Deep Thoughts

In Defense of Bronies

February 14, 2014

Multiple Pages
In Defense of Bronies

Ridiculing “Bronies”—those fanboys who are obsessed with the TV show My Little Pony—is a forgivable offense. Sure, these are seemingly heterosexual males who worship a cartoon for little girls. That’s the dictionary definition of a pussy. Howard Stern called them “the end of civilization.” PJTV agreed and said this was all prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Jerry Springer has sent out a request to have them as guests, and my pals at Red Eye said, “There are worse hobbies for a boy to have…terrorism.” I laughed out loud when I heard that.

Bullying is a natural reaction. You’d have to be mentally ill to see Bronies as anything other than loser weirdo fag loser nerd perverts. However, after watching My Little Pony, talking to their fans, and checking out the documentary Bronies, the truth hit me like an atomic wedgie. This isn’t about wimps such as Pajama Boy or those disgusting perverted Furries. It’s about autistic men trying to overcome their largest impairment: social interaction. Once you figure that out, making fun of them becomes equivalent to going up to a cancer patient on the dance floor, ripping off her wig, and yelling, “HA HA YOU’RE BALD!”

“We need socially inept nerds. They are the weirdoes behind all our best inventions.”

I dug into the shows with a deep-seated fear that I might like them. (I’ve never tried rollerblading due to the same fear.) After watching half a dozen episodes I was relieved to discover that My Little Pony was nothing more than a pretty good cartoon for little girls. It’s just like Rainbow Brite or Powerpuff Girls, but with one central difference: The show is also an instructional video about social interaction. The central message is that “Friendship is Magic,” and they keep hammering it home like they’re talking to little girls and autistic men. The stories repeatedly break down the harmony of friendship into six core elements: Honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, loyalty, and magic. As a grown man with a normal brain, the repetition quickly gets tiresome, but if I had Asperger’s, I would probably be sitting in front of the screen in a Brony T-shirt saying, “One more time.” It’s all the things autistics don’t understand about life, broadcast in bright colors in a very simple way that works out every time. Studies have shown that when someone “on the spectrum” looks at you, they don’t meet your eyes and their gaze wanders all over the body the way we do when we’re looking at a mannequin. The eyes of the My Little Pony characters take up their entire heads. You can’t not look at them.

Most assume this is yet another cutesy toy perversion, but they don’t talk about sex on Brony message boards. It’s more like fantasy football where they create elaborate backstories about made-up characters. These aren’t depraved pervs watching a stupid girl’s show and faggin’ off with their dicks out. These are severely autistic fixer-uppers trying to repair their own leaky roofs. Autism or Asperger’s or OCD or whatever you call it is way over my head. These syndromes all seem to have incredibly complex definitions that manifest themselves in varying degrees, but you all know who I’m talking about: those geeks who organize their newly sharpened pencils in a perfect line. They’re the not-quite-right straight-A students who talk like 17th-century aristocrats and get all weird about food. They can tell you about trains for hours on end, but the thought of asking someone for directions to the station gives them a panic attack. At the worst end of the spectrum, they are sociopaths with no compassion. The rest are noble misfits struggling to overcome handicaps and practice social interaction like Data from their other favorite show Star Trek. Data doesn’t understand humor or love, and it drives him nuts. (There is a lot of crossover between Trekkies and Bronies, and John de Lancie plays a bad guy in both shows). Many autistic kids give up and retreat to their bedrooms where they can obsessively pursue their hobbies, but others want to go the Data route and keep trying. How about we don’t punish those guys? Isn’t that what we hate about mass immigration—the reluctance to assimilate?

I’ll never stop making fun of wimps, metrosexuals, beardists, dogmatic fatsos, Gawker fags, Daily Kos beta males, MSNBC bitches, transgendered whiners, Clay Aiken, commies, yoga, plushies, infantilists, maskers, and cuddle parties, but the autistic fan base of a social-interaction cartoon is different. Bullies still rule, literally, but Bronies are the exception that proves that rule.

Deriding them isn’t just cruel; it’s a bad investment. Can you recite pi to over 22,000 decimal places? We need socially inept nerds. They are the weirdoes behind all our best inventions. They have the patience to try the same impossible experiment again and again. They can imagine the physical world in ways nobody else has. Without the innovators of technology, science, and manufacturing, we’re back before the Industrial Revolution darning our socks by the coal fire. This mockery is also dangerous. I think the anti-bullying campaigns have gone too far, but humiliating the mentally ill goes beyond bullying; it drifts awfully close to sadism. Michael Morones is an 11-year-old Brony who recently attempted suicide after being harassed at school. The group Real Husbands of Autism have begun a campaign called Bronies for Michael Morones.

Teasing a buddy for being a wimp is funny, but it doesn’t work on autistic children. Medication doesn’t seem to work, either. Autism is a curse that can have dire consequences. Adam Lanza had Asperger’s and his family didn’t know what to do with him. After the Sandy Hook massacre, authorities found the books Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant in his home.

In Bronies, we see academics ignore the obvious and overanalyze the Brony phenomenon to death. Marsha H. Redden, Ph.D. comes to the bizarre conclusion that it’s all linked to trauma from a post-9/11 world. As usual, the academics are too high up in their ivory towers to see what’s happening down where the Bronies roam. Is Stuttgart, Germany’s Benjamin Meyer still reeling from the horrors of September 11? He looks more like he’s still reeling from the fact that he found a girlfriend. What about Pieterjan Ruysch, the infinitely shy laser-show expert from Amsterdam who makes light shows of My Little Pony episodes? Yoav Landau, who comes from Israel and does remixes of My Little Pony songs, seems more scared of shaking hands than of planes crashing into New York City. Lyle Gilpatrick looks like he was born around when 9/11 happened. The most traumatic event in his life seems to be giving up his toy aircraft carrier. His explanation sums up the Bronies: “I have to get over it,” he says. “I can’t be 50 years old all alone in my room holding my toy aircraft carrier.”

They all appear to be the nerdiest nerds you’ve ever seen. They are guarded and awkward and come across as out of touch with the rest of the world. They also act like they want to get over it.

This is especially evident when the documentary depicts Bronies from all over the world traveling to the 2012 BronyCon in Secaucus, New Jersey. For many of them, this was the first time they’d taken a trip anywhere, and they seemed just as terrified of getting lost as they were thrilled to go.

Seeing them all get together and cheer like a sea of robots that figured out what jokes are is heart-wrenching. They asked directions, got to the convention, and clumsily shook hands and exchanged numbers. It wasn’t Studio 54, and Mick Jagger wasn’t doing coke off of Stevie Nicks’s tits, but it was a start. We need nerds and they need us. Sure, it looks retarded and it goes against pretty much everything I believe in, but these are not normal guys. They’re valuable assets to our society trying to undo the one thing that separates them from us.

 

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