We know it’s been since before Christmas that we posted anything new on the blog, though @ResearchIsMagic has been super active on Twitter, and we’re starting to get Reddit…I think.
Anyway, it’s time for another viewing party! This time, it’s Ponies: The Anthology 3! We have a few dates and times in a Doodle scheduling poll, and we’d like you to fill it out so we can make a decision about when to make it happen!
-Jason & Kurt
It was a while ago, but we had a lot of fun watching Equestria Girls with the folks who came out. It’s interesting to see how each of us performs and indexes different parts of our identities in the sorts of references we make. A few shout-outs:
- Danny, you are a freakin’ encyclopedia of MLP trivia.
- Benjamin, MC Hammer and Dragon Ball refs? It’s like we just pulled you out of the ’90s with your Starter jacket and backwards cap.
- Diceman, without you we would have missed the closing Derp.
- Dom, don’t ever stop shipping Scootadash.
Also, sorry folks, the transcript of the first 25 minutes or so got lost, unfortunately. The following starts from when Twilight goes to the library onwards…intermittent screenshots should give you some sense of where we are.
Check it out after the jump.
Never one to be out-participated or observed, I’ve also been taking my own chances with fan content. I was hoping to get a chance to do this yesterday, but I was running around all day doing exciting and Christmas-y things. I suppose you can consider it a Boxing Day gift, if you would like.
So, without further ado, I present my (incredibly) humble version of “The Heart Carol” from the episode “Hearth’s Warming Eve” (Se 2 Ep 11).
I felt inclined to do this song because of the holiday theme. I might go off into more fun/adventurous places and songs in the future. The SATB arrangement was done by Reedmace Star (Posted to Everypony Sings). I performed it all on alto saxophone (the bass was recorded with an 8vb filter, because my tenor is packed away in the other room and I didn’t feel like transposing. This is why it sounds so filtered). Everything but the bass part was done in one take (my transposing chops are really rusty), hence the suckitude in some places.
So… there you have it. My attempt at a fan art. Happy holidays and Happy New Year to you all!
***I’ve been thinking about doing a cover of “Smile” lately… What do you think of a full version of the song in this vein?***
Here at Research is Magic, we take the ethnographic methodology called “participant-observation” really seriously. REALLY seriously. And what better way to start participating in the fandom’s favorite past-times than to draw something.
So here it is, a team-up between Saddle Rager from “Power Ponies” and an RiM inside joke, Scootaroids — based on the gag scene in “Flight to the Finish” with the CMC and the roided up character “Snowflake.”
I fudged the background and just grabbed a vector based on show environments. The actual ponies are all me though.
You’re welcome. I think?
We here at Research Is Magic are really happy that the fandom has given us such a warm welcome. A little while ago, Capper General tweeted us this awesome graph:
It’s neat to see how interest in the show has skyrocketed, while “brony,” at least as a search term, has continued to be about as periphery as it always was. That’s not unexpected: who outside the fandom would be interested in searching for bronies, and who inside the fandom needs to search for bronies? Stated otherwise, if you’re a brony, you probably have your social network already, and you probably get to those networks in ways other than searching for the word brony).
There was some discussion on Twitter about how the fandom is becoming irrelevant based on this graph, but I’m not so sure. /mlp/ has held steady — perhaps it’s dipping a little, but that’s expected: as the show gains a more mainstream audience, 4channers will most likely move on to the next obscure thing that solidifies it as a community (because it excludes people who are not in on the joke/lingo/secret/whatever). The fact that /mlp/ became a thing and is doing well is pretty remarkable as it stands.
Outside of that, the fandom instantiates itself in hashtags and other discrete moments of shared attention. That #MLPSeason4 trended during the premiere of “Daring Don’t” was pretty amazing, and I think it’s useful to remember that when a new episode airs and thousands of people are tweeting with the same hashtag, that’s a fairly specific group of people with similar levels of devotion to the show (at least relative to everyone else), regardless of how they label themselves.
Beyond that, I’ll need to think a little more about what all this means. The changing role of /mlp/ and the historical role of 4chan more broadly in the history of the fandom needs further investigation. Furthermore, the fandom has always grown from disparate threads of people coming from multiple directions and subcultures–it’s not like an original TV show like Breaking Bad with no previous history, where the fandom must have had one set moment from which it began and the demographic that loved it was largely the demographic for which it was intended.
