Friday, January 10, 2014

My Little Pony, Bronies, Pegasisters and Judgment, Judgment Everywhere

About two years ago, I was cleaning out the toys in the basement with the hopes of donating some that weren't played with anymore.

I eyeballed the basket full of My Little Pony characters and thought maybe it was time. My oldest daughter, Freckles, had played with them when she was younger but hadn't touched them in months. My younger daughter, Mini-me, never had any interest in them at all. 

I brought them up the stairs and was immediately met with opposition from Freckles. Instead of getting rid of them all, they were rushed up to bedrooms and tucked away safely in closets. Mini-me started to play with them again too. 

It wasn't long before I started catching them watching the show online. Freckles adores Pinkie Pie. Mini-me is the human version of Twilight Sparkle. They decided Little Boy is just like Spike, and he agrees. Apparently, I am Princess Celestia.

Pinkie Pie
Freckles

Twilight Sparkle
Mini-me
Last spring, my husband signed up to volunteer at Comic Con. You should have seen the look on the girls' faces when he told them both that there would be a MLP panel at the Con.

You should have seen the look on all of our faces when we attended the panel, only to discover that my daughters were very much in the minority. The vast majority of the fans filling the room were grown men.

I had heard of Bronies before that day, but didn't really understand what it all meant. I had no idea how dedicated this fandom was until I saw it with my own eyes.

Hundreds of them, many dressed as their favorite ponies, most of the rest wearing shirts or hats, cheering and hollering as the creators took the stage. Grown men dressed as toys designed originally for little girls?  Really?

Then I got over myself and saw it for what it was.

Just another fandom.

This particular fandom just happens to be about friendship and magic instead of aliens or zombies or superheroes or football players. It's really not any different, people just perceive it to be. 

Well, people outside the Con, anyway. When we were actually there, no one picked on anyone else. Not even a little bit. Cons are, in many ways, my vision of what the world should be like all the time. People embracing what they love, no one judging anyone else, everyone doing their own thing. No one is threatened by anyone else, total strangers walk around congratulating each other on their dedication.

It's pretty freaking amazing.

Since the Con, all of us in this house, myself included, have fully embraced our inner geeks. We've attended other Cons, we've accumulated a sizable table game collection, we've dressed up as characters from Star Wars for Halloween and so much more. Then my husband came home all giddy one day. They were releasing a MLP CCG and he wanted to know if he could get them for the girls for Christmas.


For those who aren't familiar, CCGs are Collectible Card Games. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of cards available, packaged randomly in foil packs. Over time, you accumulate a deck of cards to play against opponents with. The rare cards are highly desired and the game is as much about collecting rare cards as it is about winning. 

It didn't take long for my husband to start building his own deck. And pick his favorite pony, Fluttershy. At first it was just about helping teach the girls how to play, but it quickly became obvious that he liked the game. Instead of trying to kill your enemy, you work to solve problems. He even got Fluttershy card sleeves for his deck.


The lone holdout in the family was The Oldest. He caved after the girls became obsessed with the game and went to a tournament last weekend with Dad. It didn't take a lot of convincing for him. I mean, there is a Dr. Whooves pony, after all.


All the boys in this house are Bronies. All the girls, Pegasisters. And we're just fine with that.

When the Bronies documentary came out on Netflix, we watched it. Of course we did.

I firmly believe that all parents should be forced to sit and watch it, for a few reasons.

First, because as parents, we should be encouraging our children to find what they are passionate about and supporting them in it, even if it isn't necessarily something that we understand.

Second, because there is a rampant double standard about fandoms in our society. I'm going to call the NFL a fandom, and I'm going to say point blank that if it's socially acceptable for women to love football (a sport that grown men get paid to play), then there is not a damn thing wrong with men and boys loving My Little Pony.

Third, because parents need to wrap their heads around the fact that their children aren't theirs. We are charged with raising them, not dictating anything about what they love or who they become as adults. Get over the idea that you get to decide this stuff for them. Seriously. Parent/child love is supposed to be unconditional...but actually unconditional, not conditioned on whether or not they adore Rainbow Dash.

There is an entire discussion about gender and societal expectations that is vital to this conversation. As a society, we don't blink an eye when boys want to play aggressive sports, violent video games, when they misbehave and we chalk it up to "just being boys"...but the second they express interest in anything having to do with human interaction, with friendship, with loyalty, with happy ponies, we question not just their motivation, but often their sexuality too, shaming them in the process.

WHY??? WHY DO WE DO THIS???

And yes, I'm yelling.

What would you do differently if you knew that no one would judge you for it? If we spent more time encouraging boys to connect with these very necessary aspects of their personalities, if we told them it was okay to cry instead of shaming them, if we told them it was okay to be angry and frustrated, that it was okay to ask for help from your friends, that it was a gift to be surrounded with people who support you, don't you think we'd be making steps towards having a generation of men who were less likely to suppress their emotions as adults?

How exactly would that be a bad thing?

It wouldn't.

Not at all.

Don't be so sure that something is weird until you've tried to understand it. And don't for one second think that a superfan with a painted face blowing $1000 on tickets to a football game is any less crazy than a guy wearing a rainbow mane.

We're all crazy in our own way. Own it. Don't hate on anyone else for what they love.

Fly your freak flag. Always fly your freak flag.

4 comments:

  1. Love this! Trin is HUGE into MLP right now, and she's a total Twilight Sparkle, too. The show annoys me, but less than most other cartoons do. I just can't deal with watching cartoons (high voices and bright colored lights on animated shows give me migraines). We have several MLP books, and they're pretty cute, as far as they go.

    Glad to see you all embracing your inner Brony! I love that you've gotten the whole family on board. Josh has been bugging me to go to some of the local Cons around here for years, but we've waited while the kids were small. Now that they're a bit older, I'm excited to check them out.

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  2. Consider it flown... flying...

    Great piece. The only difference of opinion is over the "their children aren't theirs." My children are mine. They don't belong to the neighbor. They belong to my wife and I. They belong with us, in our home. We as parents rent' here to control. We're here to teach them, guide them, support them and love them in EVERYTHING they do... They are a part of me and a part of my wife; a biological bit o' awesomeness from our shared families. We belong to them. We are theirs, Just as they are ours.

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  3. have I told you lately how much I love you? AWESOME piece........

    flying my flag and raising a boy whose favorite color is pink~ and he is confident enough in his own skin that no matter what other kids (and sometimes asshole adults) say about how 'weird' it is ~ he just politely explains that it's his favorite color and he doesn't care how weird they think it is



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