Brony Studies

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First Study

For many outsiders, the world of bronies is a confusing one. The thought of boys—and often times men—playing with cute My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic dolls certainly raises a lot of challenging questions.

So when researchers Dr. Patrick Edwards and Dr. Marsha Redden decided to dive into the fandom, the college professors expected the worst. What they found instead was a vibrant and inclusive community.

“We see so little data that raises an eyebrow,” Edwards told the Daily Dot. “We’re both trained to be concerned about pathology, but the data just doesn’t show that this is a pathological group.”

The clinicians began their research last summer after Edwards’ 16-year-old son son “came out” to him as a brony.

“We'd come back from summer vacation, and he announced it to me,” Edwards told the Daily Dot in January. “I said, ‘Will, what have you been up to?’ He told me he’d been drawing pictures of ponies. I had the same reaction most people do: ‘What?’”

Since then, Edwards, a Ph.D. clinician and therapist, and Redden, a Ph.D. clinical psychologist, have tracked brony psychology through two online surveys. So far, they’ve received responses from 20,000 brony and non-brony participants.

At Summer Bronycon, a three-day fan conference in late June, the researchers presented the findings of their second survey to a crowd of more than 1,000 fans. The results were about what you’d expect.

Edwards and Redden found that bronies were slightly more introverted and more agreeable than non-bronies. They tended to be more tolerant of others and bullied less often. Ninety-seven percent of brony respondents said they were single—but that was as opposed to being married.

   “Knowing someone is a brony is like knowing someone’s a college student. You don’t know about their major, their GPA, or anything about their school.”

—Dr. Marsha Redden

There’s a persistent stigma that bronies are a deviant group, despite the fact that there’s little evidence to support the notion. Redden said she’s “taken an incredible amount of grief from [her] social circle for doing this research at all” and that people don’t expect bronies to be functional. Yet, when a fire broke out Sunday at Bronycon and attendees had to evacuate, she saw firsthand the error of that stereotype.

“There was no stampede like you’d see at a rock concert,” she said.

   “This is a group that tends to be very considerate of others, doesn’t tease, doesn’t bully, and isn’t critical.”

The crux of duo’s research has depended on identifying and isolating five types of bronies based on personality traits. They found that the happiest bronies tended to come from open-minded homes with accepting, more liberal parents. They identified many of these bronies as “social bronies,” a group that made up the largest subsection of survey respondents, with 29 percent. Social bronies are the most open, extraverted of the bunch. (Edwards compares them to perky, party-loving pony, Pinkie Pie.)

By contrast, “secret bronies,” which Edwards compared this group to masked pony overseer Mare Do Well, were described as “dedicated, engaged and caring, but secret about their identity.” These bronies, roughly 28 percent of survey respondents, typically came from close-minded homes and were the brony equivalent of the withdrawn patients the two have seen in therapy for years.

“In private practice, I find a lot of young men have a lot of difficulties in their family because dad was the jock and here comes this young man, who even as a child [never wanted] to get involved with those kinds of things,” Redden said. “That’s what sends them into therapy. Not that the person is not comfortable with himself, but that he is not accepted by the people he loves.”

Edwards and Redden would argue that, when it comes to secret bronies in particular, the psychological healing process begins in fandom. Both have encountered anecdotal examples of the ways in which the community experience has helped shy or anxious young people to better adapt.

“Right as I was leaving, a 40-something gentlemen shook my hand and said, ‘I just have to tell you, the bronies saved my son,’” Edwards said. “‘My son had no friends, he was sad, isolated, and then became a brony. It just changed him. He has friends, feels self-ascertained, and has a purpose.’ As a therapist, to hear that was very confirming.”

“Any number of mothers came up to me at the convention and said being a brony has been life-changing for their teen,” Redden added. “Now they’re so much more socially appropriate and comfortable with themselves.”

For that reason, the researchers’ long-term goal is to do a longitudinal study over at least five years to see how bronies grow and change over time.

“A lot of bronies have asked us how they can help,” Redden said. “I’m getting in touch and sending them a survey every three months. We’re certainly going to be taking a look at changes in the fandom over time to see if they maintain interest and whether that interest wanes.”

In the meantime, Edwards and Redden will be wrapping up this leg of their research with one final survey. This time, instead of comparing bronies to non-bronies, they’ll be surveying the community about how it sees itself. There will also be a healthy amount of discussion on the seedier side of the community too, including pony porn.

“We’re approaching a very sensitive topic,” said Edwards. “I want to get a sense of how bronies see Rule 34. Are the creations being produced by valid community members or renegades wondering, ‘What can I do with a pony that upsets somebody?’ The community eventually has to figure out how to deal with it or ignore it, and we want to figure out how they view it.”

Their findings may alter the way the researchers view the community. For now, their biggest challenge is staying unbiased toward the bronies, whom they’ve primarily found endearing.

“About maintaining distance, I’m able to do it, but I’m on that line,” Edwards said. “If my son weren’t a brony, I would never have been motivated to do this research in the first place.”

Brony Survey

The researchers recently completed two research studies they included:

1) A study to look at factors that influence a non-fan’s reaction to MLP:FiM.

2) A series of surveys to look at what are the concerns of the fandom and what causes fans to leave the fandom

Study 1 - The Non-fan Exposure Study

          (“Dr Frankenpony makes a Brony”)


     465 (327 female & 138 male) college students from two colleges in the upstate of South Carolina and one college in Louisiana (note: only 1% of the students identified themselves as being a Brony and were excluded from the study).

1) All subjects completed an on-line survey measuring personality variables and gender stereotypes.

2) In a small group format, subjects were told about the Brony fandom and then they completed a survey asking for their initial reactions towards the Brony fandom and their thoughts about what motivate the Bronies.

3) Subjects then watched an episode of MLP:FiM (Flim-Flam episode) and rated how much they liked/disliked the episode, how they felt (emotionally) after watching the episode, the likelihood that they would watch MLP:FiM in the future and again rated what they thought motivated the Bronies.

