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My Little Pony Friendship is Magic's primary audience is girls 4-12, but the series has generated a large fan following among adults. The term brony (plural: bronies) is used predominately to refer to male (and female) fans outside the series' target demographic. "Pegasister" is sometimes used for the older female fans of the show.
The term "brony" is a portmanteau of "bro" and "pony". It originated on 4chan's comics and cartoons discussion board /co/ in October 2010 shortly after the board's community began discussing the show. It has since made its first official appearance on a commercial for the show, dubbed Equestria Girls, where Pinkie Pie uses it to refer to male ponies.
Most media outlets have described the term as referring to the adult male fans, with the moniker "pegasisters" for adult female fans. Despite being formed from the masculine word "bro," the term is sometimes used to describe both male and female fans outside of the target demographic, making it unisex.
Activities and presence
Following the series' growth in popularity, the fandom grew to become a notable presence, particularly online. Websites dedicated to My Little Pony-related material were created for fans to share news, music, and fan-created content about the show. Equestria Daily, a My Little Pony blog site, was founded in January 2011 by Shaun "Sethisto" Scotellaro for the purpose of collecting fan fiction and news specific to Friendship is Magic. As of April 2015, the site has surpassed 600 million page views.
Fans commonly organize local meet-ups and conventions in their local areas. One of the first fully-realized conventions was BronyCon, the first of which was held in New York City in June 2011, with 100 attendees. BronyCon 2015 was attended by 10,000. Other My Little Pony conventions include Everfree Northwest in Seattle, Washington; Midwestria in Chicago, Illinois; Canterlot Gardens in Cleveland, Ohio; Equestria LA in Los Angeles, California; BABSCon in Burlingame, California; HarmonyCon in Dallas, Texas; Ponycon NYC in the metropolitan New York City area; BronyCAN in British Columbia, Canada; GalaCon in Ludwigsburg, Germany; BUCK in Manchester, United Kingdom; and PonyCon AU in Sydney, Australia. Series voice actors, episode writers, and other staff members are usually among these conventions' special guests.
The fandom also contributes to various charities for a number of different efforts. The Brony Thank You Fund, originally established to create a fan-funded advertisement to air on The Hub Network as a thank you to the show's creators, raised over $16,000 following its initial inception in November 2012  and $50,000 in December 2013.
Reception by Hasbro
Hasbro recognizes the brony community as "a small group of My Little Pony fans who don't necessarily fit what one might expect to be the brand's target audience," and notes that its core viewership in the older market is "predominantly female". Despite what appeared to be a small audience, Hasbro and the Hub network chose to "salute and embrace all the viewers who have embraced our brand," according to Margaret Loesch, CEO of the Hub and former Executive Producer of the original My Little Pony animated series. Linda Steiner, the senior Vice President for Hasbro Studios, noted that while she hoped that the show would attract a "broader audience," she had "been in the business for 25 years and [had] never seen anything like this."
Hasbro.com added a link in December 2011 to its US site's bottom navigation menu, titled "Yo Brony!" It leads to a document containing the 2011 Comic Con poster that was designed with the older fans in mind. The official European Spanish My Little Pony Facebook page posted on June 2, 2013 "El sábado 11 de mayo se celebró la Meet Up Nacional de My Little Pony, donde los bronies / fans de las ponis españoles organizaron un stand con muchos juguetes de nuestras amigas. ¡Gracias por compartir con nosotros La Magia de la Amistad, esperamos que os lo hayáis pasado muy bien!" "Merchandise Target" has included "Adult Fans" after both "Primary: Girls 3-6 Yrs" and "Secondary: Girls 7-12".
Hasbro stated online in German on January 27, 2015 that the series "hat eine völlig überraschende neue Fangemeinde auf den Plan gerufen – die „Bronys“ (Kofferwort aus dem englischen „brother“ und „pony“). Diese vornehmlich männlichen Fans treffen sich zum gemeinsamen Anschauen der TV-Serie und tauschen sich in eigenen Internetforen über den Serienkosmos aus." During its investor presentation at the 2015 New York Toy Fair, Hasbro has acknowledged adult My Little Pony fans among its "franchise base."
