Tag Blog: Being Different, Being Hated

Tag Blog - Series 1
Tag Blog is an idea inspired by TAGJournal and Dr. Susan Lepselter at IU. We write blog entries about the My Little Pony fandom, then ask someone else in the community to write a follow-up and tag the next person in the chain. There are currently two concurrent series, one started by Jason (Series 1) and another by Kurt (Series 2).

This is a guest post from Series 1 by Benjamin Turner and follows “How do you teach the magic of friendship?” by Jason.

Being Different, Being Hated

by Benjamin Turner

my-little-pony-friendship-is-magic-brony-think-different[1]

I can’t say I was able to collect any of the same lessons from Sailor Moon that Jason mentioned in his post.  You see, I mostly watched the North American dub, where Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were recast as cousins (and Zoisite as a woman).  It’s interesting that audiences here wouldn’t tolerate gay characters in a children’s show, while in Japan and elsewhere it was no problem.  For all the talk of how our American society values individualism, certain differences are still not widely tolerated.

I’ve always felt as though I was different from most people.  I’ve been a geek as far back as I can remember.  As a kid, my favorite musician was Weird Al.  (He’s still in my top ten, of course.)  I started playing RPGs in middle school.  (Amazingly, that’s how I finally got the girl – I know there’s a lesson for the kids there.)  And I finally discovered (and rapidly became obsessed with) anime in high school.  These are just a few of many, many examples.  I never felt alone because there were always other geeks who I was friends with, but we were a tiny minority.  And although I was self-confident enough, thanks to my loving and accepting mother, to largely ignore it, I was not oblivious to how we were disdained – by some other students, by mass media, and by society in general.

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All that said, I’ve also always been a straight, white, middle-class male.  “Trekkie” and “Dungeons & Dragons” might have been looked down upon widely enough to be the punch lines to jokes, but they were not the sorts of things that would elicit really serious prejudice.  No professor ever suggested I couldn’t have a future as an engineer.  No one shoots dirty looks if I hold hands with my spouse.  I’m not watched like a hawk while just out shopping.  People might have thought I was a bit strange, but no one was going to judge me as worthless to society or inherently damaged because I own a replica of Xena’s chakram1.

Then I became a brony.  Suddenly, mainstream2 news outlets are reporting on what a creepy scumbag waste of space I am.  I see in the documentary how bronies in some places are threatened with physical violence.  There are people who truly hate us.  And I would argue that it’s not for what we choose, but for who we are.  Yes, we choose to continue to watch the show, buy the merch, and participate in the fandom, but we didn’t choose to love it in the first place.3  That’s just part of who we are.

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What I have chosen is to take a positive lesson from this hate by refusing to perpetuate it.  I’ve never really been one to judge people for being different from me, but I now make a concerted effort not to, and even to call out those who do.  So you’re a furry, or a Twihard, or you prefer D&D 4th Edition?  Okay.  That’s not my thing, but so what?  Not only has what I call “geek-on-geek violence” got to stop, but more generally, too many people spend too much time hating others just for being different, then trying to justify that hate with bullshit excuses.  I was getting pretty sick of this already, but nothing drives a point home like personal experience.

 By the same token, it’s made me less tolerant of intolerance, and a bit more confrontational where that’s concerned.  (This is probably good, because I’m often far too non-confrontational.)  The reason I want to wear MLP swag, for example, is just the same reason I want to wear Star Trek swag: I like to express myself and my interests through what I wear (also Pony is so happy I like having something from it around at all times).  But the reason I allow myself to do so is because if someone has a problem with it, it’s their problem, not mine.  To me, they’re simply being small-minded, and I have no interest in accommodating that.  It may not be likely that I’m going to change anyone’s mind this way, but hiding who I am is a sure way not to do so.

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As far as personal growth, I’ve gotten some things out of the show and I’ve gotten a lot out of the fandom.  I guess, loath as I am to admit it, I’ve even gotten something out of the haters.  (Namely, that they should knock it the hell off!)  It’d take a better man than me to know why humanity needs these constant reminders: “Do unto others…” “be excellent to each other,” “if you embrace each other’s differences, you just might be surprised to discover a way to be friends after all.”4  But I’m glad there are people out there willing to keep giving them.

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  1. The good one from Creation, not the crappy one from Icons! 