Question: Who is more likely to watch MLP:FiM in the future after being exposed to an episode? (Note: only about 15% expressed a reasonably strong interest in watching MLP again, while 85% showed little of no interest in viewing MLP again)

The findings indicate that students who possess the following qualities and characteristics were more likely to watch MLP after watching an episode:

1) spend more time on the internet and play more video games

2) generally find the artwork and animation of cartoons to be important in capturing their interest

3) have lower Conscientious scores (less bound by rules and social convention)

4) have higher Neuroticism scores (tend to be more nervous and worried)

5) are more Open to New Experience

6) show a higher level of Trait Curiosity (generally more curious)

7) display higher levels of Absorption (ability to get lost and absorbed in experiences)

8) if they already know about MLP and Bronies (have already been exposed to the fandom)

9) display higher Positive Initial reactions to the Brony Fandom (lower Negative Reaction)

10) view the Bronies as being motivated by qualities of the show (the animation, the humor, etc.) and not by character features (being gay or immature) or problematic childhoods (playing with girl toys, not having a father)

11) rated the MLP:FiM episode as more positive and enjoyable

12) reported feeling more positive after viewing the episode

In conclusion, students who responded positively to the show displayed a unique set of personality features including : openness to new experiences, curiosity, and feeling less bound by social convention. They are also more experienced with the Internet, enjoy the artwork and animation of cartoons, and tend to become more absorbed/lost in engaging activities. In addition, they had a more positive view of the Brony fandom, even before they viewed the episode).

Given that the Brony Fandom is met with a constant barrage of negativity from non-fans (stereotyping) a second question was asked:

What influences a person’s reaction to the Brony fandom (positive or negative) and beliefs about what motivates the Brony Fandom?

The results indicated that:

Positive Reactions to the Fandom are influenced by:

1) the more a person knows about MLP and the Brony fandom (pre-exposure)

2) higher levels of Internet and video game usage

3) lower scores on traditional male gender roles (less gender stereotyped)

4) use humor in more positive (pro-social) ways

5) higher scores on trait curiosity and in the process of seeking life’s meaning

Negative views toward the motivation of the Brony Fandom are influenced by:

1) a stronger sense of meaning and purpose in their life(not seeking, but certain)

2) strong traditional male and female gender roles (strong gender stereotyping)

3) less (or no) knowledge of MLP and the Brony fandom

4) spend less time on the Internet and playing video games

Conclusions from the study results:

1) Exposing people to episodes of MLP does NOT automatically turn them into Bronies or fans of MLP

2) People who MAY develop into fans DISPLAY a distinct set of characteristics that correspond to a curious, open and less traditionally approach to life

3) Traditional Gender role stereotypes play a role in determining peoples initial negative reactions towards and negative beliefs about the fandom

4) Exposure to the MLP episode (stimulus) HAD a significant positive impact on people’s perceptions of what motivates the fandom as it tends to shift them away from a negative assessment of the Brony fandom’s motives (character flaws or negative early environment) toward viewing the Brony fandom’s motivation as being the qualities and nature of the show itself (animation, humor, etc.).

If you get people to watch MLP:FiM (exposure) they will likely NOT become a fan, however, they are likely to form a less negative (stereotyped) view of the fandom.

Study 2 – Fan and Former Fan Concerns

Subjects: 4370 Bronies and 218 Former Bronies completed the survey.

Procedure: An online survey was completed by the subjects. They were asked about their involvement in the Brony fandom and asked to rate various concerns (27 different items) about the “state of the herd.” The two groups (Fans and Former Fans) were compared on their answers to these items.

(Note of Thanks from Dr Psych Ology to the Facebook Brony groups who help him generate the initial list of concerns).

Groupings of the Concerns:

      A factor analysis was conducted to reduce the 27 items down into a smaller and more concise number of concerns. It resulted in five factors (groups of concerns):

Factor 1 – Reactions toward Other Fans (too much drama, not putting words into actions, etc)

Factor 2 – Personal Functions of the Fandom (Loss of interest, no longer useful, etc.)

Factor 3 – Reactions toward Season 3 (frustration with the season length, direction of the storyline, etc)

Factor 4 – Reactions toward Fandom (embarrassment, fandom’s size, media attention, etc.)

Factor 5 – Changes within the Fandom (loss of fans, too few new fans, etc.)

Differences between the Groups: Levels of Concerns

                                  Bronies       Former Bronies      Difference

Reactions toward Other Fans Medium High 18%**

Personal Functions of the Fandom Low Medium 10%

Reaction toward Season 3 Medium High 20%***

Reaction towards Fandom Low Medium 16%*

Changes within Fandom Low Low 2%

Initial Interpretation of the results: A review of the above table indicates that the while the active Bronies expressed some concerns (medium level) about other fan behaviors and features of season 3, it was the former fan group that found these same issues/concerns to be a significant contributor (high level of concern) to their leaving the fandom. While the fandom has no control over aspect of the MLP program (Hasbro are you listening) it can/could make an effort to call out and lower problematic (immature) fan behaviors which contribute in part to the loss of fans. The importance of the MLP program (seen in the concerns about season 3) likely helps to explain some of the overly dramatic responses displayed by fans towards changes in the show (Twilight as an alicorn). It has been our observation that many of the fans (and the fandom as a community) tend to pull back from these “the sky is falling/ the fandom is doomed” reactions when they take the time to give the changes a chance (Equestria Girls movie). It can be hoped that as the fandom continues to mature these overly dramatic responses will lessen and/or disappear entirely!

Additional Question: Are the Former Fans lost to the fandom?

What is the likelihood that you might return to the fandom? (answered by the Former Fans)

No, Lost forever - 19%

Unlikely - 42%

Possible - 32%

Yes, Definitely - 6%

What is the likelihood that you will watch season 4 of MLP:FiM? (answered by the Former Fans)

Won’t watch - 37%

Likely Will - 20%

Definitely Will - 43%

Conclusions we draw from our survey results:

1) Level of fan concerns DOES play a role in the loss of fans.

2) The Former Fan group was made up of a higher percentage of Independent (Hipster) and Mixed Bronies, whereas, the active Brony Fan group had more Social and Secret Bronies (these Bronies are drawn to the social and guidance aspects of the fandom). Therefore, some loss of “early fans” is to be expected as the nature of the fandom changes with growth and maturation. Also note: that the Independent/Hipster/ Renagade Bronies may at times be guilty of initiating negative, confrontational behavior that trigger the fan reactions they complain about!

3) Most of the former fans in this study left during or after season 3 of MLP:FiM

4) Former fans were particularly concerned with season 3 content and story lines, as well as problematic fan behaviors (drama and over -the-top fan behaviors) and changes to the fandom (growth and size).

5) However, close to 40% of the former fans might return to the fandom and over 60% of the former fans are likely to watch season 4 (give MLP:FiM another chance). Some of these self-described “former” fans may in fact represent seasonal/marginal fans who go dormant in the off season but return with the arrival of the new season.

