What we talk about when we talk about bronies
Bronies, adult men who are avid fans of the girls' cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, have become a popular culture curiosity in recent years. Rather than concentrate on an ethnographic-style parsing of bronies from within the community, I take as my focus the attention paid to the brony phenomenon by those outside of it. Attempts to describe, explain, justify, and denigrate bronies have been the subject of considerable outside coverage, including newspaper articles and magazine features, feature-length documentary films, and comment sections and invective-laced blog posts. The language used to describe bronies, even if meant to be sympathetic and ultimately positive, nevertheless reveals a pervasive discomfort with men who embrace a position of nonnormative masculinity and sexuality, as well as a tendency to pathologize fandom broadly and bronies in particular. I argue that outsider coverage acknowledges and largely dismisses assumptions about bronies' potential threat as sexual predators and social misfits but falls short of affirming the genuine pleasures offered by a sparkly cartoon about ponies intended for little girls. Children's programming is highly gendered, and not taken up in the cultural conversation surrounding the brony phenomenon is the gap My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fills in the socialization and modeling of masculinity for its most enthusiastic fans.
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