  2. The majority of these have a clear conservative slant, but at least by circulation, many are pretty mainstream. 

  3. Geek ambassador Wil Wheaton expressed this really well at Denver Comic-Con 2013: http://youtu.be/yMrIrYzdybw?t=1m26s 

  4. Twilight’s letter to Celestia, S1E8, “Look Before You Sleep” 

9 thoughts on “Tag Blog: Being Different, Being Hated

  1. The show has definitely made me more conscious of other people’s choices and a lot more tolerant of those choices when they are strictly personal preference. I’ve met many eclectic people through this fandom. I’ve met people who are gay, lesbian, trans, furry, cloppers, or any other thing you care to think of, and I realize that they’re doing what they want just the same as I am, and none of us are hurting anyone else in the process, so why do people get to bent out of shape over it?

    I’ve always been upset by intolerance but I agree that as I swing further towards tolerance, seeing intolerance begins to grate on me more than it has before. That being said, I think that we, the bronies, need to make absolutely certain that we can differentiate between what is a preference and what is intolerance.

    I see over and over again where someone says they don’t watch the show, and they get dogpiled by bronies trying to convert them. While I don’t see anything wrong with casual word of mouth, I think we need to be really careful of crossing that intangible line and becoming pushers. Other people can choose not to watch the show just as we choose to do so, and that’s ok. We don’t need to make everyone in the world watch ponies. I absolutely think the world would be a better place with a little more pony in it, but it isn’t for us to try to force it upon people who don’t want it.

    As to the media… here again I don’t really see any changes from what they’ve always done. As a middle class white guy I’ve gotten use to the media demonizing everything that middle class white guys do. Does anyone remember the Duke lacrosse team? The media does whatever it can to try to promote scandal, because scandal is what sells them air time. We’re unfortunate enough to sit at a scandal conjunction, because not only are we going against age expectations, we’re going against gender norms and societal norms, ‘and’ because most bronies are white guys they can bag on us for that too.

    Personally I see it as business as usual for big media, but anyone who actually takes the time to get to know the community has had nothing but good things to say. I point you to this article, written the week following BronyCon.
    http://citypaper.com/news/what-8217-s-so-funny-8216-bout-peace-love-and-bronycon-1.1532075

    There are a slew of other positive articles about bronies in many news outlets, but even with positive coverage beginning to emerge society can’t help but wrinkle their nose at us. We’re different, and everyone fears change. Don’t let it get ya down. Hang out with your own, go to meetups, and take comfort in the sure knowledge that anyone who really knows you is gonna like you for you, even if you like candy colored ponies.

    1. Yes, bronies absolutely need to recognize that not every non-brony is a hater. To me, the line between personal preference and intolerance is obvious: it’s human dignity. If someone doesn’t like My Little Pony – a TV show – that’s personal preference. If someone doesn’t like bronies – a diverse group of people – that’s intolerance. It seems a safe assumption that no one has met every single brony, so even if they’ve had a bad experience with some, assuming we’re all the same is stereotyping, plain and simple.

      That said, I think the motivation driving bronies who get annoyingly pushy is more basic. I think they’re just so wrapped up in how happy the show makes them, they can’t imagine anyone else not feeling the same way. That the show isn’t just “enjoyable” but specifically elicits these emotional responses is, I think, why this might be a bigger issue for bronies than it is for other fandoms. But I admit now I’m very much playing armchair psychologist.

      I’m sure at some point we’ll have a whole post and long-ass comment section on how bronies are portrayed in the media. I actually feel coverage has been trending positive over the last year or so, but there’s still more than enough extreme negativity (Weekly Standard’s hatchet job on BronyCon stands in stark contrast to that great one from City Paper) for me to feel under assault.

      1. Totally agree about the obvious line. The two things are very clearly different, one is a preference and the other is a negative stereotype. I just wish other people were a little more clear on that divide. A few days ago someone got invited into our FB group my mistake. He apologized to us, said he was removing himself, and asked to not be invited back because he just wasn’t into it. Seemed like a pretty reasonable thing to me, but some of the responses were… not exactly mean, but just kinda rude. I’m not sure it was called for.

        I went through a pushy phase right after I fully embraced the show. I made this big flashy post on FB and emplored everyone I knew that they just had to give this thing, unusual as it was, a chance. I think you nailed the motivation too, I wasn’t trying to be pushy, but I had found something completely unexpected that had turned out to be so wonderful, and I wanted to make sure people were aware of it in case they wanted to try it too.

