My Little Pony’s Great Big BroNYCon
This is the part that most amazes me about brony fandom, the hardest for me to wrap my head around: why has My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic triggered a tsunami of fan creativity, from reverent homages to irreverent (but loving) send-ups, in both amount and quality beyond anything ever seen before? (Ponies: The Anthology 2, a compilation of these pieces fills close to two Sunday afternoon hours.)
Bronies have produced animation indistinguishable from the show’s; they’ve written stories and made videos that delve into themes of loss and loneliness, far more emotionally intense than the show itself could ever explore; others have turned the Ponies into grotesque parodies of themselves. (John K himself would have a hard time topping the horribly, tastelessly funny “True Equestria Story” expose of Pinkie Pie as a dissolute celebrity.) They’ve sliced and diced show songs and footage into video mash-ups and dubstep remixes, or ponyized well-known visuals (The “Mad Mares” version of Mad Men’s opening titles is absolutely identical to the original – except for the ponies)…
The only word that comes to mind is protean: there’s some intrinsic, ineffable quality to the show and its characters, a universality that speaks to every brony personally and individually, in their own voice – and inspires them to answer back in fluent Pony…
It’s Sunday and John de Lancie is onstage. John voices ‘Discord,’ a portmanteau beast-villain with powers and abilities not unlike his Star Trek character ‘Q’ (and cast for precisely that reason). The connection did not go unnoticed by the bronies who immediately made de Lancie a MLP:FiM celebrity.
With his neatly trimmed, salt and pepper beard de Lancie could pass for Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World. (Did I mention I have a friend who posts on YouTube as “The Manliest Brony in the World”?) In case we didn’t already notice it he opens his jacket wing-like and reveals, to the audience’s great delight, his BRONY tee-shirt.
de Lancie’s no stranger to voice work; his stentorian tones have been heard in the Assassin’s Creed video games, Young Justice and in the uber-weird Invader Zim. “One day I got a call from my agent to do a cartoon show,” he recalls. “I looked at the script and thought ‘wow, this is pretty well written.’ I went in and did the show. They said ‘it’s great to have you on the show Mr. de Lancie, it’s for” – de Lancie’s voice shifts into a droning mumble; at the time he didn’t give the role – or even the show’s name – a second thought.
“I did the show and completely forgot it. About three months later I turned on my computer and there were 400 E-mails [after the show had been broadcast] – and I’m not happy.
“I begin reading one of them, and on top it says ‘My… Little… Pony.’ I asked my wife what is this. She said ‘it’s a program for little girls.’
“‘These aren’t little girls’ I thought, but what are ‘bronies?’ A friend named Mike asked if I was interested in being part of a documentary on the subject and I said I’m just sort of an interloper and it would feel strange.
“That weekend I was in Vancouver at a Star Trek convention and a bunch of people came up to me and said ‘we’re bronies.’ There must’ve been a hundred of them. I listened to their reasons why they liked the show and they were really good reasons. I began to get a sense that this was the beginning of a new fan base – and it was forming around the Elements of Harmony.”
I have to take a paragraph or two to explain the Elements of Harmony, the positive values at the heart of the show’s mythology. It’s right there in the subtitle: “Friendship is Magic.” To put it as simply as possible, each Pony personifies one of the Elements:
Applejack – Honesty
Fluttershy – Kindness
Pinkie Pie – Laughter
Rarity – Generosity