Updated 12/16: Added the “Pony Korea is Best Korea” meme and subreddits like /r/MyLittlePyongyang.
[x] Is Best Pony: Not About Grammar
I code-switch in and out of a lot of Englishes. Growing up in a Vietnamese American household, there was my dad’s wholly functional but somewhat stilted English versus my mom’s uber-precise “standard” English. In school, I was a a favorite of English teachers because I had an easy knack for “proper” grammar. But I grew up in North Carolina, where aint’s and y’alls were crucial. And by the time I was in high school and immersing myself in underground hip-hop culture, African American vernacular was the coin of the realm.
That’s all just to say that I’m not here to tell anybody that they’re speaking English wrong(ly!). Different contexts call for different rules of grammar, indicating different social groups and alliances1, and the grammar of “proper” English is only correct because it’s the English of people who hold sway over public opinion. So when we hear a phrase like “[x character] is best pony,” with the grammatical article “the” removed (as in “[x] is THE best pony), we can understand it as a demarcation of an identity through the playful use of grammar, though it comes at the risk of others painting it as signaling stupidity or something like that. As Tia Baheri notes at The Toast, “Conventional wisdom portrays this form of linguistic flexibility and playfulness as the end of intelligent human life”2.
So, today’s topic: where did the phrase “[x] is best pony” come from?
FiM Fandom Uptake
These days, you can’t look at a brony site or twitter feed without tripping over the phrase “[x] is best pony,” but it didn’t really gain traction in the fandom until 2012. I dug through the archives of Equestria Daily and found only sporadic references throughout 2011 (“Rarity is best pony” in June, “Pinkie Pie is best pony” in July, “Derpy is best pony” in September, etc.)—things didn’t really pick up until Equestria Daily posted its “[X] is Best Pony Graph” in November 2011. By January 2012, the comments section was starting to get littered with the formula.
Still, that doesn’t explain where it came from. That requires turning to the deepest recesses of the Internet.
Best Pony: Origins
When I asked about the “[x] is best pony” formula on Twitter, a few people told me that it was probably 4chan. Considering the storied history of /mlp/ on 4chan, they were almost certainly right, but that wasn’t enough for me. Surely, the transformation wasn’t simply:
"[x] is the best pony" >>> "[x] is best pony"
I guessed that it was probably something more like:
"[x] is best [y]" >>> "[x] is best pony"
Still, was there an original [x] and [y]? Were 4chan’s denizens really that invested in calling things “the best” of whatever category? 4chan loves its superlatives, but that seemed like a really stupid thing to be invested in. There’s always a logic to 4chan mayhem, tied to absurd humor. Whatever the original [x] and [y] were, they weren’t just random things that people earnestly thought were the greatest things ever. Then I thought about the premiere of Friendship is Magic: October 10, 2010. What 4chan antics were in the zeitgeist right before that—say, in the summer of 2010?
Bieber x North Korea: A Love Story
As chronicled pretty well by KnowYourMeme, 4chan began its Project North Korea is Best Korea to send Justin Bieber to North Korea to perform after his promoters made a webpage where fans could vote for a country he would perform in—with no restrictions on the countries. 4chan being 4chan, they quickly decided that they’d spam the vote and send Bieber to North Korea.
That was the missing link! The campaign got coverage on a number of big news websites, and therefore the general tech/nerd crowd outside of 4chan would have been privy to the humorous idea of “North Korea is Best Korea” and excellent images like this one:
In fact, that image dates back to at least May 26, 2009 when it was posted to Flickr, so the phrase “North Korea is Best Korea” probably has an even older pedigree on 4chan. The oldest reference I’ve found is a North Korean propaganda video uploaded to YouTube on June 29, 2008:
So, the meme “North Korea is best Korea” was already circulating, and remixing it n various ways was already a familiar source for humor in online circles. Thus, soon after Friendship is Magic became a phenomenon, the following meme people called “Pony Korea is Best Korea” hit the Internet, as early as February 20113 :
More recently, I discovered a number of subreddits, with sporadic activity, that continue the link between “Best Korea” and My Little Pony:
- Nov 10, 2012 – /r/Ponygyang established
- December 2, 2012 – /r/Stalliongrad established
- March 12, 2013 – /r/mylittlepyongyang established
That’s where my story ends, though the social life of the phrase itself will continue to evolve and adapt to circumstances. Recently, I’ve witnessed a few times when somebody in a non-brony context will say “[x] is best [y],” and a brony will chime in to say that the phrase originated from his/her fandom. In some cases, somebody will tell the brony that he/she is wrong and that the phrase originated from 4chan, though I have yet to see a clearer attribution than that.
