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Explaining the Brony Phenomenon

2011 August 6
by sonicsuns

Update: Thanks so much to Equestria Daily for the link!
This is now my most popular post ever! =)

In 2010, an animated series entitled My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic debuted on cable tv. It was praised by critics for its humor and moral outlook, and attracted an audience of young girls, as the producers had expected. What wasn’t expected was the other audience, a massive group of fans calling themselves “bronies” and consisting mainly of young men. (“bro”+”pony” = “brony”)

Let me just say that again: There are guys out there, who are not gay, who are not 4 years old, who openly adore a tv show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And not just a few guys; there’s a lot of them.

This is big. How big? Well first off you can look at all the brony fanfiction, but it’s bigger that that. There’s also brony art and brony comics, but it’s bigger than that. There’s a major trend of pony music videos, so songs like Bohemian Rhapsody are sung by ponies on YouTube. There are also songs from Weird Al and the opening song of the cartoon show Freakazoid with parody lyrics so now it’s about ponies. Then there are the songs from the show itself, and the remixes of those songs, and the hoards of bronies making sing-along versions of the songs. People have produced whole albums of original music somehow connected to the show. The bronies have already made a high-quality rap song about being a brony. In fact there’s so much music out there that you can now listen to it 24 hours a day over at Celestia Radio.

But it goes beyond music. There’s also a trend of using ponies to dub movie trailers, so Forrest Gump becomes Rainbow Gump and Watchmen become WatchPonies. There’s a Pony Bebop and a Samurai Applejack. There are also multiple abridged series out there, which means fans are redubbing their own voices to make affectionate parodies of the show. But it’s bigger than that.

Bronies have taken random background ponies and imagined all sorts of details, creating characters like Derpy and Doctor Whooves, both of which have their own dedicated fan projects. And they’ve made random phrases from the show into popular memes, such as “20% cooler”.

Bronies have started dubbing the show into Spanish. (Even some of the fan-made content has a Spanish version.) Also German. Next up it’ll be Chinese. Oh wait, we already have that.

There’s been stuff about pony physics, pony anatomy, and the pony political economy. Even Steven Colbert gave a shout-out to the bronies.

Bronies are even setting up a charity group called Bronies for Good. Somebody rewrote “We Are the World” to be about ponies so it could be used in brony charity drives. (Oh wait that was me. And I’m also voicing a character in a Doctor Whooves radioplay, and I’ve just been accepted as a cast member for Magical Pony Theater 3000.)

People have made pony playing cards and pony video games. There’s a pony mod of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, a game called My Little Investigations, a pony spinoff of pokemon, a 3D pony racing game, a seperate 3D pony game, a pony dating sim, two pony MMO’s, a high-quality fighting game, and a flash game called The Fiends from Dream Valley which features actual professional voice actors. (Most of these aren’t complete yet.)

All of this is fan-based. None of it was funded or officially sponsored by the actual owners of My Little Pony.

Did I mention that the show has only aired one season so far, and the next season is still months away?

The brony phenomenon has gotten so big that the fans need dedicated aggregator websites like Equestria Daily just to keep track of it all. And don’t forget all the activity at ponychan. This thing is huge, at least considering the original intended audience of the show.

The question is: Why? Why would a show aimed at little girls attract such a large audience of non-little-girls? Most bronies would give a simple answer: “This show is awesome”. But it goes deeper than that.

Clearly it’s a good show, with good characters, good writing, and good animation. But that hardly explains the scale of the brony phenomenon.

The big factor is the brony community itself. The community sustains and expands itself, and the show has become a proxy for a variety of values and relationships that are much more important and fundamental than the actual show. Allow me to explain:

Though we don’t often realize it, young men (approx. age 13-29) are constrained by a variety of social norms. (The same applies to any other demographic, of course.) We tend to enjoy badass things like superheroes and martial arts. (Well we’re mostly internet nerds so we don’t do much martial arts, but we watch martial arts movies etc.) We spend a lot of time playing Halo or Modern Warfare, killing aliens and terrorists. This is all fine; we actually do enjoy this stuff. But for most of our lives, we have been socially prohibited from enjoying anything cute, pure or innocent. (Even our comedies are crude.) This prohibition is so strong that we don’t even realize it’s there; we don’t even think about various styles of entertainment which don’t fit within our social norms. (And those who deviate are often derrided as “fags” etc.) This has created a kind of emotional malnutrition; we have not allowed ourselves to consume as much cuteness, pureness or innocence in our media as we would actually like to consume.

