This One Weird Thing: Bronies, Anime & Social Disorders
I know a lot of weird things. This column explains why.
by Christa Weiss
The first time I heard about how they had revamped My Little Ponies, I was appalled…but not in the way that you’d think. Seeing the once chunky ponies from my childhood, now, slimmed down and stylized instantly pissed me off.
‘Oh!’ I thought. ‘Seriously? Now ponies have be skinny and hot too? Bratz dolls were one thing but holy shit. I refuse to let a cartoon pony make me feel fat. I quit society.’
…and then a few weeks later I ran across some of those pictures of My Little Ponies having sex with each other and suddenly the whole anorexic pony thing seemed a lot less important.
For those of you that don’t know, the children’s cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become a recent phenomenon, mainly because it has become massively popular among adults. Adult men. Generally speaking, the same types of adult men who also obsess over anime and comic books. If you know anything about those types, know this: They take that shit and run with it.
The college I went to, as we’ve previously discussed, was filled with insane people. (RIT was half an art school, half tech school, and shared a campus with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.) Many of the people I went to school with, were nerdy techy types/anime fans and savants, many of who were obviously on the Autistic spectrum.
I had a friend who belonged to anime club. He said on the first day the club’s president gave a speech, in which he closed with, “When you guys come here, you HAVE to shower. FIGHT THE STERIOTYPE!”
The thing is, that was not a weird thing to say, at all. I’ve experienced more than one roommate horror story about some computer programmer kid who never left the room, fascinated over anime and video games, and didn’t shower. Kids got kicked out of school more frequently for playing video games all day and not going to class than they did for underage drinking. The art kids were the normal ones, which if you know anything about art kids, is fucking insane.
Be it lack of social awareness or just plain laziness, for some reason, computer programming/anime/not showering really seemed to go together. There were relatively normal kids that liked that stuff too, (my friend being of them) but not many.
The interesting thing is that what most of these kids specialty was, is essentially, minutia. Lines of code, hours of video games, obsessively drawing the same anime characters over and over, writing fan fiction, making elaborate costumes of the characters (cosplay), and even going so far as learning Japanese, so they wouldn’t have to read subtitles. These types of interests are perfect for people with obsessive personalities, because there is a virtually endless amount of information and material to ingest and obsess over. A perfect outlet, for someone with Autism.
I’m not saying that everyone who likes anime/video game/comic books has a social disorder, but like with anything, there is a certain personality type it draws in.
I myself am a big fan of animation, sci-fi and comic books and I too, have my own special brand of craziness.
All this brings me back to Bronies and social disorders…
I first learned of the Bronies from my comedian friend, while I was drunk in a bar after a comedy show. He isn’t a himself a Brony but, like me, is a big fan of animation. When he mentioned that the animation itself was extremely well done, and the creator of the series had also worked on some critically acclaimed animated series (The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends to name a few,) I immediately became interested. Also, those ponies having sex with each other pictures started to make sense…Kind of.
I dashed home and did what any self-respecting person in need of content for a humor article would do. I watched a Netflix documentary.
Specially, I watched Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony and then I watched a few episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which also happed to be on Netflix.
Oh, the things I learned, friends. The things I learned.
The documentary follows a few Bronies and one Pegasister (lady Brony). A lot of the things I saw are typical of any kid who is super obsessed with anime: A lot of cosplay, fan art, fan fiction, theme song remixes, and figurines. Reiterations upon reiterations of the same thing in different ways. Much if it, mind you, was very well done.
The kids that they interviewed were what grabbed me. While only one of them was labeled as autistic, another kid, clearly had something going on, if not by his attachment to inanimate objects, then psychological scarring as a result of his mother’s ridiculous bouffant hairdo. Regardless of whether his struggles were undiagnosed or simply unmentioned, his issues were obvious. And, lets be clear about this, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, initially at least, was aimed at teaching little girls about good behavior, friendship, social interaction, and how to get along with others. There’s an episode about the dangerous of jealously, for example. The animation quality is fantastic, the characters well designed, and the writing is good…for a kid’s show.
So what exactly, that draws adults, particularly people on the spectrum to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?