So, is my etymology correct? Did I miss anything? Are there other terms of brony-speak with ambiguous etymologies? Why do you think bronies even have these terms specific to their fandoms? What does it mean that many of the terms originate from other geek subcultures? Comments please!
linguists call such groupings based on linguistic features “speech communities” ↩
Shout-out to Andrew Crome on Twitter for the link: https://twitter.com/Andrew_Crome/status/410042731025530880 ↩
Big thanks to “penguinland” on Reddit who found this image. The link was to the Something Awful forums, but that does suggest the same circles of people as 4chan. ↩
I don’t have a deep post here. I just wanted to share a sentiment.
Here’s the link the Equestria Girls Showing. We’d love to see you there!
Jason and Kurt
Today, we’re trying a different format — a conversation.
Warning: Contains Strong Language and Dumb Jokes
Jason: They are a [redacted]. But seriously, the way they are treated in the Brony documentary is as a parallel mirror image of the documentary’s brony typology of hipsters, moderates, and creatives — with vaginas. Also a minority.
Jason: So basically, once the documentary established the three types of bronies, it made a point of showing how the typology only represented male bronies. In the doc’s animated segment, a number of female bronies — each a hipster, moderate, or creative — argues for inclusion in the fandom and the narrator is forced to amend his explanation to include them. When I refer to them as a mirror, I mean that, as represented in the documentary, there is no variation in the types of fans between the two genders. That’s weird to me, since I can count at least one type of fan over-represented among women and girls and all but non-existent among men and boys — the nostalgic collectors of G1-G3 MLP.
Kurt: You have a point there. That could make for some interesting dynamics, and certainly a new possibility for that typology—Nostalgists (what the fuck do you call someone with nostalgia?). I’m not sure I have heard much talk of this group of people, although I have trouble imagining that they do not exist within the fandom (or even, possibly, their male counterparts). I do like the documentary’s typology a lot… it seems like it might be useful.
Jason: It should be noted that nostalgia also plays a large part in male Bronies’ enjoyment of the series, though it seems to take on a more intertextual form1.
Kurt: Nostalgia for X show that FiM is reminiscient of… nostalgia for a specific time period or worldview or something that might be associated with this, mayhaps. Several people talk about the way the MLP shows a more positive outlook on life/way of being that differs from the ways that they see things before.
Jason: I think the parallels to Star Trek: The Next Generation that some blog commenters are making speak to this. But to get us back to the sistas, should we be distinguishing between these kinds of nostalgia along gendered lines, or is that unnecessary or even wrongheaded?
J: What would make the distinction clearer to me is whether there was some kind of friction or at least boundary work between fans of MLP from the “old days” and the fans brought in explicitly through FIM.
Kurt William Baer: True dat… I guess the issue might lie in the fact that this particular typology is focusing upon the main reasons that people are drawn into the fandom. I’d imagine that very few people fit neatly into the categories and, should our MLP Gen 1-3 fans be in this particular fandom, they might fit into other categories as well. Also, where would that friction be?
J.aegerbomb: I am thinking boundary work comes closer to what happens, since the underlying premise of FIM makes open conflict difficult to reconcile with fandom membership (in fact, I want to make a future post exploring fights in the fandom). For example, the lack of an engaging story in early MLP means older fans fall more into the category of collector of pony figures. This may also align with female collectors often being the craftspeople of the brony community, since they have the experience working with the figures. They aren’t fighting over the division of labor per se–but the fact of a roughly-gendered division of labor is significant.
Also, just goin’ off, I would just like to brag that I have that limited edition t-shirt of Pinkie Pie as Andrew WK with a nose bleed; that is my greatest brony accomplishment.
Dom: I find it hard to separate the “creatives” from the Bronies themselves, because Bronies have such an active creative side in the fandom. If the general rule of the internet is “pics or it didn’t happen”, I think the rule for internet fan communities is “fan-art, or it isn’t happening”. So I feel those early 4chan image macros were the first and most notable step in making a community out of a property. Those early creatives were in many ways, the “first real Bronies”.