Coverage in media
The adult fandom has gained media attention through outlets such as Wired, Fox News Channel and The Wall Street Journal. Stephen Colbert gave a shout-out to the brony fandom at least twice on his comedy news show, The Colbert Report. Erin Burnett of CNN's Outfront reported on the 2012 Summer BronyCon, and ended the segment with recolored show character fanart representing the pony version of herself. The fans gave her some artwork of her character as a way of "welcoming [her] to the herd." NPR's comedy radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! highlighted the brony fandom in an episode in June 2011, and the following week quizzed former US President Bill Clinton about elements from the show during a telephone interview segment called "Not My Job." Clinton correctly answered the three multiple choice questions, leading at least one journalist to jokingly refer to him as a brony.
The My Little Pony toys have been collected mainly by women who grew up with the toys during the 1980s-90s, before Hasbro revived the toy series with its Friendship Is Magic line. According to Summer Hayes, author of six books about My Little Pony toy collections and organizer of the annual My Little Pony collectors' fair, some of these collectors appreciated the attention of the brony community. Hayes said that the brony community has participated in the toy fair, and that other collectors resent the sudden popularity of Friendship Is Magic. She said that these earlier fans and collectors had thought, " ... what about us? We've been here forever, and nobody seemed to care. But now that there are all these guys in their 20s that are crazy about it, it's suddenly important and it means something." Hayes also said, "To the bronies, I say, I think My Little Pony is awesome, so more power to you."
Lexicographer Grant Barrett listed "brony" as a memorable new word of 2011. Time named "the bronies" as the ninth-best meme of 2011, the Internet meme research site Know Your Meme listed it among its top ten memes of 2011, and PC Magazine named it one of 2011's top memes.
Musician Andrew W.K., a fan of the show, said that he strongly identifies with the over-enthusiastic character of Pinkie Pie. He said, "She's another creature, much like I am in this world, who is doing everything she can to have fun," and that he feels inspired by the character spreading excitement and joy to others. He planned to host a panel called "What Would Pinkie Pie Do?" at the Canterlot Gardens fan convention in September 2012. Rapper MC Chris released a song called "Discord (My Little Brony)" on April 1, 2012 that showed high familiarity with the show and its culture.
An article that appeared in the New York Times on December 26, 2011, "Navigating Love and Autism" by Amy Harmon, described how a young woman with Asperger syndrome used My Little Pony characters to relieve stress. She visualized the character Twilight Sparkle whenever she "found herself in a bad-mood rut." The story misidentified Twilight Sparkle as Fluttershy on initial publication and the paper issued a correction, which some journalists have jokingly considered as "the best New York Times correction ever," though others saw it as a sign of the journalistic integrity of the Times. Harmon was contacted by fans about the mistake, and said, "I hate to get anything wrong, but I confess to some enjoyment in finding the right way to phrase this one."
The Pirate Party Germany's parliamentary group in the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin (the Berlin state parliament) has insisted on the inclusion of a break called "pony time," in which an episode from the series is shown during their meetings at their parliamentary office, which displeased many other members in the Berlin parliament. The internet activist group Anonymous used the character Rainbow Dash to deface the website of the Social Democratic Party of Austria in 2011 and 2012. A teenage white hat hacker used the name "Pinkie Pie" for anonymity and a fan drawing of the character wielding an axe as part of a successful entry in a contest sponsored by Google Chrome to break the security of the web browser.
On May 2, 2017, a video was posted to the official Today Show website featuring anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, and Al Roker reimagined as ponies. Three months later, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford received the same honor of being ponified.