It wasn’t the rainbows and glitter that the kids —men with social problems liked. It was the lessons the show taught. The kids with Asperger’s claimed it relaxed them and taught them about social interactions.
“As a person with Asperger syndrome, I learned more about theory of mind, friendships and social interactions from this season than I had in the previous 31 years of life.”
– Luke Allen, Brony/Computer Programmer1
And this totally makes sense, if you know anything about Autism.
Which I do.
Enough to make educated guesses at least.
Aside from going to college and living with numerous amounts of people who were on the spectrum, during college I used to be a classroom teaching assistant for kids with special needs. I ran across kids with disorders of all types, the majority of whom had Autistic/Aspergers. I also have several friends who work with kids with special needs, as well as my mother. It just always been something I’ve been around .
So, no, I don’t have a degree, but I do have some life experience. You remember life experience, right? It was that thing that existed before Wikipedia.
In case you need a refresher, here’s the Web MD definition of *Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism.
The mildest form of autism, Asperger’s syndrome (AS) affects boys three times more often than girls. Children with AS become obsessively interested in a single object or topic. They often learn all about their preferred subject and discuss it nonstop. Their social skills, however, are markedly impaired, and they are often awkward and uncoordinated.2
Generally, the way most kids with Autism or Asperger’s are taught to interact socially is through rules. Lots and lots of rules. While they don’t pick up on social cues that many people find obvious or understand the why of the rules, kids will understand that if they follow the rules, their social interactions will go more smoothly. (ie: When I greet someone I should make eye contact and shake their hand.)
That might be a bit over-simplified in regards to education and treatment of people with Autism, but come on guys, I’m writing an article about fucking ponies.
The message of the show is why adults Bronies with social disorders are drawn to it. The show is basically a step-by-step guide on how to be a happy person, with lots of friends, who gets along with others. Because it’s only been in the last few years that we’ve really gotten a grip on treatment for said disorders, many adults with Autism may have missed out on proper treatment. Not only that, but the community itself provides a large amount of likeminded people and an endless amount of material (art, cosplay, music, fan fiction etc.) to mull over.
After I reached that conclusion, I visited a few Brony blogs and deviant art sites…and then for awhile I got lost Googling old school My Little Ponies, and then My Little Ponies that were also mermaids and after that My Little Kitties which were a spin off of My Little Ponies and then, awash with nostalgia, I realized that I work at a marketing firm, and for all intents and purposes, I am dead inside.
But, I still had a mission. I needed to experience it all. Heroically, I went back to where it all started. Pony porn. The documentary, completely glossed over the fact that there are a bunch of gross weirdos drawing horrific things out of my once cherished childhood toys.
I found a Reddit site with some of said porn, saw a pictured of a pony with giant bulbous genitalia, which was being gang-banged by a bunch of other ponies with equally giant bulbous genitalia …
…and realized I was waaaaay in over my head. Holy shit. Ewww.
I do have a couple of theories regarding Brony/cartoon porn, which may or may not hold any weight. Gross cartoon porn of all kinds resides deep within the outskirts of much of anime and comic book culture, so this, in itself, is nothing new. The whole Brony thing does seem to take a particularly nasty turn, because aside from being, ya know, horses, the personalities they depict are supposed to be that of children…
SO THERE’S THAT.
Clearly this is too much for me to tackle is just a couple paragraphs on a humor website, but it’s defiantly something worth revisiting, if I’m not blinded by the horror that is pony dick first.
Aside from the gross equestrian porn outliers, Bronies, in general seem pretty okay in my book. Defying gender norms is pretty cool and if watching the show teaches you something about life, I say, go for it…and maybe let those non-Brony anime kids in on it too. It could certainly help. Is there an episode about personal hygiene? Start with that one.
Am I myself, now a Brony…nay, Pegasister? Honestly, after watching a few episodes, (aside from all the pretty colors) I was bored, pretty much immediately. I will say this: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would be fantastic to watch on mushrooms.
…And if you’re just some regular dude, not a little kid or someone one with a significant social disorder…I mean…
What are you some fucking weirdo?
1. Wired Magazine: My Little Pony Corrals Unlikely Fanboys Known as ‘Bronies’ by Angela Watercutter
2. Web MD: Autism Spectrum Disorders