I just watched the Bronie documentary (trailer), a movie about men who are obsessively in love with the newest version of the my little pony: friendship is magic show. I was surprised by how moved I was and despite my lack of involvement in pop-culture, I feel like there are meaningful connections between this cultural phenomenon and things I care deeply about.
One of the things that was explained in the movie was that this community is diverse, but for the most part made up of straight men. They are often closeted about their love of the show and when they do manage to connect with the larger community, many of them go through a kind of “coming out” process. They experience all kinds of discrimination, even bashing, to varying degrees depending on their context. What I found so interesting about this was that while the community in general is “not gay”, from my perspective it is absolutely queer. While discussing this phenomenon, we aren’t talking about homosexuality, but we are talking about gender: gender roles, gender policing, and what happens when people exhibit non-normative behavior, and how communities form and come together because of and in spite of social pressure to conform.
What do these people get from this community? From the documentary it seems like they get to express themselves, be themselves, like whatever they like, dress up like cute ponies and connect sincerely with other people about friendship and values; on the show they’re specifically called the Elements of Harmony – Laughter, Honesty, Generosity, Kindness and Loyalty which combine to create Magic. Seeing people interacting at “Bronie-con”, a convention for Bronies, there was an enormous amount of fabulous dressing and physical affection between participants. This kind of thing is not permitted for straight-male-identified people in society at large – these are transgressions and within the realms of pop-culture it seems like they are stimulating discussion about the ways in which gendered roles, rules and expectations are oppressive and harmful to all people.
It seems like it is a kind of magic – there’s a transformative and liberating potential for individuals within this – maybe not in the TV show itself (and there are definitely things to be critical of), but in the ways it’s being taken up by people as a catalyst or vehicle for creating a community in which people can be fabulous, loving, connected and explore their magical selves.