Interview with Brony Experts

When Hasbro decided to reboot their 1980s “My Little Pony” franchise, who would have guessed that they would give rise to one of the most surprising and interesting fan subcultures on the web? The 2010 animated television series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” has garnered an extremely loyal–and as a 2012 documentary put it, “extremely unexpected”–viewership among adult fans. Known colloquially as “bronies” (a portmanteau of “bro” and “ponies”), these fans are largely treated with fascination and confusion by the mainstream media. All of this interest has resulted in a range of scholars in different fields working to understand this cultural phenomena.

Julia: Can you tell me a little bit more about bronies (and pegasisters)? How do they define themselves? How long have these movements been occurring and where are they communicating online? Do you have any sense of how large these communities are?

Jason: An important starting premise for us is that bronies attach a wide variety of different values and identity markers to the label of brony, imagining and experiencing their relationships to one another in multiple ways–sometimes even conflicting ones. Nonetheless, there are some shared histories that nearly all bronies will describe as specific to this community. Specifically, bronies as a concept unique from My Little Pony fandom arose out of the relaunch/reboot of the Hasbro franchise as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in fall 2010. Lauren Faust, particularly known to this group for her work with her husband Craig McCracken on Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, developed the idea and wrote for the show through its first two seasons, and her gender politics has a lot to do with the complex and often non-normative characterization of the ponies. Because of that, bronies will generally start with the content of the show as reason enough for being a fandom: it is smartly written and portrays a positive, socially-oriented world view. Some bronies will portray this oppositionally to other, more negative media, but at the same time, many are involved in multiple fandoms and are often fans of “darker” work as well.

In any case, the label of “brony” has a pretty specific starting point, arising out of the show’s popularity in 2010 on 4chan, which was to some extent ironic, i.e. “Haha, we’re grown men watching a little girls’ show,” though I think the irony of that moment is always overstated (since irony is a useful footing to allow a grown man to watch a little girls’ show if he so desires). Over the following year, the bronies started to overtake 4chan and were kicked out; 4chan eventually opened /mlp/ for them, but the conflict lasted for a few months and was an impetus to organize elsewhere on the web.

At this point, things get more complicated, because people who like FiM search for other fans online, but the cross-demographic appeal means that reasons for being a fan and even ways of being a fan are not necessarily shared in the way you might expect of a more homogenous group. For example, fans coming from other “geek” fandoms are used to the convention scene and fandom as a sort of genre (keeping in touch with friends online, then getting together a few times a year at a convention), but for many bronies, this is the first time they have participated in this kind of mass-mediated imagined community.

Kurt: As far as numbers go, it is really hard to tell how large the brony community is. This is partly due to the varying definitions of what makes a “brony.” However, the brony community (or communities) is quite large and very active both online and off. For instance, Bronycon, the largest brony convention, brought in over 8,000 people last year, Coder Brony’s 2014 herd census received over 18,000 responses from all around the world, and Equestria Daily is, as of now, rapidly approaching 500 million hits on their website. There are brony communities all over Facebook and Reddit (which even has multiple subreddits devoted to sorting out all of the MLP subreddits). There are very active 4chan, Twitter, SoundCloud and DeviantArt communities; brony groups on other online games ranging from Team Fortress to Minecraft to Clash of Clans; over a dozen 24-hour streaming radio stations for Brony music; and major news sites such as Equestria Daily and Everfree that link bronies to relevant information from all over the web. What’s more is that these “communities” are not discrete from one another. People bounce between platforms all of the time, sometimes between different online personas, making coming up with specific numbers very difficult.

Julia: How is your approach to studying bronies similar or different from approaches to studying other fan cultures, and for that matter, any number of other modes of participatory culture?

Jason: In a lot of ways, I don’t think the work we are doing is all that different than many ethnographic studies insofar as the basic process of participant observation is concerned. As for the field of fan/fandom studies, we have thus far not cast our work in that light, though not because of any strong feelings either way. Fandom studies has a strong thread of reception and media studies coming from a more literary and cultural studies perspective that we enjoy but it’s not our theoretical foundation (I’m thinking of Henry Jenkins’ early work, for example).

That emphasis on broad cultural production that I think is heavily influenced by the legacy of the Frankfurt School is perhaps one difference, since we are strongly ethnographic and thus more granular in our approach. That said, many scholars we might read in a fandom studies class have used ethnographic and anthropological methods as well, such as Bonnie Nardi in her great “My Life as a Night Elf Priest” about the “World of Warcraft” fandom.

Kurt: Ultimately, while we might be one of a few people researching about people and brightly colored ponies on the internet at the moment (that number is always growing), the questions that we are looking to understand and the ways that we are trying to understand them are quite similar to research coming from a long line of ethnographers dating (in the anthropological imagination, at least) all the way back to Bronislaw Malinowski. Perhaps one relatively substantial difference that we have at least been trying for, however, lies in the fact that we are trying to use the blog format to allow for more back-and-forth interaction between us and the people who we are studying/studying with than the traditional ethnographic monograph allows. While many ethnographers (such as Steven Feld in his ethnography “Sound and Sentiment”) are able to get feedback from the people they study with and incorporate that into the writing process (or at least their second editions), we have been trying to find ways to speed up that process of garnering feedback, learning from it, and using that knowledge as a means for further theorization.

Julia: You’ve stated that your blog “represents an attempt at participant-observation that collapses the boundaries between academic and interlocutor.” Can you expand on this? What are some of your goals with this blog? Why start your own blog as opposed to gathering data and engaging with bronies on their own virtual “turf,” like websites like Equestria Daily?

Kurt: One important bit of background information that I feel is important to bring up here is that Jason and I both come from fields that focus primarily upon ethnographic research, and in fact, the blog itself was started as part of a course in creative ethnography taught by Dr. Susan Lepselter that Jason and I took at Indiana University. In approaching this research ethnographically, we wanted to be able to ask questions and elicit observations from bronies themselves in addition to analyzing the various other types of “texts” such as the show itself, other websites, and pre-existing conversations. We also wanted to be clear and open about the fact that we are researchers conducting research. We figured that starting our own blog would give us the space that we needed to be able to ask questions and make observations while still being clear about our research and research objectives. Through our interactions with people on social media sites and on places such as Equestria Daily, it has been our hope that the blog becomes a space that is part of different bronies’ “turfs,” where they can go to interact with us and each other and discuss different aspects of being a brony.

As far as our attempts to collapse the boundaries between academic and interlocutor goes, one of the things that drew us to the brony community in the first place is that they are already very involved in theorization about themselves and about the show. They talk about what it means to be a brony, provide deep textual analyses of the show and its themes, and grapple with the social implications of liking a show that some people think that they shouldn’t. Rather than us going into the “field,” collecting data about bronies, and then returning to write that information up in an article to be published in an academic journal, we hoped to create a space where we can theorize together and and where all of the observations and ideas would be available in the same space to serve as material for more conversation and theorization.

