“Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable”: Discourses of Resistance in the My Little Pony Fandom – Abstract submission to IU-OSU Conference

Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable

Hi again everypony!

Thank you so much to everyone reading, following, and commenting here at Research is Magic since October. The comments on our last post really show how thoughtful and inquisitive this fandom is, and it’s been so much fun to interact with you all. We’ve been working to keep this train going, and that means we’ve submitted an abstract to present at another academic conference (we’re still waiting on the status of our Ray Browne Conference abstract…stay tuned)! This time, it’s the Indiana University/The Ohio State University (IU/OSU) Joint Student Conference in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. The theme for the 2014 conference is “2014: Decentering Power: The Art of (Everyday) Subversion.”

The idea for the paper has been heavily influenced by our recent conversations with the community, and we hope that shows through below. As with the previous abstract, I did my best to annotate the academese of the abstract, but here’s a tl;dr version: when analyzing a situation where people claim they are resisting some kind of power, we should be careful to realize that (1) there are many power relationships at play in addition to the one people focus on; (2) people may not be the underdog in all of them, and (3) a focus on resistance tends to ignore other sorts of community labor that may be equally important.

Proposed Abstract

“Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable”: Discourses of Resistance in the My Little Pony Fandom

Fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, or “bronies” (a portmanteau of ‘bro’ and ‘pony’) often profess an ideology of “love and tolerance,” which they feel is in opposition to perceived injustices from society at large. Often singled out as “sexual deviants” or “childish,” many within the brony community have taken an explicitly oppositional stance toward the normative biases that have led to their stigmatization1 . Given that, it would be relatively straightforward to describe their actions as resistant to hegemonic orders of gender, sexuality, and age2 , but we 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 fandom3 . Drawing upon resistance as an analytical frame dangerously privileges acts of resistance to societal norms over other meaningful acts (e.g. creating a safe space within the fandom). Positing a unified fandom against larger societal norms also obfuscates the complex power relationships at play within the fandom itself, where the discourse of love and toleration can mask oppressive behaviors as opinion or diversity4 . In this paper, we draw from our ethnographic work with the brony community to describe issues of identity latent within broader, binary discourses of resistance and hegemony. In doing so, we argue for an understanding of resistance as a discursive strategy that indexes power relations but which must not be mistaken for a schematic of them, particularly because ideologies of identity do not identically reflect the social hierarchies in which they function5 .


  1. Put otherwise, some bronies clearly take an FU stance to people who make fun of them 

  2. Cultural hegemony is the idea that, given a certain power hierarchy, the powerful in society produce cultural expectations and normative behaviors that maintain the status quo and which are accepted by everyone else. Antonio Gramsci is the go-to scholar for this concept. 

  3. This critique of the value of the idea of “resistance” draws heavily on Lila Abu-Lughod’s article “The Romance of Resistance.” 

  4. We’re referring to ways in which “tolerating other points of view” may allow harmful perspectives to continue to perpetuate 

  5. In other words, referring to something as resistance or making something appear to be resistance is a strategy available to people regardless of whether they are “actually” resisting anything. The fact that they do it “indexes” or signals to us that there is a power inequity, but it may not be the same inequity that the people involved say it is. 

One thought on ““Resistance is futile, hugs inevitable”: Discourses of Resistance in the My Little Pony Fandom – Abstract submission to IU-OSU Conference

  1. I do trust all of the ideas you have introduced for your
    post. They’re very convincing and will certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for starters.

    Could you please prolong them a bit from next time?
    Thank you for the post.

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