A t-shirt on the shelves of Walmart has caused an uproar among a vast community of young American men who deem it to be inaccurate, irresponsible and, frankly, a mockery of something they know and passionately love.
The shirt in question features images of Firefly, Posey, and Applejack — characters from the classic 80s cartoon popular among girls, “My Little Pony.” So why would something like this offend thousands of teenage or 20-something men?
Meet the Bronies — a predominantly adult male fan base that avidly follows “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” a 2010 re-launch of the “My Little Pony” series.
The Walmart t-shirt reads “I love Bronies” and features ponies from the 80s version of the cartoon, not the more modern series and its new characters, which are responsible for igniting the Bronies fandom.
“This is the biggest fail in history,” one Brony said of the shirt in a comment thread on Equestria Daily, a website entirely dedicated to Bronies.
To understand this anger, one must first understand what it means to be a Brony. The rapidly-growing subculture baffles those on the outside and is often labeled as creepy. Bronies consistently battle stereotypes that they are gay, perverted or immature virgins who live in their parents’ basements and dedicate their lives to a little girl’s cartoon.
“I think it’s sad people think that,” Adam Atlas, a 22-year-old student at Fullerton College in California, told Metro. “Admittedly, I thought it was weird and stupid when I first heard about it, but I pretty much did a complete 180-degree turn on that.”
That’s a common theme among countless fans who never expected they’d too become Bronies after watching their first episode.
“I thought, ‘Hey this is pretty good. I will watch another episode.’ And then I thought, ‘Hey that’s pretty good, too.’ So then I watched another, and another,” Atlas said.
What is it about this show that converts young men (and some women) into wildly loyal fans? For Atlas, and most other Bronies, it’s the captivating animation, the appealing characters and the creative story-telling in teaching viewers simple life lessons, like don’t judge a book by its cover.
“It’s quality that you don’t see in a lot of shows these days, like in reality TV crap,” Atlas explained. “What do you get from that?”
Atlas predicts the Bronies will become more accepted as the following, which already numbers in the hundreds of thousands, garners even more fans.
“It’s kind of like what ‘Star Trek’ went through back in the 70s, but now people are perfectly fine with it,” Atlas said. “It’s kind of like growing pains.”
Atlas ranks being a Brony as his third favorite fandom after ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’, but before ‘Harry Potter’ and Disney. He spends at least a half hour each day looking at Brony sites like Ponychan. He likes to browse the thousands of pony artworks created by other Bronies or watch fan-based music videos. Though he said it’s not always easy to find other fans to hang out with because many are “closet Bronies,” he does plan to attend a Brony convention in L.A. in the coming weeks.
Atlas, a Brony since February, doesn’t fully understand the fuss amongst Bronies over the Walmart shirt.
“It’s a pretty big screw up on [Walmart’s] part, but also, it’s just a shirt — get over it,” he said.
While he made light of that particular situation, it was clear that Atlas takes his role in the Brony community extremely seriously in other respects — like the possibility of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” someday going off the air.
“That would be a loss to society,” he said.
Follow Cassandra Garrison on Twitter at @CassieAtMetro