Why Grown Men Are Obsessed With ‘My Little Pony’

(Memphis) Hundreds of adults in the Mid-South are part of an international phenomenon, of adults obsessed with the cartoon, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”

Often called “Bronies,” the fans are usually adult men, but also include adult women.

The show they watch is referred to as the fourth generation of “My Little Pony,” a show that premiered on The Hub network in 2010.

Fans say the bright colors, sleek lines, well-written script and music make it very different from the old TV shows and movies some remember from the 1980s and 1990s.

The Brony fan base has grown so much that Brony panels at comic conventions are often standing-room only, to the point where there are now some stand-alone Brony conventions.

“I started watching out of curiosity. I saw people posting on my Facebook, and you know, I would never watch something like this. It sounds so stupid,” Brian Waller said.

But Waller, who lives in North Mississippi, gave it a try and got hooked.

“A lot of times people grow out of the cartoons, but a lot of them can still be good when you get older. I don’t think you have to stop enjoying what you enjoy,” Waller said.

Waller knows that many people will raise eyebrows at this particular interest, because it is meant for little girls. But he looks at the show in the context of a well-executed piece of art.

Many Bronies are also fans of other comics.  Waller enjoys watching “Dr. Who” and “Star Trek”. One “Star Trek” actor, John DeLancie, is also the voice of one of the “My Little Pony” characters.

Waller said that there are often adult themes in “My Little Pony,” which some may not expect. There are references to “Dr. Who” and “The Big Lebowski”, for example.

In terms of plot, “when you defeat the bad guy, that doesn’t mean you have to have a tea party with him,” Waller said. “One [villain] was turned to stone. Recently, one was literally destroyed into pieces. There wasn’t blood or guts or anything. Not that kind of violence. But more violence than you would think that a show called ‘My Little Pony’ would have.”

When the Mid-South Facebook fan page grew to more than 100 people, Waller asked if they would like to meet up. Thus began their monthly gatherings to watch the latest episodes, share their drawings and plush toys they made themselves.

At the January meet-up near the University of Memphis, Jeff King said that the show reminded him of shows he grew up with in the 1990s.

“The music is really good. There are a couple of songs I don’t care for, but most of it I enjoy,” King said.

In fact, fans around the world have taken “Pony” music and created their own covers. They’ve created their own drawings, clothes, and toys, all shared on fan websites and sold at conventions.

Waller said often the music covers will be done in other genres like blue grass, acoustic, heavy metal or death metal, and posted on sites like www.equestriadaily.com.

Another fan, Noah Kelley, said, “The characters have a lot of depth. The voice acting is high quality. The scripts are written well.  The stories are not boring, little girly things. It’s actual compelling storylines.”

Of course, many of them know there’s a stigma to men watching a show for girls.

“If there’s someone in the group that’s a gay man, then that’s, whatever! We don’t turn you away because of your race, your sexual orientation, or your religion,” Waller said.

Among their group, there are men and women, artists and retailers. Waller himself works for FedEx.

He said that it’s a lot like the criticism girls used to get for playing with G.I. Joes. And he said while this may be a little strange, so is attending a sporting event with paint all over your body and face.

“It is a little weird, a little strange. But weird and strange doesn’t have to necessarily mean bad,” he said.