Jason: Another way to think about this is that there is nothing more brony-like than to start a space of your own online. As Kurt has recounted above, bronies have been quite prolific in their production of cyberspaces for communal interaction, and not all of them are big like Equestria Daily. Of course there are always the YouTube stars and Twitter celebrities of any mass-media fandom, but the more mundane spaces are equally important, and the process of making a website, maintaining a Twitter profile, etc.–in short, creating a presentation of self as brony researchers amongst other people similarly engaged in a presentation of self as bronies–has been invaluable in our experience of the “participant” part of participant-observation. We both have web presences, as most bronies do before they join the fandom, but many choose to create fandom-specific identities, and that means anchoring those identities somewhere; we’ve in part chosen to anchor our brony-related identities on the website.

With all that said, we do spend a lot of time investigating bronies in other spaces and in less explicitly theoretical ways. We live-tweet (tweeting comments about something as it occurs) new episodes from time to time, which is a really fun experience that lets us interact with both fans and show staff alike. I have drawn fan art and Kurt has made fan music that we have shared via Twitter, Reddit and our site.

So we like to think that we are doing both things at the same time. Of course it is important for anyone doing anthropologically informed ethnography to meet people where they are and explore their lives as they lead them, but at the same time, many fans have shown an interest in a space where they can read about and join in conversations that marry explicit theorization with personal observations of their fandom, and the “Research Is Magic” blog produces a hybrid narrative framing that we found was not previously existing in either academic or brony fandom spaces.

Julia: One of the reasons bronies as a group are so interesting is because they appear to subvert both gender and age norms. But you argue that “an analytical orientation that positions bronies as resisters trivializes their rich social interactions and effaces complicated power dynamics within and peripheral to the fandom.” That’s some dense language! Can you unpack this a bit for us?

Kurt: Essentially, our argument here is one against the tendency to find resistance and subversion and then get carried away insisting on interpreting everything about the group in that light. There is certainly some very interesting subversion of age and gender norms going on in the fandom, but bronies are not only, or even (I would argue) primarily, resisting. Most bronies that we have talked to don’t think of themselves as being oppositional, but instead as simply liking a show that they like. While it is both productive and interesting to look at the ways that bronies are resisting gender norms, it is also very easy for academics to fall into the trap of casting everything in that light, limiting the rich and complex social interactions of bronies to a romanticized narrative about bronies rising up together and resisting the gender stereotypes of larger society.

Jason: Resistance as a concept works because of a binary opposition: X resists Y. However, multiple competing discourses may be at work and are probably not all aligned to one another. For example, earlier this year, a North Carolina school kept a nine year old boy from bringing his Rainbow Dash backpack to school because it was getting him bullied by other students. On one level, the reasoning on all sides is obvious. To the other boys, a boy wearing “girly” paraphernalia is ripe to be bullied. The school counselor wanted to ensure the boy’s safety, so removed what was believed to be the problem. Some parents were concerned that the boy was being punished for simply expressing himself, and that the bullies should have been punished instead.

So, while each person appears to act in resistance according to a particular discourse of meaning, and each person may have a particular narrative, the entire scenario is complicated by these competing ideas of masculinity that intersect with ideologies of personal freedom and liberty. Rainbow Dash (the character on the backpack), for example, is clearly written as a “tomboy” character–good at sports, adventurous, daring and 20 percent cooler than you. If a boy was going to pick a character to identify with that does not break existing standards of masculinity, she would be the one; thus, insofar as male fans identify with her, they’re also identifying with characteristics that don’t challenge their heteronormativity. But she is also the one covered in rainbows, and that has a particular valence as a form of non-heteronormative imagery (e.g. LGBT rights symbolism). In short, there is a density of meaning attached to Rainbow Dash that complicates people’s responses, though I would argue that it’s that complexity and density of meaning that allows different groups to be drawn to MLP in the first place.

Kurt: The ways in which people are using the show in relation to gender norms further complicate things. While in many ways bronies are challenging gender norms through their liking the show and re-defining ideas about masculinity, in other ways many bronies are super heteronormative. While they like a show that some people think is for girls, their argument is less about the fact that gender norms need dismantling than it is about the fact that the show is written in a way that is appealing to heteronormative men and that men can still be manly while liking MLP. The World’s Manliest Brony, for instance, while going against gender norms in some ways by embracing MLP and re-enforcing the manliness of giving charitably, also reinforces them in others–leaving many ideas of masculinity intact but drawing MLP into the list of things that can be manly.

Julia: Psychologist Marsha Redden, one of the conductors of The Brony Study, stated in an interview that the fandom is a normal response to the anxiety of life in a conflict-driven time, saying “they’re tired of being afraid, tired of angst and animosity. They want to go somewhere a lot more pleasant.” Likewise, a lot of what you talk about on your blog has to do with the positivity of the actual show, how each episode has a positive message and emphasizes the importance of friendship and other values. It feels very rare that we hear something positive about bronies from the mainstream media. Can you talk a bit about this? What draws adults to the show, and to the community? What do you make of the moral panic surrounding Bronies in the mainstream media?

Jason: At the risk of sounding a little persnickety, I’d like to suggest that we invert the way we think about such causal explanations. Explanations similar to Dr. Redden’s–basically, some version of the idea that the world is a rough and cynical place and that MLP presents an alternative space, no matter how delimited or constrained, that is more trusting and open–are pretty common within the fandom as part of people’s personal narratives for why and how they became bronies (obviously, this is not true for everyone, but it’s clearly a fandom trope). In anthropology itself, scholars like Victor Turner and Max Gluckman have suggested that certain carnivalesque (to borrow Bakhtin’s term) rituals act as a kind of “safety valve” for a society to release its pent up frustrations and conflicts without destroying the order of things, and some version of that idea is laden in Redden’s theory and that of many bronies. There are many bronies who see involvement in fandom and watching the show as that safety valve.

But there are many others who narrate their experience as simply watching a show that they like–just like any other show–and, to their surprise finding outside resistance. Indeed, we don’t expect people to explain their affinity for most elements of popular culture. You need not justify why you watch “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones.”

