When I was a kid I loved Care Bears. I had damn near every one in the ROYGBIV spectrum: Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Tenderheart Bear, Funshine Bear, Birthday Bear. It wasn't until Aaron, my second-grade bro, my brone thug in harmony, the Bro Pitt to my Angelina Brolie, came over for a sleepover that I realized how abnormal this was. "Whose are these?" he said, giggling. "Uh, they are my sister's," I replied. I don't have a sister. Aaron asked where my sister was. Rattled. Embarrassed. Need. Answer. Quick. She didn't live in the house anymore, I said. "She's in 13th grade."
If Aaron hadn't shattered my innocence, maybe I would have become a "bronie." What's a "bronie," you ask? It's an adult male fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, an animated series based on the mega-popular Reagan-era toy (the show airs on The Hub). And bronies (bro + pony = brony) are no eensy weensy demographic. Exhibit A: Equestriandaily.com, the brony's online HQ. According to Wired.com, the site gets approximately 175,000 page views per day (and has accumulated 18 million hits to date). The site has fan art, episode breakdowns, and snapshots of My Little Pony-branded products (like this pasta for kids). Slate.com posted a video segment about bronies yesterday. None of the bronies in the piece gave their last names.
I got in touch with a spokesperson at The Hub. I wanted to know the network's party line on bronies. After all, it's not normal that the most passionate fan base for miniature purple horses with magical powers have male pattern baldness. "We love our bronies," the spokesperson writes via email. In fact, he adds that The Hub has produced two in-house promos (one is a parody of Katy Perry's "California Girls") that give a shout-out to the male My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans.
Some bronies are fathers. Some are not. I have two boys, so I often find myself watching shows about ninjas and samurais. (In full disclosure, my youngest, Tanner, also has a thing for Big Time Rush and iCarly). But if I had girls, I'd have no problem getting down on the ground and neh-ing like Secretariat as I make Twilight and Applejack gallop across the floor. But I'd have no problem doing this with my boys either.
A couple weeks ago I saw a miniature kitchen at a toy store. A boy in an apron was on the box, whipping up what I assume was an imaginary souffle. Today's parents have made such an effort to make our kids feel normal no matter what they are into. A dump truck can be for Lily. An Easy-Bake oven can be for Carl. Without question, a brony was once a little boy who liked Care Bears, and had parents who didn't make him feel weird for liking them. It's our collective acceptance, our efforts to make every kid feel normal, that created the brony.