When I took time off from this blog last week, I suddenly had some free time on my hands. I spent some of it researching the unprecedented rise of the brony fandom—to wit, the inexplicable attraction of young men to a television show produced for girls, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
I felt it was my duty to investigate this enigma. For science.
We begin with the visuals. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses a vivid color palette. Although the animation looks suspiciously like something made with Adobe Flash, HomestarRunner.com-style, it’s expressive and charming.
(I can only suppose Applejack is named for the liquor—an odd choice for a kids’ show.)
Following my investigations, I think I may know why magical rainbow ponies are so popular with men in their twenties and thirties.
There are at least three reasons.
First, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is surprisingly funny in a goofy, geeky, adorably cheesy sort of way. The writing is good, and the show is very self-aware. It never strays too far into ridiculous sentimentality.
Second, the show has become an Internet meme, and it’s therefore socially acceptable for men to enjoy a show about magical rainbow ponies.
Third, the show is pleasant. There are disagreements and arguments and tragic ironies, but things always work out. People—well, ponies—get hurt, but hurts are healed. Lessons are learned. Friends are reconciled. The show’s moral values are remarkably strong.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “A mature palate will probably not much care for crème de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.” Grownups can enjoy complicated dramas or sophisticated tragedies, but there’s no reason they can’t also enjoy lighthearted stories about magical rainbow ponies.
I think a lot of guys are tired of living in a cynical world. There are tragedies on the news every day. Films, novels, video games and music are full of cursing, violence, sexual perversity and bad attitudes. People use these media anyway, but I think there’s still a longing for things like simplicity, goodness, honesty and loyalty.
Guys watch Saw and play God of War and listen to Metallica, but some of them probably miss those Saturday morning cartoons they watched as kids. Shows like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Phineas and Ferb (another hit with older guys) evoke nostalgia, balancing sentimentality with enough edgy humor to be, well, not lame.
I think that’s why magical rainbow ponies have become so popular with the menfolk. There could be deeper, darker reasons, but I doubt it.
Now I’m going to watch some cartoons. For science.