Now, infamously, those first “mods are asleep, post ponies” bros were deemed, bros- bronies. That’s not to say they weren’t females; who knows who you are when you post as “anon”.
Kurt: That’s a good point, and one that I have seen argued before on several internet sites that I’ve checked out (that will remain nameless because I forget them now). I’ve also heard that brony is a gender neutral term because, apparently, the early 4-chan stuff was under [b]rony and thus it wasn’t actually “bro” somehow.
The difficulty for the inclusion of women in the ranks of bronies isn’t necessarily the word itself though, but rather the gendered habitus2 of precisely those 4chan fans from the early days (though the word is probably a good trace of the gendered origins). Those fans produced a strain in the fandom that celebrates a heteronormatively ironic adoration of the show that connects it to largely male interests and needs3. Furthermore, there’s a tendency to understand those male ways of inhabiting the world as being natural and UN-gendered, when they are clearly indices of heteronormative maleness.
K: Yeah. I’d like to talk a bit more about this “difficulty for the inclusion”… It feels like a really interesting kind of difficulty that is totally there, but, as you said, more at the level of habitus than anything else. There is a disposition toward things being that way, but a disposition is just that. I guess what I am saying is that there are female bronies, many of them thrive in the fandom, and many people are genuinely encouraging of women in the fandom. Mute point, perhaps.
J: But the existence of the term “Pegasister” or any other qualifier (even “female brony”) by itself suggests at least enough of a clash with the standards of the fandom that such a discursive move is necessary. Otherwise, they would just be bronies and not feel the need for qualifiers (as many do, I’m sure, but not all).
K: The viewpoints of people who aren’t dudes would be very beneficial here… this is a bit of a sausage fest (hint, hint, everypony). Hopefully our musings can get something going in this regard. Even numbers-wise, if y’all like that shit, “the” Brony Study (www. bronystudy.com) took a big-ass survey sometime around 2011 and found 14% of their participants were female. I’m guessing the percentage might have grown since then.
Anyway, some of the debate, at least on r/mylittlepony, indicates that:
- female mlp:fim fans dislike the label “pegasister”
- openly male bronies want to call all pony fans “bronies”.
- a fancy brony should be called a “pegasir”.
I’m kinda unsure how the term pegasister came to be, if no one likes it.
Pegasister kinda feels like “dudette” to me: it only means “girl version of this guy term”.
K: And the term “woman”? The point is not that “pegasister” isn’t somewhat contrived, but that the male term is naturalized and is a male term4.
J: The politics of the term is somewhat complicated. On one hand, there are a number of people on Reddit who rail against it on grounds like Dom is saying, that it is the girl version of the naturalized boy term. On the other hand, there was at least one person who said: “To my fellow bronies: Why I’m A Pegasister ( and why that doesn’t mean that I’m a man-hating feminazi ).” She doth protest too much! The unprovoked denial suggests a pre-existing linkage between the term pegasister and “feminist,” at least in some circles.
But overall, I think it’s pretty bullshit that for an ostensibly female property, there’s a term for the female fans that is understood as the female version of the male fan and not vice versa.
D: Well I think at the end of the day, this show/fandom is about love and tolerance for everypony. And I hope we get to a point where we can love and tolerate each other past gender squabbles and get to the real issues:
- What are the actual rules of becoming a Princess? Do you just need a horn and wings? Speciesist much?
- Trixie; who really wants more of her?
- Remember when Pinkie Pie morphed her face into a gen 3 pony? Has she always been able to do that?!
Shit is speciesist… look at the zebras and bison. Problematic representations much? I do love them though.5
* * * * *
That’s all folks!
-Jason, Kurt, and Dom
“Intertextuality” is a termed coined by Julia Kristeva, linked to work by scholars like Mikhail Bakhtin. In short, it refers to the ways in which different “texts” — for our purposes, any cultural object that can be understood as a bounded thing — influence one another. ↩
We’re borrowing the word “habitus” here from the work of Pierre Bourdieu (see The Logic of Practice, p. 53), which refers to the embodied predispositions people have that structure how they understand the world and yet are themselves structured by the social worlds they inhabit. ↩
Kurt is referencing ideas of “patriarchy” –a social system in which men are deemed authoritative–and cultural “hegemony”–the idea that people in positions of power produce systems in which the values that keep them in power are naturalized ↩
Speciesism, like racism, is the assignment of different values to different categories of beings…in this case different values to different species ↩