The fact that causal explanations that answer why you are a brony are central to the narratives of many bronies does not really indicate too much about their truth value, but they are a useful indicator of where society draws its lines and how people who find themselves on the wrong sides of social lines create meaning based on their situations. Here, I’m drawing heavily on Lila Abu-Lughod‘s ideas about resistance as a “diagnostic of power” that points us to the methods and configurations of power (“The Romance of Resistance: Tracing Transformations of Power Through Bedouin Women,” 1990). In this case, bronies (and researchers) find themselves having to produce narratives that can explain why they have crossed norms of gender and age appropriateness, even if they don’t live by those norms themselves. Jacob Clifton in “Geek Love: On the Matter of Bronies” does a great job arguing that, being the first generation raised by feminists, of course these young men don’t see any difference between Twilight Sparkle or Han Solo being their idols.

Kurt: Ultimately the fact that bronies have to justify why they like the show is in many ways coming from the fact that they get such negative press and draw such negative stereotypes. We haven’t done too much to tease out what actually draws people to the show, although we’ve seen many people give many different reasons as we’ve gone about our research–the good writing and production, the positive themes, the large and thriving fan community, having friends and relatives that like the show, that they just somehow liked it, etc. I’m not sure that there is necessarily one, or even a few, things inherent in the show or the fandom that draw people to it any more than there being something inherent in basketball that makes people want to watch it. There are a lot of really complex personal, psychological and socio-cultural things at work in personal preference and the reasons people give usually seem to explain less about why they like something (I couldn’t tell you why I like Carly Rae Jepson or George Clinton) than they give culturally-determined reasons why it might be okay for them to like it.

Julia: Right now you have the benefit of both directly looking for source material on the open web, and having it come to you (through participation on your blog). Given your perspective, what kinds of online content do you think are the most critical for cultural heritage organizations to preserve for anthropologists of the future to study this moment in history?

Kurt: That’s a tough one, as even with our research on bronies I feel like everywhere I look, I see someone joining the Brony research herd with a new and different focus. Although we try to do a lot of our work by talking and collaborating directly with bronies, we’ve dealt with Twitter exchanges, media reports about MLP, message board archives, brony music collections, the show itself and just about anything that we can find where people are exchanging their ideas about the fandom. Others have dealt with collection of fanfics, sites dedicated to discussing MLP and religion, fan art, material culture and cosplay, and just about anything else you can think of. I’m always finding people who focus upon and draw insight from archives (both in the sense of actual archives and in the super-general sense of “stuff people use as the basis of their research”) that I would never have thought to use.

This being said, as someone that primarily studies expressive culture (my degree is from the department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology), I tend to place a lot of importance on it. The amount and quality of the music, art, videos, memes, stories, etc. floating around within the fandom has never ceased to astound me and was one of the primary reasons that I became attracted to the fandom in the first place. I feel like these bodies of creative works–from “My Little Dashie,” “Ponies: The Anthology,” and “Love me Cheerilee” to the Twilicane memes and crude saxophone covers of show tunes –are very important to the fandom and to those that want to understand it as scholars.

Jason: Broadly speaking, anthropologists have taken two approaches to describing the lives of others to their audience. The first is like a wide-angle lens, allowing someone to get a sense of the full scope of a social phenomenon, but it has trouble with the details and the charming little moments of creativity and agency–like fan-created fluffy ponies dancing on rainbows or background ponies portrayed as anthropologists studying humankind. Archival work needs that little-bit-of-everything for context, but it also needs a macro lens that can capture more of those particular and special moments. In anthropology, it might be akin to the difference between Malinowski’s epic “Argonauts of the Western Pacific”–a sprawling work that tried to introduce the entirety of a culture to us–and something like Anthony Seeger’s “Why Suyá Sing,” which performed the humbler, but no less impressive, task of letting us experience the nuances of a single ritual.

Since we can’t archive every little thing to that level of detail … we have to make choices, and that’s where bronies themselves are the best guides. What moments mattered to them, and “where” in cyberspace did they experience those moments? For a concrete example, the moment Twilight Sparkle gained her wings and became an alicorn princess (she was previously just a unicorn…thanks M.A. Larson) was particularly salient in the community, suggesting for some fans Hasbro’s stern hand manipulating the franchise. While there are some other similar instances, the unique expressions through Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. during and immediately following the Season 3 episode “Magical Mystery Cure” (when that transformation occurs) provide a really important look into what holds meaning for this fandom.

On a technical level, I think that means being able to follow links surrounding particular events to multiple levels of depth across multiple media modalities.

Julia: If librarians, archivists and curators wanted to learn more about approaches like yours what examples of other scholars’ work would you suggest? It would be great if you could mention a few other scholars’ work and explain what you think is particularly interesting about their approaches.

Jason: One place to start is to consider what the cultural artifact is and what it is we are analyzing, interpreting, preserving, archiving, etc., because it is not, ethnographically speaking, simply media that we are studying. As Mary Gray has insisted, we should “de-center media as the object of analysis,” instead looking at what that media means and how it is contextualized. For the archivist or curator, I think that means figuring out how people come to understand media and how they attach particular ideologies to it. Ilana Gershon’s “The Breakup 2.0″ and her work on “media ideology” broadly are great examples of shifting our attention so that we can hold both the “text” and “context” in view simultaneously.

Another example is danah boyd’s recent study of young people and their social media use, “It’s Complicated,” in which she inverts older people’s assumptions that teenagers’ social media use is crippling their ability to socialize, instead arguing that the constant texting and messaging indicates a desire to connect with one another that is born out of frustration with the previous generation’s (over-)protectiveness: truancy and loitering law, curfews, school busing, constant organized activity, etc. She arrives at that conclusion not only by studying teens’ messages, but by analyzing the historical conditions that produce the very different concerns of teens and their parents.

Kurt: As far as our approach goes, we’ve also been influenced by scholars working creatively with ethnography as a form or working just outside of its purview. We’ve brought up Kathleen Stewart’s “Ordinary Affects” in our blog and academic papers several times because it has been extremely influential upon both of us through its attempt to understand and express the ordinary moments in people’s lives that, while not unusual, per se, seem to have a weight to them that moves them somewhere in some direction–the little moments that are both ordinary and extraordinary, nondescript and meaningful. Susan M. Schultz’ “Dementia Blog” also comes to mind. While it isn’t necessarily an ethnography, per se, Schultz utilized blogging and its unique structural features (namely, that newer posts come first so that reading the blog in order is actually going backwards in time) as a means of looking into the poetics and tragic beauty of dementia while also expressing and understanding her own feelings as her mother’s mental illness progressed.

