Tag Archives: male entitlement

I’m Not Your Brony, Bro

Happy New Year’s Eve! Today I want to talk about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The newest addition to the classic My Little Pony franchise was created by Hasbro in 2010, produced and directed by animator Lauren Faust, who has worked on a number of other successful children’s shows, including The Powerpuff Girls (another great show for girls, I must say). Faust claims that in producing the new pony series, she wanted to create something that was closer to how she had played with her own ponies as a girl, and hopefully something that would be relatable to a lot of little girls, and enjoyable for their parents to watch also. She also wanted to prove that “cartoons for girls don’t have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness.” [1]

In that, most will agree that she succeeded. The ‘mane’ cast of the show consists of six ponies, each with her own individual personality, strengths and weaknesses, who, despite the occasional argument, still manage to be best friends. The cast plays on archetypes, but without— for the most part— letting them fall into stereotypes. Twilight Sparkle, the bookish one, is highly intelligent and slightly socially awkward, but (at least after learning an important lesson about friendship) also enjoys spending time with her friends and actually experiencing the things she reads about. Fluttershy is quiet, timid, and gets along better with animals than other ponies, but she isn’t weak or helpless, and can be incredibly assertive when it comes to standing up for those she cares about. Rarity is a fashionista and a bit of a drama queen, but completely avoids the stereotype of ‘snotty mean girl’— she’s generous to a fault and always thinking about the needs of others.

Perhaps most importantly, even as each character learns lessons about what it means to be a true friend, none of the characters are ever shamed for being who they are. Twilight is never looked down on or scoffed at for being a ‘nerd,’ Fluttershy isn’t told that she must “come out of her shell” to be a worthwhile person pony, and Rarity’s fashion design is looked at as a legitimate career and an art form, not as a shallow or pointless pursuit.

However, because of the depth and relatability of the characters, and the fact that it was designed to be enjoyable for parents as well as children, Friendship is Magic has gained a popularity far outside its target demographic, specifically among older teens and young adults on various internet forums. This isn’t in and of itself a bad thing; in fact, for a children’s show (especially one aimed at girls, “girl cartoons” being a notoriously shallow genre) to have such appeal to an older audience speaks volumes about its quality and content. However, there’s a particular segment of the show’s following that I find to be intensely problematic.

They call themselves “bronies:” 18-35(ish)-year-old male fans of the show who congregate on self-created fansites
such as Equestria Daily and Ponychan. They (generally speaking), tend to be very vocal about being male fans of the show, seeing it as a sort of badge of honor. The word brony itself was originally created to separate the “cool and unique” male fans of the show from the target female fans. The word was later taken to be a sort of blanket term for all of the older, online fans. Brony became gender-neutral, because maleness is, as usual, taken as the societal default.

The thing about bronies is, they seem to think they’re the most important— or sometimes perhaps the only— viewers of the show. “My Little Pony isn’t for girls!” they shout. “It’s cool!”

… Do I even have to explain what’s wrong with that statement? My Little Pony is, in fact, for girls, that being the demographic the show and merchandise is marketed toward, but, more importantly, the fact that something being “cool” must mean it’s “not for girls” says a lot about how our society perceives femininity.

Bronies also tend to complain that the show doesn’t cater more to them. “There should be more male characters!” for example. Nevermind the fact that there is not only a male main character: Spike, the baby dragon, but also a decent number of male background characters of varying importance. Cartoon shows targeted primarily toward boys may have a token female character or two, but rarely very many important background women.

The toy line is also a problem for them. “Why do the ponies have such stupid hair?” they demand. “It isn’t show-accurate!” Never mind the fact that little girls (again: target marketing group) would probably much rather have fun, brushable, styleable hair than stiff, show-accurate molds.

Even the news media has noticed the phenomenon, writing articles about how extraordinary it is for grown men to like a little girls’ show, rather than the fact that the show itself is a standout of the genre and the excellent message that it sends to the actual little girls who watch it.

