Rarity, a mystical, white unicorn pony with a flowing purple mane stares back at me from my oversized plasma flat screen. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the “shows you [I] watch” according to the Netflix menu.
“But I watched it for research,” I mutter to myself. Yeah. That’s right. It was “research.”
I could just delve into the Netflix labyrinth and remove My Little Pony from my menu once and for all, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Rarity’s oversized eyes beckon me to click on her and begin the binge watching.
I try to resist giving in to the temptation to watch a show that was produced ostensibly to push plastic Hasbro dolls to little girls, but I can only hold out so long.
And I’m not the only red-blooded male drawn in by the show’s superior writing. There’s a whole subculture full of them (us?) called Bronies, plural for Brony, “a portmanteau of ‘bro’ and ‘pony,’” according to Wikipedia.
At BABSCon 2016, a Brony con at the Hyatt Regency near San Francisco International Airport, I find out that I’m not the only one who was drawn to Friendship is Magic reluctantly.
“I was never into My Little Pony fandom,” Anthony from Fairfield, Calif., tells me while wearing a blue Pegasus wing on one side and a purple bat wing on the other, with equally unmatched horns protruding out of a top hat on his head.
“I was one of those people who said, ‘I’m not going to be into this fandom no matter what,’” Anthony continues. “First three episodes, I watched it, and I was instantly hooked.”
Anthony now walks around hotel lobbies dressed as Discord, the show’s villain played by John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek), who strives to bring chaos to the magical land of Equestria.
The fandom that crept up on Anthony took hold of Loyalty Embers in much the same way. While surfing the Web, Embers found out about “all these grown men” into this “random show” about “colorful ponies.” He decided to “sit down and watch these shenanigans to see what’s going on.”
“After the first show, I was like, ‘Oh shoot. Now I’m a Brony,’” he confesses.
He binge-watched the first three seasons of Friendship is Magic in two weeks. He and his girlfriend, Kayla Massie, drove all the way from Bismarck, N.D., to be at BABSCon.
“I’m not as big of a fan as he is,” Massie offers, wearing Pegasus wings and a unicorn horn. “Just from dating him, I kind of got into it.”
Discovering that I’m far from alone here, I decide to give into my new obsession. I spring for a rainbow unicorn wig that appears to be meant for attractive young women, based on the packaging. I am not an attractive young woman, but this sort of thing never stopped a Brony before.
I spend over 20 minutes struggling to put on the wig. The horn keeps getting tangled up in the locks. I finally get the wig on straight. I am ready for the rave.
Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit in—even when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.