MLP:FiM contains all of these elements in spades, with the strong bonus that it’s a well-made show overall. With the advent of the brony community, young men have collectively granted each other permission to rewrite our own social norms and relieve our malnutrition. The existence of the community encourages new bronies to “come out of the closet” as it were, not to admit that we are gay (which we typically aren’t), but to admit that we enjoy these elements which are typically regarded as feminine and/or socially prohibited to us. Thus the community enables our enjoyment of the show, and the exhilaration we experience at successfully changing our own social norms is one of the primary feelings that we share with each other. (Though most people don’t think this through in such detail, and reduce the entire phenomenon to “This show rocks!”)

A side note: young men often use “gay” as an insult, but the bronies have decided that Rainbow Dash is gay (though this is not canon within the show), and this is not meant as an insult. Rainbow Dash may be the first (allegedly) gay character whom young men allow themselves to enjoy and admire. So again, we’re changing our own social rules for the better.

The other half of the community factor is the way community members treat each other. A lot of us come from forums and websites where nastiness is expected, with plenty of insults and flame wars. The brony community, inspired both by the show and by our desire for change, has embraced “tolerance and love” as defining features. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the brony phenomenon began on 4chan, which is particularly known for nastiness and whose members are probably most in need of a more tolerant online community. (Though not all 4chan participants took kindly to the bronies, who later formed a spinoff site at PonyChan) As a sociology student recently pointed out, various community discussions exemplify the sort of thing that young men can do with fellow bronies that they cannot do with their other peers. We have collectively granted each other permission to be nice to one another, and we love it. Once again, it all depends on community.

(By the way, the community would not have grown half this large if Hasbro had taken the standard hardline legal route, issuing takedown orders against youtube videos etc. Intra-community communication and expression would have been greatly hampered in that case. But Hasbro has done quite the opposite; in fact they even acknowledged bronies in a recent advertisement.)

A thread on ponychan reached similar conclusions, and included this quote:

“Shame” is an interesting word. I think the cuteness and childishness appeals to our original innocence, and innocence knows no shame.

Ponies are not the beginning either; /b/tards [users of the particular 4chan forum where the phenomenon started] have a history of embracing cute and innocent things. That was Boxxy’s appeal. Then there’s cats. Rozen Maiden. Robot Unicorn Attack. The list goes on. What’s interesting is this runs parallel with the /b/tard reputation for being the most vile, wretched goblins on the entire interbutts. I think they’re connected. I think in order to get a disgusting perverted adult, you have to start with a kid just oozing innocence, and beat the [crap] out of them. Feed them lies, then laugh at them for believing you. Watch the disillusion sink in as their innocence is torn from them in childhood, seared out of them in school, and then are cast out into the world to be bachelor frogs. So they [..] struggle with major depression and they rage and they do all the things damaged people do. But somewhere deep down they remember what they were. Maybe part of them is still that way. They see ponies, and damn society’s gender roles, they like them. […] they continue to watch the show because it reminds them of something good and pure they had before the hardness of the world robbed them of it.

Clearly, this is more than just a tv show to us.

Yes, the show is good, but the biggest reason to watch the show is to join the community. Yes, the mash-ups are fun, but the biggest reason to watch or create mashups is to become part of the community. By these activities, we’re not just enjoying the actual content, we’re enjoying the ideals behind that content, ideals which go beyond the original intentions of the show’s creators.

That is why the bronies are awesome. That is why I’m a brony.




