#94) I went to a brony meet-up and I thought it was pretty good fun until we went to Toys R Us. I was sceptical about a bunch of guys (no girls went to the meet) going to the little girl's section of the shop so I kept my distance and I'm glad I did – everyone there except for me became really creepily obsessive about the toys and it was embarrassing to be seen with them in the shop. After we left (I didn't buy anything and the girl on the till seemed really freaked out by us) I kind of felt awkward being seen with them and when they sang a song from the show really loudly at Pizza Hut I wanted to go home fast. What do you make of this?
Answer: There is always the potential for this problem when meeting up with strangers based on a common interest: will you be as into it as they are? The issue becomes slightly more complex when the common interest is My Little Pony, because it's the sort of interest that a lot of people aren't comfortable discussing in great detail outside of the internet, and for good reason. You may have come to terms with the show being pretty decent, but the average member of society who has no idea what My Little Pony is outside of being a toy product for little girls isn't going to understand.
The girl at the shop is probably one of those people. She probably knows what My Little Pony is in a broad sense, but likely has no idea about "Friendship is Magic" or the fandom, mainly because the fandom is almost entirely internet-based. Seeing one guy buying a toy from the range might raise eyebrows; seeing a legion of guys fawning over toys, most likely quoting the show and the like at the same time, would appear confusing and alienating in equal measure.
When you go to these meet-ups, you've made a conscious decision to take your internet interest and apply it to your life outside of the internet. While this can be productive, not everyone is happy to do that. Plenty of people are content to keep their internet shenanigans away from their real life, so that one doesn't infringe too much on the other. There's no shame in being ashamed of your interest in My Little Pony coming out – it doesn't make you a bad person, or any less of a fan, if you don't want to appear as some sort of radical toy-collecting goblin trawling through Toys R Us' kid's section looking for the next brushable hair pony that you just need to add to your shelf.
By the sounds of it, you enjoyed the first part of the meet-up, until you realised that these people perhaps didn't have the social awareness that you do. Either that, or they just don't care what people think of them, which is both something to be praised and something to be criticised. At the end of the day, there's no need to go to Pizza Hut singing about "Friendship is Magic" - even if the basis of the meet-up is My Little Pony, people should know that certain things aren't necessarily appropriate in public spaces.
That said, you did attend the meet-up, and so you must have expected that some people might be extreme cases. That everyone appeared to be an extreme case is bad luck. Personally, I would avoid any extensive interaction with people that are embarrassing you – there's a fine line between being proud of who you are and actively encouraging people to view you in a negative way. If you didn't have fun, don't attend again – you're clearly the kind of fan of the show who wants to keep a suitable distance from it in person; the sort of individual who is happy to meet with people based on a mutual interest, but who would like to explore other avenues of conversation outside of ponies.
A more pressing matter, though, is this: did they go for the fashion-style Rainbow Dash, or the Canterlot Wedding playset?
#95) Hello, I read somewhere about heretics - that it says that heretics are some kind of twisted religion reformists or something. And I was thinking about the Religious Bronies and stuff. Are Bronies guilty of Heresy or something?
Answer: "Why do you answer stupid questions with this series, Alex?"
"I feel obliged to answer anything that gets sent my way, within reason."
"But why not just ignore the ones that give you cancer?"
"I guess I set up this series because I wanted to get to know exactly what bronies are thinking about, so that I can better understand their ways. Know your enemy, and all that."
"Even if it damages your own health in the process?"
"What can I say? I'm willing to go the extra mile. I would die for each and every one of these questions. Not to mention that the people asking these questions are clearly representative of parts of the fandom. Ignoring them would be to ignore aspects of the fandom, which would counter the very premise of this series in giving a voice to regular old brony thought processes."
"You're a mad-man, Alex! Don't be crazy: no one can keep engaging with these questions without losing the will to live."
"Don't you see, man?! I need to answer these questions! If I don't, who will? The people asking these questions are the future of this planet! They need to be educated!"
"Then, by all means, educate me: teach me about heresy."
"Heresy is a pretty antiquated crime/concept in most countries in the world. It was generally considered to be a nonconformist clash with Christianity, usually linked with a wider dissent towards an established hegemony and the status quo of a paternally-enforced religious dogma."
"...So are bronies guilty of committing it?"
"Bronies are going to hell regardless, so who cares?"
#96) I was just reading your column, and a question arose in my mind. I haven't been able to watch very many episodes of "Friendship is Magic"... In fact, I think the very last episode I was capable of watching was "Applebuck Season"...! I can't help but wonder, with my limited knowledge of our favorite ponies, does that mean that I shouldn't call myself a Brony?
Answer: I think the 'brony' thing is more complicated than it first appears. There are two main factors behind the label, in my mind: the part where the individual believes they are a brony, and the part where external viewers would consider you to be a brony. The latter is fairly easy to suss out – if you have a DeviantArt account full of ponies, both bronies and non-bronies will assume that you're a brony. Just having a pony avatar is enough to get most people thinking that you're a brony, which is one of many reasons why I have one myself: it serves as effective bait.
Now, with the former – calling yourself a brony – things get a bit more complicated. You admit that you've barely seen the TV show, and yet you have an awareness of the characters and the like. That may have come from watching the episodes that you have seen, or perhaps you gained that knowledge after seeing things on the internet. However you came to know about the characters and so on, the point remains that, consciously, you decide if you're a brony or not.
Just as you have the freedom to decide if you're any number of things, you have the choice to decide if the brony thing is something you want to be affiliated with. Nobody else really decides that. Pedantic individuals might try and invent some vacuous rules that arbitrarily judge how much of a brony you are, but, quite simply, fuck that – nobody has the authority to tell you that you are or aren't a part of something.
If you want to be a brony, and personally consider yourself to be one, then you are one. It's such an all-encompassing label now – an umbrella term that seems to snatch up a wide array of people, even those with a tertiary interest in the fandom – that there's little point in trying to categorise it. If you're happy to call yourself a brony, and thus take responsibility for what that title means by associating yourself with the fandom in general, then for all intents and purposes you are one. Nobody other than you has the authority to tell you if you are a brony or not.
Except for me, obviously.