The adult fandom has been perceived negatively by others. Media coverage of the brony phenomenon overshadowed the critical praise the show received. The brony community has encountered ridicule through "trolling" on internet forums, although this bashing has slowly moved away from those said forums on 4Chan. The Fox News Channel comedy talk program Red Eye, poked fun at the fandom because it largely consists of young adult males. Dave Glover of Fox News called the phenomenon "another disturbing trend" and stereotyped them as "men who stay home from work and file for disability just so they can watch My Little Ponies". Kurt Schlichter of BigHollywood.com called the phenomenon a "terrifying new trend," and wrote, "Hollywood, do you really need to enable the creepy immaturity of these geebos? No. It's time to stop the insanity." Commenting on Schlichter's article, Greg Pollowitz of the National Review Online wrote that considering the target audience, he could not understand the show's appeal to adult men. Jerry Springer has sent out a request for members of the fandom to appear on his show, but many fans, as well as those that support the fandom like voice actress Tara Strong, have warned others from participating, fearing the show would highlight the negative aspects of the fandom.
Some media have been critical of the adult-oriented material created by fans. In some cases, these videos may appear in internet searches that children may perform while looking for online copies of the program, forcing parents to have to discuss pornography and sex with their children. One parody series, drawn in the style of John Kricfalusi, places the characters in extremely adult situations and was described by the web site io9 as "disgusting... and most certainly NSFW." A segment on the The Howard Stern Show in July 2012 weighed on the pornographic aspect of the brony fandom, often referred to as "clop," though at least one journalist reported that this is a small subset of the larger group.
Rebecca Angel, writing for Wired's Geekmom column, described some of the negative feedback from fellow writers about the mostly-male brony culture that included accusations of pedophilia, homosexuality, and immaturity. Angel defended the fandom's culture, describing adult fans' interest as a form of escapism, and that the show provides characters they can relate to and talk about with other fans. She also acknowledged the double-standard whereas females can watch male-oriented entertainment without question, while male bronies receive criticism about their interest in the show. In a similar vein, an "Idea Channel" segment from the Public Broadcasting Service said that the ridicule received by the brony community is partly because the male appreciation for the show challenges preconceived notions of gender roles in the mass media.
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Taken aback by the negative feedback from the media, John de Lancie, who voices Discord, created a documentary called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, with Lauren Faust and Tara Strong involved as well, intending to portray the fandom in a positive way and shed some light about the phenomenon across the world (though at the moment it can only be found on his website and Amazon, making it difficult for anyone in the dark to find it). Part of it is set at a brony convention. It describes how the stereotypes that have been fabricated about the fandom are false, that most bronies are generally decent people, that the show's friendship lessons are significant to all people, and that it deserves the same respect and place in the world as other popular series such as Star Trek or anime. The documentary has been released in a DVD and Blu-ray combo pack and has made its TV debut on Logo on October 14, 2013.
In January 2014, 11-year-old Michael Morones became hospitalized after attempting suicide from being bullied by others at his school for being a fan of the show. The brony community subsequently reached out to Morones' family and, with several of the show's production and voice actors, started a charity drive to help pay for his medical bills and a non-profit organization to help combat bullying; the efforts raised over $48,000 within a week and more than $72,000 a month later.
References in pop culture
- See also: List of FiM references in other media
The animated television show Mad spoofed Friendship Is Magic more than twice; one segment was called Cowboys & Alien Force and another being My Little War Horse. A secret level in the video game Diablo III included enemies named "Rainbow Western," "Midnight Sparkle" and "Nightmarity," alluding to Friendship is Magic In interviews for the video game-related podcast series Geek a Week, both Markus Persson of Mojang and Gabe Newell of Valve said they are fans of Friendship is Magic.
On January 1, 2013, the television show Hot in Cleveland on the TV Land released a promo, titled "Elevator and Bronies," for an upcoming episode. The episode, itself titled "Cleveland Fantasy-Con," premiered on TV Land the next day, January 2, as part of the show's fourth season.
"The Equestranauts", the seventeenth episode of the fourth season of Bob's Burgers and title of the in-verse animated series of the same name, involves Tina Belcher attending a BronyCon-like convention. The episode aired on FOX on April 13, 2014.
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