A small sample of brony media:




Fall weather friends poster:

Drawfriend Stuff #139

Equestria Election:

Album Covers:

Colbert Pony:



Pinkazoid intro:

Ponycraft 2:

Pet Smarts


Fluttershy Origins





Mega Mare

Barrel Roll Pinkie

Double Rainbow Dash

MLP – Fluttershys 20% cooler version – Fireflies Parody

KeepOnRockin’ – Friendship is Magic

Eurobeat Pony:

Art of the Dress:

Friendship Is Magic – Brony Appreciation Medley (500 sub video)

Brony [Cover] rap:

Pony Swag (Clean Radio Edit) rap :


Music Videos:

MLP PMV – I’m Awesome:

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Bohemian Rhapsody AMV

Pinkazoid! TV Intro

Pinkazoid latin (Pinkazoide español latino) :

[MLP FiM] – I’ll make a man out of you

Rainbow Dash is Gay (or European)

My Little Pony AMV Epic (7 Artists)


In Celestia We Trust

DJ P0n-3 takes a request from Doctor Whoof

My Little Bad Horse

Dr. Horrible + MLP = Bad Horse

Pony Bebop

Play Like Pinkie Pie

Avenue eQuestria: If Rainbow Dash Was Gay

Filly to the Future:

MLP PMV – Perform This Way


Brony Singalongs:

Bronies United – Stitching it Together (The Art of the Dress) Singalong:

Bronies United – Winter Wrap-Up (Singalong/Cover)

Super Ponybeat:


Movie Trailers etc.:

Rarity is seduced by the one wing

Ponycraft 2 :


The Rainbow Knight


300 Ponies

Rainbow Dash – The Movie [Unofficial Trailer]

Captain Pinkie:

Rainbow Gump:


Abridged Series:

Camaraderie is Supernatural – Episode 01 – Mockery in the Moon

MLP: FiM Abridged Parody Episode 1



MLP – FiM- Twilight meets Fluttershy fandub

Chinese Friendship is Magic Demo

Pinkazoid latin (Pinkazoide español latino) :



MLP Zero-Race GM Base Test

Story of the Blanks:

The Fiends From Dream Valley – Update 5

Savage Worlds: Pony RPG Campaign Transcripts (Update Part 8!)

Super Smash Ponies: Friendship is Magic (Beta Download!)

The Legend of Celestia (Fully Playable 1st Draft)

Pony playing cards:

Equestria Online – Demo (Stage 1)

Sonic Rainboom – Touhou Danmakufu

Equestria Online –

Derpy Delivery –



I, Brony

Lack of Social Awareness Pony

“Pony-Net” An exploration into pony recognition algorithms.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic provides a realistic representation of life in Ponyville

Inside Pinkie’s Brain – A Newcomer Appears

Real Bronies of Genius:

Twilight Jenkins

My Little Leeroy

Music Reviews:

Creating a movie posted for every episode:

Pinkie Pie Likes Space


Doctor Whooves – Allons-y

Pony PSP Theme

Darth Fluttershy

Pinkamena Vader Pie

Solidarity is Illusion: The Political Economy of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Better Copyright Through Fair Use and Ponies

Poll Results: Which Pony Looks Best in Socks?

Derpy’s Great Muffin Adventure

The Neighcronomicon


Bronies for Good:

My little Ponatomy:

The Brony Show:

Celestia Radio:

Doctor Whooves All of Time and Space:

Ponychan Brony Changes His Legal Name To Rainbow Dash:

The Most Interesting Pony in the World

DerpyMail Ad

Bronies New Zealand:

Knights of Canterlot:

Rarity gets no respect – Pony Parody #1

My Little Boredom

ASDF Ponies

Just Another Pony Video

Pony Parody – Oh My God A Giant Rock

Who is in Equestria?

My Little Pony – Rainbow Dash – You’re Gonna Go Far Kid [Explicit]

It’s okay to not like My Little Pony (A response to anti-bronies)

Celestia is the final boss (Now 20% more cooler, maybe.)

Community Sites: (The biggest site)


Community threads:


Media Reaction:

The Surprising Cult-Popularity of My Little Pony

My Little Pony Corrals Unlikely Fanboys Known as ‘Bronies’



My Little Bronies: Why the Internet is Magic

Pony Up Haters: How 4chan Gave Birth to the Bronies

Why is Friendship Magic? An analasys of the Brony Subculture.

