For several years, the brony phenomenon has continued to gain steam. The idea that grown heterosexual men could enjoy a cartoon about ponies aimed at young females seemed truly revolutionary. But, why was it so revolutionary? No one bats an eye at women who enjoy Transformers or Marvel comic books. This brony phenomenon would be an excellent case study for those academics involved in gender studies because I believe it says a lot about how we in the West view gender roles.
First, it shows how we typically view things, especially shows, designed for women as being innately inferior. If something is good, it can be surmised that it is good for everyone. But to argue that “girl” shows are exclusive to girls and “boy” shows can be enjoyed by everyone implies a strong inequality. Many female orientated shows such as Sex and the City are viewed as banal, silly, and not to be taken seriously. A true man doesn’t watch female shows. Relational drama such as that in Downtown Abbey is viewed as being “girly” and not for true men. And finally, the happy go lucky spirit of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic is viewed as feminine and not for men, whether if they are young or old.
It says a lot about our society that the first insult people give to bronies is that they are homosexual for enjoying this show. Homosexuality among males in the west is associated with effeminacy and weakness. No one would call Clay Aiken manly. But this idea about homosexuality is not universal. In other countries, the “hard gay” stereotype is more prevalent. This is the idea that muscular men who love to show off are more likely to be homosexual. I can’t think of any strong gay male characters in mainstream Television. Even in Modern Family, Mitchell and Cam fit the stereotype of the rather feminine gay men(Cam’s love for football aside). Thus, when men enjoy something that is more “feminine” our first instinct is to believe they are homosexual since in the West effeminacy is associated with homosexuality.
The idea that heterosexual men can enjoy a delightful show intended for little girls but made well enough to draw in a larger audience, directly challenges the very ideas of gender the West has built up. It is understood that men hate everything feminine(minus sex with a woman), so the very idea that some men love the magic of friendship dumbfounds some people. Could Friendship is Magic eventually erode what people think men have to be in order to be “masculine?” I believe this would be an excellent thing. Throughout the feminist movement(of which I appreciate some things and dislike others but more on that later) there has been one constant, women have challenged the idea they had to fit certain gender roles to be a woman. Why should not men also challenge the gender roles that society has built for them?
And on a more basic level, why spend so much time talking about what it means to be a good man or woman instead of talking about what it means to be a good person?
Also, Twilight is the best pony.