        It didn’t work out so well. I only got a handful of responses, one from my mother questioning my sanity, and another from a friend complimenting me on my masterful trolling. Then after attending BronyCon and learning at the Brony Study panel that only about 15% of the population are even willing to ‘try’ the show, I figured it was a losing battle. My stance today is a little more subdued. I won’t be the one to bring it up in conversation, but I don’t hide it and I’m happy to talk about it if someone asks.

        I’ve found that this stance helps me a whole lot out in regular society. From time to time I may forget that I have a pony shirt on when I go out, but I don’t bring it up and so far nobody else has mentioned any of them in a negative light. I’ve even gotten compliments from friends I didn’t think were fans, so it’s actually worked out rather well.

        At the end of the day you gotta find your own balance. Read the situation and tailor yourself to suit. If you’re around other fans, go crazy with the pony talk. If you aren’t sure if someone will be receptive, let them direct the conversation. If they know you and they’re interested, they’ll ask you about it.

    2. What you say here is interesting. I’ve noticed a similar thing happening to all fanbases and “cult” things (I use cult in quotes because there is a negative connotation to the word). Its like whenever a new religion springs up. There seems to always be some group of people trying to force it down other people’s throats. Sometimes in unfortunate extremes.

      I personally like the evangelical way of doing things myself (not only for the show but for other things I like as well). By that I mean just going out and expressing myself with whatever I’m doing wherever I am. If people are interested then I tell them about it. If not then I don’t worry about it. Its their choice. I think that’s how it should be done not just for My Little Pony, for everything.

      I find the idea of other fandoms for other shows hating on other people kind of interesting (I’d like to say “ironic “here but I don’t think that’s the right word) and a little hypocritical. Especially because most of those shows and movies have episodes or themes dealing with tolerance of others and their differences.

      Star Trek (all incarnations of it) is a good example. The crew of the Enterprise have to deal with all sorts of aliens from other planets. The crew itself is also a mix of races and beings from other planets. Same with Star Wars. I think part of the second movie’s subplot between Han Solo and Luke was the fact that one didn’t believe in the Force. (Although that could have been Family Guy’s interpretation. Its been a while since I’ve seen the original movie and the Family Guy parody is still kind of burned into my brain.) There are many other examples in the shows we watch just like that. I think people should all take this into account and stop the hypocrisy.

      Of course, that’s my opinion.

  2. I have been in familiar positions.
    Everything about me suggests “Typical white heterosexual male in his mid-20’s”. Granted, I do have Asperger’s, but I only received that diagnosis after I had already graduated from Graduate’s School (adding a Master’s Degree in Film on top of the two Bachelor’s I already have in History and Drama Studies). I had my own “out there” things that I liked.

    I was still watching Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon well into my High School years and after I started College, I got incredibly into Anime as well. Even my taste in music is kind of out there compared to most people. I enjoy listening to Power Metal, Country, Classic Rock, Folk Rock, and Traditional Celtic music. It makes for a very interesting play list on my music player when it’s on shuffle. I’m massively into Sci-Fi series, particularly “Doctor Who”, “Star Trek”, and “Star Wars”. I love all these things and no one bats an eye at it. I even had plenty of friends who I could discuss these things with.

    Yet, I immensely enjoy one little TV show that’s outside my age group and gender and suddenly I’m crazy. I’ve mentioned that my brother and sister think I’ve gone a little nuts because I enjoy this show. For the most part, I haven’t tried to convince my brother about anything, as he’s kind of wrapped up in the whole “It’s a show for little girl’s thing”. He also doesn’t quite understand why I enjoy shows like “Gravity Falls”, “Regular Show”, and “Adventure Time” with the same passion and enjoyment that I can enjoy the HBO shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire” (of which we share interests). Those two shows are more for someone in my demographic, yet I still watch my children’s cartoons.

    There was even a moment with an old friend of mine. We were having drinks at a bar and he started talking about people he had been on a trip with discussing “Adventure Time” and how he watched a few clips and found it somewhat enjoyable. I just made a rather blanket statement about how there now “shows for 11 year olds being discussed by 20 year olds online”. Out of nowhere from that, he said that there was no way anyone would get him to watch “My Little Pony”, adding that he tried to watch a clip and couldn’t see the appeal. I said nothing, having not made it open that I enjoy the show, and just nodded. That is until he said that he “Couldn’t understand why the Rainbow one sounded like Zza Zza Gabor”. Well, I had to correct this little nitpick and ask if he watched the right clip, even saying that he seemed to have watched G3, where that description matched that Generation’s Rainbow Dash, and saying “Are you sure it was Rainbow Dash and not Rarity?”

