Bronies, Fandom, Homogeneity and Sterotypes
Bronies and Bronyism has long solidified itself into the broader cultural consciousness as a phenomenon with a lot of positive, inclusive qualities that have also been a contributing factor in the success of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. But has the fandom of Bronies ruined the enjoyment of the show for others and could a similar phenomenon have negative connotations for a different show?
It seems strange to discuss this now, long after the show and it’s fandom has become established, yet this post was prompted by a thought by Jimm Pegan:
I hope there won't be some brony-esque fanculture of dudes that clamors around the new Sailor Moon and claims it for themselves.
— jimm pegan (@jpegan) January 10, 2014
It’s worth considering because it’s a distinct possibility. Sailor Moon has a lot in common with MLP; both shows sharing an all-female cast, values like love, friendship, and courage, and being targeted at a young female audience too.
What Jimm highlights is exactly what this post on The Round Stable discusses; My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is inextricably linked with it’s Brony fandom. While such a relationship has undoubtedly been positive in many ways, the pitfalls haven’t been addressed to near the same extent.
The problem with Bronyism is that it automatically encompasses all fans of the show, even if they do not consider themselves Bronies. People who simply watch the show and don’t necessarily exhibit fan-ish behaviours are automatically considered Bronies.
It causes further problems in that while a Brony is a bro who likes ponies, the concept (at least on the surface) doesn’t address female fans at all. These ‘pegasisters’ are, not necessarily marginalised to any real extent, but are certainly distinct from Bronies. Even the Brony documentary throws light on the fact; the film follows male fans but devotes all of five minutes to how similarly-aged female fans feel they are perceived and appreciated.
Digging deeper, it’s apparent that Bronies have a definite sense of identity and purpose on a scale not seen in other shows. That has been a great benefit in regards to organisation and communication, but it does homogenise the fanbase. Adult men liking My Little Pony is one thing, but Bronies (as the Round Stable article points out) like the show in spite of the show’s femininity, not because of it.
To that end, as Jimm points out, Bronies have claimed the show for themselves. Since they have, the show has been inseparable from them and it’s hard not to wonder if that will become a liability in the long term.
Bronies tend to skew young, very young in fact. The majority are under 25, well within a person’s formative years. In time, they will move onto other things, other fandoms and so forth, and while the show is extremely popular today, that might not be the case in a few years time. Sure, the Hub will program reruns until nobody watches, but look at what Spongebob has become because of that.
So with a new Sailor Moon series on the horizon, there’s a real possibility that if a group of rabid fans outside of the target demographic usurp the entire fanbase, they could (inadvertently or not) alienate casual fans or potential fans. Even if the show is a success, the diversity of the fandom will be compromised. That would certainly put a dent in the ability of anyone to enjoy the show for what it will be; a great anime series based on a terrific manga featuring superb female characters.