Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Last week on The Rumpus, Melissa Carroll (who, from the perspective of her story, is likely not far in age from me) recalled the simpler times of the 1980’s when the lives of girls were ruled by tiny plastic ponies. Pink and pretty and for girls. She writes how her own lack of connecting to these rainbow dictators introduced her to her own differentness, and to the not-so-subtle differences between girls and boys that the toys came to represent.
I connected instantly to the picture she painted. I remember feeling different from the other girls in the presence of ponies, unable to understand the appeal, more drawn to the muscled action figures and adventure stories of my brothers and his friends. I wasn’t interested in the pastel equine cotton candy fantasy they promised.
Carroll’s piece opens up with this familiar narrative of girltoys vs boytoys and how othering that can be for some kids who are, for whatever reason, not into what they are “supposed” to be into. In playing with those toys, two different outlooks assemble. The girls with their big-eyed ponies learn to collaborate and compromise to meet their challenges. The boys seem to learn to take any character from any story, physically slam one into the other endlessly shouting and growling until one “guy kills the other guy.”
The story also highlights the resurgence of the Pony empire. That’s right – MLP is back with a TV show and all the possible merchandising you can dream of. My own niece and nephew play with Ponies in the BatCave, like Batman, Robin and Rarity (a legit Pony name) all live in the same world; as if their worlds are not divided into boytoys and girltoys, into warmaking and peacemaking, into darkness and light.
The heart of the piece is about the new market for Ponies. Enter the Brony.
The Brony is the adult man who is into My Little Pony – but not for the creepy reasons you’d assume. In a study from last year referenced by Carroll, Bronies have embraced Pony power for a few key reasons: “to become a part of the Brony community, to escape the realities of real life, and to learn about the importance of strong friendships.”
The summary of the Brony culture is this: the world we live in is full of sadness and violence, so why not embrace positivity. Lucky for the internet, these men don’t have to be alone. Brony culture is growing and growing fast with conferences, online forums and their own set of identifying merchandise.
25 years after the ponies made me feel different, feel alone, their colorful manes are bringing together individuals who are bound together by their difference. They are othered by their refusal to see glittery pink positive dream sequences to be a girls only domain. By their choice to reject the masculinity, solitude and stoicism that young man are taught to embrace. The rise of the Brony culture allows these men to be different without having to be alone. Carroll’s article stuck out to me in a sea of words that describe war, death and tragedy around the world. I think these Ponies (and Bronies) are on the right track.