Meet the Bronies

The Psychology of the Adult My Little Pony Fandom


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About the Book

In 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic premiered on television. A large, avid fandom soon emerged—not the pre-teen female demographic earlier versions of the franchise had been created for, but a roughly 80 percent male audience, most of them age 14–24. With this came questions about the nature of the audience who would come to call themselves “bronies.” Brony Studies was born.
Approaching the fandom from a perspective of clinical, social and experimental psychology, this study presents eight years of research, written for academics and fans alike. An understanding of the brony fan culture has broader application for other fan communities as well.

About the Author(s)

Patrick Edwards is a retired clinician who has been working in the field and teaching for well over 30 years. He is the founder of the Brony Study Project and has published both within the field and recently finishing a series of fantasy fiction novels based on fan experience and psychology inspired by his work with the brony community. He lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Daniel P. Chadborn is an assistant professor of psychology at New Mexico Highlands University. He has published a number of papers in both psychological and cross-disciplinary journals on social identity, fan culture, and their association with a number of factors including stigma, charitable giving, inspiration, and sense of community. He lives in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Courtney N. Plante is a faculty member at MacEwan University in Canada and is a co-founder of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project which has studied the furry fandom for over a decade. His published works on fandom research, media influence on behavior, as well as other interests span a variety of topics within the social psychological perspective.
Stephen Reysen is an associate professor of psychology at Texas A&M University–Commerce, and has had a longstanding interest in researching fan communities. His research focuses on personal and social identity, as well as global citizenship.
Marsha Howze Redden is a retired full-time clinician with more than 30 years working in clinical practice. In addition to volunteer work she has continued to maintain her license and maintains a small private practice. She lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Patrick Edwards, Daniel P. Chadborn, Courtney N. Plante, Stephen Reysen, Marsha Howze Redden
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 303
Bibliographic Info: 82 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6371-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3795-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xii
Preface 1
1. Meet the Bronies! 5
What Makes a Fan a Fan? 6
A Crash Course in the History of MLP 8
Okay, So What Is a Brony? 14
What’s the Plan? 16
2. Science Is Magic: The History of Brony Study 18
What Is Brony Study? 18
The History 19
Who Are the Brony Researchers? 22
So What Kinds of Studies Have We Done? 24
Wave One: 2012–2016 25
Wave Two: 2015–2018 27
What Does the Future Hold? 27
3. Sampling, Statistics, Research Design and Other Nerd Stuff 30
A Crash Course in the Scientific Method 31
Operationalization: Putting Numbers to Experience 32
The Science (and Art) of Study Design 34
Sampling: Who Are We Talking About 37
Data Analysis: Making Sense of the Numbers 39
Limitations and the Fallacy of the Perfect Study 41
4. Just How Extremely Unexpected Are the Adult Fans of My Little Pony? 44
The Prototypical Brony: It Isn’t the “Mane” Thing About Them 45
Basic Demographics 47
Age and Sex 47
Fandom Membership 49
Sexual Orientation 53
Dating Life 54
The Brony Typology 55
Conclusion 56
5. From Ponyville to Manehattan: The Background and Family Life of Bronies 58
Where the Herd Roams 59
Suited for Success 61
Education 62
Employment 63
Being a Pear in a Family of Apples: Brony Parents and Acceptance 64
Praise the Sun and Rock the Vote: Bronies, Spirituality and Politics 65
Conclusion 68
6. Equestria Girls and Pony Boys: A Few Final Demographic Comparisons 69
Sex Differences in the Brony Fandom 70
Demographic and Personality Differences 71