Jason: We are not too familiar with scholars who are interacting with fans in precisely the way that we are (or whether there are any), though it is important to be aware of the term “aca-fan” (academic fan) in fandom studies and some of the works being produced under that rubric. Henry Jenkins titles his website “Confessions of an Aca-Fan,” for example, and writes for an audience that includes both scholars and people interested in fandoms in general. The online journal Flow is another example that is somewhat more closely related to our blog, expressly attempting to link scholars with members of the public interested in talking about television. I’m also personally influenced by the work of Michael Wesch and Kembrew McLeod, both scholars who attempt to engage their students and the public in novel ways using media and technology.

Extra Research Report.

In the basement of Webster Hall, 200 fans waited for Hey Ocean to take the stage. It was the Canadian band’s third show at the East Village venue, and at 10:20 p.m. on a Monday evening, the crowd was getting restless. Toward the back of the dimly lit room, 20 fans were clearly segregated from the rest of the group.

“When I say 'Hey,' you say 'Ocean!'” screamed one man with a ponytail, facial hair and an open flask. “Hey!” he cried. “Ocean!” the group responded. An orange pony-shaped stuffed animal flew into the air. “Brony! Brony! Brony!” they chanted.

A dozen more "bronies," adult fans of Hasbro's animated TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, made their way to the back of the room, heeding the call to gather. Together they looked a little out of place at the indie-rock concert hall. They wore mostly black, save for the rainbow-colored slogans emblazoned on their t-shirts. A few fans held colorful plushies — stuffed animals modeled after show’s pony characters — and on the background of almost everyone’s phone was a screenshot from the cartoon. They were all there to see the lead singer of Hey Ocean, Ashleigh Ball.

Ball voices half a dozen characters on My Little Pony, and she and her band have made appearances at BronyCon, an annual convention for adult fans of the show that was founded in 2011. Hey Ocean is scheduled to headline Fiesta Equestria, another brony convention, in Houston in June — something they make no mention of on their website. Though the indie-pop act is popular in their hometown of Vancouver, the show in New York was part of their first full-fledged U.S. tour. It has been made possible by the number of brony fans who will pay to see them perform. Or rather, pay to hear the voice of Applejack, one of Ball’s characters, sing in real life.

Bronies grew in number as soon as the TV show rebooted in 2010. With the help of websites like 4chan and Reddit, and to the surprise of the show’s creators, the cartoon became increasingly popular with males aged 13 to 35. There are now over 20,000 bronies around the world, according to the grassroots “Brony Study,” conducted by Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden, two psychology professors at the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, respectively. The survey found 86% of bronies were male and the average age was 21, a stark difference from the show's target demographic of young girls.

Edwards and Redden were drawn to the a-stereotypical phenomenon on two levels: age and gender. They wanted to identify personality traits that define the fandom, about a third of whom they call "social bronies," who hang out beyond the computer screen and are unashamed of their bronyism. Redden said that most bronies tend to be optimistic, upbeat and open to new experiences, but they're not one big homologous group. In fact, the pair have identified five distinct types of bronies.

They continue to study bronies and have added two more researchers to their team. "Some colleagues think we're silly and that it's not worth the effort, but we don't have any indication that the fandom is doing anything but growing," she said. "To a degree bronies are better-adjusted than non-bronies. They have a ready-made family."

Some say brony popularity can be credited to the New Sincerity movement, which refers to music, film, literature and fandoms people gravitate toward without postmodern irony or amplified hipster-dom. The work of indie musicians Cat Power and Conor Oberst, and filmmakers Wes Anderson and Pedro Almodóvar has often been categorized as such.

Above all, though, bronies claim to like My Little Pony for one reason: It’s good.

Some bronies believe online fandoms are a way to fulfill the millennial generation’s desire to escape. Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter series and, most recently, the Kickstarter-backed Veronica Mars revamp have fostered fan fictions, subreddits, meme generators and hundreds of Tumblrs.

XZen Marlow, a lady brony — a term some females fans use; others call themselves pega-sisters — doesn’t really participate in the in-person brony community in New York. The 22-year-old used to "actively lurk" on Reddit brony forums, but is now less involved. To a degree, Reddit is a boys’ club, Marlow said. A mean one at that. But she found the brony threads to be more accepting and forgiving than other subreddits devoted to male-oriented fan crowds. Even 4chan, known for its misogynist undertones and cyber bullying, has become a safe space for bronies to connect. The themes in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are simple — friendship and self-confidence — and the online communities that support bronies reflect that.

“Our generation has a lot to deal with in life,” Marlow said, “We’ve had to deal with the cruddy-ness of progress, the changing economy. The early two-Ks have a gutter of pop cultural gross-ness. It’s post-9/11. Everyone’s been diagnosed with chronic depression, ADD, an eating disorder.” She paused and touched an emerald streak that stood out against her dark hair. “We like to pick up and go to a different world.”

That's a sentiment echoed by Charles Sporn, a 21-year-old student at City College, who came to the show with an orange plushy he intended to give to Ball. He postulated in a recent school essay, “One could easily see the entire brony phenomenon as a backlash against the fear that was so deeply instilled in the generation who were unlucky enough to have 9/11 bisect their young lives.”

With the growing popularity of Pixar movies and adult-oriented cartoons, it’s become easy for people her age to “extend our adolescence,” said Marlow, especially online. Her first fandom love was Harry Potter. A tattoo on her left forearm pays homage to Severus Snape, one of the series’ main characters.

“If you’re dressed like a wizard, even online, there’s not much room for confrontation,” she said. “The same goes for a room full of ponies.” Bronies of All Stripes

Not everyone at the concert was there because of My Little Pony. Columbia University student Deborah Stack came to see Hey Ocean alone. She'd been waiting to see the band live for six years and got to the venue early so she could squeeze her way up front for all three opening acts.

Stack had seen bronies fawn over Hey Ocean on YouTube and Facebook. “I’m really glad Hey Ocean has a fan base of bronies, if that makes them able to come to New York and tour,” she said. “I’m not into the show. I would never go to a con, it’s not for me.” She paused. “It’s a little too fanboy.”

The lights went down and Ashleigh Ball came out on stage, accompanied by three men in flannel. In ripped tights, short shorts and messy blonde hair, she began playing the flute and kicking at the ground. With tambourines, upbeat guitar chords and lyrics like, "Sing until you have no voice," and "You make me want to dance," it's not surprising that Hey Ocean's music has become a soundtrack to the positive brony lifestyle.

“Ashleigh Ball! Ashleigh Ball! Ashleigh Ball will rock the hall!” called out the bronies in the back. One young man held onto a Build-a-Bear carton containing a pony from the make-your-own stuffed animal company’s new line of Build-a-Ponies, made especially for fans of My Little Pony. It was a gift for Ball. In fact, all the plushies in the room were birthday presents for the lead singer.

