Category Archives: Tag Blog Series 1

Tag Blog: Vicarious Fannishness and Being a Semi-Outsider

Tag Blog - Series 1
Tag Blog is inspired by TAGJournal and Dr. Susan Lepselter at IU. We write blog entries about the fandom, then “tag” a new author to continue the chain. There are currently two concurrent series (Series 1 and Series 2). This is a guest post from Series 1 by Michelle Turner and follows “Being Different, Being Hated” by Benjamin Turner.

Confused Twilight

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.

Shining Armor throws Cadance

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.)

Walmart add

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!)

Me? Imposter?

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?

Fluttershy falling

 

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.

one-does-not-simply-watch-anime[1]

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.

anti-hate-shields[1]


  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” 

Tag Blog: How do you teach the magic of friendship?

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 the first post of Series 1 by Jason.

How do you teach the magic of friendship?

(featuring Sailors Uranus and Neptune)

by Jason R. Nguyen (ResearchIsMagic.org / Indiana University Bloomington)

Sweetie_Belle's_accidental_first_appearance_S01E12

People in the fandom talk a lot about the values of the show and about how it teaches people what friendship is and how it even helps the more socially awkward of us to have models for healthy socialization. But when we use the word “teach,” we can sometimes get tunnel-vision about how we actually learn behaviors in the world. We don’t learn how to be better friends because Twilight Sparkle tells us a one-sentence secret about what friendship is. Sure, the lesson reinforces something, but what exactly is that, and how?

A related story: long before I learned what “queer theory” was, the magical-girl anime Sailor Moon showed me through the lesbian pairing of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune that gender and sexuality were fluid categories. The show didn’t provide me with a theoretical vocabulary for discussing those topics, but it helped open me to a possibility—to the very basic humanity of people with different sexualities and genders than my own—and that receptiveness would later serve me when those concepts were taught.

Everything about their relationship seemed familiar to me—their suaveness as a gorgeous pair of people, their genuine concern for one another, the occasional sexual joke—except that they were both girls. And since the fact that they were lesbians was the one thing that little Jason felt to be “unnatural,” it was less mental effort to shift my heteronormative worldview than to shift my positive inclination towards these two characters.

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I intellectualized it later, but more importantly, their normalness—signalled by how their homosexuality was a non-issue to everyone else in that universe—justified them to me on a visceral level. More than teaching me how to act, Sailor Moon taught me how to react to and interpret sexualities different from my own. In other words, the best lessons of social behavior are ones that shift your ability to interpret social worlds—ever so slightly at first—to a different position that makes more sense with the people and objects from the world in which you’re invested, be that “real” life, Sailor Moon, or My Little Pony.

MLP:FiM’s underlying premise—that a group of young, four-legged, multi-colored women are interesting and fundamentally good and that they value their friendships despite obvious differences—permeates every other aspect of the show’s narrative. If one accepts that premise, just as I accepted that the Sailor Scouts were compassionate and good people, the conflicts within the group and the individual flaws of each of the characters become normalized as problems that good people/ponies have.

Twilight Sparkle’s obsessive personality and need for validation from authority figures become recognized as parts of a protagonist’s struggle. Rarity and Rainbow Dash have occasional bouts of vanity, but they are linked in the story to their skills and confidence in their respective fields. Fluttershy’s social anxiety is accepted by the characters and by viewers as a part of her personality and, while something to struggle against, not something to be ridiculed. Etc…

Fluttershy_surrounded_by_eyes_S2E22

If there is any lesson about friendship and inclusivity here, it is less tied to aphorisms and end-of-episode lessons and more to 1) the ways these characters have complex personalities that remind us of real people’s emotional struggles and difficulties and 2) our acceptance that these struggles are the problems of fundamentally good people/ponies. As with my acceptance of homosexual romance in Sailor Moon, I imagine that MLP:FIM doesn’t so much teach bronies how to act as it performs on their screens the strong bonds between ponies across a wide emotional and personality spectrum.

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