Then They Fight You, Then You Win


The Rise Of The Brony And The Death Of The American Man (

The first conservative attack on the adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it provided the spark that convinced John de Lancie (voice of Discord and, of course, a true geek god for playing Q in Star Trek) to commit to the project that would eventually become the feature documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. The other thing worth noting, however, is that the conservative commentators who took it upon themselves to laugh at bronies and pegasisters (including Bill Kristol saying that they were the equivalent of terrorists) all admitted that they had never even tried to watch the show. I’m not saying that this was at all surprising, especially coming from a movement that downright lionizes ignorance of anything that doesn’t fit with their microscopically narrow worldview, but it is worth noting.

That first attack was over two years ago, and while the initial media fascination with bronies and pegasisters may have faded, the fanbase certainly hasn’t. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is continuing as strong as ever, and this past season has won back many of the fans who became wary of the turns the show took during season three. Bronies and pegasisters are still here, and instead of getting used to it, conservatives have instead decided to launch a much more serious attack. Gone are the smug, laughing visages of right-wing talking heads, and in their place we have a pseudo-intellectual treatise composed by a writer of  “action novels.” For those who aren’t aware, these are the literary equivalent of Xbox games: Muscle-bound men going around swinging big blades and bigger guns, killing the swarms of enemies that are always surrounding them, to provide fantasy piffle for angry male readers to let them forget for a moment about their shortcomings, if you know what I mean. Anyway, we’ve gotten to the third of Gandhi’s four famous stages of opposition, and since this writer manages to at least keep his tautologies at one degree of remove from his thesis, his screed is as good a leaping-off point as any to move towards the fourth and final stage.

It’s impossible to avoid the fact that this article comes from a website from the heart of the MRM, or men’s rights movement. The site’s own About page lists one of their community’s beliefs as follows: “Women are sluts if they sleep around, but men are not. This fact is due to the biological differences between men and women.” No, I am not making this up. The sheer ignorance of the men’s rights movement was pretty darn laughable up until the UCSB shooting a couple of weeks ago. The lack of media coverage of the pro-MRM response to the shooting — including several men not only lionizing the shooter, but threatening all women with either rape or death — demands its own separate response, but for now it’s important to contextualize this article in terms of the space where it comes from.

In fact, the author (not surprisingly) bases most of his arguments around “necessary social gender rules” and other concepts of alleged “biological reality.” Like I said, the tautologies are removed a bit from the main thesis, which is at least a step up from the usual anti-brony trolling. The author describes in detail how he believes men and women are supposed to act in certain ways to ensure the healthy operation of a society, which is not only a cornerstone of MRM ideology, but conservative thinking in general.  (Earlier this month the Republican Party of Texas endorsed so-called “reparative therapy” to “cure” homosexuals, several years after that ship sank.) Never mind the documented reality of the prevalence of homosexual activity in dozens of species besides ours (but not homophobia), never mind the increasing evidence of gender identity being formed in the brain and not by what’s between everyone’s legs; the only “reality” that matters to these people is what they’ve forced on everyone for centuries on end, and any threat to that “reality” must be stopped dead in its tracks, at all costs.

Somehow, despite being two decades into the anime boom in the United States, the author still trucks out the old saw about cartoons being only suited for children, through implying that adults who watch cartoons are “man-children.” He speaks about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic being “obviously intended for children and females,” making me wonder if he’s actually seen the show and witnessed some of the things the writers add in to nearly every episode to go beyond the show’s “target demographic.” (I suspect, much like the first batch of conservatives who tried these waters, he didn’t actually bother trying to watch the show for any appreciable length of time.) This is nothing new in American animation; ignoring the more sexual cartoons of animation’s nascence, the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were a practical textbook on how to slip jokes for grown-ups into a cartoon aimed at little kids, and they’re still funny today for that very reason. I have to wonder how much G.I. Joe the author watched as a child, and how that influenced his love of “technical knives.”

The author borrows a common conservative trope by then claiming that bronies’ dedication to a television show makes them “unproductive.” (So what is the difference in that regard, exactly, between a brony and a devotee of, say, Duck Dynasty?) Again, there is basic ignorance here of the incredibly large market that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has created, especially among artists who have helped not just to fill in the niches that Hasbro has failed to fill (show-accurate stuffed ponies, for one), but to create a whole cottage industry for fan-created animations, music, original characters and more. If conservatives truly believed in the good of the free market, they would be applauding all that has happened: A private company created a television show that filled a niche for well-written, positive entertainment that wasn’t being met by others, and that in turn created new markets in and of itself, helping several people find work through filling the needs of the show’s fans. Conservatives don’t really believe in free markets as much as they like to claim, though; they just like using capitalism as an excuse to abuse people they don’t like, and when the market doesn’t allow them to do that then they’re quick to embrace legislation — you know, that bane of the “free market” — to curb those markets they don’t approve of.

Modern conservatives can scream the word “freedom” until their throats are raw, and they can fly all the flags they can fit in their pudgy hands, but the fact is that “freedom” to them means only the freedom to be just like them, and any deviations to their norm are to be eradicated by all means possible. As conservatives have lost the battles on things like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalisation, they have become increasingly desperate to force their ideologies on the rest of us. From the “negotiation is quitting” mentality of the Tea Party to the wave of anti-abortion legislation being rushed through states where Republicans took over after the 2010 midterms, the fear of the modern conservative movement is not only palpable, but also self-defeating. In their craze to be against the reality of things that have happened (birtherism, anyone?) and continue to happen, modern conservatism fails to specify what it is actually for. Playing on people’s anger at the status quo only gets you so far, and when that anger turns, as it inevitably must do when left unchecked, against those whom the majority of people believe don’t deserve that anger, you’re going to turn off the very people you seek to convert to your cause.

The author can claim that men’s failure to act up to ancient gender expectations makes them “unworthy,” but the fact is that more and more people are realizing how pointless, absurd and downright destructive those expectations are. If I enjoy someone’s company, I don’t care if they watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or The 700 Club. Why should I? Why should anyone? He can lump in bronies and pegasisters and otaku and furries and whomever else he wants, and claim that they’re all “impulsive” and “irresponsible” and “wretched,” and that adult men should be concerned with “personal honor” and being a “warrior,” but the fact is that he’s representing a steadily dwindling part of the population. Left to his own devices, I’m sure that the author would find there will never be a shortage of men like him to talk about guns and knives and all that other stuff — likely with the same devotion that bronies and pegasisters talk about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — but for people like him, it’s not enough that they have their own circle of friends and family who share the same interest. For them, everyone who violates their expectations about sex and gender (and everything else) are enemies that must be removed at all costs.

Ignoring bronies and pegasisters, and the larger movement towards inclusiveness and tolerance, didn’t work for them. Laughing at us failed as well. If this is the best they can do to fight us, I don’t think it’ll be that long until bronies and pegasisters are ultimately victorious.

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