Overall, the main problem with the brony phenomenon is not that they are men who are fans of a show designed for young girls— there’s nothing inherently ‘creepy’ about it when the show was intended to be enjoyed by parents as well, which includes male parents. The problem lies in male fans demanding kudos for being male fans— by “pushing the envelope” by liking something perceived as girly or “sissy”— in what should be primarily a space for girls, about girls, and by girls. It lies in the fact that they clamor to be acknowledged above the target audience of the show, and complain bitterly when they aren’t catered to. It’s in the fact that they frequently completely overlook female fans of the show— both the young girls it’s aimed at and the older women who also populate their online communities. It’s in the rampant misogyny of the fandom: calling Rarity useless (or a bitch) simply for occupying the fashionista role, even when she completely defies the shallow girl stereotype, while simultaneously lauding Rainbow Dash (probably the character that sticks closest to common media tropes) for being tomboyish and tough, and therefore awesome; or wanting to protect and “take care of” poor, submissive little Fluttershy, while ignoring the fact that she isn’t actually submissive, nor does she need a man (or anyone) to take care of her.

I fully admit that there are male fans who don’t fall into this category in the slightest, and I appreciate that, but when so many of those who identify as “bronies” exhibit this entitled and misogynistic behavior, it’s a small wonder the word makes me twitch a bit each time I see it.

1. A Rebuttal, Oct. 4, 2010.

Nice Guys Finish Last

I don’t have a lot of experience with dating and relationships, I’ll admit that right off the bat. I’ve been asked out by guys a total of two times in my life— or at least, after grade school, when it actually counted. In both cases we had been friends first, though in neither case was I actually interested in a romantic relationship. One of the guys was a pretty nice guy. The other one was pretty much a Nice Guy. And here I’ll explain the difference.

Most people have probably heard the saying “Nice guys finish last.” It’s something that Nice Guys take to heart. It’s practically their motto, right behind “Women only want jerks!” You see, the reason they can’t get dates, they tell themselves, couldn’t possibly be any personal failing of their own. It’s women’s problem that they can’t see what a fine specimen of man they are.

(Here’s a hint for anyone who read that last paragraph and was nodding along: if everyone you meet seems to have the same problem with you, maybe it isn’t them that has the problem.)

Nice Guys often befriend women, going by the adage that a good relationship comes out of a good friendship. Of course, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with forming a relationship out of an established friendship, but entering into a friendship with a romantic relationship as your primary goal seems a bit dishonest.

These Nice Guys will always be their for their special friend, to comfort her when her heart is broken by “jerks,” to listen when she’s having a problem, to offer hugs when she’s in need. And in return, they feel as if they’re owed something. Be it sex, be it a date, whatever: they’re entitled to it for being “such a good friend.”

This is patently bullshit. Being a good friend entitles you to good friendship in return, and nothing more. In fact, there is nothing that entitles anyone to a woman’s (or man’s, for that matter) affections. Romantic feelings aren’t exactly something that can be demanded: they have to develop naturally. As much it may suck to feel those kinds of affections for someone who doesn’t return them, that’s just a part of life.

In my case, the Nice Guy was a fellow student in one of my classes. I was a freshman, and he was a sophomore. We struck up a friendship while chatting after class one day, and since it was latish evening, we decided to head to dinner together. For the next few weeks we would eat together after class, or sometimes on the weekends, often chatting for hours about our common interests. Sometimes I would invite him up to my dorm room, but we never did anything but talk.

From early on I was anxious that he was perhaps expecting something more out of this relationship than I was, but since he hadn’t brought it up, I didn’t either. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that he asked me out.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I insisted, in the time-honored tradition of “letting a guy down easy” (because if a woman were to simply say “No, I’m not interested in you that way,” she’s a bitch). “I’m just not really interested in dating at all.” All true, but actually not really any of his business.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” he said, which isn’t unreasonable: it’s natural to feel a little bummed when you’re rejected. “I thought we had a lot in common.” I shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just not interested.”

“You know,” he replied, “You’ve pretty much succeeded in destroying any attraction I had for you.”

That, my friends, is the hallmark of a Nice Guy. Now that I had spurned his advances, I was no longer of any use to him. After that moment, we were no longer friends, because what is the use in talking to me if it isn’t going to lead to anything more? (Well that and I’d kicked him to the curb once he’d truly shown his colors.) I can’t say I’m terribly disappointed that I never saw him again.

As for the second time, with the guy who was actually nice? We were friends for a long while beforehand. We hung out together, alone and in groups. We played games and watched movies together, we spent time in each other’s dorms. When he asked me out, I told him the same thing as before, “Sorry, but I really have no interest in dating.” The difference this time was, while he was disappointed, he respected my agency in my decision. He didn’t push. He didn’t tell me I was suddenly completely unattractive. While we don’t talk nearly as much as we used to now that we’re out of school, we are still friends.

And that’s the difference between being a Nice Guy, and being a nice guy.