Image credit:

Copyrighted work used under Fair Use

Yes, it was actually me who posted as “Sonicsuns” at and

I’m also known as “Sonicsuns!!DjAGx2LmRj” at ponychan.

21 Responses
  1. August 6, 2011

    Dear Jimmy,

    To be honest I never heard of Bronies before. I wasn’t sure what you were talking about at first when I started reading your entry. I don’t have cable so I haven’t seen this version of the show. I remember an older show of My Little Pony, but I seem to like this newer version much better after I started checking out the links. I like the Double Rainbow Dash video you shared.

    I heard your “We Are The Bronies” and I thought it was a very good remake of “We Are The World.” Congratulations on voicing a character in a Doctor Whooves radioplay as well as a cast member for Magical Pony Theater 3000! I believe the website listed you as a Henchman.

    When I was listening to your voice samples at the Magical Pony Theater 3000 site I discovered your other voice recordings at SoundCloud. I enjoyed the range of voices you can do at:
    They made me laugh a lot. lol

    This wide range of the fan response is indeed impressive especially considering the show only aired one season so far. I am glad you are part of something that brings you so much joy.

    Warm regards,

    • August 8, 2011

      Glad you liked the post and the links. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Nope permalink
    August 7, 2011

    I’m not a brony myself. But i don’t hate them. I’m an adult male myself who likes cute things. Specifically vocaloid and Hatsune Miku. And there are people out there that are all “menn shouldn’t like cute thing” and crap like that. It’s good to see other guys being secure in their manhood enough to not shy away of such things.

    • August 8, 2011

      Yeah, it’s good to see people breaking the stereotypes that hold us back.

  3. Jir permalink
    August 7, 2011

    “The biggest reason to watch the show is to join the community.”

    What part of this do people not understand.
    Its not the most amazing show ever, and we don’t make it out to be.
    Its just enjoyable to be part of such a nice community that puts out so much great content.

  4. August 8, 2011

    Brilliant article and thanks for linking to my comic, I appreciate it a lot.

  5. Bob permalink
    August 17, 2011

    Goodness, this cancer to the internet. I can only hope it dies in the next few years. Brony avatars and signatures only stabilize the casual internet as a gang of neckbeards and forever ronery people.
    I can only be grateful that it hasn’t spread enough to the outside to cause enough embarrassment for others and damage to my actual life.

    • August 17, 2011

      I have no idea why you consider bronies to be a “cancer”. I don’t think bronies typically have neckbeards, and in any case I don’t see why anybody’s facial hair is that important. To say bronies are “forever ronery” (i.e. lonely) is ridiculous; bronies are a community, which brings about the opposite of loneliness. And I don’t understand what sort of “damage” your fear that your “actual life” might suffer if bronyism spreads.

  6. Hermetic_magi permalink
    April 25, 2012

    This is an interesting theory and exemplar article. It seeks to explain the “Brony” phenomenon in a sound, logical, and dare I say refreshing manner. I approve this message.

  7. DerpyHooves permalink
    September 11, 2012

    Im going to be writeing about the Brony Phenomenon for my school news paper! 😀

  8. anonymous permalink
    December 12, 2012

    This really doesn’t make any sense. There have been tons of ‘cute’ shows that didn’t have anywhere near this impact on the male demographic that makes most ‘bronies’ (hate that term so much).

    I guess it’ll just always be an unexplained mystery of the universe.

    • December 12, 2012

      Most of those cute shows lacked intelligence. MLP:FiM stands above the rest.

      And aside from that, it’s an issue of timing. MLP:FiM came out at around the same time that relatively large numbers of men were becoming comfortable with idea of discarding gender stereotypes (provided that other men were doing the same thing). MLP:FiM was the spark that lit the fire.

  9. GetReal permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Interesting reading this now that we’re into Season 4 and the momentum continues to build. Great job by the show creators to continue to support and acknowledge the community. I had no idea Derpy and Doctor Whooves were Brony creations.

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