Help me to understand your interests, bronies
In response to the massive ponies chalked on the Merson Courtyard outside the University Center last week, I’m here to say I don’t understand brony culture. For those who don't know, brony culture is centered on the television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which first aired in 2010.
I’m not saying that adults watching children’s television programs confuses me. I’ve seen my fair share of Lizzie McGuire and Hey Arnold reruns well into adulthood — but that’s where I get confused. Even the youngest students at Carnegie Mellon were in their late teens in 2010. So how do young adults stumble upon a television series whose target demographic is, according to The Wall Street Journal, “three- to six-year old girl[s]”?
Maybe the better question is, what leads college students to spend hours watching the show and drawing chalk versions of the characters in the freezing cold? The art of chalking is a special part of Carnegie Mellon culture — one governed by its own set of rules — and is used by many organizations to advertise events or raise awareness about various subjects. So what’s the end goal for bronies chalking in the courtyard? Do they enjoy showing our campus what they care about, in the form of large-scale, pastel horses? Or am I completely misinterpreting brony culture and the motives behind the artwork?
Perhaps it's my lack of insider knowledge that keeps me from getting brony culture. I understand adults appreciating a good storyline, well-developed characters, or impressive animation — but here again, I get lost in my attempt to understand brony culture when it comes to bronies purchasing toys from the show and requesting “better merchandise” from Hasbro, as reported by wired.com in summer 2011. Are bronies playing with these toys, re-enacting the show they adore, or are they purchasing the toys as a monetary way of showing support for the television program?
Obviously, voicing a dissenting opinion (at least within the Carnegie Mellon community) on an issue of this sort is sure to prompt backlash from bronies and their supporters. And while I have no right to dictate what is normal or how people should spend their free time, I would like to understand the motivation behind this subculture better than I do now.
I’m not alone. Anyone who reads the Facebook page “CMU Confessions” knows the war between the bronies and the anti-bronies rages on between anonymous posters and outspoken individuals with conflicting opinions, with little progress toward acceptance or understanding from either party.
Although I find brony culture odd, and a bit confusing, I do not mean to be offensive to those who feel strongly about watching the television show or spending hours in Merson Courtyard chalking these ponies. My final takeaway from the research I did for this article — and from my interactions with Carnegie Mellon's self-proclaimed bronies — is that I might never understand brony culture, but it’s definitely not going away anytime soon.