    This got me a shake of the head and a “Freaking Brony”, before the conversation moved elsewhere.

    Another friend also asked from Googling the context of a quote I put on Facebook just what was up with me and those ponies.

    And there was one party that I went to during Grad School. Someone was taking a general survey of the partygoers asking what their favorite TV shows were. The usual responses were being given: “Breaking Bad”, “Walking Dead”, “Dexter”, “Mad Men”. Well, when she got to me, I was quite drunk. Had I not been, I would have said something like “Doctor Who”, which while different from the usual responses still seemed more typical for a guy in his 20’s. But in vino veritas, and I replied with “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. Yeah, that got me some stares and an awkward “I think I went a little crazy some time back…” before I backed away and waited until the conversation changed.

    One final bit comes from someone who you’d think would be a little more receptive of it. I had spent some time, close to an hour or so, discussing “Azumanga Daioh” and “Lucky Star” with someone. I view these two series as part of the reason I was able to get into the show so easily, so I off-handily mentioned my enjoyment of the show. Yeah, turns out he didn’t care for the show. Had to awkwardly change the conversation yet again.

    It’s just so nuts how there are a variety of just as nerdy things that I can enjoy without anyone saying anything, but this is what gets me stares. Hell, I have reason to believe that my mother even threw out one of my pony shirts. I had placed it in the regular laundry instead of washing it myself thinking that just like my “Regular Show” shirt I’d get it back. I haven’t seen it since I did that back in May. When I bought a 2nd shirt, I made sure to separately wash that one so that I’d be able to hold on it (especially since I had to order it online and it features Queen Chrysalis, one of my favorite characters).

    So yeah. I basically have no one in real life I can discuss it with. I’m kind of hoping that my other brother might have had a turnaround or at least would be more open minded, seeing as he said that in one of his classes a presentation derailed into searching for Pony vids and since there are a lot of good ones out there…

    Those are just minor examples from my own life. One bit of positivity I can claim is that the people who run the local comic shop where I buy issues of the IDW comic say nothing about when I go there once or twice a month to buy the newest issue and/or micro, even though they should somewhat recognize me seeing as I’ve been doing it since June and those are pretty much the only things I buy there. But then again, it’s a comic book shop. Of course they wouldn’t judge anyone’s purchases.

    1. It really sucks that you don’t get support to be yourself in that way. Especially from the people who know you best. My usual assumption is that people aren’t really judging others for their television preferences, they’re judging them for the other traits they assume are present based on stereotypes about those preferences. But I guess I give people too much credit, because your family knows you for you, but are judging your television preferences anyway. It’s a rough spot to be in.

      I realize that I’ve been incredibly lucky in that respect. All I can do now is try to pay it forward with how I treat other people, especially once I become a parent, and by encouraging others to do the same.

      Do try to remember as was noted in a comment above that not everyone who dislikes it, even with something as dismissive as, “no way anyone could get me to watch,” will judge you for watching it. Some of my friends like it, though none as much as I do, and some don’t, but it’s all without judgment of me as a person. (Of course some will judge – that’s what my whole post was about, and if your shirt really was discarded rather than legitimately getting lost, that’s super uncool – but not everyone will.) Though I agree it sucks not having anyone to geek out with when you’re excited about a new episode or fan work.

      PS, Azumanga Daioh rules. It’s been years since we watched it, but my wife and I will still refer to things as, “so cute, it’ll make you go, ‘What the hell?'” XD

  3. Someone in my local group found this about a week ago. It seemed to be an online petition or something. I’m unclear about what they were hoping to accomplish because the slogan was “Kill all bronies”. The site was taken down within days but I figure this is the kind of thing that would be relevant to this topic.

    1. Presumably he wasn’t dumb enough to think that a petition would get anyone killed, and only hoped to accomplish some trolling – “haha, look how many people signed this!” And while I focused more on mass media and immediate, tangible threats in my post, it’s entirely fair to find “simple trolling” troubling when the language rises to this level. There are disturbed individuals out there who could be motivated to act by this sort of thing. Even if the guy who posted it isn’t likely to be a threat – a quick search finds he also started a petition to Rockstar Games to “Return the dedicated fart/burp buttons to Grand Theft Auto V.” And one petitioning a friend to “Get on Skype”. *facehoof*

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