reading is an actual, you know, book, with covers and everything, while our fanfic author dismisses his work as "huge repositories of adverbial modifiers."
It's probably reasonable to assume that the nine-year-old girls who are the core demographic for My Little Pony merch aren't going to read epic-length fanfiction. What I have yet to determine is the relative number of females who actually write fanfic. The pseudonyms aren't always going to be a clue, but I suspect that, in MLP fandom anyway, the guys write most of it. Which brings us back, more or less, to the quandary at the beginning: how is it that the guys are dominating what was thought to be girl stuff? It's certainly not happening in the world of real live English majors:
Recently, when the novelist Mary Gordon spoke at a boys' school, she learned that the students weren't reading the Brontës, Austen or Woolf. Their teachers defended this by saying they were looking for works that boys could relate to. But at the girls' school across the street, Gordon said, "no one would have dreamed of removing Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick from the syllabus. As a woman writer, you get points if you include the 'male' world in your work, and you lose points if you omit it."
Wouldn't it be nice if we could get rid of the barrier between those two worlds once and for all? And wouldn't it be hilarious if it happened because of half a dozen cartoon ponies?
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Copyright © 2012 by Charles G. Hill