“She’s given us so much,” said Ed Goodwin from Merrick, N.Y., who came to the show with woodcarvings he'd made for Ball and her bandmates. “It’s only fair we give something back.”

Goodwin, 30, had been a Hey Ocean fan long before he’d been a brony. He found Hey Ocean on Spotify and went to one of their first New York concerts in May 2012. At the show he met a few bronies who suggested he go to the next New York City meetup.

“To be honest it was like I was on a different planet,” he said about being at his first brony event. “No one argued. Everyone got along. At BronyCon, there are people there from all over the world and they all got along. That’s what the show represents.”

In between meetups Goodwin keeps in contact with the friends he’s made, via Skype, Twitter and brony forums like Stay Brony, My Friends. “The friendships I made here are so much better than the ones I made in school. I could never relate to people in high school,” he said. “Now I always have something to talk about.” Power in Crowds

As soon as the set ended, half the crowd swarmed the backstage entrance. Bronies petted other fans’ stuffed animals. One young man had brought a binder full of My Little Pony trading cards for Ball to sign.

The crowd deepened; not all were bronies. “If I don’t get to meet her because of all these bronies, I’m gonna be pissed,” Stack said. In a sudden rush, everyone pushed forward and a tiny blonde head became visible. Goodwin stood up against the stage and started to take the woodcarvings out of their envelopes. Sporn clutched his stuffed pony a little tighter and wrapped both arms around it so he was holding his elbows. A few flashes went off from camera phones, and within moments, the crowd erupted: “Happy birthday to you!” they sang in off-key verses.

Ball reddened and smiled. She held onto a plush animal someone had gifted her. “Thanks, guys,” she said. “It was yesterday.”

Interview with Brony Researcher Joshua Reyna

Jason [JRN]: Can you briefly describe what you have been working on in your brony research?

Joshua [JAR]: I am currently working on the habitus, or in other words the habits of the bronies. How they are formed, when are they used, and why they are important. I have found that by watching and partaking in the fandom of My Little Pony the bronies have made an entirely new habitus that rejects the usual male habitus (showing no emotion, being rough and tough) for one that embraces love, affection, and friendship. That is what fascinates me, and how they combat the negativity produced by the media and close minded people. Note the next part of my research might cause a little bit of anger in the group. While studying the habitus, I noticed that there were in turn fields or (areas of struggle for resources) in the fandom. Now I understand the weight of what I am saying but from general observations there does seem to be a struggle. I have generated at least 6 economic, prestige, cultural, artistic distinction, gender, and media. The problem with using field as a concept is that there can be an indefinite number of fields, so I tried to concentrate on what I thought was the most important. Now each of these fields has struggles over different types of resources. Economic being money, cultural being goods, and knowledge, prestige being status, artistic distinction being between what is obscene and what is sacred, gender is self explanatory, and media being who is viewed, and who has the most degree of freedom. Although there might not be a struggle that is seen, it is taken for granted. But like I said this is merely an explorative study where I am merely exploring the conflict, it is still up for debate on whether I am witnessing this or just making something out of nothing which is a critique of Bourdieu himself. Either way by doing this little paper for class I was able to take my first steps into the bronies!

Kurt [KB]: Jason and I have both talked about Bourdieu quite a bit on this blog and in our papers at conferences, but have focused more on habitus, doxa (to some extent), and general ideas of distinction than on the concept of fields, so it is really nice to see you working with Bourdieu and with this concept. It is certainly a useful tool for looking at the different areas of conflict that arise within areas of the fandom (Down with Molestia comes to my mind here as one of the more striking examples) and the way that different types of capital (social, cultural, economic, etc.) can circulate within it (allowing people to become “fandom famous”). In your paper, you mentioned that you distinguished these six fields; could you go into a bit more detail about how you saw things playing out in/between these different fields?

JAR: The way I saw things happening played out in very basic manner. Of course there are hundreds of variants on how to draw fields, so i went with the basic square and rectangle approach. As I had mentioned before there is the dominated, and the dominators. So at the top of the field we have the bronies. Now in order to find most my information on where if any there was a struggle I had to quickly grab it off of websites. I found a few places that indicate that there was a struggle for legitimation by the female fans aptly named “pegasisters”. In some cases new viewers as well.

JRN: Since most of our readership probably hasn’t read much Bourdieu, can you tell us a little more about what a “field” is in your own words? Why not some other terminology? Context? Social frame? etc.

JAR: The problem with Bourdieu which I learned from my colleagues and professor was the nature in which he based his work. In an effort to distinguish himself from other theoretical frameworks he developed different terms that more or less sound like other ones. Fields is one of his concepts which is just a social area where struggle happens. It can be anything really which is another weakness we found. The kitchen in Mcdonalds where manager, customer, and crew member work together can be seen as a field. Struggle in this case means resources. Now there is an assumption that struggle is taking place. Sidebar: More about fields Bourdieu’s usage of the term “field” is both very specific to his work and also really ambiguous. Basically, it is an abstraction to distinguish the boundaries of analysis based on some set of criteria that defines the relationships between the agents (in other words, the people) acting in relationship to one another and through their existing habitus. Together, habitus, capital (things holding value of some sort), and field constitute the “practices” of a person or group of people. For example, being a male brony probably requires a fairly open orientation towards gender ideology (habitus), but if you don’t have access to television/computer in some form or another (capital), you can’t be a part of the community. With those two things in place, your relationship and interactions with others, brony and non-brony alike, constitute a field of interactions that could be considered your practices as a brony.

JRN: Can you talk more about your conceptualization of “struggle” here? Different scholars have had different ideas of how different groups of people with unequal “power” (that is, unequal distribution of capital based on whatever measure of capital you’re interested in) interact with one another. Struggle, resistance, and conflict are different than, say, Gramsci’s idea of hegemony, in which the different groups maintain the social order in mutually reinforced ways but in which the dominant group has ideological primacy. Moving away from scholarship, somes bronies would say that whatever it is they are doing, they are expressly trying to NOT struggle against one another. What do you make of the ideological claims of bronies for friendship and camraderie vis-a-vis your model of struggle?