Motivations and Exposure 72
Feminism 74
Comparing Bronies to ­Non-Bronies 75
Conclusion 76
7. Welcome to Equestria: The Making of a Brony 78
How People Think Bronies Come to Be 79
Common Paths to MLP Discovery 80
The Role of Social Media and the Internet 81
“I just don’t know what went wrong”: Accidental Fans 83
Friends, Family and the Power of Word of Mouth 84
Why Did It Have to Be Ponies? 86
8. Come for the Show, Stay for the Swag 88
Watching MLP 90
How Bronies Watch: Immersion 91
Watching ­Fan-Made Content 93
Convention Attendance 96
Brony Swag 97
9. “Yes, but why?” Brony Motivation 101
Early Studies of Fans: What Motivates Sport Fans? 103
Explaining Fan Motivations in ­Non-Sport Fans 104
The ­Multi-Dimensional Motivation of Bronies 106
Fandom Functions: What Does Being a Brony Do for You? 111
Conclusion 114
10. The Pony I Want to Be 115
The Allure of Interesting Characters 116
No, Really, Who is “Best Pony”? 118
What Your Favorite Pony Says About You 123
Identifying with Characters 125
11. Rule 34: Ponies, Pornography and Perceptions of the Fandom 129
That Which Shall Not Be Named: The History of “Rule 34” 130
Rule 34 131
Pornography, Art and History 132
Pornography and Fandom 133
Pornography and the Brony Fandom 135
Support 135
Exposure 139
General Consumption 140
Who Consumes? 143
Production and Sharing of Explicit Content 144
What Should the Fandom Do? 145
Conclusion 147
12. The World Outside MLP 149
Subgroups Within the Brony Fandom 149
Interest in Other Fandoms 152
Bronies and Internet Culture 155
13. “One of us”: Bronies as a Fandom 156
Understanding Group Psychology: The Social Identity Perspective 157
Understanding Group Psychology: ­Self-Categorization Theory 158
Applying Group Psychology Theories to Fan Groups 159
Fanship 160
Fanship, Fandom and Engagement with MLP and the Brony Community 161
Fanship, Fandom and Sense of Brony Community 163
Fanship, Fandom and Brony ­Meet-Ups and Conventions 166
Conclusion 168
14. “Where I belong”: Other Motivations for Fandom Participation 169
“I’ll be there for you”: Where Bronies Seek Social Support 170
Optimal Distinctiveness Theory 172
Me or Somepony Like Me 175
“Who am I and why am I here?” Purpose in Life 178
Conclusion 179
15. Inter–and ­Intra-Fandom Dynamics 181
“My fandom’s better than yours!” 182
“Real” vs. “Fake” Bronies: Gatekeeping, Status and Entitlement 184
“Join the herd!” New Brony Recruitment 186
16. Personality Profiles of People Who Prefer Ponies 189
The Big Five Dimensions of Personality 190
Personality and Fans 192
Bronies versus ­Non-Bronies 193
Correlations of the Big Five Dimensions in Bronies 196
A Word of Caution: A Social Identity Perspective of the Big Five Personality Dimensions 199
17. “Eww, bronies!” Stigma Toward the Brony Fandom 201
Fandom Stigma 202
Bullying and Hiding One’s Brony Identity 204
Coping with Stigma: Denial of Personal Discrimination 206
Coping with Stigma: Rejection Identification 207
Coping with Stigma: Change in Discrimination (“Things are
getting better!”) 208
Reducing Stigma Toward Bronies: ­Non-Bronies’ Exposure to MLP 209
Conclusion 212
18. Bronies: A Surprisingly Happy, ­Well-Adjusted Group of Fans 213
Fandoms, Friendships and ­Well-Being: Wann’s Model of
Identification and ­Well-Being 214
Fan Conventions, ­Well-Being Highs and ­Post-Con Depression 215
Prevalence of Psychological Conditions in Brony Fandom 216
Identifying as a Brony and ­Well-Being 218
Perceived Change in ­Well-Being 219
Conclusion 220
19. Making the World Better, One Kind Act at a Time 222
From Charity to Protest: Why People Help 223
Media Effects 224
Fandom and Helping 225
Moral Message 226
Moral Foundations and Perception 226
Reason for Liking the Show 227
Fandom Comparison 228
Change in Helping 229
Giving and Receiving Help Within the Brony Fandom 230
Prosocial Fandom Norms 231
Conclusion 232
20. All Good Things: The Future of Friendship and the Fandom 233
Expectations of Future Involvement 234
Predicting Future Involvement 235
Why Do People Leave the Fandom? 236
What the Future Holds 242
Nostalgia’s One Hell of a Drug 243
Sharing Spaces 243
Protecting the Fandom 244
The Show and the Fandom 246
Conclusion: All Good Things 246
21. Dear Princess Celestia: Parting Words from Bronies and the Research Team 248
Dear Brony Study 248
Dear Princess Celestia 251
Chapter Notes 257
References 273
Index 289