Last night, Logo aired a documentary on the by now well-examined phenomenon of grown male fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The most interesting parts of the one-hour doc What?! Bronies were those focused on the flack bronies receive for their interest in a cartoon targeted at young girls. One guy had his car vandalized and experienced homophobic slurs for putting custom-made My Little Pony decals in its windows. Another military brony described his inability to come out of the brony closet to his fellow servicemen (don't ask don't tell lives). We also watched a pair of fathers discuss their initial unease with their sons' Pony fandom. The parallels to mistreatment of gays were overt (hello, this was on Logo). The mere suggestion that a man take interest in something perceived as feminine is still enough to rub plenty of people the wrong way.
So, okay. This is where we are, as a nation. On Monday, Barack Obama addressed a crowd in Stamford, Connecticut and described Mitt Romney's tax plan as "Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood." Yesterday, Romney told a Fox News reporter that Obama's terms are "Obamaloney." Everyone in America now has free rein to address both candidates as "Beavis."
There are fans of everything on the internet. Even James Holmes, the 24-year-old accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. What would drive a bunch of seemingly normal internet geeks to worship a mass murderer? To understand this, you'll have to journey to the dark heart of internet fandom.
Forget SOPA. The biggest online intellectual property story last week was the shutdown of a website offering downloads of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which shook the burgeoning "brony" community to its core.
Bronies (bro+pony) are adult male fans of the new series launched in 2010 based on the classic ‘80s My Little Pony toy that [spoiler] your mom secretly threw out your collection of when you went to college.
If you think bronyism sounds like something only a serious pervert living in his mother's basement would be into, you're only about 30% correct. To address your immediate question: it's not ironic. It's nerdy guys who genuinely enjoy an animated series about ponies. The show has a legitimate appeal to older audiences—high production values, snappy dialog, and a heartwarming message. But the online fan culture of bronies grew out of 4chan, so they have a computer nerd vestigial tail of Mountain Dew, anime appreciation, chronic virginity, and cyberbullying.
Bronies have their own news sites, fan forums, and even a healthy amount of fan art of ponies doing unspeakable sexual acts on Tumblr. They've had real life meet-ups, and an upcoming BronyCon in New York will feature appearances by voice actors from the show.