EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION- THE DECLINE OF FANDOM ACTIVITY
It’s only mostly dead.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and what doesn’t make us stronger is probably killing us.
It’s hard to argue that, of all the fandoms of cartoons out there, there are few that had the strength, unity, and curiously enough, the productivity of the Bronies. Hell, the meetup groups for most other fandoms are paltry compared to the sheer numbers and activity the Bronies can boast for the past couple years. With all of this in mind, the natural question comes up:
What the hell happened?
The phenomenon of just how ludicrously huge Bronies got is a complicated one, with a lot of different factors going into it. For starters, recent cultural changes have made gender roles less crucial, allowing us to prance down the pink aisle as we please. On top of that, the economic climate the 20-somethings had to endure made the (mostly) idyllic world of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic a perfect escape-- after all, everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and society facilitates their ability to do it (I can’t claim credit for this insight- FiMFlamFilosophy did it first in his treatises on Pony Analysis and criticism). That clip in Ant-Man where he says “I have a degree in electrical engineering, I’m bound to get a job somewhere” and mere seconds later says “Welcome to Baskin Robbins, would you like to try a Mango Fruit Blast” encapsulates some of the problems our generation faces beautifully. You should really see Ant-Man.
But perhaps one of the least mentioned, yet most powerful factors that played into the rise of the horse fuckers bronies was, curiously enough, the fact that this fandom experienced powerfully fierce opposition. That’s right, I believe that one of the contributing factors to the size and power of this fandom is the fact that Brony Hate was such a big thing for a while. Now that it’s merely a shadow of what it once was, so is the fandom.
Way back in the Season 2-3 days of yore, almost everyone had an opinion on Bronies-- you either were one of them, respected them, didn’t get them, or hated the shit out of them. They were the talk of the interwebs, though it wasn’t merely the concept of men liking a little girls’ show that drew the ire of others (such laurels already belonged to Powerpuff Girls and Kim Possible). Rather, it was the prolific nature of Brony-made content, be it on art sites, fanfics, or even a plethora of YouTube videos that would always pop up in the sidebar no matter where you went, a source of enormous irritation for detractors.
Those on the hate side had led a charge against the fandom, which led eventually to this collective victim complex that many bronies are familiar with, if they’re not the people who are part of it themselves. You know the one- they anticipate being bullied or oppressed for what they like, or act like they already were. There was a time where this sort of concern was very, very real. The horror stories were everywhere, from guys getting beat up because they had a cartoon horse on their car to kids getting bullied into suicide. Liking the colorful cartoon horse show suddenly became a “dangerous” calling (at least as far as fandoms go), and it had already claimed its fair share of martyrs. Openly declaring your Brony status effectively said “Come at me brah.” It was, in the minds of many a brony, a badge of strength and willpower, and a healthy dose of reckless stupidity.
With people challenging them damn near constantly, Bronies had to validate their opinions and their beliefs, often by attempting to create something worthwhile based around ponies. Be it art, music, videos, or even video games, bronies produced a staggering amount of quality (and not so quality) content during the first two years of the fandom - we’ll call this period “The Brony Boom.” Podcasts, websites, and conventions also arose from the darkness of the internet to accommodate the massive surplus of content. Bronies now had plenty of help sharing their love of small horses to the max. Many even performed acts of charity in the fandom’s name, all to justify the existence of bronies, and to attribute some value to them that goes beyond being losers who liked a show about pastel-colored horses. Bronies often banded together and would ignore differences in opinion just to prove a simple point: bronies CAN be responsible for legitimately good things, and no matter the amount of hate and vitriol slung at us, we’re not going anywhere.
So what’s different today? Bronies still have their fair share of enemies, still make a decent amount of content, and not a whole lot about their environment has changed all that much. Nothing should be all that different, considering that these were the things responsible for driving the initial Brony Boom.
We’ve noticed that two factors have changed- the kind of opposition they face, and the sense of unity that came with the more serious threats.
Among the current enemies of Bronies are, to the surprise of no one, Social Justice Warriors. If you’re a regular reader on this site, you’re already aware of some of their more infamous exploits that involved targeting bronies (Ted Andersen/Dragondicks, the Beach City Bugle incident, Dinonoms). Their beef, however, has very little to do with Bronies specifically, though they certainly are among their targets. Then again, anyone who doesn’t fit the SJW Speshul Snoflaek mold is a target, so what else is new? These are people that seem to look for reasons to be offended by anything. Do you like the genitalia you were born with? TRIGGERED.
Another foe comes in the form of these weird-ass, cringey Anti-Brony movements. They’re hardly anything new, but they’re starting to pick up a little bit of steam. However, if you’ve seen that article that was already on this website, you’d know that they’re such laughably pathetic adversaries that even Jessie and James of Team Rocket would be embarrassed for these guys. They, too, are largely insignificant.
The biggest threat to the Brony fandom at this point is Bronies. There’s a deterioration of the fandom that’s come in the form of a strange combination of a growing difference of opinion concerning the series and the old victim complex of a good chunk of the fandom rearing its ugly head- like the way the human body deals with food, the mechanism that once saved us from extinction now threatens to obliterate us-- or at least, make us look fat and stupid.
The fandom at large has no idea how to deal with disagreement, taking it as a personal attack and trying to squelch dissenting opinions. Don’t like a fan animation? HOW DARE YOU - he worked for months to make this shitty fan animation about Dinky! Clearly the fact some form of effort was put forth makes this animation good! You don’t like an episode? You’re clearly just a hater who’s taking the show too seriously. How DARE we treat this as more than just a common kid’s show - I mean, who would ever DO such a thi- … Oh.
The fact that a couple members of the show staff help perpetuate the “it’s just a kids show - stop actually thinking about it” mentality has only made discussing the show even harder. Both those who perpetuate this idea and a large number of bronies want the fandom to be one big circle jerk, free of criticism and dissenting opinion and full of only happy, pony-pleasant thoughts. Ironic, considering we had an episode a few months back where societies lacking individuality and free thinking were depicted as horrible, dreary places. As people with brains in this fandom know (yes, we exist), a perfect circle jerk is impossible - not everyone wants to fap to the same things. By far, this is the biggest threat to the fandom, and even then, this is something bronies don’t seem to be all that willing to fight (barring some exceptions, yours truly included).
Will it kill the fandom, though? Hard to say. Fandoms don’t ever really disappear completely, though like matter and energy, it will certainly take on a different form. Will there still be grown-ass adults that happen to like this cartoon horse show? Definitely. Will said cartoon horse show fandom ever accomplish anything like it did before, or ever have the same strength of purpose again? Unlikely. After all, it’s hard for something to get moving without something else to push it.
This Op-Ed is brought to you by the folks at Hoof Hearted, pootin’ out the truth. At least, that’s what it smells like.