Vicarious Fannishness and Being a Semi-Outsider
by Michelle Turner (www.bronywife.com)
My entrance into the MLP: FiM fandom seems fairly typical among other female fans who grew up in the 80s — I had a small collection of the 1st Generation toys and watched the original cartoon, though I honestly couldn’t tell you much about it. When I heard that they’d resurrected the series, and that it was attracting adult fans due to quality, I was skeptical.
I was even more skeptical when I found out that the adult fans were mostly men; this just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. But my husband Ben watched the entire first season in something like a week, and suddenly wouldn’t shut up about it. There was no way I was going to be able to carry on a conversation with him dropping in MLP references every so often without going completely insane. (I hate not being in on the joke!) Finally, after a bit of prodding, I sat down to watch.
The end result? I liked it. Just… liked it. To this day, that’s still more or less my opinion of the show, and I daresay that if it weren’t for my husband Ben’s fannishness, I would watch the show a bit more idly than I currently do. I might not even own any merchandise. But with a Brony husband to enable me, I have somehow amassed a small collection of pony swag. Sometimes when I look at our living room, which otherwise looks much like the living room of a responsible adult, I have moment of mental disconnect when I look at the shelf covered in ponies. There is a part of me that instinctively wonders if I am failing adulthood by co-enabling my husband to collect vinyl pony figurines and plush toys. Sometimes I wonder where we’re going to put the art we picked up at the last convention we attended — there are only so many rooms in our house, and I do feel compelled to decorate most of them in a fashion that will not garner odd stares from our non-fannish visitors. (My husband points out: “What non-fannish visitors?” to which I Say, touché. Everyone’s fannish about something.)
Still, I find myself in the odd position of knowing a lot about this fandom, its culture, and its notable content creators, all without feeling as though I’m really a part of the fandom itself. In some ways, this is good — I don’t have to spend a lot of time trawling the internet to find things I’ll like; my husband knows my tastes and will forward along content that he thinks I’ll find interesting. I miss all the fandom arguments — does this fandom even have arguments? — because I’m rarely in the position of having to read the comments.
In other ways, I feel like an imposter — like the mythical “Fake Geek Girl.” Dressed as Rarity at a recent fandom meetup, I wondered if I was doing it for the right reasons. (What even would those be? Are there really ethical dilemmas involved in dressing up as a cartoon unicorn?) I sometimes feel like I don’t really have the knowledge to comment upon my experiences in this fandom, because I’m not entirely sure I’m a part of it. I consider myself neither Brony nor Pegasister, but merely “someone who enjoys My Little Pony.” At the same time, I’ve finally, at Ben’s urging, started building a website for my “BronyWife” persona, which is meant to be a semi-humorous account of said experiences. Am I just in a massive state of denial because I feel that at least one person in my household needs to maintain a semblance of responsible adulthood? (Probably, though I’m already failing at that one, given that I’m pursuing a career as an actress. Pretending to be other people isn’t a great way to convince anyone that I’m a grownup!)
In the end, I suspect I’m just not as comfortable as my husband is with being different in a way that receives so much outside criticism. I fended off the “geek” label for years because it was a label I shed as a young woman after years of being harshly teased, and even as an adult I find myself hyper-aware of how I might be viewed by others. I sometimes think that girl-geeks sometimes have it harder than guy-geeks in terms of how we’re treated growing up, and so I think some of us adopt the “Fake Geek Girl” persona as a way of potentially shrugging off criticism from non-geeks. Others admit fannishness of only relatively “safe” fandoms — who doesn’t like Doctor Who, for example? Or The Avengers? I don’t think twice about wearing my TARDIS shirt out of the house, but I’d cringe if a friend dropped by unannounced only to find me in my Derpy Hooves PJ pants, drinking coffee out of my Pinkie Pie mug. (And wearing Hello Kitty slippers. Oh, yeah, I’m a grownup, all right!)
I know from personal experience that I’m not the only woman in my circle of acquaintances who feels this way about liking the show, so speak up! Where are all my BronyWives? I want to hear more from women who like the show while their partners LOOOOOOVE the show. Do you find yourself falling into the fandom largely by accident, like I have, or did you eagerly jump in with both feet?