JAR: Working with Bourdieu, I stuck with his notions of struggle, which in this case would be over capital. Whomever has more of a certain type of capital has more power. I think even some of the struggle happens from SOME wanting to sort of keep the Brony subculture as a private members club. Again in this case the culture portion of the square represents that. The more knowledge for example the easier it is to get inside. Culture can than be translated into economic gain by selling things, or running a successful youtube channel.I chose to work with Bronies after reflecting on what type of thesis I can produce, so i stowed this project in my mind for quite a while until I got a chance to work with it. Going into this class, I knew how hard it would be to find struggle especially since the “friendship is magic” is one of the core ideas. I point that out actually in my paper that field may be weak when concerning the bronies because of this. There seems to be some struggle in areas like the fanfiction, or who sees it at least. From jumping back and forth between EquestriaDaily, and the mlp board on 4chan I began to notice how two popular types for fanfiction were viewed. Going back to the Bourdieu this would mean the art was obscene, but not the normal sense of the word, but here obscene meant it got a limited amount of views. This is presented in my drawing of the fields by having so-called obscene art, and consecrated art separated on each side.Now forgive me my ignorance of much of the sites, I didn’t have much time to do some hard core research as I would have liked. By far gender was the hardest one to work with. As i would have preferred to find or interview more females, but had to settle on small journal articles, and quotes.

JRN: Speaking of your research, could you talk a little bit more about your methodology?

JAR: My preferred method at the moment is Quantitative analysis, but I am a jack of many trades. For this one, had the project been longer i would have developed an in-depth survey of which I would have interviewed several bronies. But I had to settle with content analysis. Which means i scanned several websites for the content posted, the language used, and what was being talked about. Since I was somewhat familiar with bronies, their language, and a little bit of the show it really helped. It also helped that I had two close colleagues advising me every step of the way. The worst thing had to be citing my information. I found this really good article about sexism in the fandom, but the creator did not put his name down. I eventually tracked him down on deviantart but he never got back to me. That is actually would lead me to the stateoftheherdcensus, and in turn you guys.

KB: So… you watched the show, you took a close look at different websites and message boards, and you found these six major fields that you see.

JAR: Actually it was more but I could not find a way to shoehorn them in. For example I was going to put one dedicated to media. At which point I felt like my paper was becoming a bit cluttered.

KB: As you said, you can draw innumerable fields within any given context. There are also only so many things that you can talk about in a term paper. I’m assuming that you chose these six because they interacted in ways that you thought were significant and worth talking about in the limited space that this particular paper provided. You’ve mapped them out quite nicely as well. What do you feel that looking at the fandom through these specific fields provides us in terms of a means of understanding the fandom and what is going on within it? Is it the ways that they interact with each other that you are looking at? If so, what were you able to discern?

JAR: Honestly I feel this does a disservice to the fandom. Basically I had to find, and in a way to create struggle. There might very well be select males who want to keep it all male. Just as well artists are more than likely not competing, but things like “artist of the week” kind of implies a certain competition. Being a collector myself of movies, and statues I can sometimes be a little combative when it comes to knowledge. But that certainly is not the case. The class agreed that I could have enhanced this paper with a clip from the show. But when I presented the paper everyone was more intrigued on how someone could be attracted to a pony, which was such a small section of my paper. Yes, I wanted to see how they interacted. Once again it was kind of hard reading these words, I would have much rather listened at a convention or gathering. My city has a local meetup group that plays the tcg but they didn’t have a meeting scheduled that would have allowed me to observe them.

FiM Season 2 Cast

JRN: When setting things up on axes of feminine/masculine or deviant/non-deviant, one useful question to ask ourselves is for whom do those axes exist and in what configuration? For example, it appears on the surface for many people that My Little Pony is unquestionably a girls’ show. But at the same time, all the shows you’ve mentioned were things I and many other young men and women grew up with and probably didn’t see as gendered, or if we did, it didn’t keep us from viewing them. Powerpuff Girls in particular had a fan-base that well exceeded the “intended” demographic. Given that, no boy who watched PPG and now watches MLP is going to think of MLP as a girls’ show, even if everyone else around him does. How do we separate out the axes of distinction of bronies themselves from “everyone else”?

JAR: Hmmm good question. Well the first thing that comes to mind is how society pretty much decides what is appropriate for “boys” and “girls”. Even within the bronies themselves there are distinctions. Distinction defined by taste/like in a particular pony. If I had a favorite pony it would be Rainbow Dash, that would conflict with someone who likes AppleJack.

KB: And both of those conflict with the truth that Fluttershy is best pony.

JAR: If i knew how to do that upward arrow in word, i would do that right about now. It comes at actively participate in recreating them. What’s truly incredible in my opinion is how the creators have responded to this influx of male fans. By tossing in shoutouts, or cameos they actively invite the male audience. To me that is huge.

What I dislike is the fact that taste for one comes with a distaste of another. With the bronies at least, there is not much in fighting over who is “best pony” but i think just typing that will create some good dialogue in the comments. Going back to fields, I feel like i have highlighted the most adequate ones, and any thereafter would create some clutter. Finally at the top lies gender, which encompasses much of the fandom. After all they aren’t called Bronies for nothing. For me at least, and my colleagues it served as an excellent way to understand the fandom, by introducing some areas of conflict that is, and how people translate their knowledge of the show, or in some cases artistic qualities, and possessions into economic gain, or even fame within the community. Obviously there is much more of a complex system here than many would give the fandom credit for.

KB: So, just to wrap things up, you’ve just started your work with this community and, from the sound of it, are hoping to start getting more in-depth and settling in on what you want to look at and how you want to look at it. You finished this paper and it sounds like you are thinking about moving in a different direction with your future research. Where are you planning on going from here? What have you learned from this past project and how is that informing what you are thinking about looking at in the future, both topically and theoretically?

JAR: Yes, this was my first step into the world of fandom studies, and I must say it really opened my eyes to things. To be honest i will probably go with my original idea of performing a full integration into the culture, of the My Little Pony fandom. From there depending really. Like i mentioned before culture, although one of my larger interests takes a side position to my main (the sociology of death and dying). But I am always looking for ideas for papers. Kind of one of the bad sides of being in academia, is you have to cater to your advisors’ interests, in this case for me quantitative work. Rest assured I won’t leave this behind I had way too much fun between interacting with you and Jason, or just learning about the community it was a real blast. I think i may move into the more deviant side, or even maybe looking at the gender ideology portion, but the best thing is how many things can be done. The sky is really the limit here. Hopefully we can start recruiting more Brony academics. I look forward to seeing big things from you two.

Sources Early Study Results Just another brony study Brony psychology 101: What 2 researchers discovered How Many Bronies are There? Research is Magic: An Interview with Ethnographers Jason Nguyen & Kurt Baer Bronies: The Colorful Side of Millennial Escapism Interview with Brony Researcher Joshua Reyna