"BWAH!" - Hank Hill
Everybody knows that the Internet is an invaluable resource for the discovery and consumption of pornography, but you might be surprised to find out that it has other uses! Namely, it’s a great place for people with strange, disgusting, or otherwise unflattering habits and interests to meet and form communities with likeminded people who are also into weird stuff – and a great place for other people to laugh at these communities so they can feel better about themselves.
I would not know about Juggalos – the drugged out, redneck army of Insane Clown Posse fans who paint their faces like clowns and spray one another with cheap soda – if the Internet hadn’t shown me several ‘best of’ compilations of their stupidest antics. Nor would I know about Furries - if SomethingAwful.com hadn’t plunged into their message boards and posted pictures from Furry conventions, I would’ve gone my entire life without knowing that people like to dress up like animals and then have sex.
Hell, a few months ago a guy on Reddit nonchalantly mentioned that for the past three years he’s been masturbating into an old shoebox that he keeps at the back of his closet. Everyone else demanded pictures of the box for proof – because tons of people lie about that sort of thing – so he posted them, and everyone* looked, because who doesn’t love a freak show?
*I didn’t look. Admittedly, I’m curious, but I feel like I’ve built it up so much in my mind now that the picture would be a letdown. Also, gross.
This was how I discovered the Internet’s latest bizarre subculture: Bronies – or men between the ages of 14 and 35 who are inexplicably obsessed with the children’s television program My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
While the My Little Pony series in the 1980s was little more than an extended, super-saccharine toy commercial, the 2010 reboot has drawn praise from critics for its sharp writing, its message of positivity and friendship, and its well rounded cast of characters – all of whom, true to the source material, are brightly colored magical ponies with matching Hasbro merchandise.
What the critics, the show’s producers, and the eight year old girls at whom the show is targeted can’t explain is why heterosexual teenaged and adult men have been showing up to My Little Pony fan conventions in growing numbers, proudly displaying pony figurines they got from Happy Meals, or parading through malls dressed as ponies while singing songs from the series.
I wasn’t extremely popular in high school and on a day-to-day basis I still feel pretty dorky and uncool in a city full of beautiful gym rats with impeccable fashion sense, so at the end of the day, videos like this one are like heroin for me. You see a bunch of guys nerding out over a girl's cartoon show; I just hear a voice in my head saying, “YOU DON’T DO THIS. YOU ARE COOL. …RELATIVELY. YOU ARE WELL-ADJUSTED. …RELATIVELY.”
I’m not alone in taking guilty pleasure in videos of Bronies – as the Brony subculture grows, so does the Brony-mocking subculture. The Internet is a harsh mistress, and when she uncovers a weird subculture it usually isn’t too long before there’s a backlash against that subculture: Juggalos are widely mocked, while Furries have virtually been driven into hiding by a years-long hate campaign from the Internet mainstream.
As the online vitriol for Bronies grows, watching videos of their gatherings as a guilty pleasure has become almost all guilt and minimal pleasure. I don’t harass Bronies the way plenty of other people online do, but when I’ve come to the point of laughing at people who are different than I am to feel better about myself, can I really take any moral high ground over the people who laughed at me and called me a fag in high school?
The guilt only grows when you see that a lot of Bronies – particularly the older ones – are clearly autistic or dealing with emotional problems. The show’s bright presentation and messages of friendship and love seem to help them relate to other people and find friends; laughing at that is about as noble as laughing at a chemotherapy ward.
To quote the talking can of vegetables in Wet Hot American Summer, “If you want to smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass! Just be honest about it.” And God bless the Bronies, because they’re proud of who they are. When I was 16 you couldn’t pay me to prance around a mall dressed as a pony – you couldn’t pay me to do it now, either, nor will you be able to pay me to do it in 30 years, if man is still alive.
The Internet has taken to vilifying and mocking these guys because they’re brave enough to not give a shit about what society thinks men should act like – because who’s a better judge of manliness than people who spend hours on the Internet anonymously trolling people they’ve never met?
I think that the driving force behind these Internet jihads is a large pool of people like me – nerds who want to feel better about themselves – who just happen to be more aggressive and dicky about it. Hell hath no fury like an army of angry nerds blowing off pent up aggression, and unfortunately it usually winds up directed at weird, harmless subcultures who aren’t hurting anyone, like Juggalos, Furries, or now Bronies, except that Juggalos are actually a harmful subculture that does hurt people but whatever.
Interestingly, the one weirdo who escaped the Internet’s wrath is the guy who’s been masturbating into the same shoebox since 2009. He told his story, he posted his pictures, Reddit was grossed out by them, and everyone went on their way. Hell, now he’s practically a B-list Reddit celebrity – the Internet’s equivalent of Tom Bergeron.
So if you’re keeping score at home, kids, on the Internet it’s more acceptable to hoard your own semen than it is to like ponies.
Truman Capps will never watch My Little Pony for fear of enjoying it and becoming a part of the fanbase.